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Archdiocese of Chicago Reaches Settlement in Abuse Case, Issues Corrections Following SNAP Press Conference

Cardinal Francis George
Archbishop of Chicago

The Archdiocese of Chicago has reached a settlement in a sexual abuse survivor case involving a former priest.  The Archdiocese agreed to pay $2.3 million to the victim.  The settlement also calls for the Archdiocese to release on January 15 their confidential files regarding allegations of sexual abuse against a total of 30 priests. The files will reveal how well Church officials responded to the allegations. 

The Chicago Sun-Times has the story:
A $2.3 million settlement in a sexual abuse survivor case involving a former priest and filed against the Archdiocese of Chicago and Cardinal Francis George was announced by attorneys Tuesday.
The victim, identified only as John Doe, is now in his early 20s, and was sexually abused in his pre-teen and early teen years by Daniel McCormack between 2004 and 2006, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleged “McCormack would invite the plaintiff inside the rectory of St. Agatha Catholic Church, where he would sit plaintiff on his lap, unzip his pants and fondle” the plaintiff.
It also alleged that the defendants “knew or should have known of McCormack’s dangerous and exploitative propensities as a child molester.”
Read the rest here.  

Barbara Blaine
President of SNAP
Following the announcement of the settlement, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) held a press conference on November 26.  Barbara Blaine, president of SNAP, made a number of charges against the Archdiocese of Chicago for its handling of the case.  

The Archdiocese of Chicago issued a statement on November 27, correcting many of the errors which Ms. Blaine had made in talking with the press.  The Archdiocesan statement is included here in its entirety.  

Response of the Archdiocese of Chicago to statements
made during Jeff Anderson's November 26, 2013 press conference November 27, 2013
The Archdiocese of Chicago would  like to respond to several statements made during the November 26, 2013 press conference held by attorneys Jeff Anderson and Marc Pearlman, and founder and president of SNAP Barbara Blaine.

§  Statement by Barbara Blaine: “We believe the Archdiocese has a responsibility to disclose the whereabouts of these individuals. … We believe that they [the Archdiocese] have the resources to identify and find that out, and most of them are still receiving payments from the Archdiocese and are on the payroll, and their whereabouts should be made known.
§  Correction: No priests who have resigned from the priesthood or have been laicized are still on the payroll of the Archdiocese. Some may have pensions that have vested and therefore receive benefits from their pension. The Archdiocese has identified and listed on its website for many years the names of priests with substantiated allegations of abuse.

§  Statement by Barbara Blaine: “We hear from survivors all the time, and I think that a question that should be asked of the Archdiocese, because they know. … I know there are victims who are hurting, and they allege that they were abused and they have told the Archdiocese officials and, are they still in ministry? I think that it’s fair to say that we should assume there are … I can’t give a number and a name, but…”
§  Correction: No priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago with even one substantiated allegation of abuse is currently in ministry.  It is immoral to keep all Catholic priests under a cloud of suspicion.  In recent years, our personnel files have been checked three times by the civil authorities. Every allegation that is brought forward is reported immediately to the civil authorities, and each priest has received mandated reporter training.  Each priest has undergone a criminal background check. All have received special VIRTUS training to recognize the signs of possible sexual abuse in minor children.  Priests are not permitted to be alone with a child, or to drive a car with a child without another adult being present.  They have received, both while in the seminary and since, extensive training on boundary violations.

If Barbara Blaine has information about abuse of which the Archdiocese is unaware, the Archdiocese requests that she inform civil authorities and the Office for the Protection of Children and Youth immediately so that an investigation can be conducted.

§  Statement by Barbara Blaine: “No such [grand jury] investigation has happened in Illinois, the only information that has been disclosed has been voluntarily disclosed and so we don’t know the extent of the problem. I think it would be naïve to think that it’s any different here than any of those places…” [Philadelphia, Minnesota] “so I believe that if such an investigation [grand jury] were to occur here, similar results would be found.
§  Correction: There was a grand jury investigation in Illinois in 1992. The protocols that were put in place by the Archdiocese in 1992, including the formation of the Review Board which hears allegations against living priests, were the foundation of the Dallas Charter in 2002, so the Archdiocese of Chicago was a decade ahead of the rest of the country in terms of dealing with clergy sex abuse. Again, no priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago with even one substantiated allegation of abuse is currently in ministry.

