Saturday, August 30, 2008

The St. Paul Seminary has welcomed its new class!

All of the new Pre-theologians and all members of this year's Theology One class arrived at the Saint Paul Seminary yesterday. After two days of meeting and working with my new classmates and the new Pre-theologians, I believe that this author can safely write that I am the least of the seminarians of the Saint Paul Seminary.

My guess is that the prayers of the People of God are being answered. We have many new seminarians; these fellas have extremely varied backgrounds: some have been strong Catholics for thirty years and others converted to The Faith less than three years ago.

All of them are inspiring examples of the Christian Faith, the Christian Life, and Christian Charity. I count myself as fortunate and highly blessed to be in the company of these great men.

We (the Theology One class and new Pre-theologians) are off to a short retreat but we'll be back early next week. I hope to introduce some of them to you, our readership, shortly after that time.

This weekend, I plan on praying in thanksgiving to Christ for the call and generous response of my brother seminarians; I look forward to learning from all of them in their example and knowledge of Christianity.

Future Priests of the Third Millenium

September Fundraisers - Get out your wallet!

September 8, 2008
: The 4th Annual Vianney cup will be held at the Medina Country Club in Medina, with proceeds going for scholarships to benefit seminarians at the St. John Vianney College Seminary in St .Paul. Be at the links at 1:00 pm with a Social at 5:00 pm and Dinner & Live Auction at 6:00 pm. The entry fee is $200. For more information, call: 651-962-6825.

September 12-13, 2008: Holy Family Adoption Agency is holding a garage sale at the Anoka County Fairgrounds, 3112 St. Francis Blvd in Anoka. The times are Friday, Sept. 12th from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm and Saturday, September 13th from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. For information call Gerrie at: 763-421-8917.

September 19, 2008: The Annual City Life Center Banquet will be held with Dr. Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as Keynote Speaker. The event is being held at the Minneapolis Marriott City Center, 30 South Seventh St in Minneapolis form 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Reservations are required by September 13th. For information, call: 612-874-1808 or e-mail:

September 27, 2008: Total Life Care Centers is hosting their 11th Annual Banquet with comedian Gordon Douglas, and Kalley Yanta as Mistress of Ceremonies. The event is being held at the Sheraton Bloomington, Hotel, I-494 and Highway 100 in Bloomington, Individual seats are $60 or $600 per table of ten. For information call Christy at: 651-291-9473 or see:

September 27, 2008: Cradle Of Hope is holding a Benefit Concert that includes Bobby Vee, Fabian and the Chiffons at O’Shaughnessy Auditorium at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $30, $50, or $85, with group discounts available. For tickets, call O’Shaughnessy at: 651-690-6700 or Ticketmaster at: 612-989-5151.
Catholic NewsNet

Calix Society Meetings for those in recovery from alcoholism or chemical dependency

The Calix Society: is an organization whose headquarters is located in the Twin Cities, and have the focus of aiding Catholics in recovery from alcoholism and chemical dependency. Monthly meetings are held at the Cathedral of St. Paul. For information, contact their International Office at: 3881 Highland Ave #201 in White Bear Lake, MN 55110, Phone: 651-773-3117 or Toll Free US & Canada at: 1-800-398-0524.

Jeff Cavins DVD and Personal Presentations beginning in September

Jeff Cavins, who has a wonderful course on learning the Bible, will be offering the following events beginning this September, either on DVD or in person. Take advantage of this opportunity.

September 1, 2008: St Joseph’s Catholic Church, 14375 South Robert Trail in Rosemount,Mn is offering a DVD presentation of Jeff Cavins’ Bible Study on “The Book of Corinthians” and later from December to February is offering his series, “Exodus.” Classes meet Tuesdays from 9:20 am to 11:00 am and Tuesday evenings from 7:00 pm to 8:50 pm, and then again on Wednesdays from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm. The cost is $35 individually, or $60 for both courses. For information, call: 651-423-4402. St. Joseph's Rosemount

September 11, 2008: Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church in Medina, Mn will host Jeff Cavins live on Thursday mornings from 10:00 am to Noon, with the topics of, “James and Psalms.” The cost is $75 for both series of classes or $50 for one. An evening presentation will also be held showing video from 7:00pm to 9:00pm at a cost of $60 for both series, or $40 for one. For information, contact Barb at: 763-473-7901 or register online at:

September 11, 2008: Nativity of Mary Catholic Church in Bloomington, Mn will host Jeff Cavins in person, who will present, “Catholicism 101” and later in the year, “Psalms.” This will be Thursday evenings from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm. The cost is $75 for both classes or $50 for one course. For information, contact the parish office at: 952-881-8671.

September 16, 2008: St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Savage will host Jeff Cavins in person, who will present, “James” and then “Psalms” on Tuesday mornings from 10:00 am to Noon. The cost is $75 for both courses, or $50 for one. For information contact: Andi at: 952-890-9434 ex 3.

September 16, 2008: St Paul Catholic Church in Ham Lake will host Jeff Cavins in person with “James and Psalms” for the Bible study. This will be Tuesday evenings from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm, and the morning class begins on September 23rd. at a cost of $75 for both courses, or $50 for one. Register online at: St Paul, Ham Lake

September 30, 2008: St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, 680 Mill Street in Excelsior, Mn is offering Jeff Cavins DVD on “The Bible Timeline,” Tuesdays at 9:00 am to 11:00 am, and also that same evening from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm. The cost is $65. For information, call: 952-474-8868.
Catholic NewsNet

Enlightened progressives turn sexist when Republicans choose a woman

How about that? Hypocrites!

Gerald Naus in his new blog points out that Democratic stalwarts who have fought for Hillary for four years all of a sudden are worried about Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's ability to serve as Vice-President. "Who will take care of her children?" one worried.

A curious spectacle indeed. The oh-so-enlightened resorting to stereotypes of old. John Roberts of CNN asked how she will take care of her children if she’s elected. Did he become a Dobson disciple over night ? Hmm. Countless others, from Obama lover Andrew Sullivan [a practicing homosexual who fancies himself to be a catholic] to the official Obama statement denigrated her in one way or another.

The official Obama statement said she was a mayor of a small town - neglecting to add that she’s the governor of Alaska. Obama was a community organizer, something below a mayor obviously. Palin took on her OWN party and oil companies and Republican corruption - she nixed the infamous bridge to nowhere. Obama used people and then threw them under the bus. He was a radical Afrocentrist when it suited him, a friend of a retired, unrepentant terrorist, and so forth.

Sullivan and others mocked her for having been a beauty queen at 18. How very progressive. But questioning her motherly qualities (after she decided to have the Down Syndrome baby at the age 44) coming from progressives takes the cake, when they have been supporting ‘working mothers’ for eons.

