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From Al: Understanding Vatican Recognizing Palestine State


Recent actions by the Holy See raise questions about its relationship to Israel and the Palestinians. These pieces explain some concerns that have been raised. Their primary focus is on the state of the Palestinian people. Little attention is paid the nation of Israel. Many Christians, including Catholics, have shown interest in the question, “Who owns the land? Did God give it to the Jewish people in perpetuity and unconditionally?” To go more deeply into this question you can read evangelical Protestant New Testament scholar Gary Burge, “Whose Land, Whose Promise: What Christians are not being told about Israel and the Palestinians”. He is writing in reaction to the Zionist bent of some of his fellow evangelicals and Colin Chapman’s “Whose Promised Land?” is less concerned with the conflict between American Christians.

Holy See to Recognize Palestinian State – http://ow.ly/3xT2bR


Explaining the Vatican’s perceived pro-Palestinian tilt – http://ow.ly/3xT2cd


No novelty in Vatican reference to ‘State of Palestine’ – http://ow.ly/3xT2cx

Holy See to Recognize Palestinian State

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by Diane Montagna via Aleteia.org

VATICAN CITY —  The Holy See announced on Wednesday that it has concluded an agreement to recognize the State of Palestine, a step welcomed by Palestinians but drawing sharp criticism from Israel.

The agreement, which has been finalized but still must be approved and signed, makes clear that the Holy See has switched its diplomatic relations from the Palestinian Liberation Organization to the State of Palestine.

According to an official statement issued by the Vatican, Wednesday’s discussions took place “in a cordial and constructive atmosphere.” Both parties acknowledged the work carried out “at an informal level by the joint technical group following the last official meeting held in Ramallah at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the State of Palestine on 6 February 2014.”

The Commission, chaired by Mgsr. Antoine Camilleri, Under-Secretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States, and by Ambassador Rawan Sulaiman, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for Multilateral Affairs of the State of Palestine, “noted with great satisfaction the progress achieved in formulating the text of the Agreement, which deals with essential aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in Palestine.”

In an interview with the Osservatore Romano, Mgsr. Camilleri specified that these aspects include: freedom in the Church’s action, her jurisdiction, personal status, places of worship, social and charitable activities, means of social communication, and matter pertaining to finance and property.

However, Msgr. Camilleri also underlined that the agreement also expresses, “the hope for a solution to the Palestinian question and to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians as part of the two-state solution and the resolutions of the international community.”

It would be “positive,” the head of the Vatican delegation said, “if the agreement could somehow help the Palestinians to see established and recognized an independent, sovereign and democratic State of Palestine that lives in peace and security with Israel and its neighbors, while somehow encouraging the international community, especially those most directly affected, to take stronger action to help achieve a lasting peace and to the desired two-state solution.”

However, Israeli officials have criticized the announcement.

“We’re disappointed by the decision taken by the Holy See. We believe that such a decision is not conducive to bringing the Palestinians back to the negotiating table,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon told The Times of Israel.

A brief statement from the Ministry said: “Israel will study the agreement and consider its next steps accordingly.”

The President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, is scheduled to meet Pope Francis this Saturday, one day before the pontiff canonizes two saints from the Holy Land: religious sisters Marie Alphonsine Ghattas of Jerusalem and Marian Bawardy of Galilee.

No novelty in Vatican reference to ‘State of Palestine’



by John Allen Jr via CruxNow.com

One unfortunate consequence of widespread public fascination with Pope Francis is that many people are paying attention to a pontiff for the first time, and thus they tend to assume that everything that happens on his watch must be a novelty.

Such is the case Wednesday with a new agreement between the Vatican and the Palestinians, which is being alternately hailed or condemned, depending on one’s point of view, as a breakthrough recognition of Palestinian sovereignty because a brief Vatican statement employed the phrase “State of Palestine.”

In truth, the agreement is nothing of the sort.

The Vatican has been using the phrase “State of Palestine” in its official diplomatic verbiage since November 2012, when the General Assembly of the United Nations voted to admit the Palestinians as a non-member observer state. The Vatican has always supported Palestinian statehood, and took the position that it would follow the lead of the UN as to when to start referring to it as a fact.

It should be noted that the UN vote came during the papacy of Benedict XVI, meaning that recognition of Palestine as a state is not a new Vatican policy under Francis.

