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Our prayers are never wasted, Pope Benedict says

Vatican City, Sep 12, 2012 / 09:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Benedict XVI used his weekly General Audience to explain that there is no such thing as wasted prayer.

“We can be sure that there is no such thing as a superfluous or useless prayer. No prayer is lost,” said the Pope to over 8,000 pilgrims in the Vatican’s Paul VI Audience Hall Sept. 12.

“When faced with evil we often have the sensation that we can do nothing, but our prayers are in fact the first and most effective response we can give, they strengthen our daily commitment to goodness. The power of God makes our weakness strong.”

Pope Benedict was continuing his weekly exploration of prayer in the story of salvation with a particular focus on the second part of the Book of the Apocalypse, the concluding book of the Bible.

Within its passages, he explained, the Christian assembly is called “to undertake a profound interpretation of the history in which it lives” so that it may learn “to discern events with faith” a thus “collaborate in the advancement of the kingdom of God.”

Thus the assembly is invited to ascend into heaven “in order to see reality with the eyes of God.”  God’s plan for history and mankind, however, is contained in a scroll which is “hermetically sealed with seven seals and no one can read it.”

It ultimately requires “Christ, the Lamb, who immolated in the sacrifice of the cross but stands in sign of his resurrection” to “progressively open the seals so as to reveal the plan of God, the profound meaning of history.”

This episode, said the Pope, should remind us all “of the path we must follow to interpret the events of history and of our own lives.” Both as individuals and a community we should realize that in “raising our gaze to God’s heaven in an unbroken relationship with Christ” in prayer we can learn “to see things in a new way and to grasp their most authentic significance.”

While this “realistic examination of the present time in which they are living” can lead to the discovery of great evil and injustice in the world, the Church “is invited never to lose hope,” said Pope Benedict, as “the power of God has entered man's history, a power capable not only of counterbalancing evil, but also of overcoming it.”

“God became so close as to descend into the darkness of death and illuminate it with the splendor of divine life. He took the evil of the world upon himself to purify it with the fire of his love.”

This is why as Christians “we can never be pessimists,” concluded Pope Benedict, as prayer “educates us to see the signs of God, his presence and his action” or rather “it educates us to become lights of goodness, spreading hope and indicating that the victory is God’s.”

The Pope then addressed the enthusiastic gathering in several different languages before leading pilgrims in the singing of the Our Father in Latin and imparting his apostolic blessing.

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Former Komen executive reveals Planned Parenthood backlash in new book

Denver, Colo., Sep 12, 2012 / 04:09 am (CNA).- In her new book, Karen Handel relays the story behind the “aggressive” and “partisan” attacks from Planned Parenthood following the breast cancer charity's announcement to cut grant funding.

Handel told CNA that when Komen for the Cure announced Feb. 1 that it had decided to restructure funds to Planned Parenthood, the charity “was trying to make a common sense business decision.”

However, what followed was what Komen's former Vice President of Public Policy called “a massive premeditated attack on a breast cancer organization” by Planned Parenthood.

In a Sept. 7 interview, Handel outlined her new book “Planned Bullyhood: The Truth about the Funding Battle with Susan G. Komen for the Cure,” which was released Sept. 11 from Howard Books.

When the announcement was made earlier this year, Planned Parenthood had received funds from the organization for breast-cancer education and screening, but not actual mammograms.

Komen decided that they needed to move away from “pass-through grants” or grants that would be used by one organization to pass along to another, such as was the case with Planned Parenthood in its outsourcing for mammograms. The charity also wanted to pull funding from any organization undergoing investigation, which included Planned Parenthood.

But on Feb. 3, founder and CEO of Komen for the Cure, Nancy Brinker, apologized to “the American public” for the original decision and said she did not want her charity “marred or affected by politics.”

Handel said that at the time, Planned Parenthood and its president Cecile Richards “tried to portray themselves as victims when, in reality, they were the big bullies in all of this.”