Then of course there’s the usual denigration of small towns, for as we know, progressives piss on those. The woman made herself, married her high school sweet heart, started in the PTA and made it all the way to governor, with her own party campaigning against her. Now that’s change I can believe in. . . .

Ma & Pa Relaxing in front of the TV, watching daughter Sarah


Vincenzo the Magnificent, St. Blog's Parish resident artist and photoshopper, also is turning into quite the blogger.

Sarah Palin's parents, Chuck and Sally (Sally = Sarah) Heath, watching their baby upon being her being nominated for Vice-President of the United States.

Do ya s'pose that the Heaths are an outdoorsy family?

Vincenzo has some nice background items on Sarah at his blog, Sancte Pater.

Friday, August 29, 2008

New Statue of St. Paul to be blessed Wednesday, September 3


The new statue of St. Paul has been installed at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity of the University of St. Thomas.

The statue will be blessed at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 3, in the seminary's courtyard. The media are welcome to attend and photograph the blessing. Due to space limitations, the blessing and Mass are not being announced as public events.

Archbishop John Nienstedt of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis will bless the statue. Immediately following the blessing he will celebrate Mass marking the start of a new school year at the seminary.

The new statue is easy to find. The seminary is located at the far western end of Summit Avenue, at Mississippi River Boulevard. The entrance to the seminary campus is located on Summit, about one block up the hill from Mississippi River Boulevard. When you enter the campus, the entrance to the courtyard will be in about half a block, on your right.

Aren't Hillary and Bill P.O.'d? McCain chooses Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin!!!

I wouldn't want to be in the Clinton household today! Not only did Hillary not get the nomination, she just became a real footnote to history. Watch her die hard fans hold their noses and vote Republican!

And she has five kids!!!!!

John McCain tapped little-known Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his vice presidential running mate on Friday in a startling selection on the eve of the Republican National Convention.

Two senior campaign officials disclosed McCain's decision a few hours before the Republican presidential nominee-to-be and his newly-minted running mate appeared at a rally in swing-state Ohio.

Palin, like McCain, is a conservative with a maverick streak who has shown a willingness to clash with others in her own party. A self-styled hockey mom and political reformer, she has been governor of her state less than two years.

Palin's selection shocked numerous Republican officials.

At 44, Palin is a generation younger that Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, who is Barack Obama's running mate on the Democratic ticket.

She is three years Obama's junior, as well — and McCain has made much in recent weeks of Obama's relative lack of experience in foreign policy and defense matters.

In making his pick, McCain passed over several more prominent prospects who had figured in speculation for months — Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge among them.

Palin flew overnight to an airport in Ohio near Dayton, and even as she awaited her formal introduction, some aides said they had believed she was at home in Alaska.

She is a former mayor of Wasilla who became governor of her state in December, 2006 after ousting a governor of her own party in a primary and then dispatching a former governor in the general election.

More recently, she has come under the scrutiny of an investigation by the Republican-controlled legislature into the possibility that she ordered the dismissal of Alaska's public safety commissioner because he would not fire her former brother-in-law as a state trooper.

The timing of McCain's selection appeared designed to limit any political gain Obama yields from his own convention, which ended Thursday night with his nominating acceptance speech before an estimated 84,000 in Invesco Field in Colorado.

Public opinion polls show a close race between Obama and McCain, and with scarcely two months remaining until the election, neither contender can allow the other to jump out to a big post-convention lead.

McCain has had months to consider his choice, and has made it clear to reporters that one of his overriding goals was to avoid a situation like the one in 1988, when Dan Quayle was thrown into a national campaign with little preparation.

Palin has a long history of run-ins with the Alaska GOP hierarchy, giving her genuine maverick status and reformer credentials that could complement McCain's image.

Two years ago, she ousted the state's Republican incumbent governor, Frank Murkowski in the primary, despite having little money and little establishment backing.

She has also distanced herself from two senior Republican office-holders, sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don young. Both men are under federal corruption investigations.

She had earned stripes — and enmity — after Murkowski made her head of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. From that post, she exposed ethical violations by the state GOP chairman, also a fellow commissioner.

She and her husband Todd Palin, have five children. The latest, a baby, was born with Down syndrome. Yahoo

New York Times: "The Obama Campaign had no immediate comment." I'd bet they did, but not for publication!

NYT 10:59 a.m. | Reaction to Palin: The conservative Pat Buchanan called this the “biggest political gamble I think in American political history.” Speaking on MSNBC, he described her as “a reformer with guts,” a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association and as a “right-to-life feminist” who would energize the Republicans’ conservative base.

The AIDS Epidemic? It was a Glorious Myth!

The authorities have lied, and I am not glad

Dr Michael Fitzpatrick, author of 1987’s The Truth About the AIDS Panic, says it is a shame that AIDS insiders did not expose the myths and opportunism of the AIDS industry earlier. But still, better late than never.

There is a widely accepted view that Britain was saved from an explosive epidemic of heterosexual AIDS in the late 1980s by a bold campaign initiated by gay activists and radical doctors and subsequently endorsed by the government and the mass media.

According to advocates of this view, we owe our low rates of HIV infection today largely to the success of initiatives such as the ‘Don’t Die of Ignorance’ leaflet distributed to 23 million households and the scary ‘Tombstones and Icebergs’ television and cinema adverts (though they are always quick to add that we must maintain vigilance and guard against complacency).

Now former AIDS industry insiders are challenging the imminent heterosexual plague story and many of the other scare stories of the international AIDS panic. James Chin, author of The AIDS Pandemic: The Collision of Epidemiology with Political Correctness, is a veteran public health epidemiologist who worked in the World Health Organisation’s Global Programme on AIDS in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Elizabeth Pisani, a journalist turned epidemiologist and author of The Wisdom of Whores: Bureaucrats, Brothels and the Business of AIDS, spent most of the past decade working under the auspices of UNAIDS, which took over the global crusade against HIV in 1996. Once prominent advocates of the familiar doomsday scenarios, both have now turned whistleblowers on their former colleagues in the AIDS bureaucracy, a ‘byzantine’ world, according to Pisani, in which ‘money eclipses truth’.

“Pisani reminds readers that ‘public health is inherently a somewhat fascist discipline’”

For Chin, the British AIDS story is an example of a ‘glorious myth’ – a tale that is ‘gloriously or nobly false’, but told ‘for a good cause’. He claims that government and international agencies, and AIDS advocacy organisations, ‘have distorted HIV epidemiology in order to perpetuate the myth of the great potential for HIV epidemics to spread into “general” populations’. In particular, he alleges, HIV/AIDS ‘estimates and projections are “cooked” or made up’. [Just like illegal abortion figures before Roe v. Wade.]