When the Vatican issued a news release in 2013 announcing the onset of negotiations with the Palestinians towards the agreement that’s now been finalized, it said the talks would be conducted with “representatives of the Foreign Ministry of the State of Palestine.”

The “news” reported Wednesday, therefore, is two and a half years old.

When the Vatican spokesperson, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, confirmed to reporters on Wednesday that the language used in the statement is “a recognition that the state exists,” he understood himself to be repeating an already established point.

Since the onset of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the Vatican has favored a two-state solution, with security guarantees for Israel and self-determination for the Palestinians. It also backs a special status for Jerusalem, including protection for the holy sites sacred to the three monotheistic faiths – Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

 The agreement announced Wednesday isn’t about the question of statehood.

Instead, it largely concerns the tax and legal status of Catholic facilities and personnel on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, building on a basic accord reached between the Vatican and the Palestinian Liberation Organization in 2000.

To be sure, it’s not wrong to see Pope Francis as a supporter of the Palestinian push for sovereignty.

When Francis visited the West Bank in May 2014, the image of him paused in silent prayer before the controversial Israeli security barrier, underneath a patch of graffiti reading “Free Palestine!”, became an instant Palestinian icon.

There’s nothing new about that position, however.

When Pope Benedict XVI travelled to the Middle East in 2009, he pledged support for Palestinian statehood. St. John Paul II made similar statements many times, and was sufficiently fond of former PLO leader Yasser Arafat that he had a set of the Stations of the Cross made out of ivory, presented to him by Arafat as a gift, installed in a small chapel off a Vatican chamber where bishops from around the world gather in a meeting called a “synod.”

The agreement announced Wednesday further cements the relationship between the Vatican and the Palestinians, and certainly Vatican diplomats are not so naïve as to fail to recognize the political relevance of using the phrase “State of Palestinian” in an official communiqué.

However, to style that phrase as another diplomatic innovation under this maverick pontiff is excessive. At most, it’s a confirmation that the Vatican under Francis is not backing away from a position it had already taken.

Perhaps the Vatican’s communication team might want to consider a boilerplate disclaimer in the future. “Caution: Not everything contained in the following statement amounts to a revolution.”

Explaining the Vatican’s perceived pro-Palestinian tilt



by John Allen Jr via CruxNow.com

In terms of relations with the Vatican, it would be tough to imagine a better run for the Palestinians than the one they’ve enjoyed over the past week.

On Wednesday, the Vatican announced its first bilateral treaty with the “State of Palestine.” During a meeting Saturday, Pope Francis affectionately referred to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, with whom he enjoys a close relationship, as an “angel of peace.”

(The Vatican issued a clarification saying the remark came in the context of presenting Abbas with a bronze medal depicting an angel, suggesting it wasn’t simply a gratuitous tribute, but that did little to lessen Israeli umbrage.)

On Sunday, the pontiff canonized two 19th-century nuns as the first-ever Palestinian saints. Taken together, many Israelis saw the gestures as the Vatican tipping its hand.

In truth, this is hardly the first time Israel has detected a pro-Palestinian slant in Rome.

St. John Paul II, for instance, was widely perceived as a friend of Judaism and of Israel. Yet it irritated Israelis no end that John Paul II also met PLO leader Yasser Arafat 12 times over the course of his papacy, treating him as a serious statesman rather than the gun-toting thug most Israelis perceived him to be.

After the first such meeting in 1982, reaction from then-Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin was pointed.

“What else can one say,” Begin said, “except to express disgust?”

Likewise, Pope Benedict XVI stirred Israeli resentment during a May 2009 trip to the Holy Land, when he criticized Israel’s security barrier separating the West Bank from Jerusalem.

During a visit to the Aida camp, home to some 3,000 Palestinian refugees that was opened after the 1948 Arab/Israeli war, Benedict affirmed his audience’s “legitimate aspirations for permanent homes [and] for an independent Palestinian State.”

The Vatican’s subsequent adoption of the term “State of Palestine,” after a November 2012 UN vote to admit Palestine as a non-member observer state, came under Benedict XVI.

To the extent there really is a pro-Palestinian tilt in some Vatican quarters, three factors help explain it.

