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Changes in Egypt’s Schoolbooks May Help Counter Islamic Terrorism

by John Burger via Aleteia.com


Government ministers in Egypt are taking steps to nip new generations of Islamic terrorism in the bud by making changes in primary and secondary school curricula, according to a report on the website of Voice of America.

The country’s Ministry of Education is removing some religious texts and passages on historical Islamic figures including Saladin, the 12th century Muslim ruler and anti-Crusader hero.

The changes, though, are provoking the ire of Egyptian Islamists.

Salafists say the deletions recommended by a curriculum development panel set up in March amount to the government declaring war on Islam. But the Prime Minister, Ibrahim Mehleb, who has endorsed the recommendations made after a brief review of textbooks says jihadists are exploiting outdated ideas to incite youngsters to violence. …  Some fatwas and Hadith (sayings of Prophet Muhammad) are also being omitted, including one saying, “I was ordered to fight people until they testify that there is no god but Allah.”


Some who oppose the changes accuse the authorities of “an assault on our history” and of deleting the words of the Quran.

But the country’s education ministry says, “Some of the material was inciting violence and was first entered into the curriculum during the Muslim Brotherhood’s era.” Officials say the censoring of material used to encourage violence is part of a larger ideological battle the government is determined to wage against Islamic extremism.


The plan seems to be in response to the call of Egyptian PresidentAbdel Fattah el-Sissi for a radical reform of Islam. The VOA article pointed out that the changes are:

…in line with a controversial speech the Egyptian president gave earlier this year before an audience of leading religious scholars calling for a “religious revolution” in Egypt. He said dominant Islamic thought had become too closed and antagonistic to the world. “It’s inconceivable that the thought that we hold most sacred should cause the entire nation to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world,” he told the scholars.  President el-Sissi said Islam wasn’t the problem per se. The problem lay with “that corpus of texts and ideas that we have sanctified over the centuries, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible.”


He made that call amid rising violence against non-Muslims, especially the Islamic State group’s beheading of 21 Copts working in Libya earlier this year. Ashraf Ramelah, president of Voice of the Copts, told Aleteia that el-Sissi may be well-intentioned but still must overcome the hurdle of influencing the main Islamic religious authority in the country—Al-Azhar. The president, he said, “has not successfully influenced the Al Ahzar stronghold which consistently counters el-Sissi’s efforts to renew Islamic discourse. Publicly, Al-Azhar leaders are welcoming the president’s initiative, but in reality they are against any change.”

Ramelah is cautiously optimistic about the curriculum reform but points out that nothing is set in stone yet. He is also concerned that el-Sissi has not come to the public defense of Islam al-Beheiry, a Muslim scholar who is under a death fatwa because he spoke freely about inaccuracies in the hadiths of Islam. “Beheiry challenged traditions held by Al-Azhar scholars, and now his program is shut down along with a death fatwa issued against him. El-Sissi is silent.

The VOA article quoted Egypt expert Samuel Tadros of the Hudson Institute in saying, “Egypt’s current educational system is an incubator for extremism and radicalization.”

“Attempting to address the question of intolerance, radicalization, and extremism in the Egyptian educational system must begin by addressing the very structure of that system and not merely changing curricula,” Tadros said.

St. Gianna Beretta Molla

via Catholic.org


Gianna Francesca Beretta was born in Magenta in Italy. She was the tenth of thirteen children in her family, only nine of whom survived to adulthood. When she was three, her family moved to Bergamo, and she grew up in the Lombardy region of Italy.

In 1942, Gianna began her study of medicine in Milan. Outside of her schooling, she was active in Azione Cattolica. She received a medical diploma in 1949, and opened an office in Mesero, near her hometown of Magenta, where she specialized in pediatrics.

Gianna hoped to join her brother, a missionary priest in Brazil, where she intended to offer her medical expertise in gynecology to poor women. However, her chronic ill health made this impractical, and she continued her practice in Italy.

In December 1954, Gianna met Pietro Molla, an engineer who worked in her office, ten years older than she. They were officially engaged the following April, and they married in September 1955.

The couple had Pierluigi, born in 1956, Maria Zita, in 1957 and Laura, was born in 1959. Gianna suffered two miscarriages after this.

In 1961, Gianna was once again expecting. During the second month, Gianna developed a fibroma on her uterus. After examination, the doctors gave her three choices: an abortion, which would save her life and allow her to continue to have children; a complete hysterectomy, which would preserve her life, but take the unborn child’s life, and prevent further pregnancy; or removal of only the fibroma, with the potential of further complications. Roman Catholic teaching would have allowed her to obtain a hysterectomy, but would forbid an abortion. Wanting to preserve her child’s life, she opted for the removal of the fibroma.

After the operation, complications continued throughout her pregnancy. Gianna was quite clear about her wishes, expressing to her family, “This time it will be a difficult delivery, and they may have to save one or the other — I want them to save my baby.”

On April 21, 1962, Good Friday of that year, Gianna went to the hospital, where her fourth child, Gianna Emanuela, was successfully delivered via Caesarean section. However, Gianna continued to have severe pain, and died of septic peritonitis 7 days after the birth.

