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Updates on situation in Egypt

These two updates are from the website of the Information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies. More can be found at www.fides.org


AFRICA/EGYPT – 58 churches destroyed. “But it is not a war between Christians and Muslims”, says the spokesperson of the Catholic Bishops

Cairo (Agenzia Fides) – 58 churches and Christian institutions were attacked and set on fire in Egypt in past days. This was reported to Fides Agency by Fr. Rafic Greiche, spokesman of the Catholic Bishops of Egypt. “Out of 58 churches attacked 14 are Catholic, the rest belong to the Coptic Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant communities” says Fr. Greiche. “The attacks against the churches took place all over the Country, but are concentrated especially in the areas of Al Minya and Assiut, because it is there that we find the headquarters of the jihadists, responsible for this violence”, adds Fr. Greiche.

“It should be emphasized – the priest says – that Muslims who live in the vicinity of the affected churches have helped men and women religious to put out the fires of the religious buildings”.
“This is not a civil war between Christians and Muslims”, emphasizes Fr. Greiche. “It is not a civil war but a war against terrorism. And the majority of the population is against terrorism and religious extremism”, concludes Fr. Greiche. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 19/08/2013)


AFRICA/EGYPT – “We are all locked in the house and food stocks are running out”, says the Bishop of Luxor

Cairo (Agenzia Fides) – “I am crying for all this simple humanity, Muslims and Christians, who reside in the villages of the area that have nothing because food supplies are running out and people are afraid to leave the house. Even those who are well off cannot buy food because all the shops are closed. I would like to reach them to give them help but I cannot because I am also segregated at home”, says to Fides Agency His Exc. Mgr. Youhannes Zakaria, Coptic Catholic Bishop of Luxor, who on Friday August 16 (the day of the demonstrations organized by the Muslim Brotherhood to protest the destitution of President Morsi) suffered an attempt of aggression.

“The pro Morsi protesters after being chased away from the center of Luxor, reached the Bishopric shouting “Death to Christians”. Luckily the police arrived in time to save us. Now the police and army are guarding the house with two armored vehicles”, says the Bishop.

“In Luxor the situation is critical although not as in Lower Egypt (Minya, Assiut) or Cairo. However, even here there were riots during which several Christian homes were burned. Ten days ago in a village near here 5 Christians and a Muslim were killed”, said Mgr. Zakaria. “For security reasons, we canceled the celebration of the Assumption, which is celebrated here on August 22 and not on the 15th. Everyone is locked in their own home. I have been locked in the Bishopric for about 20 days. The security forces have advised me not to go out”, adds Mgr. Zakaria.

According to the Bishop the campaign against Christians staged by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood stems from the fact that “they think that Christians are the cause of Morsi’s fall”. “It is true –he adds – that Christians participated in demonstrations against Morsi, but they were 30 million Egyptians, most of whom were Muslims, who took to the streets against the deposed President. By attacking Christians they want to throw Egypt into chaos”.

Mgr. Zakaria updates the figures on the destruction suffered by the various Christian denominations in recent days. “More than 80 different churches and several Christian schools have been burned. I want to point out that in Egypt the Catholic Church manages, from Alexandria to Aswan, more than 200 schools where Christians and Muslims pupils sit next to each other”.

“I make my own Pope Francis’ appeal to pray for peace in Egypt. Only through dialogue and mutual respect one can get out of this dramatic situation”, the Bishop concluded. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 20/08/2013)

LCWR leaders announce ‘honest sharing of views’ with Vatican delegate, but no plans for reform

CWN – August 20, 2013
Photo from Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau

At the conclusion of a 4-day annual assembly, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) issued a cautious statement expressing hopes that a Vatican mandate for reform of the group could find “a resolution of this situation that maintains the integrity of LCWR and is healthy for the whole church.”   

LCWR members conducted their discussions on the Vatican mandate quietly, meeting three times in executive session. The meeting heard a presentation from Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle, who has been appointed by the Vatican to oversee reform efforts within the group, and held a feedback session in which women religious offered their responses, characterized in the LCWR statement as “a profound and honest sharing of views.”

Archbishop Sartain also meet with the group’s board members, for what the LCWR said was an “extraordinarily rich and deeply reverent conversation.”

The LCWR statement avoided any discussion of the substantive issues mentioned in a Vatican report that was released last April, which pointed to a pattern of dissent from Church teachings and “serious theological, even doctrinal errors” in LCWR statements and in addresses to LCWR assemblies.

The LCWR—which represents leaders of roughly 80% of the women religious in the US—has avoided direct confrontation with the Vatican over the plans for the mandated reform. But Ann Carey, the author of Sisters in Crisis, observed in a National Catholic Register report that the group has not taken any concrete action to address the Vatican’s concerns.