While Pisani disputes Chin’s claim that UNAIDS epidemiologists deliberately overestimated the epidemic, she admits to what she describes as ‘beating up’ the figures, insisting – unconvincingly – that there is a ‘huge difference’ between ‘making it up (plain old lying) and beating it up’. Pisani freely acknowledges her role in manipulating statistics to maximise their scare value, and breezily dismisses the ‘everyone-is-at-risk nonsense’ of the British ‘Don’t Die of Ignorance’ campaign.

Chin’s book offers a comprehensive exposure of the hollowness of the claims of the AIDS bureaucracy for the efficacy of their preventive campaigns. He provides numerous examples of how exaggerated claims for the scale of the HIV epidemic (and the risks of wider spread) in different countries and contexts enable authorities to claim the credit for subsequently lower figures, as they ‘ride to glory’ on curves showing declining incidence. As he argues, ‘HIV prevalence is low in most populations throughout the world and can be expected to remain low, not because of effective HIV prevention programmes, but because… the vast majority of the world’s populations do not have sufficient HIV risk behaviours to sustain epidemic HIV transmission’.

By the late 1980s, it was already clear that, given the very low prevalence of HIV, the difficulty of transmitting HIV through heterosexual sex and the stable character of sexual relationships (even those having multiple partners tend to favour serial monogamy), an explosive HIV epidemic in Britain, of the sort that occurred in relatively small networks of gay men and drug users, was highly improbable, as Don Milligan and I argued in 1987 (1).

As both Chin and Pisani indicate, high rates of heterosexually spread HIV infection remain the exceptional feature of sub-Saharan Africa (and parts of the Caribbean) where a particular pattern of concurrent networks of sexual partners together with high rates of other sexually transmitted infections facilitated an AIDS epidemic. Though this has had a devastating impact on many communities, Chin suggests that HIV prevalence in sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean has been overestimated by about 50 per cent. The good news is that, contrary to the doom-mongering of the AIDS bureaucracy, the rising annual global HIV incidence peaked in the late 1990s and the AIDS pandemic has now passed its peak.

“From AIDS to climate change, experts have been complicit in the prostitution of science to propaganda”

Most significantly, the sub-Saharan pattern has not been replicated in Europe or North America, or even in Asia or Latin America, though there have been localised epidemics associated with gay men, drug users and prostitution, most recently in South-East Asia and Eastern Europe.

Many commentators now acknowledge the gross exaggerations and scaremongering of the AIDS bureaucracy. It is clear that HIV has remained largely confined to people following recognised high-risk behaviours, rather than being, in the mantra of the AIDS bureaucracy, a condition of poverty, gender inequality and under-development. Yet they also accept the argument, characterised by Chin as ‘political correctness’, that it is better to try to terrify the entire population with the spectre of an AIDS epidemic than it is to risk stigmatising the gays and junkies, ladyboys and whores who feature prominently in Pisani’s colourful account.

For Chin and Pisani, the main problem of the mendacity of the AIDS bureaucracy is that it leads to misdirected, ineffective and wasteful campaigns to change the sexual behaviour of the entire population, while the real problems of HIV transmission through high-risk networks are neglected. To deal with these problems, both favour a return to traditional public health methods of containing sexually transmitted infections through aggressive testing, contact tracing and treatment of carriers of HIV. Whereas the gay activists who influenced the early approach of the AIDS bureaucracy favoured anonymous and voluntary testing, our whistleblowers now recommend a more coercive approach, in relation to both diagnosis and treatment.

Pisani reminds readers that ‘public health is inherently a somewhat fascist discipline’ (for example, quarantine restrictions have an inescapably authoritarian character) and enthusiastically endorses the AIDS policies of the Thai military authorities and the Chinese bureaucrats who are not restrained from targeting high-risk groups by democratic niceties. The problem is that, given the climate of fear generated by two decades of the ‘everyone-is-at-risk nonsense’, the policy now recommended by Chin and Pisani is likely to lead to more repressive interventions against stigmatised minorities (which will not help to deter the spread of HIV infection).

Chin confesses that he has found it difficult ‘to understand how, over the past decade, mainstream AIDS scientists, including most infectious disease epidemiologists, have virtually all uncritically accepted the many “glorious” myths and misconceptions UNAIDS and AIDS activists continue to perpetuate’. An explanation for this shocking betrayal of principle can be found in a 1996 commentary on the British AIDS campaign entitled ‘Icebergs and rocks of the “good lie”’. In this article, Guardian journalist Mark Lawson accepted that the public had been misled over the threat of AIDS, but argued that the end of promoting sexual restraint (especially among the young) justified the means (exaggerating the risk of HIV infection): as he put it, ‘the government has lied and I am glad’ (2).

This sort of opportunism is not confined to AIDS: in other areas where experts are broadly in sympathy with government policy – such as passive smoking, obesity and climate change – they have been similarly complicit in the prostitution of science to propaganda.

It is a pity that Chin and Pisani did not blow their whistles earlier and louder, but better late than never.

Dr Michael Fitzpatrick most recent books are MMR and Autism: What Parents Need to Know (buy this book from Amazon(UK)) and The Tyranny of Health: Doctors and the Regulation of Lifestyle (buy this book from Amazon(UK)).

The Wisdom of Whores, by Elisabeth Pisani, is published by Granta Books. (Buy this book from Amazon(UK).)

The AIDS Pandemic: The Collision of Epidemiology with Political Correctness, by James Chin, is published by Radcliffe Publishing Ltd. (Buy this book from Amazon(UK).)