1. Europeans favor the Palestinians.
The Vatican is a European institution and its diplomatic corps is predominantly European, mostly Italian. European biases tend to form the “default setting” of Vatican diplomacy, the instinctive line the Vatican falls back on in the absence of anything pulling it in a different direction.

Just as a pro-Israeli impulse is in the water of American politics, sympathy for the Palestinians tends to be the European norm.

2. The Vatican supports small states – and the UN.
The Vatican sees itself as the world’s smallest state and thus feels a natural affinity for other small states, especially when the perception is that a major world power – in this case, the United States through its support of Israel – has that small state at a disadvantage.

Bundled with that is strong support for the United Nations, and for multilateral approaches to virtually every foreign policy question.

It often strikes people as odd that the Vatican is so robustly pro-UN, given the battles it has waged with some UN agencies over population control. For better or worse, however, support for the global body is a bedrock principle of Vatican diplomacy.

3. Holy Land Christians are Palestinians.
The overwhelming majority of the Christians in the Holy Land are Palestinian Arabs, including the bishops and other clergy the Vatican relies upon to get its bearings in terms of what’s happening on the ground.

Over the years, the Catholic bishops of the Middle East have typically been strongly pro-Palestinian. Most have not gone as far as Greek Melkite Archbishop Hilarion Capucci, who was arrested in 1974 and later convicted by an Israeli court for smuggling guns to the PLO in the trunk of his Mercedes sedan, but many sympathized with Capucci’s aims.

In part, Palestinian Christians are conscious of their status as a minority within an overwhelmingly Muslim society, and thus sometimes feel the need to prove their Arab loyalties by being especially vocal in their criticism of Israel and their support for the Palestinian cause.

The Vatican is aware of that dynamic, and generally comes off as more cautious and balanced than the local bishops. Nevertheless, those voices can’t help but have a strong impact on the way Rome thinks.

These conditions are permanent, but there’s another factor: Francis is the first pope from the developing world, and as such, he probably brings a special degree of instinctive sympathy for what he sees as oppressed and struggling peoples.

This perceived pro-Palestinian impulse stirs deep resentment on the Israeli side, and not merely because of its broader geopolitical ramifications or the Catholic Church’s checkered history with anti-Semitism.

Israelis also insist that as the region’s lone real democracy, they do a far better job protecting religious freedom, including the rights of Christians, then anyone else in the neighborhood. At a time when Pope Francis has made anti-Christian persecution a signature cause, they argue, the Vatican should be pointing to Israel as a model rather than undercutting its standing.

(That claim is vigorously contested by many Palestinian Christians, who, among other things, say that Israeli security policies split Christian families and make access to holy sites difficult if not impossible.)

No doubt, the Vatican will find ways in the days to come to signal that its gestures to the Palestinians are not intended to come at the expense of its relationship with Israel. Francis is committed to Catholic/Jewish relations, among other things relying on his close friend, Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka, as an informal channel of communication with the wider Jewish world and with Israel.

In the end, however, Israelis and their supporters probably will continue to suspect the Vatican of a basic pro-Palestinian prejudice. That perception pre-dates Francis, but after this week it seems fair to say it’s unlikely to change on his watch.


Do Churches Fail the Poor?

A note from Al:

Ross Douthat is the one of the most perceptive Catholic pundits in the secular world. This is a great piece in response to President Obama’s recent Georgetown comments about Christians being too preoccupied with the culture war issues of abortion and same sex so-called marriage. As usual the President took a worthwhile point and twisted it to the point of caricature. Douthat takes him to task for it better than anybody else including myself.

- Al Kresta


by Ross Douthat via NYTimes.com

LAST week two prominent Americans — an eminent social scientist and the president of the United States — decided to answer the question: How have America’s churches failed the poor?

Their answer was one deeply congenial to the progressive mind: They’ve been too obsessed with the culture war.

“Over the last 30 years,” Harvard’s Robert Putnam told The Washington Post, “most organized religion has focused on issues regarding sexual morality, such as abortion, gay marriage, all of those. I’m not saying if that’s good or bad, but that’s what they’ve been using all their resources for … It’s been entirely focused on issues of homosexuality and contraception and not at all focused on issues of poverty.”

President Obama’s version, delivered when he shared a stage with Putnam at Georgetown University, was nuanced but similar in thrust: “Despite great caring and concern,” the president remarked, when churches pick “the defining issue” that’s “really going to capture the essence of who we are as Christians,” fighting poverty is often seen as merely “nice to have” compared to “an issue like abortion.”