The outcry following the announcement to cut funding, which was $680 thousand last year and $580 thousand the year before, “was not about money” for Planned Parenthood, but about “making a point.”

“Making a point that organizations were going to do what (Planned Parenthood) said or they would pay,” Handel said. “And they exacted a high price from Komen.”

“What I find so despicable about it is that, while Planned Parenthood is trying to claim that they are all about women, they had no qualms about trying to destroy an organization that is truly about saving women,” Handel said.

Handel believes Komen should have “stayed the course” in their decision, which was “never about anything but the best interests of women.”

“In capitulating to the political outcry,” of Planned Parenthood, however, she said the decision “became about politics.”

Handel decided to step down from her position at Komen “out of fairness to the organization” when she realized that Planned Parenthood would “not rest until I wasn't there.”

“I knew that I had to leave,” she said. “And that decision was made the moment Komen capitulated.”

Although many media sources reported on the surge in donations to Planned Parenthood following Komen's announcement, most failed to mention the significant increase to the breast cancer charity in wake of their grant restructuring announcement.

“I can't really talk about the number because, as a (former) member of senior management, that is something I would consider proprietary to Komen,” Handel said, “but I can tell you their contributions did go up dramatically in those three days.”

Handel said she hopes her book will highlight the amount of tax dollars that fund the nation's largest  abortion provider, as well as the organization's political dealings.

“The average person,” Handel said, “does not know that it is nearly $1.5 million a day,” that goes to Planned Parenthood from “our tax dollars”.

Similarly, Handel said prior to her involvement with Komen, she “had absolutely no idea” how much time and money Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards has spent in “the political arena.”

Richards has been an avid supporter of President Obama and his Affordable Care Act which would require employers to purchase insurance that covers abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and birth control even if doing so violates their consciences.

In a Sept. 5 blog entry for The Huffington Post, Richards championed the president as having  “done more to advance women's health than any president in history,” which is “why we're fighting for him in this election.”

Handel said such a strong presence in politics is inappropriate for an organization that receives nearly $500 billion a year in federal funding.

“I would submit that for an organization that is using government funding,” Handel said, “to be so blatantly involved in politics is something that we should all have real concerns about.”

Planned Parenthood has been the subject of a federal investigation headed by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) since last year. The investigation was launched after the pro-life group Americans United for Life issued a report indicating financial irregularities and involvement in assisting those involved in sex-trafficking and prostitution.

“Ultimately,” Handel said, “I hope (Komen) can come out of this stronger.”

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Franciscan University defends deviance course against critics

Steubenville, Ohio, Sep 12, 2012 / 02:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Franciscan University of Steubenville course description that lists homosexuality as deviant behavior has drawn critical attention from the only social work accreditation council in the U.S.

Franciscan University said its “Deviant Behavior” social work class – which takes its description from a standard public university textbook – is intended to “help students learn how to better serve and assist future clients.”

The course has drawn hostile media attention after members of an unofficial Facebook group of gay and lesbian alumni asked the school to change the course description.

Currently, the class description reads: “The behaviors that are primarily examined are murder, rape, robbery, prostitution, homosexuality, mental illness and drug use.”

Gregory Gronbacher, a 1990 graduate of Franciscan University who is a member of the group, told National Public Radio he thinks that the course description puts gay students “in the same category as murderers.”

He told NBC News he thinks the school’s administrators “mean well” but “live within a bubble.”

“If you live in that sort of intellectual isolation where gay people are hidden, it’s easy to wander down that path where gay people are rapists and murderers – that scary 'other,'” he said.

Gronbacher said he was a serious Catholic in college and went on to become a philosophy and theology professor. He said he left the Catholic Church in part because of its stance on homosexuality, NBC News says.

In response, the university’s Sept. 4 statement affirmed its adherence to Catholic teaching that homosexual persons are to be treated with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity” and that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.”

Franciscan University’s social work program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, but the course description has prompted comment from Steven Holloway, director of the council’s office of accreditation.