Gianna was beatified by Pope John Paul II on April 24, 1994, and officially canonized as a saint on May 16, 2004. Gianna’s husband Pietro and their last child, Gianna, were present at the canonization ceremony.

The miracle recognized by the Roman Catholic Church to canonize Gianna Molla involved a mother, Elizabeth Comparini, who was 16 weeks pregnant in 2003 and sustained a tear in her placenta that drained her womb of all amniotic fluid. Because a normal term of pregnancy is 40 weeks, Comparini was told by her doctors the baby’s chance of survival was “nil.”

Through praying to Gianna Molla and asking for her intercession, Comparini delivered by Caesarean a healthy baby despite the lack of amniotic fluid for the remainder of her pregnancy.

In his homily at her canonization Mass, Pope John Paul II called Gianna “a simple, but more than ever, significant messenger of divine love.”

Baltimore Mayor Gave Permission to Riot

A note from Al:

Many people are arguing that Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was misunderstood when she said: “We also gave those who wish to destroy space to do that as well.” I hope we got her wrong but, even so, she was woefully reckless in her language. When an authority figure seems to “make space for destruction” which is how most would hear her, she can expect to reap the whirlwind.

Compare her remarks to those of the family of Freddie Gray: “Freddie Gray would not want this” [destructive behavior].  Mayor’s are supposed to err on the side of law and order. They should not be arguing that boys will be boys, so let them blow off a little steam. She is the top elected official of Baltimore not its therapist or grandmother.

I hope a video clip on CNN portrayed the attitude of most Baltimore parents. It showed one mother hustling her hooded son away from the crime scene, whacking him beside the head and dragging him back home. I wouldn’t want to beat my kids like that in public or private but any parent will understand her feelings and respect her passion. The rioters on Monday turned out to be largely high-schoolers who should have been home doing their homework, watching The Voice or practicing their instruments. When rioting and destroying property come to be accepted as inevitable kids behavior, we are in danger of Isaiah’s warning: “Woe to those who call good evil, and evil good.”

- Al Kresta

Article by Michael Daly via TheDailyBeast.com


Before condemning the thugs who are looting and burning the city, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake talked about giving ‘space’ to people intent on destruction, showing a startling lack of common sense.

Yes, she said it.Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake stood before the news cameras over the weekend and really did say, “We also gave those who wish to destroy space to do that as well.”She uttered these words while explaining how she had sought to maintain “the very delicate balance” between the right to protest and the safety of police officers as a week of demonstrations over the death of Freddie Gray began to turn violent on Saturday.

“We work very hard to keep that balance and to put ourselves in the best position to de-escalate,” she said. “And that’s what we saw.”

After that success over the weekend, she apparently took the same approach on Monday. And this time those who wished to destroy just kept destroying and destroying as the situation escalated to where Maryland Governor Larry Hogan activated the National Guard.

Rawlings-Blake was only 21 at the time of the Crown Heights Riots in 1991, when New York Mayor David Dinkins held the police back in order to let protesters “blow off a little steam.” But, the destructive result was something anyone who runs a city should have studied.

Baltimore now suddenly became Crown Heights on steroids.

And to make matters worse, each thrown brick and bottle, each trashed car, each store looted and burned was an insult to Freddie Gray’s twin sister. Her brother had become the second young man to suffer fatal spinal injuries after being arrested for a petty crime and loaded into a Baltimore police van. She nonetheless remained a voice for peace.

“My family wants to say, can you all please stop the violence?” Fredricka Gray said. “Freddie Gray would not want this.”

Monday began with the chilling word from the Baltimore police of a “credible threat” that the Black Guerilla Family, the Crips, and the Bloods had formed an alliance to kill white cops as if were suddenly back in the 1970s and the time of the Black Liberation Army.

Yet, as hundreds of mourners attended Freddie Gray’s funeral, we seemed to be in our own time after all, with the mayor and the police commissioner both African-American and both pledging that justice would be done. Fredricka Gray was burying her twin and you had to hope that her plea for nonviolence would be heeded.

But with the afternoon, the city seemed to tumble even further back in time, before the 1970s to the riots of 1968 sparked by the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

centerpiecewideNow, as then, the throwing of bricks and bottles was followed by trashing police cars and looting stores and setting fires. All you needed was somebody to shout, “Burn, baby, burn!”

Rev. Jamal Bryant, senior pastor of the Empowerment Temple AME Church, came from Gray’s funeral to one of the flashpoints.

“This is not what the family asked for today of all days,” he told reporters. “This was a day of sacred closure.”

He saw reasons for the violence, but no excuses.

“It’s frustration, anger, and disrespect to the family.”

He spoke of his parishioners joining the Nation of Islam in forming a “human wall” in an attempt to contain the trouble for which there proved to be no immediate containment.

As night fell, the transmissions over the police radio were of a city going mad.

“There’s 100 of them in the shoe store. People are even getting out of their cars to go into the shoe store.”

“A group of black males breaking into a grocery store from the rear.”

“No units are to go there alone…. Do we have any other units?…. I need at least three or four cars to go there…. Do we have any other units?”

“Is anybody else coming up there?”

“Male armed with a handgun.”

“We have an individual in custody. We need a wagon.”