It would be too kind to call these comments wrong; they were ridiculous. Not only because (as Putnam acknowledged) believers personally give abundantly to charity, but because institutionally the churches of America use “all their resources” in ways that completely belie the idea that they’re obsessed with culture war.

As Mark Hemingway of The Weekly Standard pointed out, “Even the most generous estimates of the resources devoted to pro-life causes and organizations defending traditional marriage are just a few hundred million dollars.” Whereas the budgets of American religious charities and schools and hospitals and other nonprofits are tabulated in the tens of billions. (Indeed, as Bloomberg View’s Megan McArdle noted, some of that money — from Catholic sources — paid Obama’s first community-organizer salary.)

This reality is reflected in the atmosphere of most churches and the public statements of their leaders. Anyone who tells you that America’s pastors are obsessed with homosexuality or abortion only hears them through a media filter. You can attend Masses or megachurches for months without having those issues intrude; you can bore yourself to tears reading denominational statements and bishops’ documents (true long before Pope Francis) with a similar result. The belief that organized religion is organized around culture war is largely a conceit of the irreligious.

Is there a version of the Obama-Putnam critique that makes any sense? Maybe they just meant to criticize religious leaders who make opposition to abortion more of a political priority than publicly-funded antipoverty efforts. But even this critique essentially erases black and Latino churches (who reliably support social programs), ignores decades worth of pro-welfare-state talk from Catholic bishops, and treats the liberal Protestant mainline as dead already.

It also conveniently absolves liberalism of any responsibility for pushing churchgoing Americans toward the small-government G.O.P. That’s an absolution that the Obama White House, with its pro-choice maximalismand attempts to strong-arm religious nonprofits, particularly needs.

No, to actually save the critique, you have to transform it completely. There is a case that churches are failing poorer Americans. But the problem isn’t how they spend money or play politics. It’s a more basic failure to reach out, integrate, and keep them in the pews.

This is the striking story of the last 30 years: Despite the stereotype of religion as something that people “cling to” (to quote a different moment of condescension from this president) in desperate circumstances, actual religious practice has collapsed more quickly among Americans with weaker economic prospects than it has among the college-educated upper class.

Mere religious affiliation has weakened for the poor and working class as well. The much-discussed rise of the “nones” — Americans with no religious affiliation — has been happening in blue -collar America as well as among the hyper-educated.

From a religious perspective, this a signal failure: A church that pays out to help the poor, but doesn’t pray with them, looks less like a church than what Pope Francis has described, unfavorably, as merely another N.G.O.

But even from a secular perspective it’s a problem, because (as Putnam’s work stresses) the social benefits of religion are stronger further down the socioeconomic ladder, and these benefits are delivered through community, practice, and belonging. So churches that spend or lobby effectively for the poor but are stratified come Sunday morning offer less to the common good than if they won a more diverse array of souls.

This critique actually lays a heavier burden on believers than the one Obama and Putnam offered. Their unjust accusation is easily answered by citing what religious Americans do already. The just one, though, requires doing something new.

Kresta in the Afternoon – May 19, 2015

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on May 19, 2015

4:00-6:00 – Direct to My Desk

We have open lines again today and want to hear from you. The Vatican recently made headlines by officially recognizing the State of Palestine. Do you think the Vatican is “Pro-Israel,” “Pro-Palestine” or something else? We’ll also have other topics for you to consider and we aren’t limited to the topics we present. If you have any questions or comments, please call in at 877-573-7825. We’re looking forward to speaking with you!

Pope Francis Appoints Gay Marriage Advocate – How to Respond


Over the weekend I caught word that Pope Francis had appointed a Dominican, Fr. Timothy Radcliffe to be a consultor on the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace. As a temporary professed Lay Dominican, I learned that he headed the Dominican Order in the 1990s and was known for his passion for social justice.

Apparently, he is passionate about acceptance and approval of homosexual sexuality as well.

When Nick read some of his quotes to me, I will confess that my words were unprintable. I was dismayed. This was a priest in favor of at least homosexual civil marriages.

What is the problem with the Radcliffe appointment? The evidence for his favor of homosexual sexuality is overwhelming. Let me mention just two instances.