“The fact that homosexuality was identified in the course description as a deviant behavior raises a flag,” he told National Public Radio. He said understanding “diversity and difference” is “critical for social workers to be effective in working with diverse populations.”

He also noted that the accreditation standards have a diversity requirement that includes sexual orientation.

The council’s 2008 accreditation standards say an accredited program must have a “commitment to diversity” including sexual orientation and “gender identity and expression” that is “reflected in its learning environment.” This includes “the demographic make-up of its faculty, staff and student body.”

The council is the only accreditation agency for social work education in the U.S.

The council’s Commission for Diversity and Social and Economic Justice includes a council on sexual orientation and gender identity. This commission council says on its website that it works for “the full participation of individuals who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or two-spirit in social work education.” It identifies and advocates changes in “any policies, procedures, or activities” that impede these persons’ “full and affirming participation.”
 
Franciscan University spokesman Tom Sofio told CNA Sept. 11 that the university has not had communication from the accreditation council.

The university’s Sept. 4 statement said the criticized course’s description is “little more than abbreviated chapter headings from the primary course textbook” that is used in over a dozen public universities.

The university said the textbook uses the term “deviant” in the sociological sense “simply meaning different from the norm.”

“We understand that some, not understanding the term or its context, might take offense at the description,” it continued. “Nevertheless, changing standard sociological definitions is beyond the scope of our work.”

The social work class treats other topics including crime, alcoholism and heterosexual deviance. The university said the course uses secular sources  with “timely research findings, current data, and solid sociological analysis.”

Franciscan University said it expects that faculty present “authentic Catholic teaching,” saying that this benefits its graduates and their future clients because they have considered both sides of an argument.

“(T)hey leave here better prepared to assist clients than their counterparts from schools that teach only one perspective,” the university said.

The university’s statement also addressed its graduates.

“Our prayers and our love go out to all our alumni,” it said. “All men and women, regardless of their sexual orientation, are deserving of respect, compassion, and love, and as a Catholic university we not only believe that, but also strive to live out that belief each day in our relations with students and alumni alike.”

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Young actor says new movie will inspire religious freedom

Phoenix, Ariz., Sep 12, 2012 / 12:03 am (CNA).- The new movie “Last Ounce of Courage” is a statement calling on people to “stand up for their rights and defend their religious freedom,” says a young Catholic actor with a large role in the film.

Hunter Gomez, a 21-year-old actor from Arizona, said the family film is about faith and urges Americans to not “be complacent anymore,” he told CNA Sept. 11.

Gomez plays the role of Christian Revere, grandson of the movie’s main character Bob Revere, who is played by Marshall Teague. Christian finds himself rebuked for bringing a Bible to school and sees Christmas being ignored or secularized in a town where it was once celebrated by locals.

“He comes home and he feels like his rights are being stepped on,” Gomez summarized. “He can’t put a cross wherever he wants or bring a Bible to school or read a Bible in public.”

Christian, whose father died in war, asks his grandfather, the town’s part-time mayor, what his father died for. The question prompts the Revere family to decide to stand for their beliefs and inspire their town.

Gomez said the movie is about supporting all faiths, not just Christianity. He said it has been “very well received” and is not a partisan film.

“It has no political agenda. It’s simply about standing up for your rights and becoming involved in political discussion.”

Gomez is presently a student at Arizona State University. His home parish is the Catholic Community of the Blessed Sacrament in Scottsdale, Ariz.

He said he feels free to speak about his faith in daily life. “But you have to be careful,” he said. “You can’t say certain things.”

He said there is a “misconception” that those who are vocal about their faith, especially Catholics, “can come across as a bigot or someone that is deemed by the public as crazy.”

“I think we should be able to live in a society where especially young people can be expressive and excited about their faith and say ‘I’m a Christian’ and not have to hide that.”

Gomez advised Americans to “directly confront” social pressures to conceal their faith through discussion and dialogue.

The “Last Ounce of Courage” movie runs special screenings on Sept. 11 and opens nationwide Sept. 14.

More information about the movie is available at the website www.alrcnewskitchen.com/looc.