First time in 1,600 years the Eucharist was not celebrated at the Coptic Monastery of the Virgin Mary, Minya.

Armored vehicle stationed at the Port Said church after the shooting
Photo from Egypt Independent

For the first time in 1,600 years the Eucharist was not celebrated at the Monastery of the Virgin Mary, Minya, due to the attack by the Muslim Brotherhood that resulted it being burnt to the ground. The mob of Muslims also ransacked the ancient monastery, stealing priceless artifacts, no doubt to be sold to international art collectors.

Egypt Independent reports:
‘Minya churches canceled on Sunday the second mass, holding only a brief one. Meanwhile, prayers did not take place at other churches which were attacked.”

Priest Selwanes Lotfy of the Virgin Mary and Priest Ibram monastery in Degla, south of Minya, said, “We did not hold prayers in the monastery on Sunday for the first time in 1,600 years.”
“Supporters of deposed President [Mohamed Morsy] destroyed the Virgin Mary and Priest Ibram monastery, which includes three churches, one of which is an archaeological site. One of the extremists wrote on the monastery wall ‘donate to the martyrs’ mosque,’” Lotfy added.’

According to tradition Minya is the location of caves in which the Holy Family sought refuge when they escaped King Herod’s Massacre of the Innocents in Bethlehem. The following is an account of a modern pilgrimage to Minya in the footsteps of the Holy Family, that includes a description of the Monastery of the Virgin Mary:

‘The Holy Family sheltered in a small cave in the mountains near Minya. Sherine Nasr follows in their footsteps through Minya and Gabal Al-Teir.

‘We left the city of Minya in the early morning, crossed over to the east bank of the Nile and drove to the Monastery of the Virgin Mary on Gabal Al-Teir. As soon as we crossed the Nile, it was like entering another world: one of serenity, peace and beauty. The narrow road leading to the mountain winds through a patchwork of green fields, hemmed in by the desert and mountains. Nowhere have I experienced such tranquillity, and for a second I thought of stopping the car, wandering through the fields, and staying there for good. I even felt that the people were special, with their genuine smiles and friendly looks. I immediately understood why the Holy Family selected this particular spot to seek refuge from the soldiers of Herod, King of Israel. I, too, felt I was fleeing from the stress, worries and duties of the material world.’ [...]

‘The monastery, which was built in the fourth century AD by Empress Helena, lies on the top of the mountain, almost 130 metres above the Nile, and is reached by a flight of 166 steps hewn into the rock.

El-Nabarawi took me first to the church of the monastery. In the southeastern corner of the church, cut into the rock, is the cave where Jesus, the Virgin Mary and Joseph were believed to have taken shelter. This cave is the oldest part of the church.

Read the rest here: http://protectthepope.com/?p=8033&utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

Other sources: http://www.jihadwatch.org/2013/08/egypt-we-did-not-hold-prayers-in-the-monastery-on-sunday-for-the-first-time-in-1600-years.html


How to Fix Our System of Higher Education

Georgetown University
For Catholic parents with intelligent high school children, this can be a trying time. A good many ostensibly Catholic universities have simply become indistinguishable from the mass of U.S. colleges. Take Georgetown, for example, which the New York Times gleefully reports has become a gay-friendly campus.

During the month of “OUTober,” described by the Times as “a month jam-packed with celebrations related to all things L.G.B.T.Q., or lesbian, gay,” Georgetown students are invited to same-sex smooching parties in a campus “kiss-in.” The dominant culture is like a great tidal wave that sweeps almost everything before it. We fought the Times—and the Times won.

Any attempt to resist the intense pressure to conform to lifestyle liberalism is treated as heresy by the left. Think of Sandra Fluke, who didn’t mind paying $40,000 a year for tuition at Georgetown Law, but who made a national issue out of a university health plan that didn’t cover the pill. Without insurance, that would have come to about $100 a year at a local Target store, which didn’t make it look like the social justice cause of our time. Unless, of course, one knew who the enemy was.
Then there’s the sheer expense of it all. There are good schools out there, to be sure. The problem is that it will often take a second mortgage to pay for them.

Clearly, it’s time to rethink the college experience. Right now, two models dominate American higher education, and both are broken. The first is the hugely expensive bricks-and-mortar university, which typically don’t teach anything much of value and indoctrinate students in a sloppy anti-religious, leftism. The second are the conventional, asynchronous (not real-time) online programs being adopted by many of these same institutions as a means of reducing costs.