The Archdiocese of Chicago is in full compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, adopted by the U.S. Bishops in Dallas in June, 2002. The Charter requires that no priest with even one substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor can serve in public ministry. The Archdiocese of Chicago refers all reports of sexual abuse immediately to civil authorities. The Archdiocese’s independent Review Board examines the findings of all investigations and ensures that all perpetrators are permanently removed from ministry or service.

As always, the Archdiocese of Chicago is concerned first and foremost with the healing of abuse victims and has maintained a victim assistance ministry for more than 25 years. In addition, the Archdiocesan Office for the Protection of Children and Youth, charged with serving victims and preventing abuse, has trained and processed background checks on more than 160,000 priests, deacons, religious, lay employees and volunteers; conducted more than 3,000 training sessions; and trained more than 200,000 children to protect themselves from sexual predators.

The abuse of any child is a crime and a sin. The Archdiocese encourages anyone who believes they have been sexually abused by a priest, deacon, religious or lay employee, to come forward. Complete information about reporting sexual abuse can be found on the Archdiocesan website at www.archchicago.org.

Argentina Considers Pope Francis Commemorative Coin

Argentinian lawmakers, proud of the first pope to hail from their country, may soon honor Pope Francis by putting his face on a coin.
Argentina’s 480 million Catholics were thrilled by the announcement in March 2013 that then-Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who served as archbishop of Buenos Aires, would become the new Pontiff.
The tribute coin was first proposed in April by Rep. Oscar Cachi Martinez, and quickly gained support from congressional committees.  The Argentinian congressman announced the successful vote yesterday on his Facebook page:
The bill will now go to the South American country’s Senate for consideration.
One of many commemorative coins which honor the election of Pope Francis
According to the text of the proposed law, the goal of the coins is
“…to commemorate an event of global dimensions, so our present and future generations remember this splendid act in the history of humanity, in which the principal actor is an Argentine.”
Beneath the Pope’s image would be inscribed,
“Tribute from the Argentine People to Pope Francis.”

Pope Francis Announces the Year for Consecrated Life

Pope Francis, speaking this morning to Superiors of religious orders from around the world, announced that the coming year will be dedicated to Consecrated Life. 

Auditorium in the Salesianum
The occasion was the 82nd General Assembly of the Union of Superiors General, which is meeting in the Salesianum, a hotel and conference center in Rome, on November 27-29.  The Holy Father had been expected to speak for just a few minutes; instead, he chose to meet with the Superiors for three hours, engaging in a “long, colloquial and fraternal discussion…composed of questions and answers.”

 The Vatican Information Service provided a detailed report of the meeting:

The first group of questions related to the identity and mission of consecrated life. A radical approach is required of all Christians, the Pope stated, but religious persons are called upon to follow the Lord in a special way: “They are men and woman who can awaken the world. Consecrated life is prophecy. God asks us to fly the nest and to be sent to the frontiers of the world, avoiding the temptation to 'domesticate' them. This is the most concrete way of imitating the Lord”.
When asked about the situation of vocations, the Pope emphasised that there are young Churches which are bearing new fruit. This naturally gives rise to a re-evaluation of the inculturation of charism. The Church must follow the example of Matteo Ricci in asking forgiveness for and looking with shame upon apostolic failures caused by misunderstandings in this field. Intercultural dialogue must press for the introduction persons of various cultures, expressing different ways of living charism, in the governance of religious institutes.
The Pope insisted upon the importance of formation, which he presented as founded upon four fundamental pillars: spiritual, intellectual, communitarian and apostolic. It is indispensable to avoid every form of hypocrisy and clericalism by means of a frank and open dialogue on all aspects of life: “formation is an artisanal craft, not a form of policing”, he commented; “its aim is to form religious persons with a tender heart, not acid, not like vinegar. We are all sinners, but not corrupt. Sinners are to be accepted, but not the corrupt”.
When asked about brotherhood, the Pope said that this has a great force of attraction, and presupposes the acceptance of differences and conflicts. At time it is difficult to live in fraternity, but without it no fruit may be borne. In any case, “we must never act like managers when faced with a brother's conflict: conflict instead must be caressed”, said the Pope. 
A number of questions were asked regarding the relationships between religious persons and the particular Churches to which they belong. The Pope confirmed that he had experience of the possible problems: “We bishops must understand that consecrated persons are not helpers, but rather charisms which enrich dioceses”.
The final questions regarded the frontiers of the mission of consecrated persons. “They must be sought on the basis of the charisms”, answered the Pope. Situations of exclusion remain the first priorities. Alongside these challenges he mentioned the cultural and educational mission in schools and universities. For the Pope, the pillars of education are “transmitting knowledge, transmitting methods, transmitting values. By these means, faith is communicated. The educator must measure up to those he educates, and must give careful thought to how to proclaim Jesus Christ to a changing generation”.
Before taking leave of the 120 Superiors General present, the Pope announced that 2015 would be a year dedicated to consecrated life. He added, “Thank you for what you do and for your spirit of faith and your service. Thank you for your witness and also for the humiliations through which you have had to pass”.

How to Think About Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation: Two Views

Press Conference to Introduce
Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium

Just a day after the release of Pope Francis’s first apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of Faith), there have been many critics:  conservatives who fear the theme of change which permeates the document, liberals who fret that he has ruled out the possibility of ordaining women to the priesthood, those who worry about the Holy Father’s view of capitalism, and more. 

Analysts will find much to discuss in the 84-page document.  Among the first responders to Evangelii Gaudium are Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor-at-large of National Review Online and a nationally syndicated journalist, and Samuel Gregg, research director at the Acton Institute and author of, among other books, Becoming Europe and Tea Party Catholic

Kathryn Jean Lopez takes a positive approach, offering some helpful insights into its broad range of topic areas and showing us how to think about the Pope’s wide-ranging exhortation.  Samuel Gregg, on the other hand, worries that the Pope does not fully understand a free-market economy.