The devisors of an Anglican Church report on homosexuality asked Fr. Radcliffe to comment on their research. During his comments he said he was suspicious that the Catholic Church’s obsession with sex and a stress on rules (are) both relatively late and alien to traditional Christianity.

Now I know that rules tell us very little about God’s evaluation of sexual expression. But they are where most of us begin, including the Apostolic Church. The New Testament is filled with lists of directives regarding sexual conduct. It is not a late development.

Radcliffe then lays out a few paragraphs about fertility, fecundity, and the role of the body in self-giving love. These statements didn’t seem controversial although they seemed foggy and overly general.

But then the the bomb drops.

We cannot begin with the question of whether [homosexual marriage] is permitted or forbidden! “We must ask what it means, and how far it is Eucharistic. Certainly it can be generous, vulnerable, tender, mutual and non-violent. So in many ways I think it can be expressive of Christ’s self-gift.

Now if these statements were qualified with statements about how homosexual love will always fall short of God’s design because it can never be entirely free of the disorder of same sex attraction, I wouldn’t be as exasperated as I am right now. Or he could have included clear statements about the sinfulness of homosexual genital activity. Then I would be comfortable going on to discuss recognition of non-genital self-giving love between homosexual couples.

But apparently Fr. Radcliffe has already moved beyond me on this and given his approval of, at least, civil homosexual marriage. In a December 2012 article in The Guardian, Radcliffe wrote, “It is heartening to see the wave of support for gay marriages. It shows a society that aspires to an open tolerance of all sorts of people, a desire for us to live together in mutual acceptance.”

It is possible he was misquoted. But I doubt it because the journalist’s summary goes on: “But, he said, a heterosexual notion of marriage should not be imposed on gay couples, though differences should be embraced.”

Now what differences should be granted to homosexual couples? Are they subject to monogamy, fidelity, what about consummation? Doesn’t this pose a serious obstacle? I haven’t a clue what he means by “differences.”

Then I remembered appointments under Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

When it comes to John Paul II, in 1980, he appointed Kenneth Untener as Bishop of Saginaw. His consecration to the episcopacy became controversial when critics complained about his seminary workshop on sexuality. Detractors of the workshop claimed it promoted lewdness and promiscuity. In the Archdiocese of Detroit it has become the stuff of legend and I’ve never been able to sort out what was true and what was false. But I am confident it wasn’t good; it was discontinued.

Bishop Untener had many personal pastoral qualities that I admired. When I was hospitalized after an amputation. He called having lost a leg early in life. I loved his intimacy with his priests with whom he lived for long periods of time. But he was perhaps best known, it is regularly claimed, for refusing to ordain any more male priests until the Church allowed the ordination of women to the priesthood. In any event, he supported women’s ordination.

Pope Benedict XVI had his controversial choices as well. One French Bishop was known as the “Rainbow Bishop” because he was “gay friendly and wore rainbow stoles.”

In 2010 this same Catholic bishop wore alb, stole, cope, mitre, and pectoral cross in a non-Catholic sanctuary with a non-Catholic presider.

With two non-Catholic “bishops”, he processed and participated in a travesty of ordination. The gravity of the scandal is increased by the fact that 13 women, dressed in chasubles, were among the “ordinands.”

So Pope Francis is not alone is making some disturbing appointments. So I then began asking myself how many consultors are there and what kind of authority do they exercise. What’s the difference between a Pontifical Council and a Congregation, etc. What’s the difference between a Consulter and a Member?

So here is a little lesson in church organization. What is called the Roman Curia is composed of a number of different dicasteries, i.e., departments but by far the two most common types are Congregations and Councils. There are nine Congregations like the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, etc. They wield executive authority.

Then there are the Pontifical Councils of which there are 12 like the Pontiifical Council on the Justice and Peace, on Family, on Life. While Congregations have executive power, Pontifical Councils do not, and remain in the background working in their own spheres of influence.

There is also the Pontifical Academy of Science which is not quite as lofty as a Pontifical Council but members are still ultimately appointed by the Pope. The current head of it isn’t even a Catholic although he is a committed Christian who won a Nobel Prize. The atheist Stephen Hawking has been a member and might still be. There are over 80 members.