Asynchronous courses, which are also offered by online schools such as the University of Phoenix, feature technical training in subjects such as accounting and computer science. The market works here, and one doesn’t see courses on Pulp Fiction (Georgetown English-219). Such course are also inexpensive, since they can be offered to thousands of people at the same time. Bandwidth is free, after all, and computers can evaluate multiple choice exam questions. But while asynchronous courses are cheap, they don’t include the crucially important real-time exchange of ideas. What’s also missing are the opportunities for informal discussion, pre and post class, which is so important to the learning process.

The first model has serious problems, which the second model can’t fix without creating those of its own. This leaves us with a tremendous hole in higher education, a hole that synchronous online schools will rise to meet. Among the first of these, LibertasU, will launch on September 9, with online courses given in the classical tradition. LibertasU’s Dean is Roger Scruton, well-known as a leading conservative intellectual, whose latest book is The Face of God.

Unlike a bricks-and-mortar school, a school such as LibertasU exists exclusively on the web, which means it eliminates all the costs of operating a standard, physical campus, to say nothing of the enormous waste on administrative expenses. This translates into lower tuition and, as such courses are readily available to anyone with a computer and Internet connection, provides students, whether they’re 16 or 86, the opportunity to study with first-rate educators, who themselves can be located anywhere in the world.

With synchronous online schools, teachers and students are present at the same time in scheduled classes. LibertasU takes this one step further. Rather than using simple video conferencing, classes are held in immersive virtual reality environments where each person assumes a body or avatar and is able to walk around, raise their hand to speak, and interact with others, in a group setting. Think of “Grand Theft Auto,” if designed by Plato. People report the experience to be just like being there, without the cost and disruption associated with travel to a bricks-and-mortar classroom. Additionally, it has been found that, when such environments are used, retention is much better and students are more likely to take part in the conversation….

What, after all, should a college do? Three things. A college should teach things that can’t be adequately mastered on one’s own. College should also assist in promoting desirable goals, be they spiritual or professional. And all this should be done in a cost-cutting, efficient manner. A school such as Georgetown flunks all three. That’s why the future of higher education, especially for Catholic conservatives, lies with a mixture of cutting-edge technology, first-rate teachers and classical courses.

Read the full article here: http://www.crisismagazine.com/2013/how-to-fix-our-system-of-higher-education?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+CrisisMagazine+%28Crisis+Magazine%29

F. H. Buckley

Gay Panic Over New Russian Laws

russian-olympics-boycott-rejected Lefteris Pitarakis AP

A psychiatrist of the early 20th century coined “homosexual panic” to describe an overreaction by heterosexuals who have been hit on by a gay guy. Now it’s the gays turn to panic, in this case by any public criticism, imaginary or otherwise, or legal restriction on their proselytizing.

Gay writer Jonathan Capehart published a short piece in the Washington Post this week in which he oh-so-bravely spoke truth to Gospel power. He attended his aunt’s funeral in North Carolina at which the preacher’s “guest eulogy gave way to a harsh sermon about who can and cannot get into the kingdom of heaven.”

From what Capehart quotes, the preacher did not actually talk about who can get into heaven but rather who can “transform” their lives by washing themselves in the “blood of the Lamb.”
“During his oration, I vowed I would not shake his hand.” But Capehart did shake the Reverend’s hand and then said to him, “Your sermon was offensive to me.” Taken aback the Preacher say, “What?” “Your sermon was offensive to me. I need you to know that. That is all I have to say.” Not waiting for or even wanting a response, Capehart stalked off.

There’s a lot packed into this brief encounter. It is unclear whether the preacher even mentioned homosexuality. Capehart said the preacher quoted from a bible passage that mentions many sins including homosexuality but it appears that the preacher only highlighted a “pimp becoming a preacher” and a “prostitute becoming a prophet.” But that was enough to get Capehart going.

What followed was the classic sneak attack, assertion of victimhood, name-calling, followed by a refusal to engage in any meaningful way. Called “jamming,” the purpose is not to debate the issue respectfully or otherwise, but to shame opponents into silence, castigate them, and cast them into outer societal darkness.

“Jamming” comes from a book called After the Ball, a 1989 manifesto on how homosexuals could triumph over the culture. Capehart caught the preacher off guard, claimed he was a victim, implied the preacher is a hater and a bigot, and then walked off without giving the preacher a chance to talk, explain or even to apologize. Brave. Very brave, Jonathan and very textbook, too.

Something similar is happening with the evolving situation in Russia. The Russian parliament recently passed a national law forbidding homosexual proselytizing to schoolchildren. The law also forbids public manifestations like parades. An additional law forbids homosexual adoption of children or foreign adoption into countries that allow for homosexual “marriage.”

Opponents of the law are not content simply to shock their friends with what is really going on in Russia. After all, these new laws are enough to shock the sensibilities of westerners where homosexuality has largely triumphed over the culture. But opponents of the Russian law must go further in gilding the lily.

