Monday, July 13, 2009

President Obama and the Pope - what REALLY happened

As we can expect, the meeting between President Obama and Pope Benedict XVI was badly misreported, even by Catholic news service. We must read the news media critically, remembering that reporters are often given deadlines in terms of HOURS which is all too often, not NEAR the time they need to research stories, let alone, write them up for publication.

While not expecting reporters to do what they physically can't, we need to realize that on certain subjects such as medical studies or Papal encyplicals, the media is about the worst source you can read, EVEN groups like Catholic News Service.

So I researched the meeting with a source who actually interviewed Fr Frederico Lombardi, spokesperson for the Vatican (Raymond Arroyo of EWTN).

As for what the encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, really says, I did the best type of research - I read it in its entirety, myself spending about 4 hours, studying it, carefully.

Unlike the media has suggested, it's not a wimpy document but rather as strong in its condemnation of abortion, euthanesia, same sex marriage and immorality as is Humana Vitae or the "Gospel of Life" but newly profound in that it presents an extremely strong argument for the need for ALL development; economic, technological, medical, sociological or otherwise, to be ROOTED in truth and morality and THE PROFOUND respect for human life from conception to natural death, and states rather bluntly that unless it IS thus rooted, it will not only fail but also, have a destructive effect on society.

Benedict gave Obama, as a gift, an autographed copy of "Caritas in Veritate", his newly released encyclical. And it DOES get specific, least one might misunderstand, so if Obama really reads this extremely profound document, he will INDEED, get an eye-full.

It is rather certain, however, that the Pope in his meeting with Obama reiterated some of what he wrote in "Caritas in Veritate".

And to underline the seriousness of the life issues at stake, he also gave Obama a copy of the instruction, "Dignitus Personae" the Vatican's 2008 document on bioethics and respect for human life and condemning, embryonic stem cell research.

Fr Frederico Lombardi, the Vatican's spokesman said "there is no need to hide it - giving the book to the President was to be clear it was NOT polemical." (an attempt to teach the President 'here is WHAT WE BELIEVE and WHY WE BELIEVE IT').

Fr Lombardi also said the president told the Pope he was "committed to reducing the number of abortions" but recently the administration under great pressure from the abortion providers (who financed Obama's campaign) stated that it sees good reason to reduce the NEED for abortions but NOT THE NUMBER of abortions now being performed.

So what BHO told the Pope would represent a "reversal of policy" however, on the home front the Administration is doing as some prolife folks suspected they would do i.e. passing "FOCA" in small segments as attached to other bills.

Thus the Catholic News Service article which stated that the Vatican said Obama has not done any harm to the pro-life cause yet, was incorrect. He is INDEED, fulfilling his promises to the abortion providers who financed his campaign.

Here is just what recently transpired in the last week:

  • According to the Catholic Family Institute, the Obamas have introduced "sweeping language on abortion rights" at the United Nations calling for "universal access to reproductive health and family planning services". (U-N-speak for abortion and contraception)

  • And in Washington, a Senate panel has passed legislation that would codify into law, President Obama's January directive to fund abortion promoters and providers overseas, a reversal of the so called Mexico city policy instituted by Bush which stopped this funding. NOTE: This was an E.O. but Obama wants to make it a law, so it can NOT be easily reversed by the next president.

  • Meanwhile on Capital Hill, a Senate committee drafting the Health Care reform bill this week, accepted language that COMPELS insurance companies to pay for abortions. The amendment was Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski's and it was accepted by one vote.

  • Finally on Monday last week, the NIH released guidelines for the President's decision to fund "embryo DESTROYING" embryonic stem cell research. The National Catholic Bishop's committee complained about the broader guidelines and pointed out that the comments of 30,000 people objecting to these guidelines on the NIH site, were ignored (Comments were solicited by the administration about these guidelines)

This last action is progressing full speed ahead, even though embryonic stem cell therapy has been declared by several scientists to be a "dead end research" because in all the rat studies and one human study (in Asia) the transplantation of embryonic stem cells has not cured any disease but has CAUSED the growth of cancerous tumors.