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Vatican says Pope's trip to Lebanon was never in doubt

Vatican City, Sep 11, 2012 / 06:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican says that Pope Benedict's apostolic visit to Lebanon Sept. 14-16 was never second-guessed, despite the civil war in neighboring Syria causing instability in the Middle East.

“The completion of this trip has never been in question and it is a sign of willingness to go to this area as a sign of encouragement, support, and hope for peace in this context,” said Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi SJ at a press conference September 11.

The Pope is making the 3-day trip to the Mediterranean state to sign his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Church in the Middle East.

The document will be the Pope’s response to the deliberations of the Synod of Bishops of the Middle East held at the Vatican in October 2010. The topic for discussion then was “The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness.”  

Like all countries surrounding Syria, Lebanon has also been affected by the civil war that has engulfed the Syrian people since armed revolt against President Bashar al-Assad got underway in March 2011.

The United Nations refugee agency estimates that nearly 250,000 Syrians have now fled to neighboring countries including Lebanon.

Fr. Lombardi said Pope Benedict would use the visit to promote “a positive messenge of peace” in the region and to show solidarity with Middle Eastern Christians who “are the witnesses to the faith” in the region “despite all the problems.” However it is unlikely that the Pope will meet any Syrian refugees.

Despite fears in some quarters for the Pope’s safety, Fr. Lombardi was confident that security matters would not create any undue cause for concern during the visit.

“In Lebanon everyone sees the Pope as welcome and there is no form of hostility,” he said, “we must remember that the Pope is not being presented as a political leader but a religious one.”

Pope Benedict will arrive in the Lebanese capital of Beirut on Friday, Sept. 14. His first official port of call will be the Basilica of St. Paul in coastal town of Harissa, 12 miles to the north of Beirut. It is there, in the presence of the episcopate of the Middle East, that Pope Benedict will sign his Apostolic Exhortation.

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Archbishop Chaput urges end to capital punishment

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 11, 2012 / 12:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Ahead of the possible execution of three convicts on Pennsylvania’s death row, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia has called for an end to the death penalty.

“As children of God, we're better than this, and we need to start acting like it. We need to end the death penalty now,” he said in his Sept. 10 weekly column.

He said capital punishment “simply doesn’t work” as a deterrent, but answers “violence with violence” that implicates all citizens. The death penalty does not heal or redress wounds “because only forgiveness can do that,” he said.

In August the governor signed execution warrants for four men, though a judge stayed one of the warrants. Any of the three remaining convicts could be the first to be executed in Pennsylvania in 13 years.

The archbishop said that avoiding capital punishment does not diminish support for murder victims’ families, who bear “a terrible burden of grief” and “rightly demand justice.”

However, even justly convicted murderers “retain their God-given dignity as human beings.”

“When we take a murderer's life we only add to the violence in an already violent culture, and we demean our own dignity in the process,” he said.

Archbishop Chaput cited the case of Terrance Williams, a death row inmate he said is “indisputably guilty” of the 1984 murder of Amos Norwood which Williams committed when he was 18. Williams’ lawyers contended he had been sexually abused by the man he murdered, while state attorneys have said that those claims have been rejected after judicial review.

“Terrance Williams deserves punishment,” Archbishop Chaput said. “No one disputes that. But he doesn't need to die to satisfy justice.”

Both Scripture and Catholic tradition support capital punishment “under certain limited conditions,” the archbishop said.

“But the Church has repeatedly called us to a higher road over the past five decades. We don't need to kill people to protect society or punish the guilty. And we should never be eager to take anyone's life.”

Archbishop Chaput said the death penalty cannot be justified “except in the most extreme circumstances” and should have “no place in our public life.”

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Nation's leaders commemorate 9/11 with prayers

Washington D.C., Sep 11, 2012 / 11:26 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On the eleventh anniversary of the worst terrorist attacks the U.S. has seen, Church leaders and political figures remembered those who lost their lives and offered prayers for the nation's future.