(1) Michael Fitzpatrick and Don Milligan, The Truth About The Aids Panic, 1987

(2) Mark Lawson, ‘Icebergs and rocks of the “good” lie’, Guardian, 24 June 1996


The assault on free speech has gone global

Freedom of speech is under attack. Let us count the ways.
The first and most obvious: Those who criticize militant Islamists -- from novelist Salman Rushdie to Danish cartoonists to memoirist Ayaan Hirsi Ali -- are routinely threatened with deadly violence. It would be black humor to say this is having a chilling effect.
The second is political correctness. On campuses and within Western governments it is increasingly taboo to label terrorists who slaughter in the name of Islam "Islamist terrorists." In Canada, "human rights commissions" attempt to enforce this taboo by putting such writers as Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant on trial for the "crime" of expressing opinions that offend Islamic grievance groups -- and also for quoting Islamists accurately and thereby casting them in an unfavorable light. If that's not Orwellian, what is?
But it is the third approach that could be most consequential for Americans. It's known as "libel tourism" and here's how it works: A book published in the United States names an individual abroad who supports terrorist groups. That individual -- for the sake of discussion, let's say he's a Saudi petro-billionaire with a home in London -- goes online and orders a few copies, which arrive in the mail. He takes those books to a British attorney who files a lawsuit complaining that his client has been libeled. The billionaire knows it will be much easier to prevail in the U.K. than it would be in an American court, where the First Amendment and decades of case law provide free-speech protections.
The legal costs are chump change for the billionaire, while few nonfiction writers command similar resources. If the writer chooses not to spend months living in a hotel and fighting it out in court, the case will be forfeited and he will be hit with a "default judgment." If he doesn't pay, he'll never again be able to set foot in the U.K. and other countries that enforce British court judgments.
But more important is this: The message to journalists, scholars and publishers is that researching and writing about terrorists and those who enable them is verboten -- even in America.
What can be done to protect Americans from having our speech restricted by foreign terrorist financiers, foreign lawyers, foreign judges and their toadies?
Reps. Peter King, R-N.Y., and Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., have introduced the Free Speech Protection Act of 2008, which would give Americans who find themselves in the situation described above a "federal cause of action" to sue right back -- and to claim legal fees, costs and significant damage awards as well if a U.S. court concludes that the foreign suit was "a scheme to suppress First Amendment rights."
What's more, the bill would provide "expedited discovery": The plaintiff would be compelled to disclose information and documents relevant to the charges -- something few investors in terrorist enterprises are eager to do.
On the Senate side, the bill is being shepherded by Sens. Joe Lieberman, DI-Conn., Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. What obstacles are preventing this bill from being passed into law?
First, not enough backers -- so far, at least -- are from the majority party: Of 10 sponsors on the House side, only one is a Democrat. Second, we're deep into the presidential campaign season, a time when very little moves on Capitol Hill. Third, never underestimate the ability of the Saudis, their lobbyists, their allies and their courtiers to kill that which interferes with their interests.


These are huge issues.
We once thought that "globalization" was something that related to industry, commerce and trade.
Google's problems in China and other countries that require it to suppress information on various issues tells us that globalization is a communications issue also.
And this article points out wonderfully how globalization is also a "free speech" issue.
It's not turning out how we expected, is it? |

A Prayer for our Nation as we Prepare to Elect our Leaders

Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, the largest Catholic organization devoted exclusively to ending abortion, announced a nine-week "Novena of Prayer" starting on Monday, September 1, to prepare for our national elections. The Novena concludes on Monday, November 3, the day before Election Day. The prayer, in English and Spanish, can be found at and is interdenominational. Priests for Life is asking pastors to promote it in their churches, and families to pray it together.

"The intentions of this prayer are that citizens participate in an active and informed way in the elections," Fr. Pavone explained, "and that their voting choices are wise. Wisdom means that we see things from God's perspective, put first things first, and discern what's important and what's not. One of the practical effects of such wisdom is that we realize that when the state fails to protect the right to life, it ceases to be a true democracy and instead becomes a tyrant state."

O God, we acknowledge you today as Lord,
Not only of individuals, but of nations and governments.

We thank you for the privilege
Of being able to organize ourselves politically
And of knowing that political loyalty
Does not have to mean disloyalty to you.

We thank you for your law,
Which our Founding Fathers acknowledged
And recognized as higher than any human law.

We thank you for the opportunity that this election year puts before us,
To exercise our solemn duty not only to vote,
But to influence countless others to vote,
And to vote correctly.

Lord, we pray that your people may be awakened.
Let them realize that while politics is not their salvation,
Their response to you requires that they be politically active.

Awaken your people to know that they are not called to be a sect fleeing the world
But rather a community of faith renewing the world.

Awaken them that the same hands lifted up to you in prayer
Are the hands that pull the lever in the voting booth;
That the same eyes that read your Word
Are the eyes that read the names on the ballot,
And that they do not cease to be Christians
When they enter the voting booth.

Awaken your people to a commitment to justice
To the sanctity of marriage and the family,
To the dignity of each individual human life,
And to the truth that human rights begin when human lives begin,
And not one moment later.

Lord, we rejoice today
That we are citizens of your kingdom.

May that make us all the more committed
To being faithful citizens on earth.

We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

New Research on Re-Progamming Cells Makes Embryonic Research "Irrelevant"

Claim findings enable scientists to directly reprogram a cell to become a different kind of tissue, while it remains in the body.

And yet the embryonic stem cell research industry plugs on denying that they are as old fashioned as the American Buggy Whip Manufacturers Association became after Henry Ford

( - Researchers announced yesterday that they have isolated three molecular tags that control the nature of a cell, enabling scientists to directly reprogram a cell to become a different kind of tissue, while it remains in the body. A study published yesterday in the online edition of the journal Nature described the direct manipulation in the bodies of living mice, of common pancreatic cells to change them into insulin-producing cells.

Douglas A. Melton, co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, who led the research, called it, "an extreme makeover of a cell." He said, "The goal is to create cells that are missing or defective in people. It's very exciting." The research showed progress in treating diabetes in mice by increasing insulin-production and stabilizing their blood glucose levels.

"It didn't cure the mouse, but they were able to reduce their blood sugar levels to near-normal," Melton said.

Melton explained, "The presently accepted regenerative medicine idea is that you make a stem cell from a patient, bring it back to the beginning as it were, then you are left with the problem of how to instruct that cell to become a beta cell or a motor neuron."

"We asked the simple question, why should you have to go all the way back to the beginning? Could you go from one cell type to another?"

Because the process is done within the patient's own body, it obviates the need to use embryonic or adult cells that have been cultivated in a lab.

While he cautioned that many years of research remain ahead before a cure for diabetes could be offered to humans, Melton is currently working with human cells in the laboratory. He hopes to start planning the first human studies within a year.

"I would say within five years, we could be ready to start human trials," Melton said.

This advance prompted Richard Dorflinger, Deputy Director of the Secretariat of the pro-life activities of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, to tell the Washington Post, "This adds to the large and growing list of studies helping to make embryonic stem cells irrelevant to medical progress."

As usual, however, despite the ethical implications of their own work, the researchers remain adamant that embryonic human test subjects must continue to be used. "Embryonic stem cells offer a unique window in human disease and remain a key to the long-term progress of regenerative medicine," Melton said.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Abp. Nienstedt Issues Statement Challenging Pelosi's Statement on Abortion


Saint Paul, MN., August 26, 2008

“On behalf of the 650,000 Catholics of this Archdiocese, I wish to reinforce what Cardinal Rigali, Bishop Lori of Bridgeport, Conn. and Archbishop Chaput of Denver have said about Speaker Pelosi’s misinterpretation on the question of when life begins. The Church has taught for centuries that life begins at conception and there is no room for misrepresentation of that teaching. In addition, modern medical techniques have been able to confirm what the Church has already known.

“Surely, there may be some Catholic politicians who will take a different interpretation of this Church doctrine during the coming election campaign, but Speaker Pelosi’s remarks underscore once again the need for Catholics, and especially Catholic politicians, to form their consciences according to the moral truths taught by the Catholic Church.”

Here's the box score as of before the release of Abp. Nienstedt's statement:

Here’s a timeline to get you up to speed:

... and that’s where things currently stand. Still no personal response from Pelosi.

