Friday, November 04, 2005

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Why Did Child Molesters Remain on the Altar?

Continued from previous page

And as I have reported before on this blog, Paragraph 2356 of the Catechism states: “Rape is the forcible violation of the sexual intimacy of another person. It does injury to justice and charity. Rape deeply wounds the respect, freedom, and physical and moral integrity to which every person has a right. It causes grave damage that can mark the victim for life. It is always an intrinsically evil act. Graver still is the rape of children committed by parents (incest) or those responsible for the education of the children entrusted to them.”

Periodically, the Church states that a divorced person who remarries without receiving an annulment cannot receive Communion.

Pope John Paul II reaffirmed this teaching in a 1997 speech: “As I wrote in the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio, the divorced and remarried cannot be admitted to Eucharistic Communion since ‘their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist.’”

In January 2003, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith told Catholic politicians that their voting records must obey Church teachings on life issues – such as euthanasia and abortion. U.S. bishops have discussed whether Communion should be withheld from pro-abortion politicians.

The Catholic Church fiercely defends the holiness of the Eucharist. The bread and wine are consecrated in special vessels. Consecrated Hosts are stored in a tabernacle. No devout Catholic walks past a tabernacle without bending a knee or bowing the head as a sign of reverence (Catechism, 1378).

Some Catholics must wonder: Why did the hierarchy allow known child molesters to preside at Mass? What could be more sacrilegious?

The Church’s own rules hold priests to a higher moral standard than laypeople. Canon 276, Paragraph 1 states: “In leading their lives, clerics are bound in a special way to pursue holiness since, having been consecrated to God by a new title in the reception of orders, they are dispensers of the mysteries of God in the service of His people.”

According to Canon 212, Paragraph 3, laypeople have the right and the duty to speak out “on matters which pertain to the good of the Church.” They may address their opinions to “the sacred pastors” as well as to the rest of the Christian faithful.

When the Vatican speaks on moral worthiness and the Eucharist, why does it drop the magisterial hammer on the laity, not on priests and bishops?

These questions will continue to perplex some Catholics. And if they want answers, they have every right to demand them.


  • Catholic News Service

  • Pope John Paul II, 1997 speech

  • Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, statement on politicians

  • Code of Canon Law

  • Catechism of the Catholic Church

  • Return to main page to comment on article.
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  • Friday, October 21, 2005

    Farrakhan’s Baggage: What’s All the Fuss?

    Farrakhan once wrote that Malcolm X, seen above, was "worthy of death." This portrait can be downloaded as desktop wallpaper on The Official Web Site of Malcolm X.

    Continued from previous page

    So what is Farrakhan’s baggage?

    Role in Killing of Malcolm X

    Many Farrakhan supporters also admire Malcolm X, known at the time of his death as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz.

    While in prison in 1948, Malcolm began studying the philosophy of Elijah Muhammad, the prophet and leader of the Nation of Islam. Upon his release in 1952, he met with Muhammad. Within a year, he was an NOI minister. Malcolm X inspired Farrakhan (then Louis X) to join the movement in 1955. Malcolm became Farrakhan’s mentor.

    In March 1964, Malcolm broke with the NOI after he found out about Muhammad’s extramarital relationships with several women. Malcolm embraced mainstream Islam, renounced the NOI’s racial supremacist theories, and established his own movement. After Malcolm’s departure, the NOI denounced him. On Feb. 14, 1965, his home was firebombed. A week later, three NOI gunmen killed Malcolm as he prepared to make a speech at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City. His wife, Betty, and daughters witnessed the shooting.

    In 1991, Stanford University historian Clayborne Carson stated that Louis X “was one of those in the Nation responsible for the climate of vilification that resulted in Malcolm X's assassination."

    After Malcolm’s defection, Louis X wrote in an NOI newspaper that "the die is set, and Malcolm shall not escape, especially after such evil foolish talk about his benefactor, Elijah Muhammad. Such a man as Malcolm is worthy of death."

    Carson explained: "The question is not whether they wanted to see him [Malcolm X] dead, but whether they actually ordered the assassination. Within the context of the Nation of Islam, there was no need to do it. If you label somebody as an enemy of your religion, then the strongest believers are going to believe that is an invitation to take matters into their own hands. … Farrakhan would not have had to order the assassination. All he had to do was identify Malcolm as a traitor."

    In a 1995 speech, Farrakhan said that he, Malcolm, Elijah Muhammad, and NOI members were victims of a government conspiracy to divide the movement.

    “Our zeal, our love and hatred, our ignorance was manipulated by powerful outside forces and the result is that members of the Nation of Islam were involved in the assassination of Malcolm X,” he said to the audience, which included Malcolm’s widow Betty Shabazz. “And the Nation has taken the heat and carried the burden of the death of Malcolm X. We cannot deny whatever our part was. That is true. But we must not let the real culprit get away by hiding his hand and keeping us fighting and killing one another.”

    He offered an apology of sorts: “We pray for Allah's forgiveness for our mistakes and errors and I personally pray that Allah will allow the heart of Sister Shabazz and her children and us to face truth and in that spirit if I have been wrong or wronged, I will seek forgiveness and will petition Allah and you for the same.”


    The Anti-Defamation League, which tracks anti-Semitism and other forms of bias, has an extensive archive of Farrakhan’s anti-Jewish remarks.

    The remark below, made by Farrakhan in 2003, is among many posted on the ADL site:

    "You say I hate Jews. I don't hate the Jewish people, I never have. But there [are] some things I don't like. 'What is it you don't like, Farrakhan?' I don't like the way you leech on us. See a leech is somebody that sucks your blood, takes from you and don't give you a damn thing. See, I don't like that kind of arrangement. You become our manager, you become our agent. Every one of us that got talent, we can't make it because you opened the door, and when you opened the door you get and we end up dead with nothing, owing the IRS."

    In a 1998 interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, a reporter for the Jewish newspaper The Forward and other publications, Farrakhan expounds on his views about Judaism. The NOI leader repeatedly states his admiration for the Jewish people.

    For example:

    “I admire the Jewish people because in every field of human endeavor, Jewish people – if not at the very top of that field – have contributed greatly to the growth and development of every discipline that is worthwhile; every aspect of science that is worthwhile; every aspect of culture that is worthwhile. So in essence, I have great admiration for the Jewish people.”

    But his remarks are also peppered with heavy criticism. The interview was never published but the transcript is posted on line. (See links at the end of the article.)

    Farrakhan's numerous, continued anti-Semitic remarks should be troublesome to any person of good will. The NOI minister, who is so fond of quoting of Jesus, might want to consider this passage: "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34)." He should know this Scripture. It follows the passage he cited on Tavis Smiley's show. "Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit (Matthew 12:33)."

    Ties to Terror Supporters

    The ADL has documented Farrakhan’s links to terror supporters. In 1996, Farrakhan met with leaders of Libya, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, and Syria, nations identified as state sponsors of terrorism. His meeting with Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi, who was responsible for the Pan Am bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, was particularly problematic. The 1988 terrorist attack killed 259 people on the plane and 11 on the ground. After Farrakhan’s visit to Tripoli, Qaddafi publicly promised NOI supporters that he would give them arms to destroy "white America."

    In 2003, the Libyan government admitted responsibility for the Pan Am bombing.

    Recent Inflammatory Remarks

    In an October 2005 speech, Farrakhan suggested that the 9/11 attacks and the collapse of levees in New Orleans were part of a U.S. government plot. Farrakhan alleges that both the levees in New Orleans and the Twin Towers in New York City were rigged with explosives planted by the U.S. government, Cybercast News Service reported.

    "When you have people who politically feel that they get their advantage by killing people and blaming it on somebody else, then it makes us wonder what really happened to the Twin Towers,” Farrakhan said.


    The charismatic, eloquent Farrakhan continues to electrify and inspire many. Why doesn’t his baggage bother supporters? Why isn’t his role in Malcolm X’s death an obstacle for those who rally around him?