So then how significant and influential are Consultors? The number of Consultors and Members of the Pontifical Commissions vary widely. For instance, the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace has forty members and consultors. The Pontifical Council for Family has 15 Cardinals, 12 Bishops, 19 married couples, 39 consultors and a staff of ten making a grand total of 95. We are looking at hundreds of consultors and members.

Just how much influence Fr. Radcliffe will exercise is questionable. He is not a voting member. He is one among many who may be asked for expertise in a given area. He is primarily a sounding board, a consultor when a member wants to check out various ideas or expressions. It is an honor but not the high point of anyone’s life.

While this appointment is not good, it is hardly a game changer. Couldn’t Pope Francis have found some other equally qualified theologian to reward with this appointment? Only he knows. We don’t even know why he was chosen. His homosexual opinions may have nothing to do with it. He has many areas of expertise.

The bigger problem is his application of his so-called Eucharistic Ethic. It is foggy, imprecise and can be applied to almost any sincere loving relationship. His self-giving ethic of love justifies all. Remember the old situation ethic of love advocated by the former Episcopal priest Joseph Fletcher. It smells the same.

Now I’m painting with a very broad brush here and I’m fairly certain Fr. Radcliffe would object to my comparison. I’m confident, however, that the logical conclusion of his Eucharistic Ethic ends in the ethical swamp of relativism just as surely as Fletcher’s Situation Ethics.

For instance, according to my lights, unmarried, non-Catholic, cohabiting couples can experience authentic self giving love. Isn’t that the definition of “Eucharistic ethic”? Does that mean we should welcome them to the Lord’s Table?

Radcliffe’s appointment is also a problem inasmuch as it forces us talk more about internal church issues- exactly what Pope Francis wanted us to avoid. He asked us to not be so self-referential. He wanted us to turn our attention to the New Evangelization and reach out.

Holy Father, we are trying but with appointments like this conscientious lay Catholics can’t help but wonder why. You’ve said yourself that this is not an age of changes but a change of the ages. This applies to the way the Church does ministry. We are in an age where the greatest change in Catholic ministry in centuries is taking place: the laity is taking co-responsibility for the Church. Informed laity can charitably ask for rationales. In matters like this, you are not obligated to give them. Nevertheless, even if we don’t get them we can and will ask.

We pray for Pope Francis. His is a grueling, relentless job and I’ll wager 100 to 1 that he only rubber stamped this appointment. Nevertheless, I pray that in his attempt to shake things up and stretch our sympathies for the marginalized and excluded, “the prostitutes, tax collectors and other sinners”, he doesn’t inadvertently lead us to ignore Jesus’ closing admonition to the woman caught in adultery: “Go and sin no more.”

That simple admonition keeps Jesus’ mercy from morphing into lackadaisical excusing of sin. The Church does something far more difficult that excusing or ignoring sin; She forgives it in Christ’s name and by his sacrifice while never forgetting to uphold God’s standards as the goal for all of us.

Woman to become NY firefighter despite failing crucial fitness test


A note from Al:

Very similar to the article we posted last week about girl scouts allowing boys to join their ranks, here is an article that should make your average unsedated man or woman or even adolescent take notice that something has gone seriously wrong in our national social ethic.

Since we no longer admit to holding universal moral absolutes like you shall not commit adultery (the pornography and a portion of the fashion industry would lose out), you shall not covet your neighbors goods (the advertising and marketing industries would lose out), you shall keep the Lord’s day holy (every retailer would lose out), you shall not covet your neighbors wife (the romance publishing industry and daytime soaps and half Hollywood feature films would lose out) we must replace these former social rules with those of our own devising.

We still have pretty universal detestation of pedophilia and smoking in public but those aren’t really enough to hold a society together so we need something bigger. The new social glue is the vision of complete equality and inclusion. Almost any silly or corrupt act can be justified by an appeal to making things more equal or inclusive. This article shows the ridiculous lengths we are reaching towards.

- Al Kresta



by Susan Edelman via NYPost.com


The FDNY for the first time in its history will allow someone who failed its crucial physical fitness test to join the Bravest, The Post has learned.

Rebecca Wax, 33, is set to graduate Tuesday from the Fire Academy without passing the Functional Skills Training test, a grueling obstacle course of job-related tasks performed in full gear with a limited air supply, an insider has revealed.

“They’re going to allow the first person to graduate without passing because this administration has lowered the standard,” said the insider, who is familiar with the training.