“We don’t even have a wagon.”

“There’s about 30 of them! We need backup.”

“Nobody’s up here right now.”


“I got multiple fires inside the park. I got one beside the conservatory.”

“I see other ones.”

“I can’t cover you.”

“We got looting at the CVS and the 7-Eleven. I’m trying to keep people out of both places. It’s really dark out here tonight.”

“We have gunshots, a woman screaming.”

“Do not drive into locations you can’t get out of. We will not jeopardize our lives for those stores.”

“Breaking into store in the shopping center…. Security says he is armed. He is alone.”

“I have the injured officer back at his command. I’m heading out.”

“A curfew in the city.”

“That’s crazy.”

“I hope they make it so not nobody can come out. Then I don’t got to go to work tomorrow.”

The mayor reappeared before the news cameras and insisted that the media had twisted and taken out of context her remarkable words over the weekend. She said she had been talking about protesters, not thugs “who want to incite violence and destroy our city.” She seemed deaf to the echo of her own words, when she had spoken earlier of giving room to “those who wish to destroy.” That is a pretty good definition of a thug.

“What we see tonight that is going in in our city is very disturbing,” she now said with considerable understatement.

She reported that the National Guard would be deployed as soon as it was available, no doubt to restrict the space of these destroyers. There would be a 10 p.m. curfew starting Tuesday.

“This is not a lawless city,” she assured everybody.

She pledged that the thugs would be tracked down thanks to “police videos,” a twist to an uproar that had been sparked by a civilian video taken of Freddie Gray being dragged to a police van.

“We will be holding people accountable,” she promised.

She gave not the slightest glimmer of feeling that she should be held accountable for anything. She may have made her initial ascent from City Council president to mayor because her predecessor had been locked up for embezzlement, but she had since been elected to a full term with 87 percent of the vote. She seemed to consider that an unshakable endorsement.

And she rightly felt that Baltimore had been making considerable progress since days so benighted that the city jail had essentially been run by the Black Guerilla Family. The gang’s jailed leader impregnated four corrections officers, two of whom were tattooed with his name, one on her neck.

“This is my jail,” the leader, Tavon White, was recorded saying from behind bars. “My word is law…. If I told any motherf—ing body they had to do this, hit a police, do this, kill a mother—er, do anything, it get done. Period.”

But White’s reign had ended with a series of indictments, and it seemed that the rule of law was beginning to return to Baltimore. Homicides were leveling off. The new police commissioner boasted that he had fired 50 members of the department for misconduct.

Then came the death of poor Freddie Gray. The mayor clearly shared the anger over the failure of the arresting officers to summon medical assistance for Gray when it should have been clear to them that he was in serious distress. She also shared the anger over the failure of the cops to strap him in with a seatbelt even though that had led to the other Baltimore man dying from similar injuries in a police van.


Yet she seemed not to understand what was seething in her own city, what was liable to flare beyond any immediate controlling if the true destroyers were given space.

Gray’s death showed what can happen when the police turn callous.

The riots showed what can happen if the police are believed not to be in control.

Rioters who rampaged after a cellphone video of an arrest will themselves be arrested with the help of police video.

And the good people of Baltimore will have to rebuild, as they had to do after the long-ago riots of 1968 that followed King’s murder.

King no doubt would have found the city’s present mayor to be smart and decent and right out of his mountaintop dream.

If only she had a little more common sense.

If only she were not deaf to her own words.

Those Raised by Same-Sex Couples Try to Show Another Side to Marriage Debate

A note from Al:

There has been only one major overview of the research on this question of homosexual parenting. It was by Dr. Mark Regnarus who is a well respected sociologist. However, because he is a Christian and his work was funded by Family Research Council, it was assumed that he was biased. I don’t think so but read the multiple exchanges between him and Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com.  We should always listen to the self-reports of people like those mentioned in this article. Anecdotes don’t necessarily establish the final truth but they help in forming practical judgments until the definitive research can be done, if it ever can be done.

- Al Kresta


In their amicus briefs, they are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to place children’s rights ahead of adults’ rights

Kathleen Naab via NCRegister.com

WASHINGTON — Today, the Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments about same-sex “marriage” and then in a few weeks, will hand down a decision with innumerable ramifications.

The court’s decision can’t be predicted, though the thrust toward the nationwide legalization of same-sex “marriage” seems to have unbreakable momentum. But some representatives of a largely voiceless group in the debate — the now-adult children raised by same-sex couples — say legalizing same-sex “marriage” is a mistake.

As the debate has been working its way through courts, adults who were raised in same-sex households have been filing amicus curiae briefs, to give the judges an inside look into what might become increasingly common.

There’s no doubt they are facing a big battle to make their voices heard, as even the decision handed down by the Sixth Circuit Court last November (which sent the issue of same-sex “marriage” to the Supreme Court by upholding a state’s right to ban it) favors same-sex parenting.

The court’s opinion states: “[G]ay couples, no less than straight couples, are capable of raising children and providing stable families for them. The quality of such relationships, and the capacity to raise children within them, turns not on sexual orientation but on individual choices and individual commitment.”

But that’s simply not true, according to the adults who are now making their appeal to the Supreme Court. The justices have received briefs from a group of six adults represented by the attorney David Boyle of Long Beach, Calif.