    Actor Ossie Davis presented the eulogy at Malcolm X’s funeral: “Malcolm was our manhood, our living, black manhood! This was his meaning to his people. And, in honoring him, we honor the best in ourselves. … He was and is a prince -- our own black shining prince -- who didn't hesitate to die, because he loved us so.”

    It seems that Farrakhan gets a pass for condemning African-Americans’ shining black prince to death.

    How Farrakhan is seen is dependent on the position of the observer. Consider the Doppler effect. To a train passenger, the pitch of the horn remains constant. However, to someone standing by the tracks, the pitch is higher as it approaches and lower as it speeds away. And that is the mystery of Farrakhan’s lasting appeal.

    CNN, Crowds Gather for Millions More Movement
    The Final Call (an NOI publication), Farrahkan's 1995 reconciliation speech
    PBS, Tavis Smiley transcript
    Jet magazine, Minister Louis Farrakhan Sets the Record Straight About His Relationship With Malcolm X
    Stanford University, historian's comments on the death of Malcolm X
    Wikipedia, Malcolm X article
    Transcript of Jeffrey Goldberg's interview in which Farrakhan explains his views on Jews
    Part 1
    Part 2
    Part 3
    Anti-Defamation League, Farrakhan quotes
    Anti-Defamation League, Farrakhan travels
    Wikipedia, Pan Am Flight 103
    Cybercast News Service, Farrakhan speech on 9/11, New Orleans levee failure
    The Official Web Site of Malcolm X, eulogy
    Christian Century, Farrakhan Says He's a Changed Man
    Washington Times, Farrakhan Bestirs 'Millions' Rally
    Washington Blade, Wilson Blocks Boykin From Millions More Stage," lists Farrakhan supporters
    Return to main page to comment on article.

    Thursday, October 20, 2005

    A Kinder, Gentler Louis Farrakhan?

    Continued from previous page

    Of late, Farrakhan has been drawing heavily on Christian themes in his talks. Although Muslims believe that the Bible contains some divine revelation, that revelation is tainted. Only the Quran contains the pure truth about God.

    Muslims believe Jesus is a prophet, but they reject the notion that he is the Son of God. According the Islamic Web site Sound Vision: “The notion of Jesus as son of God is something that was established under the influence of Paul of Tarsus (originally named Saul), who had been an enemy of Jesus, but later changed course and joined the disciples after the departure of Jesus.’’

    Sound Vision says that Paul’s teachings that Jesus is the Son of God who atoned for the sins of the world on the cross are “blatant misrepresentations of the message of Jesus.”

    Now Farrakhan cites Paul (a heretic in Islam) in his speeches and interviews. The Chicago Tribune quoted Farrakhan citing 1 Corinthians 13:11: "In other words, you know, Paul said it like this: `When I was a child, I spoke as a child, because I understood as a child. But when I became a man, I put away childish things.'"

    Morever, Farrkhan proclaims his love of Jesus and the church.

    “The church is my family. I had a Christian upbringing; I sang in the choir; I carried the cross; I know all the hymns of my church. Sometimes, on Sunday morning while I am changing channels on my television, I hear some of those hymns that I used to sing and I sing quietly to myself and the tears fall from my eyes, because I remember my church,” Farrakhan states in a speech posted on the NOI Web site. “There is no power that will separate me from the church. Even though I say that I am a Muslim, without the church our people are lost.”

    Muslims have a duty to invite non-Muslims to accept Islam – an obligation known as dawa. By glossing over the significant differences between Christianity and Islam, Farrakhan can draw a broader audience. Could dawa be his unstated goal?

    Supporters say the leader is sincere and that he has softened his views on many topics, including his notorious anti-Semitism. Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, is not convinced. (The ADL tracks anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination.)

    He dismissed Farrakhan as “a bigot and a racist and an anti-Semite and conspirator," the Chicago Tribune reported.

    Farrakhan will remain a pariah to some and a charismatic inspiration to others. One thing is certain: He will never be ignored.

  • CNN, “Crowds Gather for Millions More Movement”

  • Chicago Tribune, “Farrakhan Now Opens Arms With Millions More March”

  • The Advocate, “Gay Rights Leader Barred From Speaking at Millions More Event”

  • The New Standard, “Millions More Organizers Bar Gay Black Speaker, Upsetting Many”

  • Brainy Quote, Farrakhan statements

  •, reviews of books about Farrakhan

  • Sound Vision, mainstream Islamic view of Paul and Jesus

  • Nation of Islam, Farrakhan speech about Jesus

  • Anti-Defamation League, reports on Millions More Movement

  • Return to main page to comment on article.
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  • Friday, October 14, 2005

    How Much More Can U.S. Catholics Take?

    Continued from previous page

    Voice of the Faithful (VOTF), which formed during the sex-abuse crisis in the Boston Archdiocese, posted this statement on the Web: “For 75 years, the records indicate that [Los Angeles] diocesan leaders met repeated warnings and alerts of sexual abuse by clergy with a virtual guarantee that the abusers would continue to abuse – they shuffled priests to new assignments and appealed to parents for their silence. And these are not the complete files that will emerge in any civil and criminal trials.”

    “Tragic and horrific as the parsed and sanitized stories in these documents are, they only represent about half of the priests accused in pending trials,” the VOTF statement said.

    “The survivors deserve justice and the laity deserve accountability from its hierarchy,” VOTF President Jim Post stated.

    In a statement posted on its Web site on Oct. 12, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) sharply criticized the cardinal and the L.A. Archdiocese.

    Mary Grant, Western Regional Director of SNAP, stated: “Once again, we see huge gaps between what Cardinal Mahony claims and what his own documents prove.

    “Mahony claims he let four priests stay around kids after getting reports of abusive behavior. These documents show that Mahony let at least eight priests remain around kids after abuse reports.

    “The bottom line is that the Cardinal put twice as many kids in harm's way than he's ever admitted.

    “Mahony claims 219 L.A. priests are accused of molesting kids. These documents show that at least 245 L.A. priests are accused of molesting kids.

    “The bottom line is that the Cardinal misled his flock again. There are 26 more likely predators than the Cardinal has ever admitted before.”

    Grant warns: “When the real documents … finally surface, the truth will be much worse.”

    Catholics may well ask: What went wrong? Will church leaders fix the system?

    The Church itself describes the gravity of the crimes. Paragraph 2356 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Rape is the forcible violation of the sexual intimacy of another person. It does injury to justice and charity. Rape deeply wounds the respect, freedom, and physical and moral integrity to which every person has a right. It causes grave damage that can mark the victim for life. It is always an intrinsically evil act. Graver still is the rape of children committed by parents (incest) or those responsible for the education of the children entrusted to them.” (Bold emphasis mine.)

    The priests who molested so many children did not operate without accomplices. In most cases, bishops covered up the crimes and allowed the molesters to continue on their destructive paths. Some of America’s leading cardinals have been implicated in these scandals. As of yet, none has been asked to surrender his red hat. The cardinals elect the pope from their own ranks, and the pope appoints the cardinals. Can these men judge themselves honestly when they answer only to one another?

    In Paragraph 1431, the catechism describes the path of conversion for the sinner. “Interior repentance is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed.”

    Concerned Catholics can only hope their leaders will heed the precepts that they are entrusted to teach.

    To learn more, click below:
  • L.A. Times, “Study Reveals Vast Scope of Priest Abuse”

  • SNAP statement

  • VOTF statement

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  • Friday, October 07, 2005

    Healing With Animals

    Continued from previous page

    Today, we are taught that animals are here for our sport (hunters in the Bible are considered to be rebels against God), our entertainment, our food, and for our supposed benefit in research laboratories. Billions of animals suffer daily in the U.S.A. alone for mankind's desires and the economy. Since our spiritual lives are linked with our relationship with animals, we need to learn about the many issues in the world today to restore the human/animal relationship.

    The links between domestic violence and animal abuse have been substantiated. The Humane Society of the United States has the First Strike campaign, which promotes and supports the development of local efforts to reduce violence against all lives. Cross reporting is encouraged when animals are in violent homes. Society and Animals Forum (formerly Psychologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), are making great strides to heal those directly and indirectly involved with animal abuse with education and counseling programs. This group offers community seminars for professionals and a great resource list of organizations that promote healing through the animal/human relationship.