Tip O' the Hat to Father Z and the American Papist

English Bishop criticises "flat and safe" episcopal conference statements

Methinks that it just might apply in this country, also to our US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Father Tim Finigan of Blackfen, UK, of The Hermeneutic of Continuity blog deserves the credit for posting this.

I must admit that during my 15 years as a bishop I have increasingly come to share certain concerns about the relationship between individual bishops and the National Conference:
  • Due to the division of areas of responsibility among the bishops, such as education, liturgy, healthcare, migrants etc, there can often be reluctance among the rest of the bishops to speak out on these issues, as if somehow they had handed over their competence in these areas to the responsible bishop and his particular committee. For example, there seemed some surprise in some circles that I had issued my teaching document, Fit for Mission? Schools.
  • I must register, too, my disappointment that our Bishops’ Conference recently could not agree a collegial response to the Government’s legislation on same-sex adoption.
  • The problem with attempting to arrive at a consensus among bishops with, sometimes, divergent views, is that Episcopal Conference statements and documents have a tendency to be often flat and ‘safe’ at a time when we need passionate and courageous public statements that dare to speak the full truth in love. The effort to achieve a consensus results – as Cardinal Ratzinger so aptly expressed it – often in the loss of the ‘scandal’ and the ‘folly’ of the Gospel, so that we are no longer the ‘salt’ and ‘leaven’ so urgently needed. (Cardinal Ratzinger, The Ratzinger Report, p. 62)
  • Agencies and Commissions of national conferences must surely uphold the fullness of the Church’s teaching, particularly doctrinal and moral teaching, in their collaboration with secular agencies. I’m thinking in particular of agencies with a responsibility for education or economic development. The staff of these agencies are often in a position to witness to the truth of the Church’s teaching on, say, the theology of the body with its positive refutation of pre-marital sex, ‘safe sex’, or artificial birth control, in their dealings with government departments and committees. There must be no backpeddling on these issues just because certain truths are unwelcome in the corridors of power.
  • Sometimes the Secretariats of Episcopal Conferences forget that they are the servants of the bishops, and so their staff take it upon themselves to decide what is best, i.e. setting the agendas of conference meetings. It needs to be re-iterated that bishops have not delegated their authority to the committees and staff of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
  • In Anthony Howard’s official biography of Cardinal Basil Hume, he writes that his Eminence left behind a ‘semi-autonomous Church’. (Anthony Howard, Basil Hume, p. 321). Leaving aside the question of the truth or otherwise of this observation, I think it succinctly identifies the danger inherent in the workings of national episcopal conferences. We must guard against the Catholic Church degenerating into local churches who consider themselves almost autonomous in some respects from the See of Rome.
  • It is not acceptable for us to dismiss documents issued from Roman Dicasteries, saying, ‘That’s for others, not for us! We don’t have that problem here’. Such an attitude can sometimes result in documents and statements from the Holy Father’s Dicasteries not being given the serious attention they require. There must be an active dialogue between the local church and the Holy See.
  • We must never forget that for each local church to be fully Church, there must be present in it the supreme authority of the Church: the Episcopal College together with their head, the Supreme Pontiff, and never apart from him. As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith puts it, ‘we must see the ministry of the Successor of Peter, not only as a ‘global’ service, reaching each particular Church from ‘outside’, as it were, but as belonging already to the essence of each particular Church from ‘within’ (CDF, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of the Church Understood as Communion, 13).

Monday, August 25, 2008

Nancy Pelosi v. Roman Catholic Church

I am pretty new at following the activities of the Church. Frankly, I ignored them for most of my life. And I accept full responsibility for any ill effect that that negligence may have had upon the fate of the Church these past fifty years or so.

Frankly, I have been very depressed about it. Sometimes, the Church just doesn't seem to take any action when its enemies fire their blunderbusses.

Today, we started to fire back.

Nancy Pelosi, the imperious Speaker of the do-nothing House of Representatives in the 100th Congress, was interviewed on Meet the Press on Sunday and stated that as an "ardent practicing Catholic" she knew that the Church really had no knowledge or opinion of when life begins. What can you expect from a "catholic" who depends upon abortionists, pornographers, sodomites, and the like for her support as a representative from San Francisco.

This morning, swashbuckling raider, the Church's first line of defense, Bill Donohue of New York's Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights fired his opening salvo, accusing Pelosi of denying what her religion teaches. Obama, Pelosi's candidate for President of the United States, was shifty enough to confess that he wasn't paid to know those things. Pelosi just lied, or demonstrated that she was a bad student. Read it here.

Donohue generally finds himself to be virtually the lone warrior when taking on opponents of the Church. That was not the case today. My morale was greatly raised to read the opinions of the following supporters of the concept of life beginning at conception.

Archbishop Charles Chaput O.S.F. Cap. of Denver, the site of the Democratic Convention taking place right now, blasted Pelosi for her Meet the Press statement in his statement entitled "On the Separation of Sense and State." Father John Zuhlsdorf (Father "Z") comments on the Catholic News Agency's reporting on it here.

Abp. Chaput, challenged Pelosi's wishful historical view of abortion with names, dates and sources: "Even during the many centuries when Church penal and penitential practice was based on the theory of delayed animation, the condemnation of abortion was never affected by it. Whatever one would want to hold about the time of animation, or when the fetus became a human being in the strict sense of the term, abortion from the time of conception was considered wrong, and the time of animation was never looked on as a moral dividing line between permissible and impermissible abortion.”

"Ardent, practicing Catholics [Pelosi's description of herself]
will quickly learn from the historical record that from apostolic times, the Christian tradition overwhelmingly held that abortion was grievously evil."

We now know with biological certainty
exactly when human life begins. Thus, today’s religious alibis for abortion and a so-called ‘right to choose’ are nothing more than that – alibis that break radically with historic Christian and Catholic belief.”

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of the National Review Online, published her thoughts on Pelosi's Meet the Press appearance, supporting Archbishop Chaput and pointing out that while Pelosi seems to doubt the dogma of transubstantion, whereby the substance of the bread and wine in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass indeed become the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ and her personal catechism would make the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court abortion decision a sacred doctrine, to be treated as a dogma. Father "Z" comments on Lopez' column here.

Radio talk show host, Rush Limbaugh spent an hour going over Pelosi's appearance. Spluttering in an attempt to describe Pelosi's statement, he said he has "often wondered, is she genuinely this uneducated, uninformed, silly, stupid, whatever—and I’ve concluded there isn’t a word to describe the status of her brain."

Columnist Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal wrote on Barack Obama's "pay grade" obfuscation when asked about when life begins. Her comments are still echoing around the battlefield of Archbishop Chaput, Donohue, Lopez and Limbaugh, firing off not a few zingers.