Upon graduation, Wax would be assigned to a firehouse and tasked with the full duties of a firefighter.

Some FDNY members are angry.

“We’re being asked to go into a fire with someone who isn’t 100 percent qualified,” the source said. “Our job is a team effort. If there’s a weak link in the chain, either civilians or our members can die.”

Wax’s graduation comes as the city celebrates the FDNY’s 150th anniversary and as the department is under pressure by the de Blasio administration to hire more women.

Only 44 of the FDNY’s 10,500 firefighters are female.

While Wax fell short, two other female probies in the graduating class passed the FST with flying colors.

“They’re kicking butt. They’re doing better than 50 percent of the class,” the insider said. “When they get assigned to a firehouse, they’ll be welcomed with open arms because they’ve done what everyone else has gone through.”

Other female firefighters aren’t pleased about Wax’s treatment, either.

“A lot of the girls in the field are pissed because they feel like they’re getting lumped into the same category of a female getting special treatment and not meeting the same standards as the males,” the insider added. “It devalues what the women in the field have accomplished.”

In the FST exam, probies must breathe through a mask attached to an air tank while carrying up to 50 pounds of gear.

They must climb six flights of stairs, stretch hose lines, raise ladders, perform tasks that simulate breaking doors and pulling down ceilings, and drag dummies through tunnels with no visibility.

They must complete the course in 17 minutes, 50 seconds or less.

Despite many attempts over the Fire Academy’s 18-week training course, Wax completed the test just once — but it took her more than 22 minutes, the source said.

In numerous tries, Wax struggled and was too slow. While fit probies finish with air left in their tanks, she had to stop when hers ran out, the source added.

“She’s in the best shape of her life, and it’s still not good enough,” he said.

Under the FDNY’s new hiring policy, probies must earn at least 75 percent on the combined requirements of academics, hands-on skills and physical fitness.

Wax had a high grade-point average on her academics, which officials determined offset her FST deficiency, the insider said.

Last December, Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro told a City Council hearing on the FDNY’s efforts to recruit women that he had changed FST requirements to lower obstacles.

“We still grade the people. You can still fail it if you go beyond the time, but you’re not automatically failed from the program,” he said.

He also indicated he wanted to act before a possible sex discrimination lawsuit after the city paid $98 million to settle a lawsuit that accused the FDNY of discriminating against minorities.

“We must no longer wait for a judge’s ruling to tell us what fairness means,” Nigro said.

United Women Firefighters, an organization of FDNY women, objects to the FST test, contending it unfairly bars females.

The FST requires a much higher level of fitness than the Candidate Physical Ability Test, which applicants must pass to enter the academy.

Experts say the FST mirrors the demands of the job, training would-be firefighters to work in stressful environments while conserving their air supply.

Wax had previously received another break to join the FDNY after pleading in June 2011 for a City Council bill that raised the age limit from 29 to 35 for applicants like her who first took the entrance exam in 2007. A hiring freeze imposed by federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis in the discrimination suit put them in limbo.

“I want nothing more than to be a New York City firefighter,” Wax, then 29, had testified at a hearing.

Wax has worked as a civilian FDNY employee since 2009, lately as a community coordinator, making $52,338 last year.

Reached outside her Upper East Side apartment Friday, she would not speak to a reporter.

Nigro, questioned by The Post during an FDNY anniversary celebration at a Midtown firehouse Saturday, refused to comment on Wax’s fitness failure.

“Every one of our 305 probies have passed and will be graduating Tuesday,” he said. “She has met the requirements.”

The probationary class started with 320 recruits, meaning 15 dropped out or must retake the course.

Controversial preacher, writer Timothy Radcliffe given Vatican role


This article gives the facts about Timothy Radcliffe and his new Vatican role. To see how Al thinks we, as Catholics, should respond, see his piece here.


by Michael O’Loughlin via Cruxnow.com

An internationally known preacher and writer known for pushing the boundaries of Catholic orthodoxy and a strong ally of Pope Francis was given a boost by the Holy See Saturday.

In a move sure to raise eyebrows among the Church’s traditional guard, Pope Francis named the Rev. Timothy Radcliffe a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, the Vatican announced Saturday.

The head of the Dominican Order for nearly a decade in the 1990s who now leads a social justice center at Oxford, the English-born Radcliffe has repeatedly challenged Catholic attitudes toward women, gays and lesbians, and the divorced.