(Dr Oz, Oprah's medical advisor pointed out on National TV, that if this dead end research is funded, other stem cell research which is ALREADY CURING DISEASE (as well as being ethical and NOT destroying any kind of human life) is denied funding.)

The acting director of the NIH said it wasn't a question of whether embryonic stem cell research should be funded but HOW it should be funded.

Every one of the above actions was CONDEMNED STRONGLY by the Pope's new encyplical, Caritas in Veritate which I have now READ in entirety and I would suggest that every Catholic (and educated person) do same if they can possibly swing it: Link to document on the Vatican website

The following is a taste of how incredibly profound Caritas in Veritate is:

Here's what the Pope said about abortion (in part - although respect for human life is woven throughout the document):

"we must not underestimate the disturbing scenarios that threaten our future, or the powerful new instruments that the "culture of death" has at its disposal.

To the tragic and widespread scourge of abortion we may well have to add in the future - indeed it is already surreptiously present - the systematic eugenic programming of births.

At the other end of the spectrum, a pro-euthanasia mindset is making inroads as an equally damaging assertion of control over life that under certain circumstances is deemed no longer worth living.

Underlying these scenarios are cultural viewpoints that deny human dignity. These practices in turn foster a materialistic and mechanistic understanding of human life. Who could measure the negative effects of this kind of mentality for development? How can we be surprised by the indifference shown towards situations of human degradation, when such indifference extends even to our attitude towards what is and is not human? What is astonishing is the arbitrary and selective determination of what to put forward today as worthy of respect.

Insignificant matters are considered shocking, yet unprecedented injustices seem to be widely tolerated.

While the poor of the world continue knocking on the doors of the rich, the world of affluence runs the risk of no longer hearing those knocks, on account of a conscience that can no longer distinguish what is human.
(Paragraph 75: Caritas in Veritate)

Here's what the Pope wrote about drugs (and what he might have discussed with President Obama):

The new forms of slavery to drugs and the lack of hope into which so many people fall can be explained not only in sociological and psychological terms but also in essentially spiritual terms. The emptiness in which the soul feels abandoned, despite the availability of countless therapies for body and psyche, leads to suffering. There cannot be holistic development and universal common good unless people's spiritual and moral welfare is taken into account, considered in their totality as body and soul.(paragraph 76 Caritas in Veritate)

He referred to the widespread rejection of God as the greatest obstacle to development stating that:

"A humanism which excludes God is an inhuman humanism." (paragraph 78)

He strongly advocates that marriage MUST BE between a MAN and a WOMAN suggesting that otherwise can be nothing but destructive.

Also he gives a set of rather strong reasons why decreasing the population is a bad idea:

"Populous nations have been able to emerge from poverty thanks not least to the size of their population and the talents of their people. On the other hand, formerly prosperous nations are presently passing through a phase of uncertainty and in some cases decline, precisely because of their falling birth rates; this has become a crucial problem for highly affluent societies.

The decline in births, falling at times beneath the so-called 'replacement level', also puts a strain on social welfare systems, increases their cost, eats into savings and hence the financial resources needed for investment, reduces the availability of qualified labourers, and narrows the 'brain pool' upon which nations can draw for their needs.

Furthermore, smaller and at times miniscule families run the risk of impoverishing social relations, and failing to ensure effective forms of solidarity. These situations are symptomatic of scant confidence in the future and moral weariness. " (paragraph 44 Caritas in Veritate)

What he might have told Obama about Immigration is this:

"We are all witnesses of the burden of suffering, the dislocation and the aspirations that accompany the flow of migrants. The phenomenon, as everyone knows, is difficult to manage; but there is no doubt that foreign workers, despite any difficulties concerning integration, make a significant contribution to the economic development of the host country through their labour, besides that which they make to their country of origin through the money they send home. Obviously, these labourers cannot be considered as a commodity or a mere workforce. They must not, therefore, be treated like any other factor of production. Every migrant is a human person who, as such, possesses fundamental, inalienable rights that must be respected by everyone and in every circumstance" (paragraph 62).