"How about "Let the baby live?. . . We know when life begins. Everyone who ever bought a pack of condoms knows when life begins. To put it another way, with conception something begins. What do you think it is? A car? A 1948 Buick? If you want to argue whether legal abortion is morally defensible, have at it and go to it, but Mr. Obama's answers here seemed to me strange and disturbing."

Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia and Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, speaking for the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops also quickly released a statement, that, among other things, contained this:

"The Church has always taught that human life deserves respect from its very beginning and that procured abortion is a grave moral evil. In the Middle Ages, uninformed and inadequate theories about embryology led some theologians to speculate that specifically human life capable of receiving an immortal soul may not exist until a few weeks into pregnancy. While in canon law these theories led to a distinction in penalties between very early and later abortions, the Church’s moral teaching never justified or permitted abortion at any stage of development. These mistaken biological theories became obsolete over 150 years ago when scientists discovered that a new human individual comes into being from the union of sperm and egg at fertilization." Rocco Palmo

Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., released the following statement:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear: the current teaching of the Catholic Church on human life and abortion is the same teaching as it was 2,000 years ago. The Catechism reads:

“Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception…Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law.” (Catechism, 2270-2271)
Rocco Palmo

I'm feeling much better about the Church in its role as combattant tonight! How about you?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Defending a virtue under fire: Humanae Vitae


Defending a virtue under fire
In this abridged version of her classic essay Elizabeth Anscombe explains why she supports Humanae Vitae

With the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae being marked by many negative assessments we publish the following appreciative article by the late Elizabeth Anscombe, who is widely regarded as one of the leading philosophers of the 20th century. It is an edited version of a talk delivered in 1978 to an international conference at the University of Melbourne. The full version of this essay, along with 24 others, is published this month as Faith in a Hard Ground: Essays on Religion, Philosophy and Ethics by G E M Anscombe edited by Mary Geach and Luke Gormally (St Andrews Studies, Imprint Academic).

I first read Humanae Vitae, of course, when it came out. At that time everyone, including myself, homed in almost exclusively on the declaration about contraception. Not just the fact of the condemnation interested me. I had indeed feared there was going to be a silent slide, traditional teaching getting abandoned by default; but if there was going to be a pronouncement at all, I was confident that it would condemn contraceptive intercourse. But the precise formulation of the condemnation interested me intensely.

The invention of the contraceptive pill had in a way put moral theologians in a difficulty and it often led to the collapse of their former views. Suppose that sort of pill were prescribed for something else bona fide (for endometriosis, say: I have known it be prescribed for that), it wouldn't have been thought wrong to use the period of infertility that it gave. So where was the wrong?

It became clear that it lay in the aspect of intention. But here again people felt an immediate difficulty because they had not thought enough about intention. The intention, they said at once, was to have intercourse without getting a child. But that intention had long been declared possibly acceptable [see, for example, Pope Pius XII's Allocution to Italian Midwives on October 29 1951. which Anscombe probably had in mind].

As a professional philosopher, and quite independently of this subject, I had for a long time been very much interested in intention - so interested, indeed, that I wrote a book, Intention, simply about it in 1956. This interest had helped me to concentrate on the aspect of intention in thinking about contraception and the "rhythm" method of birth control.

Suppose a couple's situation to be one in which it is right and honest to have intercourse but avoid conception. This goal, that there be intercourse but no conception is an intention (a further intention) with which the act is performed, and in the case in hand it is common to two different couples whom we'll imagine: one couple use contraceptives, the other infertile times. The goal we have mentioned makes no difference between them, and we are assuming their situation to be one in which it deserves no reproach. But the act of the contraceptive pair has a different character from the act of the other pair.

For one of the descriptions true of their act is: that it is an act of sexual intercourse deliberately rendered infertile (if it should by chance be fertile otherwise). And this is the immediate significant difference between them and the other pair. For the other pair are performing an act of the generative kind - what the Pope calls an act with procreative significance - nothing having been done to change it from that. Now the difference in these characters of the intentional acts, between their intentions at this level, is a difference between wrong and right.

This point, about the identity of goal, but difference in character of the act of intercourse, was made very clear in paragraph 16 of Humanae Vitae. The translation we have is bad. It should run: "It is true in the two cases the couples are alike in meaning to avoid children for acceptable reasons." But it goes on, "in the former case they make legitimate use of a natural disposition".

When considering an action you need to know whether your goal in doing it is all right, but also whether the act itself is all right, and the former might be all right while the latter was not. This point about intention, which is put so clearly, was the first thing I observed at that time of first reading. The second was the Pope's exhortation to get more knowledge. This I found truly instructive. (The other only confirmed what was already clear to me.

I have only recently re-read the encyclical. Originally those were the two things I saw in it. An encyclical is always full of proper sentiments, generally edifying material together with repetition of familiar points of doctrine. All this I thought of as the "blurb" surrounding the hard definite stuff, and I fear I didn't pay much attention to it. Re-reading it, I find I misjudged it: there is very much material for reflection in it.

First, there is the opening, with its observations on the changes in the world and the new questions that have arisen. Second, there is note taken of the change "in the manner of considering the person of a woman and her place in society, and in the value to be attributed to conjugal love in marriage, and also in the judgment of the meaning of conjugal acts in relation to that love" (Humanae Vitae, §2).

That paragraph could receive a lot of expansion and reflection. Note that it contains no nostalgia for the past, no lamenting in favour of times when women were thought of as obviously not equal citizens, not suitable witnesses in a law court, for example (as St Thomas remarks somewhere) - let alone judges etc. We are familiar with a kind of nostalgia about former times "when women were women". But no such note is struck here.

Pope Paul himself has done much in this encyclical to contribute to the "appreciation of the relation of conjugal acts to married love". The principal way has been by his speaking of the "significance" of such acts. He has taught that conjugal acts have a "procreative significance" and a "unitive significance" which cannot be separated from one another.

Make no mistake: it is the whole Catholic Christian idea of chastity that is under fire in the modern world. It is also under fire from those Catholics who reject Humanae Vitae. I used to think you could argue, sufficiently to convince a Catholic, that no sort of sexual acts could be excluded if once you admitted contraceptive intercourse. But the enemies of Humanae Vitae seem now to embrace that conclusion.

Not indeed without any restriction, but at least as far as concerns sexual activity between two people; I suppose adult people. For though I know Catholics who solemnly defend and commend homosexual activity, I don't know any who make propaganda for bestiality, group sex or paedophilia. No doubt, however, all that will come as the world at large becomes accepting of these things.

Therefore we need to think very hard about this "unitive significance" of which Humanae Vitae treated. That the unitiveness has to do with marriage, gets its character from marriage, is clear. But more needs to be said about it in order to present the strong and shining virtue of chastity as understood by the Catholic Church. I can't say more about this here. It is a programme for thought.