“This 9/11, let us pray for those souls who died that sad day,” tweeted Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York. “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.”

Crowds gathered at the site of the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa., to remember those who died there in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

“On the anniversary of 9/11, we invite to you pray for all those who lost their lives, for their loved ones and for the courage to build a culture of true peace and love,” the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. said on its Facebook page.

The archdiocese also commemorated the day on Twitter by calling to mind the beatitude, “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

In addition, it recalled that Fr. Mychal Judge, an NYFD chaplain, was the first recorded fatality on that day. He died at the World Trade Center, offering aid and prayers to victims and rescuers.

“May God bless Fr. Mychal Judge,” the archdiocese tweeted, pointing to Christ’s words that "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his."

The archdiocese of Washington, D.C. also posted a link to the U.S. bishops’ pastoral message, “Living With Faith and Hope After September 11,” which was released in November, 2001.

In that message, the bishops recognized the fundamental challenges facing America.

“Our nation has a right and duty to respond and must do so in right ways, seeking to defend the common good and build a more just and peaceful world,” they said.

“Our community of faith has the responsibility to live out in our time the challenges of Jesus in the Beatitudes,” they added, calling on the faithful to approach these duties “with faith and hope, asking God to protect and guide us as we seek to live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ in these days of trial.”

The eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy united Americans in the midst of intense debates about the future of the nation. And in the final weeks of a heated election season, politicians paused from their campaigns to reflect on the occasion.

President Barack Obama proclaimed Sept. 7-9 as National Days of Prayer and Remembrance.

“On these days of prayer and remembrance, we mourn again the men, women, and children who were taken from us with terrible swiftness, stand with their friends and family, honor the courageous patriots who responded in our country's moment of need, and, with God's grace, rededicate ourselves to a spirit of unity and renewal,” he said in the proclamation.

Both Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney suspended their negative ads for the day out of respect for the victims of the 2001 tragedy.

“On this most somber day, those who would attack us should know that we are united, one nation under God, in our determination to stop them and to stand tall for peace and freedom at home and across the world,” Romney said in a statement.

Congressional leaders from both parties spoke at a Congressional Remembrance Ceremony on the steps of the Capitol, which included prayer and patriotic songs.  

Church communities and leaders across the country also reflected on the occasion and offered their continued prayers for all those who were affected.

“Praying for the victims and survivors of 9/11 attacks,” the Archdiocese of New Orleans posted on Twitter.

“Remember this day all those whose lives were taken. Keep their families in your prayers,” tweeted Bishop Curtis J. Guillory of Beaumont, Texas.

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New Vatican recruit to help improve financial transparency

Vatican City, Sep 11, 2012 / 10:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican has appointed a renowned Swiss lawyer to help it meet international standards of financial transparency, after a largely positive report by the European body that monitors such issues.

“The time is ripe, not for a slackening of commitment, but for renewed efforts to respond to the report’s recommendations and ever more efficaciously pursue transparency and financial trustworthiness,” said Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi in a Sept. 11 communique.

Attorney Rene Bruelhart, 40, has been recruited by the Vatican as a consultant to “assist the Holy See in strengthening its framework to fight financial crimes,” Fr. Lombardi said.  

Bruelhart previously spent eight years as the director of Liechtenstein’s Financial Intelligence Unit. In 2010 he was also appointed as vice-chair of the Egmont Group, the global network of Financial Intelligence Units.

In July the Council of Europe’s Committee of experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism – Moneyval – found the Vatican to be “compliant” or “largely compliant” on nine of the 16 “key and core” recommendations for combating terrorist financing and money-laundering.  

“The Holy See has come a long way in a very short period of time and many of the building blocks of anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism regime are now formally in place,” concluded the Moneyval report July 18.

“But further important issues still need addressing in order to demonstrate that a fully effective regime has been instituted in practice.”

Among Moneyval’s areas for concern was skepticism over the “workability” of the Vatican’s internal scrutiny body, the Financial Information Authority, which was created in 2010.  