Lopez writes:
As with interviews of months past, reactions vary to Pope Francis’ first teaching document, the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), as you’ve no doubt noticed. It’s over 40,000 words in length, and we who comment — whether on op-ed pages or on Facebook or at the dinner table — each focus on different aspects. As with the America interview that appeared earlier this fall — and as with so many of his messages of God’s mercy, our responsibilities, a loving Father’s radical call for us to live selfless lives in transformative surrender to Him — we can too easily miss the heart of the matter amid a flurry of headlines that affirm or inflame our ideological comfort zones. When we do, we also miss much of the point of the Gospel — the joy, the exhortation, the call, the Christian difference. The point is that we must be challenged. The point is that we must encounter Christ, and daily, and if we do, we must be changed.
In Evangelii Gaudium, in fact, Pope Francis writes:
The word of God constantly shows us how God challenges those who believe in him “to go forth”. Abraham received the call to set out for a new land (cf. Gen 12:1-3). Moses heard God’s call: “Go, I send you” (Ex 3:10) and led the people towards the promised land (cf. Ex 3:17). To Jeremiah, God says: “To all whom I send you, you shall go” (Jer 1:7). In our day Jesus’ command to “go and make disciples” echoes in the changing scenarios and ever new challenges to the Church’s mission of evangelization, and all of us are called to take part in this new missionary “going forth”. Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the “peripheries” in need of the light of the Gospel.
This was so much of the focus of our encuentro in Mexico City, to use a word favored by our three most recent popes. During sessions, we talked about the work of making disciples, communicating with love beyond the audiences — and congregations — bishops, priests, religious, and lay people at the sessions might have most ready access to. In front of the image of herself the Blessed Mother left a Mexican layman, we prayed that we might truly be disciples of her Son, bringing her son to those in pain, in desperation, stuck in routines — that we might be truly apostolic in all our words and works. That we might let Christ be seen through the instruments of our lives.
Back home, in light of exhortations, we jump to clarify and highlight, helping people to feel comfortable or be challenged politically and economically, often overly depending on our political persuasions. Politics is crucial. As Pope Francis points out in the exhortation and elsewhere, it’s noble work, it’s necessary work. Christians may not opt out from politics. We must bring real wisdom to it. We must discern our contributions. We must live examined lives that inform policy debates and keep justice, mercy, and charity all in deliberations.
(In his long texts and interviews, this Jesuit pope keeps dropping practical Ignatian guidance about the inevitable spiritual warfare, about how to let the Satan be conquered. That’s something else to be thankful for — the cornucopia of concrete spiritual guides and witnesses we have as Catholics.)
God is “unpredictable,” our current Holy Father writes in Evangelii Gaudium.
“The Church has to accept this unruly freedom of the word, which accomplishes what it wills in ways that surpass our calculations and ways of thinking,” he continues. We must humble ourselves because God’s will may not be ours and His ways tend not to be as well. We are called to follow and to “patience and disregard for constraints of time” as we evangelize.
Make no mistake about faith, he warns us — it’s not just a safe harbor in a storm, a harmless prayer before a holiday meal. “The disciple is ready to put his or her whole life on the line, even to accepting martyrdom, in bearing witness to Jesus Christ, yet the goal is not to make enemies but to see God’s word accepted and its capacity for liberation and renewal revealed,” Pope Francis writes.
Pope Francis is clear on life and marriage. He is challenging on politics and economics without fighting against Republicans or Democrats specifically. His position is more transcendent and fundamental. His ardent opposition is to a disposable culture that poisons all debates and is an assault on human dignity, piercing the very heart of God. It’s a culture of death and dismissal, of denial and destruction. It’s beneath us. It’s poisoning us.
The Good News is not only the Good News but that there are laborers; we must labor in prayer, sanctified by sacramental lives of union with the Trinity. As Pope Francis points out early on in Evangelii Gaudium — this fruit of last year’s synod on the New Evangelization in Rome — he means for this to offer guidance and encouragement as Catholics seek to live lives in Divine surrender, drawing the world to His mercy.
In Mexico City, pilgrims are gearing up for the December 12 feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. They were doing this even as we met in conference there, weeks before the feast. They show up at the shrine with foot-high (and sometimes two-foot high and larger) statues of Our Blessed Mother. They carry their St. Jude medals and flowers. They leave an offering. They bring home blessed trinkets of remembrance. Some of them, frequently older women (many joined by a son who watches out for them), approach the Blessed Virgin’s image on their knees. Our Lady of Guadalupe roots them to Divine Mercy, to Christian hope, to the salvation and redemption that has been won for us.
She who said “yes” to God’s will helps us say “yes” in our lives. She brings us to her Son. Do we go to her as did the poor of Mexico City or as Catholic leaders — cardinals, bishops, a mother superior, university presidents, journalists, businessmen, the faithful — discussing the New Evangelization? Do we begin and end in prayer and thanksgiving for her intercession? We did there — given the geographic realities of conferencing among pilgrims, as the bishops of the Caribbean and Latin America did when preparing the Aparecida document in which the former Cardinal Bergoglio took a leading role. Do we do this every day?
In his exhortation, Pope Francis offers a brutally cold image in his alerting us to the scandal of our lives, our routinized “discipleship,” our practical atheism. He writes of many pastoral challenges, including “obsession with immediate results makes it hard for pastoral workers to tolerate anything that smacks of disagreement, possible failure, criticism, the cross.”
He warns of dangers that creep into our Christian and supposedly apostolic lives:
…the biggest threat of all gradually takes shape: “the gray pragmatism of the daily life of the Church, in which all appears to proceed normally, while in reality faith is wearing down and degenerating into small-mindedness”. A tomb psychology thus develops and slowly transforms Christians into mummies in a museum. Disillusioned with reality, with the Church and with themselves, they experience a constant temptation to cling to a faint melancholy, lacking in hope, which seizes the heart like “the most precious of the devil’s potions”. Called to radiate light and communicate life, in the end they are caught up in things that generate only darkness and inner weariness, and slowly consume all zeal for the apostolate. For all this, I repeat: Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the joy of evangelization!
There’s much more.  Read the rest here