Briefly, I will end by pointing to its connection with human dignity, the idea of which is a popular one, pro tem, nowadays. But there are two pictures of it. That of the Church, and of the world. In the world's picture, however, human beings can more and more be killed so that others can have the life they think they want: human dignity is not a fact to make you behave with reverence before any human life, but rather a standard which it is demanded life should reach. And the dignity and honour of human sexuality rightly conducted equally does not enter into the world's picture of human dignity: this is not, for the world, the place to set up a standard.

Then the world and the Church are precisely opposite in their tendency. The Church makes no requirement of a standard before it reverences human life, and sets up a standard to which we must conform in our sexuality if we are to use it to reflect and not blaspheme the dignity of human nature. But the world will set up standards, partly standards of satisfaction not meeting which human life doesn't deserve to be respected; while it reveres sexuality unmeasured by standards, as we do life. Catholic Herald, London

Faith in a Hard Ground: Essays on Religion, Philosophy and Ethics by G E M Anscombe is published in the series St Andrews Studies in Philosophy and Public Affairs. Readers of The Catholic Herald can obtain this at 20 per cent discount and post free (in UK) £14.50. To order call 01392 841600, or e-mail A previous collection of Anscombe's essays, Human Life, Action and Ethics, was published in 2005 and is available for the same discount

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Liturgical and Sexual Abuses: How could it have gone so wrong?

If you don't ever read any other article, please follow the link and read this one. The history of the Church these past 40+ years has been catastrophic, on the altars, and in the rectories. And those situations are very closely related it turns out. How did that happen?

G.C. Dilsaver wrote this article that was published last December in Homiletic and Pastoral Review. Using Thomistic philosophy and theology that is easy to understand, Dilsaver explains how the rigidity of the older form of a Mass full of reverence abruptly changed to a free form Mass where the focus was on the "presider's" chair, rather than the "Holy of Holies." From there, he explains, it was a very short step for a few priests to begin to explore their personal morality.


Before the replacement of the traditional Roman missal with that of the Novus Ordo Missae, candidates for the priesthood were taught to observe most meticulously the rubrics of the Mass. Any intentional addition or subtraction, that is any personal innovation, was potentially a mortal sin. The man was completely subsumed under the office of the priesthood of Christ. The many genuflections, Signs of the Cross, invocations of the Holy Trinity, physical and verbal acts of humility and atonement, detailed and precise rubrics, all were to insure a sense of self-abnegation and a corollary sense of the sacred and a reverence for God. . . .

In comparison to the traditional Roman rite, the structure of the new Roman rite, even when celebrated in the most exacting way, diminishes reverential acts. The many genuflections, invocations of the Trinity, the physical and verbal acts of humility and atonement, the detailed and precise rubrics, have been either eliminated or greatly reduced. In sum, the vertical orientation of the Mass has been reduced to give more play to the horizontal, and thus the eliciting of humility, poverty of spirit, reverence, and fear of God has been, at least at face value, diminished. . . .

This liturgical upheaval did a grave and often lethal violence to the Catholic’s, especially the priest’s, sense of the sacred; to their fear of God; to their reverence, to their humility; to their poverty of spirit; and to their chastity. . . .

But there were also the others who stayed and eagerly acquiesced to or helped perpetrate the ever-waxing changes, including those liturgical and doctrinal innovations that went against the Council and the Vatican. These priests were at best men of compromise, at worst unprincipled and effeminate men whose love for the Faith was weak or non-existent. And it was from the ranks of these latter clerics that the most heinous liturgical and sexual abuses were perpetrated. Read the full article Here

Desecration of the Eucharist, Conscience, and P.Z. Myers' Hypocrisy

Patrick Phillips, President of the Catholic Defense League recently said “Michael Leavitt, Secretary of Health and Human Services, representing the Bush administration, ‘got it right’ when he said, ‘Putting doctors (or anyone who assists them) in a position where they are forced to violate their consciences in order to meet a standard of competence violates more than federal law. It violates decency and the core value of personal liberty.’ Leavitt further summed up the issue at stake when he stated, ‘This nation was built on a foundation of free speech. The first principle of free speech is protected conscience’.” Leavitt was speaking about a proposed rule regarding stronger job protection for doctors and other health care workers who refuse to participate in abortion.”

Evolution News and Views is a web page of The Discovery Institute, an organization that promotes Intelligent Design: The misreporting of the evolution issue is one key reason for this site. Unfortunately, much of the news coverage has been sloppy, inaccurate, and in some cases, overtly biased. Evolution News & Views presents analysis of that coverage, as well as original reporting that accurately delivers information about the current state of the debate over Darwinian evolution. Click here to read more.

Desecration of the Eucharist, Conscience, and P.Z. Myers' Hypocrisy

Danio, guest blogger at Pharyngula, has a post advocating the denial of legal protection for health care workers who, because of religious beliefs or other moral objections, refuse to provide services such as abortions or contraception. It’s hard to believe that any person with even a modicum of respect for individual rights would support taking legal sanction against physicians, nurses, and pharmacists who, because of genuine deeply held religious belief or other moral principles, believe that such acts as abortion or contraception are immoral. From the standpoint of traditional medical ethics, healthcare professionals are only under legal compulsion to provide care in a life-saving emergency. The controversial "treatments" in dispute are not emergencies, and are certainly not life-saving. That abortion and contraception aren't life-saving is actually the point of the doctors, nurses, and pharmacists who are acting on conscience.

Danio quotes HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, who supports the conscience protections of the federal policy:

Is the fear here that so many doctors will refuse that it will somehow make it difficult for a woman to get an abortion? That hasn't happened, but what if it did? Wouldn't that be an important and legitimate social statement?...Does the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association believe we can protect by Constitution, statute and practice rights of free speech, race, religion, and abortion—but not conscience?

Danio replies:

"Social statement?" I can scarcely get my mind around the fact that he is so openly, unapologetically endorsing a policy in which pious opinion would trump secular law.

Danio misses the irony. Pharyngula's own P.Z. Myers has been the beneficiary of lavish free-speech protection, in which his own peculiar "pious" opinion trumps secular law.

To be specific, the University of Minnesota's regulations prohibiting anti-religious bias:

Expressions of disrespectful bias, hate, harassment or hostility against an individual, group or their property because of the individual or group's actual or perceived race, color, creed, religion…can be forms of discrimination. Expressions vary, and can be in the form of language, words, signs, symbols, threats, or actions that could potentially cause alarm, anger, fear, or resentment in others…even when presented as a joke.

Myers, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris, has been publishing atheist ideology and anti-Christian hatred on Pharyngula for several years while on the Minnesota public payroll. In all likelihood, he's used some public property or publicly financed time to disseminate his spew. Recently, he desecrated the Eucharist by obtaining a consecrated Host, nailing it, throwing it in the garbage, and posting a photograph of it on Pharyngula. One doubts that his prolific bigotry is produced entirely on his own time and resources; the good taxpayers of Minnesota, including devout Catholic taxpayers, likely subsidize this bigot's performance art.