The personal stories told in these briefs, and those filed earlier for a lower court case, vary significantly. One of those filing describes her childhood positively, “I had two loving mothers who cared for nearly my every need and with whom I have many wonderful and sweet memories.”

Another explains how life with her father and his many male partners was so traumatic and abusive that she was suicidal. A third account elaborates how growing up in the care of his mother and her same-sex partner left him with a desire for adult male affection that was so strong he became a teenage sex worker.

Yet another explains the psychological trauma she suffered because of her father, who told her at age 9 that he was really a woman.

The briefs thus cover a full spectrum, from stable homes to severe dysfunction.

‘This Is About the Missing Parent’

But what’s fundamental to the issue, various of the briefs assert, is not whether a specific same-sex couple might do a better or worse job of raising children. What they oppose is the necessary separation of a child from at least one of his or her biological parents, as an implied consequence in every same-sex parenting relationship.

Heather Barwick and Katy Faust were both raised by female couples. In their joint brief, they recognize, “Same-sex parenting is not unique in the alternative family landscape. What is unique is promoting an alternative parenting structure guaranteed to deny a child’s right to a biological parent. In no other situation does society promote such a loss. It doesn’t matter who the ‘new’ parent is, losing one of the first parents will always feel ‘strange.’”

Barwick and Faust insist, “We are not saying that gays and lesbians are incapable of parenting. This is actually not about the gay parent at all. This is about the missing parent.”

Even as Barwick speaks lovingly about her “two mothers,” she affirms, “There was one need, however, that they could never meet no matter how much they loved me: the need for a father.”

Their attorney noted to the Register that “surrogacy, adoption, divorce, and death may also separate a child from a biological parent; but same-sex marriage makes that separation an ideal. … Mandatory national legalized same-sex marriage makes the separation a role model,” Boyle explained.

Robert Oscar Lopez and B.N. Klein are two more adult children of same-sex relationships who filed a joint brief before the Supreme Court.

In their statement, they quote a passage from another brief filed by supporters of same-sex “marriage”: “We plan to have children together,” that brief says, “and we want our kids to know that our relationship is a marriage, equal in dignity to relationships between opposite-sex couples.”

Lopez and Klein contend that these words “echo the damaging ideas and emotions that saddened our lives.”

“In this schema, children are demands from society, possessions, and entitlements tied to state-recognized marriage,” they warn. “Consider the phrase, ‘We plan to have children.’ Whose children do they plan to have? The court must consider that granting marriage ‘rights’ to same-sex couples will mean, effectively, granting them other people’s children, and turning those children into a suspect class denied the rights to their mother and father.”

Problems Ignored

Klein, who has written under the pen name Rivka Edelman, endured a psychologically abusive childhood with her mother and her mother’s alcoholic partner.

She explained to the Register that she does not consider her own home life typical of a same-sex household, but she expressed concern about the way her same-sex community failed to react to her situation.

“There were many people coming in and out of our home from the LBG community and they all saw what was going on. Not one ever stepped in to help because protecting the adults is more important,” she said. “This speaks volumes.”

Still, she added, “I would like to think that abuse is never ‘typical,’ and statistically speaking I do not see why there would necessarily be a higher rate in LBGT homes, of what we would all, as a society, consider ‘abuse.’”

Regardless, Klein insists that children need a mom and a dad.

“Children are never a natural consequence of any [same-sex] relationship,” she said. “Even the children that I know that have not been used [to promote an agenda] still feel they were denied something essential by not having an opposite-sex parent. And they also feel unable to express this to their parents. Just like most kids of divorce feel a loss. Because adults choose something that works for them does not mean it works for children.

“Children want a mother and a father — they do. They are not politically correct beings and that is because their wanting a mother and father is because we are all ‘born that way.’ It isn’t something society made up to oppress LBG.”


Klein expressed her worry that same-sex “marriage” will be legalized despite her and others’ attempts to stop it.

“I think that when it really hit me that SSM will come with demands for other people’s children, I found it terrifying — like watching a train wreck. […] I filed [a brief] because while I know it may not have any impact whatsoever — because as a movement, they have more access to the courts than any other group in history — I needed to, both as a parent, as much as an adult child, to know I did what I could to protect children.”

Klein and others have asserted that the stories of children raised by same-sex couples are only permitted to come to light if they are in accord with the prevailing social narrative in favor of same-sex “marriage” and parenting. Thus the briefs submitted by the six adults to the Supreme Court actually represent many others who aren’t able to come forward.

If children’s experiences contrast with the acceptable narrative, Klein says there are those who will do their best to make sure their voices are silenced, or never raised at all.

She told the Register, “I am an adult child of LBG and I was outed and attacked [for speaking against same-sex ‘marriage’] […] They said point blank they would destroy me. They will destroy people because they are destructive and powerful. […] Imagine a child in that situation, day in and day out. No other adult in that child’s circle will come forward if there is abuse or neglect.

“I filed the amicus to let people know that there are two sides to everything. And my experience and others’ experience was not happy, abuse aside.”

Register correspondent Kathleen Naab writes from Houston,

where she covers news of the Church as a coordinator for Zenit News Service.