Last year, Radcliffe was at the center of a controversy over his invitation to speak at the International Conference of Divine Mercy, Ireland’s largest Catholic gathering. The American television network EWTN dropped plans to cover the event because of Radcliffe’s participation. A host at the station calledRadcliffe’s views “at sharp variance to Catholic teaching.”

The row was caused by comments Radcliffe made in 2013 about homosexuality, as reported by The Tablet.

“Certainly it can be generous, vulnerable, tender, mutual, and non-violent. So in many ways, I would think that it can be expressive of Christ’s self-gift,” he said. He expressed surprise that his views caused such a stir, stating that they were “deeply in resonance with the teaching of Pope Francis.”

Still, he has publicly supported the Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage, though for reasons not normally promulgated by Church officials.

For example, in a December 2012 article in The Guardian, Radcliffe wrote, “It is heartening to see the wave of support for gay marriages. It shows a society that aspires to an open tolerance of all sorts of people, a desire for us to live together in mutual acceptance.”

But, he said, a heterosexual notion of marriage should not be imposed on gay couples, though differences should be embraced.

Tolerance, he wrote, “implies an attention to the particularity of the other person, a savoring of how he or she is unlike me, in their faith, their ethnicity, their sexual orientation. A society that flees difference and pretends we are all just the same may have outlawed intolerance in one form, and yet instituted it in other ways.”

As a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Radcliffe is one of 40 or so people from around the globe who help “draw the broad lines of the action of the Counsel, according to their sensitivities and their professional and pastoral commitments,” according to the Vatican.

He is the author of more than a half-dozen books and an internationally sought after speaker. His book “What is the Point of Being a Christian?” won the 2007 Michael Ramsey Prize, which is awarded by the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury for the “most promising contemporary theological writing from the global Church.”

Radcliffe, ordained in 1971, is also a proponent of opening up to communion to divorced and remarried Catholics, currently a hot topic among bishops participating in the Synod on the Family.

In a 2013 essay in America magazine, Radcliffe wrote that he held “two profound hopes. That a way will be found to welcome divorced and remarried people back to communion. And, most important, that women will be given real authority and voice in the Church. The pope expresses his desire that this may happen, but what concrete form can it take?”

Regarding the role of women in the Church, Radcliffe is in line with Pope Francis, who has said no to women’s ordination but who nonetheless wants women to hold positions of authority. Radcliffe lamented what he sees as a stronger fusion between ordination and decision-making offices in the Church.

“I think the women’s ordination question has become more acute now because the Church has become more clerical than in my childhood,” Radcliffe said in a 2010 interview with US Catholic.

Radcliffe has pushed for a more open Church, along the lines of Pope Francis’ assertion that the Church be willing to “make a mess of things.”

“Jesus offered a wide hospitality, and ate and drank with all sorts of people. We need to embody his open heart rather than retreat into a Catholic ghetto,” Radcliffe said in a 2013 interview.

Catholic bishops from around the world will gather in Rome in October for the second part of a contentious debate about family issues in the Church.

Kresta in the Afternoon – May 18, 2015

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on May 18, 2015

4:00 – Kresta Comments: Pole Dancers, Voyeurism and Pornography

An American rabbi has been sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison for secretly taping women changing and showering at a local cleansing bath. In a world of rampant pornography and immodesty, why is voyeurism considered so shocking and offensive? Don’t strippers and porn stars ultimately encourage acts of voyeurism through their acts of indignity?

4:20 – Health Insurance the Catholic Way

Mike O”Dea and Louis Brown have created a Catholic alternative to Obamacare that does not force participants to violate their religious beliefs. Their initiative, CMF Curo, was launched last fall. They’re back today to talk about how the initiative is doing.

5:00 – ISIS in Garland, Texas and Ramadi, Iraq

ISIS has captured the major Iraqi city of Ramadi. The terrorist organization also claimed responsibility for the failed attack on the Mohammed cartoon festival in Texas early this month. We get the latest from Raymond Ibrahim.

5:20 – Kresta Comments: Pope Francis Appoints Pro-Gay Marriage Dominican to Pontifical Academy…What Are We to Think?


5:40 – Kresta Comments: Pope Francis Appointment (Continued) 

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