Myers has been protected from the legal consequences of his malicious desecration of the Eucharist. He continues to teach, collect his paycheck, and publish hate. All things considered, I do believe that it is better that he is free to act and express his opinion, regardless of how repellent I (and many others) find his actions. Freedom of expression, whether it is expression of anti-Christian bigotry or a belief in the sanctity of human life or a disagreement with Darwinian orthodoxy in a classroom, is our most important freedom, and I will defend it even for those with whom I most strongly disagree. In fact, I defend it particularly for those with whom I disagree. Yet Myers and his minions, who are obvious beneficiaries of the right of freedom of expression, demand the firing or silencing of scientists and teachers who question Darwinian orthodoxy, and now they have the audacity to demand that the law impose legal and professional sanctions on Christian doctors who in good conscience would not abort a baby.

In the view of Myers and his acolytes, the Constitution protects their own publicly financed dissemination of anti-Christian hatred, but it does not protect teachers' expression of doubts about Darwinism in public schools or doctors' expression of religiously motivated acts of conscience.

Myers and his minions are bigots. And censors. And hypocrites.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Are you in need of a "cassock fix" to stabilize your faith

The other day, it was reported here that an Argentinian religious order, the Institute of the Incarnate Word ("I.V.E."), has begun to staff the parish of St. Peter and Paul in Mankato after the Jesuits left after 130 years.

A Mankato source informs us that the priests, who all regularly wear cassocks (as opposed to suits) will also be opening a school for young boys from foreign countries who are interested in discerning vocations as priests. They are starting this year already with 18 boys, all of whom will also wear cassocks to school.

So if your faith is a bit wobbly and you feel a need for a "cassock fix" to stabilize it, take a drive down to Mankato some weekend and come back revitalized by 20 or so men and boys suitably attired. [Fathers Echert and Pedersen might want to take a trip down there so they won't feel so lonely in their cassocks, too].

A friend, who lives in the Twin Cities, told me that she is thrilled also because she would like to "occasionally go to Confession in her native language." So tell any Argentinians you know of this news also.

Refugee Program Halted as DNA Tests Show Fraud

Thousands in Africa Lied about Families To Gain U.S. Entry

The State Department has suspended a humanitarian program to reunite thousands of African refugees with relatives in the U.S. after unprecedented DNA testing by the government revealed widespread fraud.

The freeze affects refugees in Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Guinea and Ghana, many of whom have been waiting years to emigrate. The State Department says it began DNA testing with a pilot program launched in February to verify blood ties among African refugees. Tests found some applicants lied about belonging to the same family to gain a better chance at legal entry.

The U.S. has responded by halting refugee arrivals from East Africa, where hundreds of thousands of people have been stranded in precarious conditions since civil war erupted in the early 1990s. The temporary suspension has generated panic in African communities in the U.S., where thousands wait to be joined by relatives.

Typically, a refugee already living in the U.S., a so-called anchor, is entitled to apply for permission to bring a spouse, minor children, parents and siblings. The process requires interviews, medical examinations and security screening.

But suspicion has grown in recent years that unrelated Africans were posing as family members to gain entry. "This program is designed for people to reunify with family members" already in the U.S., says Barbara Strack, director of the refugee division at U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services. "We wanted to have empirical data" to confirm suspected fraud, she says.

In February, the State Department launched pilot testing in Kenya to verify family relationships, mainly among Somalis. When applicants arrived for a previously scheduled appointment, a U.S. official asked them to volunteer for a DNA test.

An expert then swabbed the cheek of those who claimed biological relationships, such as a mother and her purported children.

The cell samples were sent to labs in the U.S. for analysis.

As word spread, some applicants began missing appointments, and others refused to cooperate.

Laboratory analysis of the samples indicated a large portion of applicants weren't blood relations, as they claimed. "The results were dismaying," says Ms. Strack. "This told us we had a problem with the program."

The results prompted expansion of the testing to other countries. "We had high rates of fraud everywhere, except the Ivory Coast," says a State Department official.

In late April, the government decided to temporarily halt the family reunification resettlement program for East Africans. A government official confirms that "many thousands of people" are affected by the suspension, particularly Somalis and Ethiopians.

Refugee resettlement agencies report that arrivals have slowed to a trickle.

In Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., home to the country's largest East African population, Catholic Charities hasn't handled a single family reunification case since March 19. The agency has resettled 35 East African families this year, compared with more than 450 last year and about 1,300 in 2006. "Everyone is calling or walking in here and asking what is going on," says Angela Fox, a resettlement worker at Catholic Charities.

Some refugees received a notice from U.S. authorities advising them that their case is on hold because relatives didn't show up for a scheduled interview or they refused to supply a DNA sample.

Those who agreed to take the test are also in limbo.

Abdirahman Dhunkal, who hails from Somalia, petitioned in early 2005 for his father, mother and six siblings who are in Kenya to join him in Minnesota.

Their case was approved in late 2006, but Mr. Dhunkal says that his family was asked to take a DNA test earlier this year. Since the cell samples were collected, "nothing has happened. We are still waiting," says Mr. Dhunkal, 31, who hasn't seen his family in 14 years.

The government testing has raised questions about using DNA as an immigration tool.

"No one condones people gaining entry by false means; the integrity of the program must be ensured," says Bob Carey, chair of Refugee Council USA, a coalition of U.S. agencies that work on refugee issues, and vice president of resettlement for the International Rescue Committee. However, he adds, "DNA is not the only means to assess family relationships."

Refugee advocates say the definition of family among Africans extends beyond blood relatives, especially when families fleeing persecution are scattered. "Some families are raising children who aren't their own but whom they call son or daughter," says Ms. Fox of Catholic Charities.

Refugee slots are precious. The world's uprooted people are estimated to number 37 million; only about 1% are resettled. As the largest recipient, the U.S. absorbs about half of all refugees who are resettled.

Such demand "creates an incentive to get past the system," says Ralston H. Deffenbaugh Jr., president of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services. "Desperation makes people more susceptible to abuse or bribery."

To be approved as a refugee, an applicant must establish that he or she has suffered persecution or has a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, creed or origin.

Between Oct. 1, 2007, and Aug. 13 of this year, the U.S. admitted 45,644 refugees. For the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2008, the Bush administration set a ceiling for African refugees at 16,000. But by Aug. 13, only 6,780 Africans had been admitted.

Family unity has long been a pillar of U.S. refugee admissions, with relatives accorded priority. U.S. officials say the government must balance a need to ensure the integrity of the program with the desire to let in vulnerable refugees.

The government hasn't decided whether to expand testing to compare the DNA of relatives in the U.S. with those abroad to verify kinship. Wall Street Journal