    The Delta Society also provides programs on pet loss, pet assistance for the disabled, and pet therapy for nursing homes, schools hospitals, etc. There are many local organizations and individuals that provide such education and therapy.

    To expand beyond the domestic animal domain, we need to look at how children are desensitized to animals in general. Are we teaching kindness and compassion by instruction and example for turtles, snakes, lizards, bugs, and yes even fish (the disciples ultimately left their fishing behind to follow Jesus), by allowing them to live stress free in their natural habitat? Are we teaching respect for all life to live as they were created to live?

    Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine also uncovers many of the myths we have been fed concerning animals used for food and research. The animal products we eat and drink causes us to be a physically (and spiritually) unhealthy society.

    Programs and educational materials are available for us to help restore the intended relationship we were created to have with animals. We would all be much more healthier physically and spiritually by following Jesus more closely wherever and however He leads us.

    Fredericks is founder of God's Creatures Ministry, chairwoman of Catholic Concern for Animals-USA, a licensed counselor and Christian educator.

    Click below for more information about organizations mentioned in this article.
  • Humane Society of the U.S.

  • God’s Creatures Ministry

  • Catholic Concern for Animals

  • Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

  • Delta Society

  • Society and Animals Forum

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  • Tuesday, October 04, 2005

    Does Barring Gay Priests Solve Abuse Problem?

    Continued from previous page

    The study, conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, covered 1950 to 2002. It found that 4 percent of priests were abusers. A total of 4,392 men abused 10,667 minors. The largest segment of victims, 40 percent, were boys between the ages of 11 and 14. Men ordained prior to 1979 committed 68 percent of the abuse. Victims younger than 10 accounted for 22 percent the cases. Seventy-five percent of the abuse took place between 1960 and 1984, CNS reported.

    According to Dr. Anna C. Salter’s book “Pedophiles, Rapists, and Other Sex Offenders” (Basic Books, 2004), girls greatly outnumber boys as sexual abuse victims. Depending on which study you look at, up to 38 percent of girls in the U.S. have been sexually abused by the time they reach age 18. The estimates for boys run up to 16 percent, Salter wrote. (In the studies Salter cites, only 5 percent of the victims reported the crimes committed against them.)

    Using high-end estimates for girls and boys, the typical population of child and youth sexual-abuse victims should be 37.2 percent male. Given the disproportionate number of male victims in the clergy abuse scandal, the ban on gays seems like a no-brainer – until you consider one fact: More than 95 percent of adult men who sexually abuse children of either gender claim to be heterosexual.

    Adult men who abuse boys outside of their own families are rarer than those who abuse girls. But they claim far more victims. Salter writes about a study of imprisoned offenders. These men had to submit to polygraph tests and admit their true number of victims as a condition of their treatment. This study found that men who abuse girls out of the home typically admit to 20 victims. Those who abuse boys admit to 150 victims.

    The notorious John Geoghan, a defrocked priest in the Archdiocese of Boston, is typical of the highly active offender who targets boys. One hundred thirty victims accused Geoghan of abuse, which took place from the Sixties to the Nineties. Geoghan was convicted of fondling a 10-year-old boy in 2002. Sentenced to nine to 10 years in prison in February 2002, Geoghan was murdered by a fellow inmate in August 2003.

    Paul Perruzzi of Pompton Lakes, N.J., is an example of the “heterosexual” abuser who targets boys. Perruzzi, a married father, abused at least 21 boys in their early teens, according to a 2000 story in The Record. He was sentenced to five years in a prison for sex offenders in Avenel.

    In some cases, abusers are sexually fixated on one gender and a certain age range. Other abusers will take advantage of any child.

    According to, Father James Porter of Massachusetts molested at least 222 children of both sexes across five states. But his crimes came to light while he was serving as a priest in the Archdiocese of Boston. Born in 1935, he molested his first known victim, a 12-year-old boy, at a church camp in 1953. His abuse of children continued through the Eighties. Eventually exposed as a child molester, Porter faced trials in Minnesota and Massachusetts. In December of 1993, he was sentenced to 18 to 20 years for 41 counts of child molestation.

    Just what is the church accomplishing anything by keeping out priests who acknowledge same-sex attraction towards adult men?

    The church may set any standards it wishes for entry into the priesthood. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (issued in 1994 and compiled under the direction of Pope Benedict) states: “No one has a right to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders. Indeed no one claims this office for himself; he is called to it by God. Anyone who thinks he recognizes the signs of God's call to the ordained ministry must humbly submit his desire to the authority of the Church, who has the responsibility and right to call someone to receive orders. Like every grace this sacrament can be received only as an unmerited gift (1578).”

    So the church is well within its rights to ban gay priests. But will children be safer? How can it be when 95 percent of men who abuse children call themselves heterosexual? Is this ban an easy way to improve the church’s image?

    Child molesters are experts at presenting themselves as respected members of the community. That’s why they call themselves heterosexual. They will continue to do what they are best at – lie, manipulate, conceal.

    A multi-faceted approach is the best way to keep Catholic kids safe at church and everywhere else. Some important protections that are already in place include:

    * Psychological testing and background checks to keep predators out of the priesthood. Screening of all adults and teens who work with children in the church.

    * Continuing to teach each child that he or she has the right to say no to “bad touches” and to report the experience to a trusted adult.

    * Warning parents and other concerned adults about predator traits and tactics. Traits of a typical adult who sexually abuses children or teens: male (only 10 percent of abusers are female); focuses on children, seeks opportunities to work with youngsters (coaching, teaching), has no adult spouse or romantic partner, has no adult activities or hobbies; finds victims by isolating a single child for personal attention, private time, and gift giving.

    * Urging parents, teachers, and others to believe children who report abuse.

    It is widely known that since the 1980s until the present, many U.S. priests have become open about being gay. In my own experience as a religion journalist, I have spoken with many Catholics (lay and ordained) who say that a high percentage of priests they know are gay. Father Mychal Judge, the Franciscan friar who died on 9/11 while ministering to firefighters at the World Trade Center, openly acknowledged his homosexual orientation, according to Michael Ford’s book “Father Mychal Judge: An Authentic American Hero” (Paulist Press, 2002). As Ford reports it, Judge was an exemplary priest.

    And what of the church’s message to homosexual men and women?

    The Catechism states: “The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

    “Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection (Paragraphs 2358-2359).”

    Prior to 1997, the Catechism included the following sentence in paragraph 2358: “They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial.” (This first part of the sentence was deleted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.)

    In the purge to come, the church may feel it has accomplished something important. But will children be safer? And will faithful, chaste gay and lesbian Christians be treated with respect, compassion, and sensitivity?


    “A Trusted Neighbor and a Terrible Secret,” The Record (Bergen County, NJ), Nov. 19, 2000, Pg. A-1.
    Anna C. Salter, “Pedophiles, Rapists, and Other Sex Offenders” (Basic Books, 2004).
    Michael Ford, “Father Mychal Judge: An Authentic American Hero” (Paulist Press, 2002).
  • The Catechism of the Catholic Church

  • Crime Library, Porter article

  • American Catholic, John Jay study

  • University of California at Davis

  • Open-Mind

  • “Heterosexism, Homosexual Health, and the Church

  • The Boston Globe, Geoghan reports

  • The Boston Globe, Porter reports


  • “Careful Selection and Training of Candidates for the States of Perfection and Sacred Orders”

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  • Wednesday, September 28, 2005

    Beyond the High Holidays

    The Torah is a God-given guidebook on how to run the race of life.

    Continued from previous page

    Life may be viewed as a spiritual race. Rosh Hashanah serves as the starting- and finishing- line. The track is littered with all sorts of obstacles and diversions. Your running mate is none other than yourself. … Rosh Hashanah is a time for us to reflect upon how far we are lagging behind our potential. It is a time for us to recognize and analyze our errors; and to plan our strategy for minimizing the gap between who-we-are and who-we-can-be for the following lap to the race.