Kresta in the Afternoon – April 28, 2015

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on April 28, 2015

4:00 – Kresta Comments: Supreme Court Considers Gay Marriage and Baltimore Riots 


4:20 – The Drama of Salvation

We face countless questions ever day. What should I do to prepare for my meeting? What am I doing this weekend? How am I preparing for retirement? These all pale in comparison to the ultimate question: where will I spend eternity? The answers to this question cause widespread confusion between Catholics and other Christians. Jimmy Akin joins us with answers.


5:00 – TBA


5:20 – St. Gianna Beretta Molla, Patroness of Mothers

St. Gianna was pregnant with her fourth child in 1961 when she developed a fibroma on her uterus. Doctors gave her three choices: abort the baby, have a hysterectomy, or remove only the fibroma and risk further complications. Gianna decided to continue with her pregnancy and later delivered a healthy baby girl, Gianna Emmanuela. St. Gianna died seven days after her daughter’s birth and was canonized in 2004. Matthew Bunson joins us today to discuss her life and influence.



5:40 – Discussions with the Archbishop of Detroit

Archbishop Allen Vigneron talks about a variety of issues including the Armenian Genocide, priestly ordination and Pope Francis’ designation of the National Shrine of the Little Flower as a minor basilica.


Why the U.S. Doesn’t Always Know Who It’s Killing in Drone Strikes

by Sarah Childress and Priyanka Boghani via PBS.org


President Barack Obama’s rare admission on Thursday that the U.S. had accidentally killed two civilians being held hostage by Al Qaeda underscores an important reality of the administration’s covert drone program: When U.S. officials approve attacks, they often don’t know exactly who they’re going to hit.

Although the U.S. doesn’t publicly release figures on who it kills and when, accordingto the independent Bureau of Investigative Journalism, government drone strikes have killed between 2,952 and 5,217 people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen combined. At least 488 — and as many as 1,124 — are believed to have been civilians, according to the bureau’s estimates.

That count includes at least eight Americans. In addition to killing four U.S. citizens in a 2013 strike, the U.S. said today that it had killed Warren Weinstein, a development expert from Maryland being held hostage by Al Qaeda, as well as two American Al Qaeda operatives, Adam Gadhan and Ahmed Farouq, in strikes in January. An Italian aid worker, Giovanni Lo Porto, also died in the same strike as Weinstein. In 2002,Kamal Derwish, an American citizen and alleged Al Qaeda recruiter was killed in a drone strike in Yemen.

“These and other recent strikes in which civilians were killed make clear that there is a significant gap between the relatively stringent standards the government says it’s using and the standards that are actually being used,” Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement.

He added: “Unfortunately, the president’s stated commitment to transparency can’t be squared with the secrecy that still shrouds virtually every aspect of the government’s drone program.”

The U.S. has been slow to publicly clarify its rules for drone strikes, which are carried out by both the CIA and the Defense Department.

As recently as 2012, President Barack Obama told The Daily Show’s  Jon Stewart that the administration was still working to establish a legal framework for the strikes. (The exchange starts about one minute in to the video.)

“One of the things we’ve got to do is put a legal architecture in place, and we need congressional help in order to do that, to make sure that not only am I reined in, but any president’s reined in terms of some of the decisions that we’re making,” he said.

The administration has, however, broken its strikes in two categories: targeted strikes, when officials identify a specific person to kill, and signature strikes, when they don’t.

Signature strikes started in Pakistan under President George W. Bush in 2008; Obamaexpanded their use in Yemen in 2012. These strikes generally involve hits on what the U.S. considers suspected militant targets or suspicious activity in areas controlled by militants. In 2012, however, The New York Times reported that some officials in the State Department were concerned that the standards in place for such strikes gave far too much leeway for the CIA. As one senior official told The Times, the “joke” went that “three guys doing jumping jacks” could be interpreted as a terrorist training camp.

In April 2012, John Brennan, who was at the time the Homeland Security advisor, offered the first major public defense of the government’s drone program, saying that “targeted strikes” against “specific Al Qaeda terrorists were legal, ethical and done with “precision.” Drone strikes also allowed the U.S. to combat Al Qaeda without sending in more ground troops, he said. He didn’t specifically address the use of signature strikes.

In 2013, after the U.S. acknowledged killing four Americans in a strike, including Anwar al-Awalaki, a senior leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Attorney General Eric Holder said in a May letter that the administration would establish “exacting standards and processes for reviewing and approving” operations to kill or capture targets.

In May 2013, the White House released a summary memo of the administration’s guidelines, narrowing slightly the target zone for signature strikes and requiring “near certainty” that non-combatants will not be injured or killed. “Men of military age may be non-combatants; it is not the case that all military-aged males in the vicinity of a target are deemed to be combatants,” the memo said.

But the memo didn’t clarify how combatants — or non-combatants — are defined, leaving that open to interpretation by officials authorizing the strikes. The U.S. also said the counterterrorism operations were designed to take out Al Qaeda and it’s “associated forces,” although it didn’t define who that is. The government has also used strikes to target militants fighting against the Pakistani and Yemeni governments.