They tell us that it is now illegal to be homosexual in Russia. Gay writer Harvey Fierstein wrote a few weeks ago in the New York Times that parents who speak positively to their children about homosexuality could lose their children and get jail time. He wrote that people even suspected of gayness could be jailed.

They tell us that athletes suspected of being gay will be arrested when they arrive in Russia for the winter Olympics next year. No less than Jay Leno on the Tonight Show said to President Obama that it has become “illegal” to be homosexual in Russia. He compared it to Germany under the Nazis, said it was like taking away the Jews. I would expect a firestorm after Jay Leno compared the gassing of 6 million Jews with the inability of homosexuals to tell their story to school children. You would think he might have been corrected by the President of the United States who was sitting right there, but he wasn’t.

Now, there are some very nasty things going on in Russia with regard to gays. Some are being beaten by vigilante mobs. Some say the thugs are encouraged and protected by the police though I see no evidence of that. In fact, the New York Times ran a picture this week of a gay-beating thug being physically detained and arrested by Russian police.

We cannot approve in any way the beating of people for the mere fact of being gay or even expressing it. But, I wonder if there is a bit of provocation going on. After all, pictures of gays with bloody noses are pure propaganda gold in the western press.

You have to wonder, though, is life so hard for gays in Russia? Do they have to live underground constantly in fear of their lives?

I was in Russia a few weeks ago and saw open transvestitism on the street not once but twice and both times within a stones through of the Kremlin and the Duma which is the Russian parliament that banned gay propaganda to school children. And none of the dress-wearing men were being arrested, or beaten. In fact, they seemed to be having a good time.

Just how gay is Moscow? You don’t have to walk down a dingy street in the dark of night and knock on an unmarked door to find what you’re looking for. Google “Gay Moscow” and you find clubs, cafes, bathhouses, and dance parties.

Chubabar-BVP is “the best gay after party in Moscow. Trendy music. Trendy gays. Very friendly atmosphere.”

You can go to “Propaganda Gay Night” at a place called Propaganda for “Sunday gay parties … only gays there.”

Did you know that in Moscow there are two gay beaches? Silver Forest/Serebryanly Bor “is the most visited.”

There’s a place called 12 Volt Club that boasts a “UN certificate for the best gay bar in Moscow.”
What about St. Petersburg, you wonder? There is Club Central Station that is “located in the heart of the city … it features great looking dancers who you might wish to feed fruit.”

Read the rest here: http://www.crisismagazine.com/2013/gay-panic-in-washington-and-moscow?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+CrisisMagazine+%28Crisis+Magazine%29

Russia rejects ‘the new society’ because it’s been there before

The Christians
Aug 16, 2013              
They don’t need the police to stop a gay parade – just 25,000 women carrying icons
A protest 'rainbow' crosswalk outside Russia's embassy in Sweden.
A protest ‘rainbow’ crosswalk outside Russia’s embassy in Sweden.

             Gay groups and sympathizers across the world joined Canada last week in denouncing Russia’s new law that forbids the lionizing of sodomizing, but the Russian government appeared utterly indifferent to this cacophony. When homophiles in Stockholm, Sweden, painted the crosswalk markers outside the Russian Embassy with all the colors of the rainbow, it elicited no response from anyone inside. And where the exhibitionist pouring of Russian vodka down a sewer in New York might have reduced Russian vodka sales in Manhattan, it might just as likely have increased them in Texas.

In Russia a national petition urging that a well-known television journalist be fired for volubly defending the law, picked up a paltry 3,500 signatures and fizzled. One British journalist deplored the “creeping acceptability of homophobia in Russia.” He seemed unaware that the law passed Russia’s lower house by a vote of 436-0 – possibly a “sign” that Russian “homophobia” had done quite a bit of creeping already.

Metropolitan Hilarion: We Russians already went that way; we know where it leads.
Metropolitan Hilarion: We Russians already went
 that way; we know where it leads.

 That’s why Russia is not likely to back down. When a popular transvestite comedian was fired because of the law, there was no public outcry. When Dmitry Kiselyov, a star television journalist, was discovered to have said in a debate that the Russian law did not go far enough the audience applauded heartily, and Kislyov has flatly refused to recant.

Canadians urged to defy the law

In Canada, the country’s self-appointed national newspaper, the Globe and Mail, urged attendees at next February’s Russian Olympics to openly defy the Russian law. It is “extremely unlikely” Russian police carrying truncheons will round up gay protesters, said the Globe. It’s more probable, however, that the protesters would encounter no police at all, only some 25,000 Russian women carrying icons.