    An obvious question that remains is: Why was the anniversary of the creation of man, rather than the very beginning of Creation (and thus the beginning of time), chosen to be Rosh Hashanah? The answer relates to the very nature of the day described above.

    Man is considered by the Torah to be the crown of Creation. Everything else was created to provide man with the environment and tools that enable him to fulfill his purpose in this world. Our sages teach us that man was created last to show that if he lives up to his potential, all else was created for him; but if he does not, he is considered to be so lowly that even a flea was worthy of being created before him.

    God created man to express His will in this world. God’s desire and goal is that man should become aware of the duality of his nature; rise above and harness the physical, animalistic part of his being and use its energy to make the physical world more spiritual. The task of a Jew is to transform mundane physical acts and objects into receptacles for spirituality; to reveal that the finite, physical world is not antithetical to Godliness, but can be used as a vehicle to demonstrate God’s infinity and majesty. All of this can be achieved by studying and implementing the Instruction Manual (the Torah), provided by The Creator Himself.

    One of the refrains of the moving Rosh Hashanah liturgy is the phrase “Hayom haras olam; Hayom ya’amid bamishpat kol yetsurei olamim.” Roughly translated, this means: “Today is the birthday of the world; today He will judge all the creatures of the worlds.” This in fact is a mistranslation. The word “haras” is more precisely used to refer to gestation (pregnancy) rather than birth. The “birth” or creation of mankind on Rosh Hashanah was really the conception of mankind. God was giving us the potential or the chance to complete our own development process.

    It is thus extremely fitting that on the day that God gave mankind the opportunity to achieve greatness, man’s achievement (or lack thereof) is judged and evaluated.

    So there you have it. Rosh Hashanah was the beginning of timekeeping for mankind. It was and continues to be the moment when our spiritual stopwatch started ticking, when man was presented with the challenge of his purpose. The shofar that we heard this past Rosh Hashanah sounded the stopping and restarting of that spiritual stopwatch.

    As we now move into the year and our race begins, let us consider our mistakes of the past year and plan for the event ahead. Let us take the inspiration from Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and the spiritual energy of Sukkot, which is approaching, and face the coming event with courage and determination.

    This article was originally published in the Jewish Learning Experience’s 2001 newsletter, Vol. 1, No. 1.

    To read more articles about Torah, visit the JLE Web site
  • JLE

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  • Thursday, September 22, 2005

    Cardinals Implicated in Sex Abuse Cover-up

    Continued from previous page

    The grand jury, which met for three years, said that Krol and Bevilacqua transferred the alleged abusers from parish to parish; they failed to notify law enforcement or parishioners of the accusations.

    The Most Rev. Justin Rigali, current head of the archdiocese, issued an apology over the incidents. At the same time, he criticized the grand jury’s findings. “The report is unjustifiably critical of Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, Cardinal John Krol and others who worked in the administration of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia,” Rigali stated.

    Rigali’s statement also said: “The number of Archdiocesan priests credibly accused is actually lower than what the report states since the report includes priests who are supervised by either religious orders or another Diocese or Archdiocese, not the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, as well as priests who were deceased at the time of the allegation.”

    The Archdiocese’s official response stated: “Taking unfair advantage of the secrecy and one-sidedness inherent in grand jury proceedings, and focusing upon lurid details of events, the District Attorney’s Office has chosen not to make this report a tool for offering constructive recommendations to prevent sexual abuse of minors in the future. Rather, it focuses on long-ago episodes, and fails to recognize the limited scientific knowledge available in the past about preventing or healing childhood sexual abuse. It also fails to acknowledge any Archdiocesan effort to update its policies consistent with contemporary medical thought.”

    District Attorney Lynne Abraham did not bring charges because Pennsylvania law would not allow her to do so, the Inquirer reported. "Had the law allowed us to arrest or charge or indict people, we would have done so,” she told a press conference.

    To read Washington Post and Philadelphia Inquirer stories, click below:
  • Washington Post

  • Inquirer, “Prosecutors Feel Stymied by Pa. Law”

  • Inquirer, “An ‘Immoral’ Cover-up”

  • Inquirer, “The Grand Jury’s Report on Clergy Abuse”

  • To read Cardinal Rigali’s letter, click below:
  • Letter

  • To read the Archdiocese’s official response, click below. When you reach the page, click on “full text of response” to download a PDF copy.
  • Archdiocese response

  • To read more about the grand jury’s findings, click below:
  • District Attorney’s Office

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  • Wednesday, September 07, 2005

    Should Jerusalem Temple Be Rebuilt?

    This remnant of Jerusalem's ancient temple, known as the Kotel or Western Wall, is regarded as the holiest site in Judaism./Photo courtesy of Israeli Ministry of Tourism.

    Continued from previous page

    From the Roman Exile until modern times, the Jews believed ourselves to be living under three oaths into which God swore the Jewish people and the Gentile nations. The three oaths are:

    - The Jews will not rise up en masse to the Land of Israel. Individual Jews may visit or settle, but there will not be a mass movement to resettle the Land.

    - the Jews will submit to the yoke of the rule of the Gentile nations.

    - the Gentile nations will not oppress the Jews overmuch.

    What has happened to the three oaths?

    Some ultra-Orthodox sects that oppose Zionism, like the Satmar Hasidim, believe that the three oaths are still in force, and that those Jews who create and live in the State of Israel are sinners. These are a tiny minority of the Jews of today.
    Some Jews would say that the Gentile nations broke the three oaths when they murdered Jews by the millions, and made it difficult for surviving Jews to maintain their identity. When the nations would not refrain from oppressing the Jews the bargain was broken, and the Jews were free to re-establish our sovereign nation.

    Some Jews would say that the three oaths were an unnecessary doctrine which justified the lowly and oppressed status of the Jews for too many centuries of exile. In order for Jews to validate ourselves and seek our universal human rights in the modern world it was necessary for us to repudiate the doctrine that God intends for us to live as second-class subjects.

    What do you think?

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  • Tuesday, September 06, 2005

    New Orleans: A Disaster Waiting to Happen

    New Orleans, LA 9/4/05 -- Aerial view of houses in New Orleans swamped by floodwaters after Hurricane Katrina. Photo by: Liz Roll, FEMA

    Continued from previous page

    First, most media outlets and federal officials have reported that 80% of New Orleans is under water. That's an area the size of Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn combined. Most of the major routes for delivering aid and conducting rescues are under water or significantly damaged. And let's not forget that the Katrina disaster area is equivalent to having all of New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, Maryland and one of half of Pennsylvania, New York and Virginia (about 90,000 sq. mi. in all) declared disaster areas. As such, some resources moved close to the anticipated disaster area ahead of the storm have been damaged or lost, and some of those who might otherwise pitch in to help, are picking up the pieces in their own communities.

    It is difficult to say how prepared the residents of New Orleans and other coastal areas in the path of Katrina were. However, it is likely that many were not sufficiently prepared. I do not know what level of outreach has been provided over the years to educate the residents in coastal Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, but I suspect that more could have been done. But that is true of most areas across the country.

    For example, many areas of New Jersey and New York City are at risk for serious damage associated with a flood surge and winds from a significant hurricane. Yet most residents and commuters are not aware of the hurricane evacuation plans developed for their area. Many do not know what areas are outside the predicted danger zones or where the established hurricane evacuation shelter serving their area is.

    One article, published by the Civil Engineering Magazine in 2003, "The Creeping Storm" by Greg Brouwer provides a useful overview of the history of actions taken over the last 40 years to protect New Orleans. Following Hurricane Betsy in 1965, Congress passed the Flood Control Act, which appropriated funds to increase the height of the levees around the northern side of the city. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers established a design criteria for the improved levees which is equivalent to a level needed to withstand a fast moving Category 3 hurricane (the Saffir-Simpson scale used to categorize hurricanes did not exist at the time the criteria were set).

    As a result of the 1965 legislation, the system of levees forming a ring around the northern half of the New Orleans to protect it from surging waters in Lake Pontchartrain were set to be completed within the next decade. According to Brouwer, construction of a similar system around the southern half of the city would probably take several more years.