On Thursday, the administration confirmed that the strike that killed Weinstein and Lo Porto, the two civilians, was a signature strike. Obama said that the CIA believed that the compound it targeted belonged to Al Qaeda, but it didn’t know exactly who was inside.

In his remarks about the civilian deaths, Obama said he had ordered a full review of what happened. “It is a cruel and bitter truth that in the fog of war generally and our fight against terrorists specifically, mistakes — sometimes deadly mistakes — can occur,” he said.

But, he added, the operation that killed them was “fully consistent with the guidelines under which we conduct counterterrorism efforts in the region, which has been our focus for years because it is the home of Al Qaeda’s leadership.” 

In the meantime, human rights groups have continued to document regular civilian deaths. In 2012, for example, a drone killed a 67-year-old grandmother in Pakistan. A 2013 strike the U.S. said targeted “dangerous Al Qaeda militants” in Yemen actually hit a wedding procession, killing 12 and wounding at least 15 others.

And in January, the U.S. said it had killed “three Al Qaeda fighters” in a strike in Yemen, but The Wall Street Journal cited Yemeni defense officials saying that one was a 12-year-old boy.

A Yemeni human rights group revealed the boy’s identity the day after the strike. It said that the boy’s father and older brother had also been killed by a drone strike four years earlier.

Danish Man Commits Suicide After Dog Is Forcibly Euthanized

A man in Denmark was so devastated when authorities seized and euthanized his dog that he took his own life.

Dan, whose last name has not been disclosed, was 27 years old.

Dan was given just eight days to prove that his dog Zanto was not one of the breeds banned in Denmark, and under Danish law, the burden to prove dog breed is placed upon owners. When he was unable to do so, authorities removed Zanto and arranged for him to be killed. Soon after Zanto was taken, Dan was reported to have overdosed on pain medication.

His dog, Zanto, had been euthanized in adherence with Denmark’s Breed Specific Legislation on Pit Bulls. Danish legislation titled the “Dog Act” also dictates that police are required to euthanize dogs that “savage” a person or another dog, but Zanto hadn’t attacked anyone. He was simply considered an illegal breed.

 The Dog Act bans the ownership and breeding of 13 breeds of dogs, including the Pitt Bull Terrier, Kangal, South Russian Shepherd Dog and American Bulldog. Some breeds have been illegal since 1991, but legislation in 2010 brought the number to 13.

On April 21, a Danish blog titled “Stephanie Karma” paid tribute to Dan and his dog Zanto.

“I’m crazy frustrated, and that is why I made the decision to dedicate the day today for one special man,” the blog read. “Namely Dan who took his own life after the police came and took his dog.”

Foreningen Fair Dog Fan, a Facebook page connected to Fair Dog, an association committed to dogs and dog owners, also dedicated their Facebook page to “Dan, his family, friends, and not least Zanto” on April 20.

“This is truly tragic. I hope and pray that the laws of [Denmark] will change,” commented one user on the page.

There have been efforts to repeal Denmark’s ban on certain dog breeds, including a Change.com petition.

A number of organizations, including the Animal Law Coalition, have cited studies reporting that the dog breed ban has not decreased the number of dog bites in the country.

“Denmark is moving in the opposite direction from other European Union countries that have discovered breed discrimination does not work to prevent or reduce dog bite incidents,” says the ALC on its website.

While the Dog Act was upheld in 2014, the outpouring of support and outrage on behalf of Dan may inspire more campaigns to repeal the legislation.

Politics and misrepresentation over ‘conversion therapy’

by Al Kresta

Politics organizes our common civic life together. In contrast, the sciences figure out how the material universe works. Questions about evolution, global warming, the cause of dinosaur extinction (I’m told it wasn’t smoking or drinking but perhaps some other lifestyle issue) or whether homosexuals can be “converted” into heterosexuals are scientific, not political or theological, questions. Such questions cannot be settled by popular vote, political decree or Scripture quotes. Nevertheless, President Obama is politicizing science and wants to outlaw “conversion” therapies for homosexual youth who are troubled by unbidden and unwanted same-sex attraction.

This is what we need to know.

First, the Catholic Church has no dog in the fight over the origin of same-sex attraction or the degree to which it can be changed. It is pastoral malpractice to try and settle these scientific questions by an appeal to Catholic faith and morals. Homosexuals are to be treated with compassion and respect and Catholics must avoid any sign of unjust discrimination toward them.

Second, the president’s use of the term “conversion therapy” is misleading. No professional therapist promises 180 degree change for same-sex attracted men who just saunter in and do a few rounds of therapy. “Conversion therapy” is a straw man that gay activists use as a bogey man to discredit Catholic moral concerns.

Third, the president and his activist supporters claim that overwhelming scientific evidence shows that “conversion therapy” is harmful. Then, in an intellectual slight of hand, all efforts to assist homosexuals dealing with unwanted same-sex attraction is condemned as “conversion therapy.”

Perhaps the president is thinking about certain deliverance ministers who insist that if those with same-sex attraction just pray or get born again they will be “converted” into heterosexuals. This is both bad theology and bad therapy. Failed attempts at change can lead to depression. But there is no overwhelming scientific evidence that condemns all professional attempts to help those with same-sex attraction.