The Globe does not seem to understand that Russia’s opposition to public acceptance of sodomy is not rooted in the government but in the people, led by the Russian Orthodox Church. The highly articulate Cambridge graduate and classical music composer, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, No. 2 man in the Russian ecclesiastical hierarchy, does not shrink from providing the rationale. Been there, done that Russia, he says, is usually portrayed as behind the West in accepting unchristian practices like homosexuality. In fact, he says, it’s far ahead of the West. These supposedly liberal “advances” are part of the process of secularization in which “the state sets a principle of secularity, independent of any outside authority,” including moral authority, and then “preconditions” the people to accept it.

See the rest at: http://thechristians.com/?q=node/537&utm_source=The+Christians+Book+Buyers&utm_campaign=653bfd0475-TCH-Issue0094-BB&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e2d8bf6d30-653bfd0475-57142977

The Morality of Using Combat Drones

Posted: August 14, 2013
On August 6, the Associated Press reported a U.S. drone strike against a terrorist target in Yemen. It was the fourth such strike in a week. It destroyed a car, killing its four passengers, all believed to be members of Al-Qaida.

The strike came after credible intelligence reports indicated that a terrorist attack was likely to be carried out against U.S. targets to correspond with the end of Ramadan (August 7).

The U.S. military is increasingly relying on drones to fight its War on Terror. Drones were first used in the 1990s for surveillance and reconnaissance. Under Obama, they’ve become the outstanding aerial combat asset against foreign terrorists.

Drones are operated remotely via satellite. (Our Predator and Reaper drones are allegedly “piloted” from bases in the Nevada desert). One operator flies the machine, another monitors its cameras and sensors, and a third communicates with commanders in the combat zone half a world away. Drone operation costs a fraction of what conventional aircrafts cost, and they can stay in the air much, much longer. Consequently, operators can follow their targets for many hours, even days, before striking.

Ethical Arguments For and Against Drones

Since combat drones have only been used for a few years, the moral arguments for and against them are still developing. My own thoughts on the issue are developing. My purpose therefore is not to provide a conclusive answer to the moral question of drones, but to stimulate critical thinking.

Arguments For

Defenders argue that drones illustrate an evolution in aerial combat precisely fit for the unique circumstances of unconventional and asymmetrical 21st century warfare. Outside the Afghan theater, our enemy is non-localized, not overtly affiliated with any state, particularized to individuals (not armies), and can make himself effectively invisible. Terrorists train and operate from some of the most remote and inaccessible regions on earth, from the deserts of Somalia and Yemen, to mountain caves and walled compounds in Pakistan. Local governments often have little ability and even less will to reach into these places and strike. Ground operations, even small tactical strikes using Special Forces, are costly and extremely dangerous to our troops; and they rarely result in a terrorist capture.
Drones can penetrate the remotest locations, strike and take out high value targets with an extraordinarily high degree of accuracy, causing fewer civilian casualties, at a relatively low cost; and without a U.S. boot ever touching the ground….

Read more here:  http://www.culture-of-life.org/e-brief/morality-using-combat-drones

Arguments Against

In 2012, the Obama administration admitted that combat drones were being used for targeted killing operations. The President insisted that outside Afghanistan, the U.S. only targets al Qaeda and its associated forces; and he said he personally approves every new name on the terrorist “kill list.” Targeted killings are justified under the principle of “national self-defense.” Not all agree. Some of his opponents argue that targeted killings are not essentially different from assassinations or extrajudicial killings, which violate U.S. and international law.

The moral status of the human targets is obviously relevant here. Just war tradition sanctions the use of lethal force to prevent an imminent threat to innocent human life and in general to restrain unjust aggression, presuming it is not in excess of what’s needed to stem the aggression. Combatants on a battlefield are classically considered the paradigmatic legitimate target. Off the battlefield, they can also be legitimate insofar as they are still committed to and engaged in a wider conflict underway or being planned that itself is just to resist.

In our period of unconventional warfare, the lines of what is and isn’t a legitimate battlefield, and who is and isn’t a combatant, can be blurry. Nevertheless, the distinction—however difficult to apply—is always relevant: non-combatants are absolutely immune from intentional targeting.

In 2012, the New York Times reported that the Obama administration employs a disputed method for counting the civilian casualties that result from drone strikes. It designates all military-age males in a strike zone as “combatants” unless posthumous information exonerates them: “This counting method may partly explain the official claims of extraordinarily low collateral deaths.”

I would argue that commanders are under a grave obligation to refrain from deliberate attacks unless and until they secure moral certitude regarding the combatant status of a potential target. To order a strike based upon evidence that leaves reasonable doubt as to whether a target is a non-combatant would be immoral.