The Vatican had invited Moneyval to inspect its financial set up in February 2011 after passing new transparency legislation towards the end of 2010.

Fr. Lomardi said the Vatican’s appointment of Bruelhart was “a powerful sign of its commitment” to working on those areas of financial transparency that require improvement.

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Bishops recall 'Way of St. James' as chance to trust in God

Santiago de Compostela, Spain, Sep 11, 2012 / 04:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Members of the Catholic clergy from around the United States hiked 100 miles of an ancient pilgrimage this summer, relying on God to give them strength to endure suffering along the way.

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, Bishop James S. Wall of Gallup, N.M., Fr. Gerry Baker of  Owensboro, Ky. and Fr. Don Kline of Phoenix accompanied auxiliary Bishop James D. Conley of Denver along the medieval “El Camino de Santiago” in Spain from Aug. 21 to Aug. 28.

Bishop Conley said he was inspired to make the trek when he walked with a group of young people along the Camino last summer, but was unable to hike most of it because of a foot injury.

“Think of all the saints that have made that pilgrimage,” he told CNA Sept. 7. “All these saints down through the centuries walked the same path.”

“El Camino de Santiago,” or The Way of St. James, is an ancient pilgrimage consisting of a network of trails all leading to the tomb of saint in Santiago, Spain.

Pilgrims have been making the journey for well over a thousand years to commemorate the life and sacrifice of the apostle.

Along with his brother priests and bishops, some of whom are former seminary classmates, Bishop Conley completed 100 miles of the pilgrimage in seven days.

Although the requirement to be a certified pilgrim of the Camino states that walkers must complete 100 kilometers, or about 62 miles, of the journey, they decided to complete 100 miles instead.

“It was a whole lot more challenging than we thought it would be,” Fr. Baker told CNA.

Beginning in O’Cebreiro, Spain, the site of a Eucharistic miracle which caused a statue of the Virgin Mary to bow her head, was the “perfect place” for the men to begin their journey, Bishop Wall said.

Beginning each day just after six in the morning with prayer, hiking until about 2 p.m. and then celebrating the pilgrim's Mass in the evening, the men completed as many as 24 miles in a day to reach their final destination.

“Patience” and “humility” were among the chief lessons Fr. Baker took away from the journey.

“It was a challenge for a group of middle-aged men,” he admitted.

Archbishop Coakley said his faith in God was strengthened by the trials he encountered along the Camino.

“I think one of the things I've been focusing on a lot is trusting in providence, trusting in the grace that God offers in each moment,” Archbishop Coakley said.

“One of the things I experienced – we all experienced – was you never know what the day is going to hold,” he said. “So, you just have to take it as it comes and recognize the hand of God in everything.”

This lesson has proven especially important to Archbishop Coakley, as his aging father has been battling illness.

“I think one of the things I've been focusing on a lot is trusting in providence,” he added.

Enduring fatigue, blisters and even bed bugs along the way all paid off when the men reached Santiago.

Bishop Wall said in the “midst of the little sufferings” of the Camino, he was better able to unite himself with the suffering of Christ and others.

Bishop Conley called the pilgrimage of Santiago a “microcosm of life” saying, “It sort of encapsulates, on a small scale, what our life is like.”

“Along the way we meet people, we practice charity and forgiveness, but we have hope that there is a goal and we're heading towards someplace that is our destination, ultimately, it's our eternal destination: Heaven.”

Arriving at the Cathedral of Santiago on Aug. 28, the feast of St. Augustine, Bishop Conley was invited to be the main celebrant of Mass.

Bishop Conley, who chose St. Augustine as his confirmation saint when he converted to Catholicism in college, said he received a “great sense of gratitude” and “confirmation of my faith” from having completed the journey, especially on such a “significant spiritual feast day.”

Bishop Wall was the main celebrant of Mass at the tomb of his and Bishop Conley's namesake, St. James, in the crypt below the cathedral the next morning.