One study by Shidlo and Shroeder intended to prove that efforts to change produced harm. Titled “Homophobic Therapies: Documenting the Damage,” it appealed to a sample population predisposed to report harm. They believed that because homosexuality is immutable, it is an identity to be embraced. Attempts to alter one’s identity would only end in frustration and harm. Philosophically, that, of course, assumes the very conclusion that must be proven by evidence. Is homosexuality absolutely fixed?

According to Shidlo and Schroeder, most participants reported no change. Many reported harm. But, against their expectations, a modest percentage reported benefits from attempting change. On the other hand, four significant studies by Schaeffer, Spitzer, Wade, Jones and Yarhouse demonstrated far more positive than negative results from similar therapies.

For instance, a 2010 study by Fordham University’s Jay Wade found that men with unwanted same-sex attraction can experience some degree of healing by developing healthy non-sexual relationships, i.e., friendships, with other men.

These men reported a decrease in homosexual behavior and feelings and some degree of increase in heterosexual feelings and behavior.

What accounts for these favorable changes? First of all, the goal of professional therapy is not conversion from homosexual to heterosexual, but identifying the underlying causes of their same-sex attraction. Occasionally, people who identify themselves as “ex-gay” claim that Jesus worked a miracle in their soul and released them from bondage to same-sex attraction. He not only forgave their sin and reconciled them to God but extinguished their disordered sexual desires.

I have encountered and enjoyed dozens of such stories. As a Catholic, I do believe in such miracles. I don’t believe, however, in licensed professional therapists fostering extravagant expectations and then charging money for promised “miracles.”

In the scientific literature, we learn that success depends on many factors:

the professional expertise of the mental health professional

a good therapeutic relationship between counselor and client

adequate length of time for treatment

significant social support for treatment

the absence of other psychological problems, particularly addictions.

Treating conflicts in male confidence and sustained chastity are essential. Chastity correlates with personal satisfaction and happiness. In contrast, promiscuity correlates with various psychopathologies. Through these therapies, many experience positive change in their overall psychological functioning.

Unfortunately, our society is settling the political questions surrounding homosexuality even before we know the causes of same-sex attraction. At least four different theories remain plausible and have some degree of empirical confirmation. Consequently, modesty and humility should mark our probing into this very deep mystery of our humanity. Neither religious triumphalism or political flippancy helps. If we don’t know the origin of same-sex attraction, we can rest assured that we probably haven’t yet nailed down what degree of “change” is possible. For a sober look at what we know and don’t know, see Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse’s “Homosexuality: The Use of Scientific Research in the Church’s Moral Debate” and their related work.

While knowledge is power, those in power don’t have any privileged right to determine what is knowledge. The dispassionate, apolitical love for truth that drives the greatest men and women of science often eludes those running for political office.

For those troubled by homosexual feelings, hope exists. At couragerc.net, honest, loving, spiritual and social support is available from those who know the difficulties, firsthand. Also, “Desire of the Everlasting Hills” is a beautifully produced DVD that doesn’t preach or lobby but, rather, tells the stories of three adult Catholics struggling with same-sex attraction but who remain committed to the Church’s moral teaching. For a free copy, email me at [email protected] and I’ll send it out at no charge.

Four Key Differences Between the Classic Civil Rights Movement and the New Left’s Campaign Against “Discrimination”

A note from Al:

The homosexual rights movement might produce the most significant shift in America’s social morality without the involvement of America’s churches. Yes, some of the mainline Protestant groups have applauded the change, but they did not spur the change as they did during the civil rights movement.

 In our nation’s history, social morality has always been grounded in and nurtured by America’s churches and synagogues. Abolitionism, prohibition, outlawing of abortion and today’s pro-life resistance to Roe, the vote for women, eventual respect for conscientious objectors in wartime, the social gospel and care for the urban poor, activism to educate the poor began with the Sunday School movement, the crusade against atheistic communism and more— all depended upon the moral authority and activism of Christian leaders.

 Black Baptist churches provided much of the leadership for the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s. White, theologically liberal, mainline Protestant churches were soon deep in the movement. Theologically conservative or evangelical Protestant churches were much slower to respond. The leading evangelical Protestant of the last century, Billy Graham, did refuse to preach to segregated audiences fairly early on in his crusades. This took some courage. He also shared the platform with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at least once. But even Graham did not champion the civil rights movement. Grant Wacker’s new study America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation spends a good deal of time on Graham’s attitudes towards the civil rights movement.

 What about Catholics in those civil rights years? In 1958, five years before the famous March on Washington and seven years before the Voting Rights Act, the American Catholic bishops condemned segregation as an intolerable moral wrong. For the bishops, “the heart of the race question is moral and religious.” By creation, humanity was but one human race. We are all children of Adam and Eve. By redemption, Christ died for all.

 Anselm College’s Andrew Moore specializes in Alabama and Georgia Catholics after World War II. In the Encyclopedia of Alabama, he writes that “most of Alabama’s white Catholics shared white southerners’ racism and initially opposed the goals of the movement. They preferred order and stability instead of activism for integration and racial justice. Catholic teaching clearly opposed racial discrimination, however, and after the mid-1960s there was little official sympathy for segregation. For most of the civil rights movement, the Catholic Church in Alabama remained on the margins of the debates over integration and focused on internal Church affairs. It took the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march for voting rights to draw the Church from the margins into the mainstream of the movement.”