On Poverty:

Poverty is often produced by a rejection of God's love, by man's basic and tragic tendency to close in on himself, thinking himself to be self-sufficient or merely an insignificant and ephemeral fact, a “stranger” in a random universe. (paragraph 53)

And about the environment, he states that although nature is a gift from God to be treated with utmost respect, we cannot respect Nature while disrespecting the sanctity of human life.

Love, stated the Pope, without respect for human life and without being founded in the truth, becomes the opposite thereof:

"Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way. In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love. It falls prey to contingent subjective emotions and opinions, the word 'love' is abused and distorted, to the point where it comes to mean the opposite." (Paragraph 1)

My favorite one liner! (AMEN!!!):

Pope Paul VI noted that 'the world is in trouble because of the lack of thinking' (paragraph 53)

Finally in the conclusion, he urges ALL to PRAY - at least to pray the "Our Father" often:

"In union with the only-begotten Son, may all people learn to pray to the Father and to ask him, in the words that Jesus himself taught us, for the grace to glorify him by living according to his will, to receive the daily bread that we need, to be understanding and generous towards our debtors, not to be tempted beyond our limits, and to be delivered from evil (cf. Mt 6:9-13)."

Basically, if you thought "Humana Vitae" (which turned out to include extremely profound predictions on what destruction on the family and human life, the encouragement of contraception would bring) and "The Gospel of Life" (JP II) were strong, know that "Caritas in Veritate" is EQUALLY strong and utterly profound in so much that it is so INCLUSIVE and actually presents an excellent case of why the survival of society DEPENDS upon morality, and ethics and a strong reliance on God, being THE FIRST REASON for all decisions even in things like economics and politics.

Mistake not - this is not only NOT the wimpy document the news media made it out to be but rather bound to go down in history as one of Benedict XVI/Ratzinger's greatest and most profound writings (in a life characterized by profound thinking and great contributions to society).

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Great book: Tour de Force by Elizabeth White

So are you tired of the endless "love stories" in books and TV where love is defined as hopping into the sack on the first date and shacking up long before marriage is ever discussed?

And are you looking for a story which not only mentions God but has a theme of God running through it which is about REAL people with real life situations?

Sounds like Elizabeth White's TOUR DE FORCE may be the right book for you! But Caution, it's also an exciting page turner so you may not be able to put it down (that DID happen to me as I became interested in the exciting plot of this book and I enjoyed every moment!)

TOUR DE FORCE takes place among ballerinas in a New York setting and in Alabama (the author is apparently from Alabama!) and plunges you into the colorful world of the professional ballet, a world which those of us not involved wouldn't have a chance to experience otherwise. White pens skillfully, painting clear images of the world of ballet, the experiences and feelings of a ballerina - so well, that the reader actually feels what it's like to BE a dancer.

The main characters in TOUR DE FORCE are people the reader gets to know well - the book is so much fun, it's almost a disappointment to get to the end of it!

And it HAS a happy ending (another thing we don't see much of these days!).

Intertwined throughout the whole book is a refreshing morality - not at all "preachy" but just refreshing - people are NOT hopping into the sack and human situations arise but are treated with charity.

TOUR DE FORCE is not a "romance" but a REAL LOVE story of the type we seldom see these days! The type of story where two people, one of them a young prima ballerina named Gilly Kinkaid and the other, a director named Jacob, slowly begin to realize that they are the soul mates God has picked out for each other. Gilly and Jacob are real people, not Holy Card figures, but people we can relate to. The well written book with many surprise events (and even some mystery!) - leaves the reader on the edge of his/her seat until the last page!

This is one of the most delightful fictional works I have read in a long time and I think if you are a reader of this blog you WILL enjoy the book immensely - I would really recommend it ... click here to for more info

To read more about the author, here's her blog.