Following from this, many have expressed concern that the use of drones may make recourse to lethal options too tempting to resist. What happens when you remove from war all the conscious data of the battlefield? No explosions, no blood, no faces of dead soldiers, no graphic sensory feedback to stir your guts. The ugliness of human slaughter—however justifiable an instance of killing may be—is a salutary reminder that warfare and killing should never be the immediate option for social conflict: recourse to war should always be a last resort.

When killing can be planned and executed by operators sipping drinks in a quiet room, doesn’t opting for lethal force become much easier? If politicians don’t need to contend with the flagged-draped caskets of the young men and women resulting from their decisions to go to war, will they be quicker to adopt lethal interventions over cumbersome diplomatic bargaining? In other words, does the use of unmanned drones encourage unnecessary killing?

Read the rest here: http://www.culture-of-life.org/e-brief/morality-using-combat-drones

Catholic Relief Services’ Madagascar Aid Analyzed

August 17, 2013

Scandalous claims don’t appear to hold up: Part 1 of a Register Special Report.

WASHINGTON — A bombshell report from the Population Research Institute (PRI) alleging Catholic Relief Services’ involvement in population-control activities in Madagascar has not been substantiated, as Church officials in Madagascar and CRS’ own internal investigators say they have found no evidence to corroborate the charges.

The respected pro-life organization has also admitted that its allegations of CRS misconduct are nearly a year old and that it never followed up on its investigator’s findings with either CRS leaders or the Madagascar bishops.

PRI has a long-standing reputation for research into population-control activities conducted throughout the world, particularly by the United Nations and the People’s Republic of China. PRI’s president, Steven Mosher, first exposed China’s one-child policy, including forced abortions and sterilizations, and is a recognized expert on population-control activities.

On July 25, PRI alleged Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ international relief organization, was actively engaged in population control and compromising its Catholic identity and Catholic teaching in Madagascar.

“CRS is using funding from American Catholics to distribute contraceptive and abortifacient drugs and devices,” Mosher stated in a report co-written with Anne Morse, PRI’s media coordinator. Mosher added that the funding only ceased when the USAID-funded SantéNet2 program ceased….

Bishops Refute Report

PRI’s allegations sent shockwaves into both CRS and the USCCB — until the Madagascar bishops themselves denied that CRS was involved in any immoral activity in their dioceses.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the USCCB, spoke directly on Aug. 2 with Archbishop Tsarahazana, the president of Madagascar’s bishops’ conference, through a Malagasy (the native language of Madagascar) interpreter to see if the allegations were true. Bishop Gerald Kicanas, CRS board chairman, spoke similarly with Archbishop Odon Razanakolona of the Archdiocese of Antananarivo on Aug. 5 to investigate if he had any concerns.

Joan Rosenhauer, CRS’ executive vice president of U.S. operations, and Shannon Senefeld, director of program impact and quality assurance, both told the Register that they were present on both calls with the archbishops. Rosenhauer said both archbishops denied the allegations against CRS and authorized the U.S. bishops to make a press statement on their behalf affirming their support for CRS and its fidelity to Catholic teaching in Madagascar. The USCCB issued press releases to that effect on Aug. 2 and Aug. 5.

Both archbishops also told Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Kicanas that they never knew they had been speaking with a PRI representative, according to Rosenhauer.

Both Rosenhauer and Bishop Kicanas independently told the Register that the archbishops in their conversations said they were under the impression they were speaking with a CRS donor and felt their remarks as published lacked context.

But Mosher said that PRI’s investigator had “no reason for him to identify himself as PRI,” because he was a contracted investigator, not a member of the media or a PRI employee. Mosher said the interviews were “on the record,” because the investigator made clear that interviewees knew they were being recorded.

No PRI Follow-Up

Mosher told the Register that PRI made no follow-up with either the Madagascar archbishops or with CRS in the eight months between the investigation’s conclusion in December 2012 and the report’s release in July. Mosher said PRI did not follow up because it had “no more questions for the archbishops.”

PRI also did not reach out to CRS’ president, Carolyn Woo, or Bishop Kicanas before releasing the report because no changes in CRS’ methods of operation were evident, Mosher said. “They hadn’t issued any press releases, hadn’t admitted any wrongdoing and hadn’t mentioned any changes in the way they operate,” Mosher told the Register.

Mosher said he did try to contact Woo after releasing the initial PRI report, but the CRS president has not returned his calls.

“We’ve only released a fraction of what [PRI’s investigator] found, and this involvement in family planning was clearly a blatant violation of Church teaching,” Mosher said, indicating the complete report would be published soon.

‘Confusion’ Acknowledged

PRI’s allegations about CRS in Madagascar did not come completely out of left field, CRS acknowledges. Archbishop Tsarahazana did relay to Cardinal Dolan and CRS that there had been “some confusion,” Senefeld explained. “Some priests had thought CRS was involved in promoting abortion and contraception; things like the Depo Provera shots,” she said.