    Yet nearly 40 years after beginning these projects, the Corps was reassessing whether the current height of the levees is sufficient. The levee system was designed for a fast-moving Category 3 storm, based on rudimentary models available in the 1960s. Brouwer states that larger storms or a slow-moving Category 3 storm could potentially overtop the levees, leaving New Orleans under 20 feet of water. Exacerbating the problem is the fact that the coastline has been subsiding over the last 40 years, and protective coastal marsh that would absorb some of the impact of a hurricane is only half as wide as it was when the levees were designed. According to Brouwer, experts said a flood likely with a Category 4 or 5 hurricane would probably shut down the city's power plants and water and sewage treatment plants and could even take out its drainage system. The American Red Cross estimated that between 25,000 and 100,000 people would die in this scenario. Today, the answer is painfully clear: the levee height was not sufficient.

    Even when risks are known, the pace of bureaucratic action is slow and halting. In his article, Brouwer reports, according to Al Naomi, the Corps Project Manager: "Any concerted effort to protect the city from a storm of Category 4 or 5 will probably take 30 years to complete." According to Brouwer's article, the feasibility study alone would have cost as much as $8 million. Even though Congress had authorized the feasibility study, funding had not yet been appropriated. When funds were made available, the study would take about six years to complete. Beyond the studies, there would be many more steps to complete designs and begin, much less complete construction.

    The political will and public interest to commit the time and money to such projects before a disaster are often lacking, even when the risks are great. Is it an election year? Does the project have popular support? These are the considerations that often drive decisions; not need, not risk, not who's at risk, their annual income or skin color. This lack of interest until disaster hits is seen over and over again--close to home and farther away.

    Funding to repair aging dams in New Jersey was largely eliminated until five dams breached during heavy flooding a year or so ago causing significant impact to residents downstream. After the fact, funding was immediately restored. Hundreds of millions of dollars were appropriated for protection of the New York/New Jersey transit system; yet little of it was spent prior to the bombings in London. There are similar examples across the country where important projects, that may save lives, languish.

    Has the response fallen short of what was needed? Have people suffered unimaginable losses? Have people died waiting to be rescued? Absolutely! Is it helpful to the victims to spin the disaster to make a political point, to wrangle over what party is at fault? Is it helpful to cry racism? Absolutely not!

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  • Civil Engineering
  • Monday, September 05, 2005

    Where is God When Disaster Strikes?

    Suffering is nothing new to the human condition. During the Battle of Gettysburg, Pa., the Union and Confederate armies sustained 50,000 casualities; 7,000 thousand soldiers died. Above, "Harvest of Death," a photo by Timothy O'Sullivan, documents the battle's toll.

    Continued from previous page

    The Bible tells of Job, the good man who was unfairly and severely afflicted, losing children and property and nearly his life, Job rails at God and says “Why me? Why this?”

    God responds and the divine voice is dripping with sarcasm.

    "Who is this,” he says to Job, “that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me.”

    Then God asks whether it was Job who “laid the foundation of the earth?” God asks “Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place?”

    “Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep? Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness? Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this.”

    In short, the answer is: Who are you to ask such things?

    To some that sounds harsh: but to those who understand the relationship between the Creator and the creation, it is not. God rightly reminds us that we do not know everything, nor are we entitled to know everything.

    Every time a natural disaster strikes, we learn that creation operates according to a design and that God rarely tinkers with the design. The sun rises and sets. Seasons come and go. Storms form--according to the physical principles of the world--and oftimes they do damage. That’s the way the world works.

    We must also take our own responsibility for human suffering. New Orleans was built 25 feet below sea level and over the last 200 years never developed an adequate means of dealing with a major storm, which everyone knew would eventually come.

    God weeps and suffers with us when we do foolish things. And that God inspires us--if we listen--to help one another recover and not to do foolish things again.

    We are now swamped with horrible images from the Gulf Coast. The news tells us of both the bravery and cruelty of our fellow human beings. In the weeks ahead, we will have to be loving and sharing to those who suffer, whatever the cause.

    But it is not too soon to look at the bigger questions of disaster and suffering. We are nearing Sept. 11, a time to remember another kind of disaster and suffering.

    Many still say the world “changed” that Tuesday morning when the planes attacked New York and Washington. Perhaps our part of the world did, perhaps not.

    But “the world” is the same--filed with people capable of great good and horrendous evil. What has changed is that disaster and suffering came closer to us.

    Others--in Northern Ireland and Israel for example--have lived with terrorism for many years. Others--in the Balkans or Central Africa, for example--have never known a world without terrible religious, racial or ethnic strife. Millions in Africa have died in civil wars and AIDS epidemics in the past eight years while the world did nothing and the United States blocked some efforts to bring relief.

    A few days after that awful September 11, I was at Congregation Shomrei Torah in Wayne, N.J., a conservative Jewish synagogue.

    About 30 men wrapped themselves in their prayer shawls and prayed the ancient prayers. The rituals of Conservative Judaism are rigid; you don’t fiddle with them just to suit the moment. And the prayers that day were about praising God, blessing God’s name, honoring God. They thanked God for calling them into the covenant with God; they thanked God for the Torah, and they remembered the ancestors--Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses. They thanked God for giving them the victory. Here were the ancient people of Israel, beset on every side by enemies, still praising God.

    In New Orleans and Mississippi on Sunday, people of faith gathered to worship, give thanks to God and praise God in the midst of their suffering.

    It helps to put the horrifying events of our world into a historical perspective. When a terror strikes our land or close to us it seems particularly awful because it affects us personally. That’s because in this land we have been complacent and so blessedly free of such things.

    Most of the catastrophes of the world have nothing to do with floods or hurricanes, but with our abuse of our humanity and the evils we perpetrate upon one another.

    The first great terror to strike Christians was the Roman persecutions when believers in Jesus were tortured or put to death. We romanticize that as a time of glorious saints; but the people suffering probably didn’t see it that way.

    Let’s skip around in history and see how suffering is not a new thing.

    The armies of the first Crusade in the 11th Century reached Jerusalem and slaughtered thousands of Muslims and Jews. One eyewitness said the streets literally ran with blood, up to the knees of the horses. This witness thought that was glorious because it was the blood of the “unbelievers.”

    A couple of hundred years later, a peasant boy in Germany envisioned a “children’s crusade.” Perhaps as many as 20,000 children set out to rescue the Holy Land. Thousands perished and the crusade never reached its goal. In Egypt most of them were sold into slavery.

    Let us not forget the torturing and burning of heretics - in the name of Jesus, of course--by the Spanish inquisition beginning in the 13th century.

    The list goes on:

    *France, August 24, 1572 and the days following: Perhaps as many as 50,000 Protestants were killed by troops loyal to a Catholic monarch.

    *France, 1793: The “reign of terror” begins, with torture and the guillotine being the chief instruments of government.

    To come closer to our time:

    *Georgia, 1838: The United States forcibly relocates the Cherokee tribes to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). More than 4,000 die along the way in the trek known as the Trail of Tears.

    *Gettysburg, 1863: 50,000 casualties in three days.

    *Verdun, 1916: A ten-mile front in the war in Europe sustains 700,000 casualties in eight months.

    What a sad list it could be--the Lusitania, Bataan death march, Soviet Gulag, and more.

    We can hope that these awful events and the catastrophes of our time would lead us to offer more prayers, more witness to peace, more pleas for friendship among all humankind. Believers dare to hope that--because God is gracious and sends grace to us--we can learn to be gracious to others.

    A natural disaster may destroy property, may even kill; but it does not destroy our ability to be caring and gracious. Sometimes, it brings out our generosity.

    Where is God in human suffering?

    The answer lies not with God, but with us.

    We are God’s eyes and hands and voice who must bring God’s grace into the work and help the sick recover. It is our words, our acts as individuals and as a nation that does this. Christian faith calls upon believers to show the world what it means to follow Jesus and to bring healing.

    If anything gets in the way of that mission--internationally, nationally or locally--then there will be more suffering, more loss.