“For me it was very important to make the pilgrimage to the burial place of my patron to be able to reflect on his life,” Bishop Wall said. “It was powerful and something that will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

Although the pilgrimage has been made by Catholics for centuries, many modern pilgrims making the trek do not realize the religious significance of their journey.

“I just hope and pray that more people realize this is a religious pilgrimage,” Bishop Conley said, because “this pilgrimage is built upon centuries of people's faith.”

Bishop Wall said that he “highly recommend” anyone, but especially “people of faith” make the journey themselves.

“I think that on that pilgrimage, you ultimately will find the Lord, you ultimately will encounter the living Christ.”

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Abortion rhetoric at DNC criticized for failure to respect women

Charlotte, N.C., Sep 11, 2012 / 02:02 am (CNA).- Through the use of degrading language and extreme claims, speakers at the Democratic National Convention failed to respect women, said a senior policy adviser for The Catholic Association.

Maureen Ferguson told CNA on Sept. 10 that the “vision of womanhood” presented by abortion advocates at the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C., last week was both “limited” and “demeaning.”

“Women’s rights are defined by a right to kill one’s own child,” she said.

Ferguson contrasted this view with Church teaching on “authentic womanhood” and the “feminine genius” discussed by Pope John Paul II.

“The Catholic Church provides a beautiful vision of womanhood,” she said, explaining that rather than being restrictive, the Church presents “an integrated view of our fertility” that is respectful of women and does not treat pregnancy as a disease.

At a Sept. 4 Planned Parenthood rally that coincided with the Democratic convention, women demanded respect for their rights, focusing on the “right” to abortion and free birth control.

The rally was not an official convention event, but it featured many of the same speakers who addressed the full convention gathering as well.

One speaker at the rally referred to herself as a “b-tch for choice,” drawing loud applause from the audience. Numerous women wore “sluts vote” buttons.

Ferguson said that this behavior “absolutely undermines their message” by failing to treat themselves as women with respect and dignity.

In addition, she said, the convention’s extreme emphasis on abortion risks isolating moderate members of the party, as well as those who identity as pro-life.

Commentators from across the political spectrum have described the Democratic convention as a “parade of speakers hammering ‘abortion rights,’” she noted. Speaker after speaker at the convention praised the Obama administration for its commitment to abortion and a controversial federal mandate that requires employers to include free birth control coverage in their health insurance plans.

Among the highlighted convention speakers were NARAL Pro-Choice president Nancy Keenan, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards and Georgetown University law graduate Sandra Fluke, who championed the contraception mandate at a Congressional hearing.

Ferguson said that the convention gave a heavier emphasis to abortion and birth control than to the concerns of any other interest group, such as unions, environmentalists or minority communities.

This extreme emphasis shows “a disconnect with voters,” she argued, especially at a time “when Americans are desperate for jobs and leadership on economic issues.”

Ferguson said that rhetoric accusing mandate opponents of waging a “war on women” is laughable because it is so “absurd.”

“There is no legislative proposal to take away birth control,” she observed, pointing out that the Republican Party is not seeking to ban birth control but simply to leave the decision to purchase it up to individuals and employers, as it had been for decades before the mandate.

Rather than an attack on women, the real problem with the contraception mandate is that it is “a gross violation of our religious freedom,” Ferguson explained, adding that “conscience rights have always been a bipartisan issue.”

The administration’s stance on the mandate is out of touch with the American electorate, Ferguson said, and this could influence the upcoming election.

She pointed to a survey conducted this summer by the Washington, D.C.-based polling firm QEV Analytics on attitudes towards the mandate.

The survey found that 29 percent of Catholics are less likely to vote for President Obama in the upcoming election as a result of the mandate, while only 13 percent said they were more likely to vote for him because of it.

Furthermore, 38 percent of religiously active white females said that the mandate made them less likely to re-elect the present, while just 12 percent said it made them more likely. And 28 percent of independents said that they were less likely to vote for Obama due to the mandate, while only 15 percent said they were more likely to do so.

“The intensity is on our side on this issue,” Ferguson said.

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