But Senefeld said Archbishop Tsarahazana told Cardinal Dolan and CRS representatives during their phone call that his diocese had already investigated the allegations and found them untrue.

According to Senefeld, Archbishop Tsarahazana said that, approximately one year ago in one community, some people went to their priest with information alleging CRS involvement in artificial family-planning practices. The priest then passed along this information to the diocese….

Charges Repeated

Even with the statements of the Madagascar archbishops released, PRI doubled down on the charge that CRS had been involved in artificial family planning through its participation in the SantéNet2 program.

Mosher told the Register that CRS was not engaged now in promoting abortion or contraception in Madagascar, but speculated that was only because the SantéNet2 program ended in July.

“It is true they are no longer involved,” he said. “But are they no longer involved because they realized it was wrong and got out of it, or are they no longer involved because the program simply ended? I think the answer to that question would tell us a lot.”

However, USAID’s own January 2013 report on the SantéNet2 program specifically states CRS would not cooperate with or supply artificial family-planning activities. It stated that informants in September 2011 reported CRS “excluded certain contraceptives, such as condoms, from its services due to religious beliefs.”

The USAID report did acknowledge that a “CRS informant” told USAID that some CRS community health workers in the Androy region would go behind CRS’ back to hand out condoms “after obtaining them from other sources.”

Senefeld told the Register that every CRS Madagascar employee is required to take an online training course called “Protecting Life” to educate them in the Church’s teaching on abortion, contraception and the sanctity of life.

“This goes to every single employee, whatever their position,” Senefeld said.

“CRS is very clear that we do not support or promote either abortion or contraception.”

She stressed that CRS investigates any reported employee violations of Catholic moral teaching and that violating CRS’ Catholic beliefs could result in termination.

“The first thing we do is contact the country program and get all of the facts,” Senefeld said. “Then we contact the person who is causing the problem and try to get all of the facts. We then review that in light of the guidance that we have regarding decisions.” She said CRS followed this protocol when made aware of PRI’s allegations.

Endorsement of CRS

Maronite Bishop Gregory Mansour of Brooklyn told the Register that he has served on CRS’ board for a full year and has not found any evidence that CRS was failing to live up to Catholic teaching.

He said CRS audits its own programs to make sure they are consistent with the Catholic faith. “When we audit, we audit for policy, not just financial,” Bishop Mansour said. “We audit in such a way to see if anything we are doing is inconsistent with our mission and reputation.”

“Other Caritas agencies want to be like CRS: with policy auditors, financial auditors, with Catholic-identity audits,” Bishop Mansour said.

“CRS is trustworthy,” he said. “And they are accountable.”

Peter Jesserer Smith is a Register staff writer.

Oklahoma’s ban on Sharia law thrown out by federal judge

By DAVID HARPER World Staff Writer on Aug 16, 2013, at 2:28 AM
Updated on 8/16/13 at 3:02 AM
Tulsa World

MARK SCHLACHTENHAUFEN | THE EDMOND SUN Muneer Awad, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, at the podium, announces the filing of a lawsuit challenging State Question 755 during a Thursday afternoon press conference at the state Capitol
Muneer Awad, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council
on American-Islamic Relations, at the podium, announces the filing of
a lawsuit challenging State Question 755 during a Thursday afternoon
press conference at the state Capitol.

An Oklahoma constitutional amendment that would bar the state’s courts from considering or using Sharia law was ruled unconstitutional Thursday by a federal judge in Oklahoma City.

In finding the law in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause, U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange issued a permanent injunction prohibiting the certification of the results of the state question that put the Sharia law ban into the state constitution.

“While the public has an interest in the will of the voters being carried out, the Court finds that the public has a more profound and long-term interest in upholding an individual’s constitutional rights,” the judge wrote.

Muneer Awad, a Muslim and American citizen who was executive director of the Oklahoma Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations at the time, filed the lawsuit on Nov. 4, 2010, seeking to block the so-called “Save Our State” constitutional amendment that had been approved by 70 percent of Oklahoma voters two days earlier.

Awad claimed that State Question 755 violated the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Miles-LaGrange issued a temporary restraining order on Nov. 8, 2010, finding that enjoining the certification of the election results for SQ 755 would not be adverse to the public interest.

On Nov. 29, 2010, she issued a preliminary injunction, finding that Awad had legal standing and that SQ 755 likely violated both the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause.

Miles-LaGrange also found then that the balance of harms weighed strongly in favor of Awad, that the alleged violation of Awad’s First Amendment rights constituted irreparable injury and that the public interest demanded protection of these rights.