    There will have to be national programs of relief; and we have the capacity to create them. Are we distracted by an international war that is going badly? Are the institutions of our national government maybe captive to forces with their own, non-humanitarian agendas?

    In any struggle to relieve human suffering, whether caused by natural or man-made disasters, God is with us. That is, God wants to be with us, especially as we try to protect and save those who are poor and needy. Sometimes greed, national pride, political chicanery or apathy obstructs the grace of God.

    Christians are to pray for the poor and needy, provide what help they can as individuals and to work in society--by any peaceful means--to help nations get their priorities straight.

    God has promised to be with us, providing grace and love and comfort and strength. Can we--as individuals and a society--act accordingly?

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  • Friday, August 19, 2005

    Torah Talk is the Best Form of Interaction

    Continued from previous page

    Those who have not tried Torah study might think that one needs to be a Torah nerd or a religion nerd or a mighty intellectual to enjoy learning Torah. The truth of the matter is that Torah study is an easy door into pleasant and gratifying social interaction with other people. Take it from Moses, who was a socially awkward loner before the giving of the Torah, but who became gratifyingly involved with 600,000 other people through the gift of Torah.

    Here are some forms of conversation that do not give pleasure to the soul: malicious gossip, empty chit-chat, socially stratifying posing, talk merely to fill time and relieve boredom.

    Such talk leaves one feeling empty and lonely; it creates distance rather than intimacy.

    But a good conversation on a Torah topic is pleasant and gratifying because it is never just about the book itself; Torah conversation is always about important issues of life and spirit. When you engage in a Torah conversation you reveal your inner depths to another person, you are truly heard, and that other person reveals his or her own inner depths to you. You enter into a genuine relationship with another human being. That is the purpose for which human beings possess the power of speech. When that purpose is fulfilled, we feel fulfilled.

    For centuries, Jewish men passed their spare time in the Beit Midrash, the study-house, engaging in Torah discussion. They did so not only to build their minds and improve their virtues; they attended the study-house for a gratifying social experience. (Regrettably, until recent times women were excluded from this experience.)

    The human soul yearns to know and be known by other human beings. Nothing is so pleasant as a meaningful social interaction with another person. Torah opens up the human mouth, and also the ears and the heart - for speaking, for listening, for mutual understanding.

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  • Monday, August 08, 2005

    Pro-life Group Targets Planned Parenthood Donors

    Continued from previous page

    Planned Parenthood, which has corporate offices in New York City, has clinics throughout the country. These clinics offer gynecological services, birth control, HIV testing, infertility screening, pre-natal care, adoption counseling, and abortion referrals. The group’s position on abortion states: “It is the policy of Planned Parenthood Federation of America to ensure that women have the right to seek and obtain medically safe, legal abortions under dignified conditions and at reasonable cost.”

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  • To read the LifeNews story, click below:
  • LifeNews

  • To read about Life Decisions International, click below:
  • Life Decisions

  • To read more about Planned Parenthood’s mission, click below:
  • Planned Parenthood

  • To read the Women’s eNews report, click below:
  • Women’s eNews

  • To visit the Women’s eNews Home Page, click below:
  • Women’s eNews Home Page
  • Sunday, August 07, 2005

    Counselor Has Misgivings About “Brat Camp”

    Continued from previous page

    As a licensed professional counselor (who loves nature and all it holds), I feel that these teens would be better off in a program where they see the reality of poverty in the world, where they could feed the hungry and listen to those in impoverished countries that are under the control of misdirected and/or selfish adults. One teen refused to buy expensive sneakers because he knew kids in sweat factories made them.

    I believe real situations bring real self-esteem, self-worth and real attitude changes as priorities are put in real order.
    As a former brat, I didn't have to have my parents pay $10,000+ to put me in a program to listen to adults I didn't know and respect. I learned from real life experiences that changed me from within.

    I question the ethics of this program, it seems to use superficial means to make superficial changes (and a TV show).
    By imitating and misusing the rituals and using symbols that have deep roots and meaning to others, only proves that this program is not only culturally insensitive but is also unethical. We need to teach respect for all people and their cultures and this "therapy" seems to be breaking the rules.

    Our youth need reality checks, not more meaningless activity. Real self-esteem comes from helping the poor and the exploited.

    I hope this program ends and the producers and therapists will come up with something more genuine, selfless and ethical to teach respect and true self-worth for the teens and the authority figures. Maybe we'll have a more sensitive generation for others who in turn will teach by example and not be filmed by a TV program.

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  • Friday, August 05, 2005

    ABC’s “Brat Camp” Misuses Native American Spirituality

    Above, the real Geronimo (left) vs. Chuck Connors as the Apache warrior in the 1962 movie "Geronimo." The real Connors, right, with blond hair and blue eyes.

    Continued from previous page

    For non-viewers, “Brat Camp” focuses on nine troubled teens going through Sagewalk, a wilderness program in the high desert of central Oregon. The kids are taught wilderness skills and given psychotherapy. The goal is to help them to handle life’s difficulties in healthy ways.

    I’m not qualified to comment on the validity of Sagewalk's program.

    But I do have a beef when a group of white instructors put white campers through a faux, hodgepodge Native American naming ceremony.

    I should have seen it coming. Every instructor (all white folks all as far as I can tell) has a faux Native American name – like Glacier, Aspen, and Fire Shaper. For some of the time, the students live in a teepee.

    On Aug. 3’s 9 p.m. episode, the campers completed three days of solo camping. To mark this occasion, they stand around a fire, daub their faces with paint, and receive an “Earth name.” One of the instructors plays a Native American flute as the “mystical ritual” goes on.

    At this point, I feel like I am watching the Caucasian, blue-eyed Chuck Connors painting up in brown face to play Geronimo. Holy ta-tonka! What in the name of Kevin Costner is going on?

    If you’re going to do Native American religion, do it right. Not every Amerindian group is the same. Languages, customs, and religions differ. The tribes of the high Oregon desert are the Paiutes, Yahuskin, and Yapadika. Did anyone at Sagewalk think of contacting one of these tribes and finding out about their heritage. Is a local Native American religious teacher available? How about learning the ethical practices that go along with the rituals?

    Why do that when you can paint your face and play dress-up Indian based on your multiple viewings of “Dances With Wolves”?

    Imagine a group that knows nothing about Catholicism other than what is available through popular culture. They decide that the Mass is a cool ritual. So they do their best to go through the motions of a Mass. One of them may even dress up as a priest.

    What have they accomplished?

    People engaging in such a ritual will have learned nothing about Catholic life, beliefs, morals, hierarchy, and history.

    As an Oklahoman, I know that Amerindian groups are as varied from one another as are people of European descent. How different is a Frenchman is from an Italian or a Pole is from a Greek? Yes, all are Europeans. But there is no generic "European" you can imitate with any authenticity. And what would be the point of doing so?

    For those who are unaware, here's a news flash -- playing dress-up Indian is no longer cool. If you don't believe me, consider this recent action by the NCAA. The athletic organization announced Aug. 5, 2005, that it would ban hostile and abusive American Indian names from post-season tournaments, the Associated Press reported. Starting in February, phony Indian mascots will no longer be allowed to perform in post-season games. Ethnically offensive nicknames and logos will be banned. And by 2008, band members and cheerleaders cannot wear images of American Indians on their uniforms.

    Note to Sagewalk: Playing a flute and calling yourself Squatting Elk or Soaring Hawk does not make you an Indian. It makes you a white person playing dress-up. And if you want these kids to be confident in themselves, try setting an example by being who you really are.

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  • Native American complaints about rituals being hijacked by non-Indians
  • Complaints

  • ABC's “Brat Camp”

  • Sagewalk
  • Sunday, July 31, 2005

    Demonizing the Enemy Subverts Peace Process

    Continued from previous page

    When you demonize your enemy you only hurt yourself. It is important to our own souls and our healthy society that we remember that our enemies are individuals, and not a nameless mass of devils. Even amongst the enemy nation, like the Moabites to ancient Israel, there might reside in their midst a friend, a potential ally, a person absolutely necessary to our own bright future, as Ruth among the Moabites.

    Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was fond of stating publicly that “our enemy are the terrorists, not the Palestinian people.” This perspective is essential to peace-making, which in turn is essential to the security of Israel and the happiness of her Jewish inhabitants. Current Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, to his credit, has taken a similarly pragmatic approach, attempting to separate terrorists from the Palestinian masses.

    Americans must also remember that our enemy is not “the Arabs” nor “the Muslims”, but only those promoting a particular brand of radical Islam and those who promote terrorism as a tool in an apocalyptic war against the West. It is true that there are not enough loud voices in the Islamic world protesting terrorism, but there are such voices, and we must do what we can to strengthen them. One tool in weakening the voice of hatred and strengthening the voice of moderation is for us to be willing to distinguish between persons and not brand an entire nation, people or religion as hopelessly irredeemable. Hope for the future breeds compromise, tolerance and peace.

    Stephen M. Wylen is the author of numerous books, including "The Seventy Faces of Torah: The Jewish Way of Reading the Sacred Scriptures."

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  • Saturday, July 30, 2005

    International Slave Trade – Where’s the Outrage?

    Continued from previous page

    Slavery takes many forms throughout the world. In some poor countries, people sell themselves into slavery in hopes of getting out of debt, using themselves as collateral. In other case, parents sell their own children. These children wind up in a variety of jobs-- including making carpets in Pakistan, rolling cigarettes in India, harvesting cocoa in western Africa, and serving as jockeys for camel races in the United Arab Emirates. Roughly 2 million child slaves—some as young as five--are forced into prostitution. So-called sex tourists travel to countries where child prostitution is prevalent and tacitly condoned. These countries include Thailand, Cambodia, Costa Rica, and Brazil.

    In the U.S. and elsewhere, the public is outraged when children are molested and exploited, when workers are underpaid and endangered. And this is only fair and right. And many faith communities and humanitarian organizations have issued statements condemning human trafficking.

    But where is the average person's outrage for the poor souls living in chains? Where is my outrage? Where is yours?

    U.S. government hot line on human trafficking: (888) 373-3888.

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  • To find out more, visit these Web sites:
  • World Vision


  • Anti-Slavery International

  • Newark Archbishop John J. Myers' statement on human trafficking

  • U.S. government Web site for victims of slavery
  • Monday, July 25, 2005

    Peace Comes From the Almighty, Not From Humanity

    Continued from previous page
    The Torah sometimes jars us into re-evaluating our core values. The attainment of peace seems to be a universal human desire. What subtends this longing for peace?

    For many, Peace is an El Dorado, beckoning seductively with promises of freedom to pursue selfish agendas. It releases those bound to G-d with chains of needy prayer. Once there is peace of mind, does the mind yet have a place for G-d?

    Our generation, in a fit of amnesia, seeks to achieve “peace in our time.” Many alchemist-diplomats and politicians and world bodies attempt to synthesize peace by simply ignoring evil, by signing agreements with the devil, by hoping against hope that the heartless will have a change of heart. They feed the beast, celebrating as a great achievement moments of quiescence, as the beast sharpens its claws.

    As we have witnessed recently, those who turned a blind eye to the terror massacres in Israel and made excuses for the “oppressed” killers, those who tolerated the most virulent proponents of this toxic philosophy, trusting that their hospitality would purchase immunity, have finally been struck by the viper nesting in their midst.

    The Hebrew word for peace, “shalom”, is derived from the root SH-L-M which means “whole” or “complete.” It is the natural state of existence when equilibrium is attained in the universe. The entropy created by man’s evil acts, disrupts and unsettles this natural order, creating mayhem.

    Peace does not flower as a result of man’s contrivances. We pray daily that the One who makes peace in the celestial universe will make peace for us (“Oseh Shalom…”).

    True peace is a product of Divine origin. Man can facilitate the production of peace, not by performing cosmetic surgery on evil, but by eradicating it in toto. Remaining faithful to Torah values, even when they are not valued by social currency, will ultimately create a climate of cosmic order, a worthy resting place for the ultimate blessing of true peace.

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  • To read other Torah Thoughts, please visit the Jewish Learning Experience (JLE) Web site:
  • JLE
  • Tuesday, July 19, 2005

    Islamic Court Condemns Gay Nigerian to Death

    References: Traditional condemnations of homosexuality

    Judaism and Christianity

    Leviticus 20:13 (New International Version): " 'If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.’”


    Romans 1:27 (NIV): “In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.”

    1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (NIV): “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

    Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2357: “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. … Under no circumstances can they be approved.”

    Yusuf Ali translation of the Quran: 7:80-81: We also (sent) Lut [Lot]: He said to his people: "Do ye commit lewdness such as no people in creation (ever) committed before you?

    "For ye practise your lusts on men in preference to women : ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds."

    Sayings of Mohammed (Ahadith):
    If you find anyone doing as Lot's people did*, kill the one who does it and the one to whom it is done.
    (Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah).
    (Sayings of Muhammad by Prof. Ghazi Ahmad).

    *In Genesis 19:3-5, the men of Sodom attempted homosexual rape on Lot’s guests, who were messengers from God.

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  • Sunday, July 17, 2005

    Students Should Be Taught "a Lot of Science"

    Continued from previous page

    The “agreed upon standards” are a part of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act which states that “a quality science education should prepare students to distinguish the data and testable theories of science from religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science. Where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society.”

    The uproar from Saint Darwin’s ardent defenders was predictable. None was willing to participate in the public hearings held in early May.

    Yet a new national survey shows that almost two-thirds of U.S. adults (64%) agree with the basic tenet of creationism, that “human beings were created directly by God.” Another 10 percent subscribe to the theory that “human beings are so complex that they required a powerful force or intelligent being to help create them” (intelligent design). Moreover, “a majority (55%) believe that all three of these theories [evolution, creationism and intelligent design] should be taught in public schools.”

    Such open-mindedness is in keeping with the findings of fact that came out of the hearings in Kansas; “An objective approach to teaching origins science is one that reasonably informs students about relevant competing scientific views. State endorsement of an objective approach that favors neither Naturalistic Explanations [n]or the Scientific Criticism of those Explanations will more appropriately inform students about origins, will provide good and liberal science education, will cause the state to not take sides on the issue, and is a formula that is most likely [to] lead to the best and religiously neutral origins science education.”

    Why does the mere mention of objectivity and a critical examination of Darwinian evolution send shudders of fear through its evangelists? And what exactly is it that so fiercely drives them to defend their theory?

    It is clear that there is more than science at work here.

    Darwinism is the core belief under girding philosophical naturalism, expressed in such documents as the Humanist Manifesto III which establishes the Humanist belief system, as “rejecting any ‘supernatural’ influence and rel[ying] on modern science and the view that humans are the product of ‘unguided evolutionary change.’”

    In a similar vein one could cite George Gaylord Simpson: “Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind,” or Jacques Monod, “Man has to understand that he is a mere accident.” Monod is typical of the origins exclusionists, writing that Darwinism was “…no longer one among other possible or even conceivable hypotheses. It is today the sole conceivable hypothesis, the only one that squares with observed and tested fact. And nothing warrants the supposition—or the hope—that on this score our position is likely to be revised.”

    Nonetheless, most aren’t buying that brand of religion.

    In large numbers, we remain intractable in our belief that a supreme being was the ultimate cause behind the creation of the universe; that there was a first “unmoved mover,” a creator or an intelligent designer and that all we call reality did not happen by random, naturalistic phenomena.

    Paul the apostle was just as ardent in his beliefs as modern-day Darwinists. In describing the natural world he explained that belief in an intelligent designer was a priori: “His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made...”

    The 16th-century scientist Francis Bacon wrote, “A little science estranges a man from God. A lot of science brings him back.” Clearly, this is what is at the heart of Darwinist’s fears of the teaching of “a lot of science.”

    Gregory J. Rummo has a master's degree in organic chemistry from Fordham University. His column appears Sundays on the editorial page of the New Jersey Herald.