 After the Civil War, Catholic churches were not radical activists opposing Jim Crow laws. However, Catholic church activities were not strictly segregated. Catholic parishes often ignored laws and ordinances that demanded separate facilities. At times, blacks and whites attended the same parish even though they often sat apart and blacks received communion after whites. Diocesan-wide events like the annual Christ the King parade and open-air masses held in Mobile, Birmingham and Montgomery included prominent members of black parishes and lay organizations. According to Moore, “Diocesan-wide organizations were open to both white and black laypeople as well.”  Be glad. Catholicism is spiritually and institutionally committed to St. Paul’s doctrine that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. Catholics were far from the racial attitudes of today by they often outshined our southern evangelical and fundamentalist brethren. Typical southern attitudes on race obscured our light but, on many an occasions, we did rise above the social conventions of the times.

 In this piece, Carson Holloway notes four key differences between the civil rights movement led by King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference and today’s gay rights agenda promoted largely through secular progressive activists and news and entertainment media.

 In short, the presence of Christian conscience and behavior marks the difference between the two movements.  For me, the most important difference concerns the moral dimension of each issue. Skin pigmentation is morally neutral and has no link to social behavior. Opposition to black skin has no rational basis. Homosexuality, on the other hand, is fraught with moral concerns and is usually linked to sexual behavior.

 Opposition to homosexual acts, unlike opposition to black skin, have a rational basis.  The courts often say no. But the complementarity of the male and female body, the universal tradition of human societies, ancient and modern, and the centrality of children in the definition of marriage all provide a rational basis for opposition. That American courts have placed the gay rights agenda on a moral par with the civil rights movement represents a weakening of the American conscience and bankrupting of our legal thinking.

Al Kresta

Demonstrators gather to protest a controversial religious freedom bill in Indianapolis

by Carson Holloway via CatholicVote.org

In the ugly controversy over Indiana’s RFRA law, we have once again heard some proponents of gay rights present their movement as an heir to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s–and also poisonously comparing their political opponents to the racists and segregationists of that time.  The comparison is inapt, for the following four reasons.

First, there is the obvious difference in the tactics used by the defenders of the old order.  Blacks and their white supporters who demonstrated against segregation were often beaten, hosed down, and attacked by police dogs.  None of this has been done to the contemporary proponents of further expanded anti-discrimination laws.


Second, there is the obvious difference in the tactics used by the proponents of the proposed new order.  Those involved in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s were, as is well known, scrupulously non-violent.  In addition to that, however, they were also careful not to hurl hatred or anger of any kind at those on the other side.  They probably did this in part because they were sincere Christians who earnestly wanted to follow Jesus in loving their enemies.  This was the explicit teaching of Reverend King, and since the civil rights movement he led was overwhelmingly Christian, his followers listened to him.  Recall that his organization was the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  In contrast, the proponents of the new, expanded order of non-discrimination have promiscuously hurled anger and hatred at their opponents.  The examples are too depressing to cite and too numerous to require citation.

Third, there is an obvious difference in the political lay of the land.  We can see this by thinking further about why the old civil rights movement was so polite and loving, and why the people who today claim to be their successors are not.  The followers of Reverend King were sincere Christians and so committed to loving engagement with their opponents, as I have said.  But there was probably also an element of political prudence in their conduct.  They knew they were part of a small and unpopular minority in the country, and so they knew they could only harm their cause by resorting to abusive language.  In contrast, today’s left readily resorts to hateful and abusive rhetoric because it knows that it can get away with it because conservative Christians are in fact today’s unpopular minority.

These are all important differences, but they mainly have to do with tactics and the political environment.  What about substance?  There is in fact an important substantive difference that should be noted.

Fourth, the kinds of discrimination about which the left is now complaining are not at all analogous to what was practiced in the 1950s and 1960s.  I mean that the motivation is clearly not the same.  The motivation in the past was raw racial animus.  The motivation here is clearly religious or moral conscience.  I would ask those insisting on the analogy to scour the records of racially segregationist America and see if they can find an example of a racist business owner who said: “I would be happy to serve blacks in my restaurant.  I just don’t want to have to cater at their weddings.”  I, personally, have never heard of such a thing and I doubt we will find any evidence that anybody maintained that view.  Why?  Because the segregationists of the 1950s and 1960s were animated by racial animus.  They wanted to keep blacks away from them and in an inferior position, period.

This is clearly not what conservative Christians are attempting who do not want to be conscripted by law into serving at gay wedding ceremonies.  They make a distinction the old time racists would never make.  They say explicitly that they have no objection to serving gay customers, but they just don’t want to be asked to show up at a gay wedding.  And why not?  Because it is a ceremony celebrating something they don’t believe in.

Even if the left disagrees with conservative Christians on this, they shouldn’t compare it to the racism of the past.



Kresta in the Afternoon – April 27, 2015

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on April 27, 2015


4:00-6:00 – Direct to My Desk: Topics TBA 

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