On Jan. 10, 2012, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Miles-Grange’s preliminary injunction ruling, and on July 29, 2012, the lawsuit was amended, adding four additional plaintiffs.

In her opinion Thursday, Miles-LaGrange noted that the 10th Circuit wrote in January 2012 that “when the law that voters wish to enact is likely unconstitutional, their interests do not outweigh Mr. Awad’s in having his constitutional rights protected.”

Miles-LaGrange found “that any harm that would result from permanently enjoining the certification of the election results is further minimized in light of the undisputed fact that the amendment at issue was to be a preventative measure and that the concern that it seeks to address has yet to occur.”

She pointed out in a footnote that attorneys defending the amendment at the November 2010 preliminary injunction hearing admitted that “they did not know of any instance where an Oklahoma court had applied Sharia law or used the legal precepts of other nations or cultures.”

Miles-LaGrange also rejected the argument that the amendment could be salvaged by severing certain language that specifically mentioned Sharia law. That option would have retained less precise wording saying that Oklahoma courts “shall not look to the legal precepts of other nations or cultures.”

The judge wrote in her order that “it is abundantly clear that the primary purpose of the amendment was to specifically target and outlaw Sharia law and to act as a preemptive strike against Sharia law to protect Oklahoma from a perceived ‘threat’ of Sharia law being utilized in Oklahoma courts.”

She added that the plaintiffs “have shown that the voters would not have approved the amendment without the unconstitutional provisions.”

She noted that “the public debate, public discussions, articles, radio ads and robocalls” regarding SQ 755 all primarily and overwhelmingly focused on Sharia law. “Given this context, the court finds any reasonable voter would have perceived SQ 755 as a referendum on Sharia law,” she wrote.

Awad moved to New York City in August 2012 to accept a position with another CAIR affiliate, according to Thursday’s opinion.

On Thursday night, Adam Soltani, the current executive director of CAIR’s Oklahoma Chapter and a fellow plaintiff in the lawsuit, issued a statement in which he said: “As Oklahomans, we are incredibly thrilled at the decision and applaud the judicial system for upholding our constitutional rights. This is a victory not only for Oklahoma Muslims, but for all Oklahomans and all Americans.”

Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the ACLU of Oklahoma, issued a written statement saying: “This law unfairly singled out one faith and one faith only. This amendment was nothing more than a solution in search of a problem. We’re thrilled that it has been struck down.”

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said in the wake of the appellate court decision in January 2012 that his office “will continue to defend” the state’s position.

However, spokeswoman Diane Clay said Pruitt would have no comment on Thursday night.

Despite the legal setbacks for SQ 755, Gov. Mary Fallin signed House Bill 1060 into law last April. Proponents said that without specifically mentioning Sharia law, the measure would prohibit the application of foreign laws when it would violate either the Oklahoma Constitution or the U.S. Constitution.

David Harper 918-581-8359
Source: http://www.tulsaworld.com/article.aspx/Oklahomas_ban_on_Sharia_law_thrown_out_by_federal_judge/20130816_11_A1_CUTLIN219102

Statement by His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of The Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom highlighting the increasing incitement and violence threatening and claiming the lives of Christians in Egypt.

The Coptic Orthodox Church UK
Thursday, 8 August 2013

In the recent weeks and months there has been an escalation of attacks against Christians in Egypt, with unfounded, dangerous, and unlawful incitement emerging from various fringe Islamist leaders spurring on more violent acts and illegal behaviour that continues to injure and claim the lives of many Egyptian Christians.

A number of Egypt-based human rights organisations, with Amnesty International UK, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), have spoken out regarding attacks on Christians since the ousting of the former president, expecting similar acts in the coming period if these matters are not sufficiently addressed.

Most recently a violent attack on the Church of St George was followed by the raising of an Al Qaeda flag on its premises while congregation members were locked inside the church building. Churches across Upper Egypt including Minya, Asyut, and Luxor have suffered violent and destructive attacks and serious vandalism, with Christian homes and businesses also set alight. Callers to current affairs programmes on certain television channels, using hate speech, have rallied for the attack on, and eradication of, Christians and Churches. These acts and threats all contribute to a very real risk upon the life of every Christian, especially in the increasingly polarised and inflamed climate in Egypt. As a result of these threats, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II has suspended weekly public events out of concern over potential attacks on congregations.

At a time where attempts are being made to move Egypt into a more unified state, and where there is opportunity for collaboration and reconciliation, we are instead witnessing, once again, a polarised society in which unprecedented acts against Egyptian Christians are being carried out without fear of reprisal.

Imbalanced media coverage depicts scenes of violence in one part of the community as victimisation, while ignoring or labelling the savage attacks against Christians, on what is developing into a daily occurrence, as ‘sectarian’.
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