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  • Friday, July 15, 2005

    Catholic Urges Compassion for Animals

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    The 11th century Rabbi Shlomo Itzchaki (also known as RASHI) and other rabbinic commentators give some insight. Rashi says "there is in this expression v'yirdu the meaning of dominion and the meaning of subservience. If he (man) is found worthy, he has dominion over the beasts and cattle. If he is not found worthy, he becomes subservient before them and the beast rules over him."

    In 1984, Bible scholar Claus Westermann stated: "...dominion over the animals cannot mean killing them for food. ... Dominion over the animals certainly does not mean their exploitation by humans. People would forfeit their kingly role among the living were the animals to be made the object of their whim."

    How does a faith community interpret “dominion” today? What does it mean to 'rule over' in the context of Genesis 1 before humans became disobedient? How should we 'rule over' God's creation?

    If we believe that animals suffer horribly in factory farms and if we believe that we support their abuse with the money entrusted to us (or make money serving them as food), if we believe greed and gluttony are sins, then our generalizations to rationalize God's approval about eating meat (even if God is thanked for their lives of torture and is asked for His blessing on them), then I believe it's a sin of ignorance or indifference.

    Aren't we to glorify God in everything we do and say or at least try to if we truly love God and others? Unfortunately our seminaries and church leaders don't include in their dialogues the billions of animals that suffer daily while creationism and evolution are still being discussed (Darwin himself questioned his own theory), rather than the morality of the food we put in our mouths on a daily basis?

    We would do well do read Amos 6:3-4 and Numbers 11 to get an idea of God's thoughts. The old song 'Let peace begin with me' has some truth to teach us as we begin to thank God and Jesus, the Prince of Peace, for what we eat. Are we going to believe The Way, The Truth, and The Life, or the Father of Lies, who has been deceiving us for centuries? Being made in God's image, let's strive to be compassionate children and true followers of Jesus.

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  • The Unleavened Imagination

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    Another way of phrasing the question is: Who are we loyal to – our selves, our family, our tribe? And is writing an inevitable betrayal?

    People write out of love and out of anger. Who is more loyal than the angry son or daughter? Could Roth and Englander be the loyal opposition?

    And yet how easy it would be for us to say and write and reveal all.

    I have felt in the late hours of the night the incredible power of saying and writing everything that could be said, only to throw it away (and deprive my audience?) in the morning. It can be oddly freeing to write with restrictions. Some of the most profound poems and books have been written for children. And everyone knows children can’t be shown and told everything. It would be harmful.

    The relationship between an audience, society, culture and the inner imagination of the writer is dynamic. The elements are forever shaping each other.

    Imagine what it would be like to cook without salt. And yet baking without yeast yielded matza, the bread of freedom (and poverty). A wealth of choices can restrict. Limits paradoxically can free.

    We write from anger and love, and from the impoverishment of our imagination and the wealth of our fantasies.

    Would you tell a story, even if it killed your father – and by father I mean our inheritance, our community, our ancestors, our received traditions? What if it made a good story? What if telling that story (or killing your father) was a way of saving your own life? Would you do it? And what if that story (or killing your father) made you rich and famous? How do we know why people are writing? Can we ever know?

    Somehow this all reminds me of Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark.” Hawthorne, of course a religious man, knew well to wander in the spaces between greed and virtue, perfection and beauty. A scientist wanted to rid his beloved of the one imperfection – a birthmark on her cheek. Having found the right formula, he succeeded in dissolving the mark, only to watch her life ebb and disappear. In our quest for perfection in art, we are in danger. Saying it all, revealing it all, may be killing it all. And in our quest for complete loyalty to religion, we may be killing religion, too. If we’re not disloyal, can we ever be loyal? There would be no loyalty without a taste of disloyalty.

    Maybe we really need to kill our fathers to tell the story, because telling the story is ultimately what keeps us all alive.

    Ask the fathers what they think. How should we approach them? What should we do? What should we say?

    “Ask your father and he will tell you…” (Deut. 32:7) After all, they had fathers, too. They told a story, and yet they were able to keep their own fathers alive.

    Ruchama King is the author of “Seven Blessings” (St. Martin’s Press), a novel about love and faith in Jerusalem. This article originally appeared in The Jewish Week.

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  • Tripping Over Jefferson's "Wall of Separation"

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    A University of Connecticut Department of Public Policy study found that journalists who were surveyed picked Democrat John Kerry over George Bush in the 2004 election by a margin of over 2-to-1. In another survey, only 12 percent of local reporters, editors, and media executives are self-described conservatives.

    The Christian Science Monitor reported last year on the findings of the non-partisan Pew Research Center which found “the gap between journalists and other Americans particularly wide on social issues.”

    547 journalists and executives in a wide range of print and broadcast organizations were surveyed. 88 percent thought “society should accept homosexuality; about half the general public agrees. And while about 60 percent of Americans say morality and a belief in God are inexorably linked, only 6 percent of national journalists and executives surveyed believe that.”

    Liberal media bias is old news.

    What is news is that lately, this bias has turned ugly and in some cases, downright hostile.

    A newspaper in which my column appears recently dished up an editorial written in response to my column, “Liberals apply double standard when it comes to religion.”

    Entitled “The right is wrong,” the editorial led with a laundry list of complaints: “The religious right wants to outlaw abortion, permanently ban embryonic stem-cell research, require the teaching of creationism in schools and funnel ever-more federal money to religious groups.”

    The hand-wringing continued several paragraphs later as Christians were compared to mullahs desiring a theocracy in America. “But what distinguishes a democracy from a theocracy except the wall dividing church and state?”

    The title of the editorial reminded me of the prophet Isaiah’s words “Woe to those who call… good evil.” That the religious right would like to see the genocide of pre-born humans halted is not news. And raising a race of slaves for the sole purpose of harvesting their body parts should be abhorrent to all but the most barbaric. What is it that evolutionists fear when the teaching of “creationism” (Intelligent Design is a better metaphor) is proposed in public schools? Are evolutionists so insecure in their own religion, which requires its adherents to practice faith in spontaneous generation—a “theory” debunked centuries ago by modern science, that they cannot stand to have their ideas challenged? And why not fund faith-based organizations if indeed they are the most effective in solving the societal problems that continue to plague us?

    If the media wishes to characterize Judeo-Christian influence in American culture as a breach in “the wall of separation,” its members need to go back to school and brush up on their American history. Their hallowed “wall” is not mentioned in any of the founding documents of our country; including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

    The concept of separation of church and state comes from a phrase used by Thomas Jefferson in a private letter written to a group of Baptists in Danbury Connecticut to quell their fears that the First Amendment’s guarantee of free religious expression implied it was a freedom that was only government-given and not God-given.

    Jefferson wrote, “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God; that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative powers of government reach actions only and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.”

    Author and historian David Barton explains, “Jefferson’s reference to ‘natural rights’ invoked an important legal phrase which was part of the rhetoric of that day and which reaffirmed his belief that religious liberties were inalienable rights. While the phrase ‘natural rights’ communicated much to people then, to most citizens today those words mean little. By definition, ‘natural rights’ included ‘that which the Books of the Law and the Gospel do contain.’ That is, ‘natural rights’ incorporated what God Himself had guaranteed to man in the Scriptures. Thus, when Jefferson assured the Baptists that by following their ‘natural rights’ they would violate no social duty, he was affirming to them that the free exercise of religion was their inalienable God-given right and therefore was protected from federal regulation or interference.”

    “Jefferson believed that God, not government, was the Author and Source of our rights and that the government, therefore, was to be prevented from interference with those rights. Very simply, the…‘wall’ of the Danbury letter w[as] not to limit religious activities in public; rather [it] w[as] to limit the power of the government to prohibit or interfere with those expressions.”

    “Thomas Jefferson had no intention of allowing the government to limit, restrict, regulate, or interfere with public religious practices. He believed, along with the other Founders, that the First Amendment had been enacted only to prevent the federal establishment of a national denomination.”

    Jefferson’s intentions were very clear.

    What is not clear is why this must be explained by a businessman moonlighting as a newspaper columnist.

    Gregory J. Rummo is an author and columnist. His second book, “The View from the Grass Roots—Another Look,” is available from or the author's website,

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