Meanwhile over at The Corner, Samuel Gregg celebrates what he likes in the new document (the emphasis upon the Holy Spirit, and the practical insights into how to breathe new life into the Church).  He is candid, too, about his concerns (i.e., the conviction that Islam is a religion of peace, which stands against evidence).  

Gregg writes:
Evangelii Gaudium is in many ways a beautiful document. The emphasis upon the Trinity’s most neglected member — the Holy Spirit — in the Church’s life is especially inspiring. Then there are the practical insights about how to breathe life into aspects of the Church’s evangelical outreach that have long been moribund (as in the content-free homilies routinely endured by many Catholics in Western countries). Also helpful for theological reflection, as well as an outline for an agenda of internal reform, are Francis’s comments on how to develop greater collegiality between Rome and what Catholics call the local churches.
For all that, however, important sections of Evangelii Gaudium will strike many Catholics as less than convincing. To be very frank (which Francis himself is always encouraging us to be), a number of claims made by this document and some of the assumptions underlying those statements are rather questionable.
Most importantly, though, Gregg disagrees with the pope’s reflections on economic matters and his apparent criticism of capitalism and of “trickle-down economics”, and his hint of support for redistribution.
My purpose, however, is to focus upon some of the many economic reflections that loom large throughout Evangelii Gaudium and which are, I’m afraid, very hard to defend. In some cases, they reflect the straw-man arguments about the economy that one encounters far too often in some Catholic circles, especially in Western Europe but also in Latin America.
Prominent among these is the pope’s condemnation of the “absolute autonomy of markets” (202). This, he firmly believes, is at the root of many of our contemporary problems, not least because it helps rationalize an unwillingness to assist those in need.
If, however, we follow Evangelii Gaudium’s injunction (231–233) to look at the realities of the world today, we will soon discover that there is literally no country in which markets operate with “absolute autonomy.” 
Gregg ends with a sharp criticism of the scope of the document, and points to what he believes should have been said:
…as Francis himself writes, “Ideas disconnected from realities give rise to ineffectual forms of idealism” (232). And attention to particular realities about economic life is precisely what’s missing from parts of Evangelii Gaudium’s analysis of wealth and poverty. If we want “the dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good” to be more than what the pope calls a “mere addendum” to the pursuit of “true and integral development” (203), then engaging more seriously the economic part of the truth that sets us free would be a good start.
There's much more.  Here are Dr. Gregg's full reflections on Pope Francis and poverty.  

This Thanksgiving, Don’t Let Retailers Steal Your Family Time!

By Kathy Schiffer
Ave Maria Radio

The annual Christmas Commercialization Controversy is kicking in a day early in 2013.
That’s because this year retailers across the country, clamoring for bigger profits, have extended the shopping season by one day—announcing that they will remain open on Thanksgiving Day.  That means that Thanksgiving Day, many dinners will be eaten on the fly, as mothers and their working teenage children head to the mall to shop or, conversely, to work at their retail jobs in stores where the shoppers will spend their holiday.
The competition for holiday shoppers is nothing new.  In the old days, though, I remember stores wooing my mother and enticing shoppers to open their wallets in other ways:  with twinkly Christmas lights, hymns and carols on the store’s loudspeakers, Santa ho-ho-ho-ing in the toy department.  Sears Roebuck, J.C. Penney, J.L. Hudson, smaller shops—all followed the same family-friendly schedule, and all shared a commitment to retaining “family time” around the holidays.
In fact, in those days Sundays were also family days.  In my neighborhood, stores had a sign on the door which read,

“Closed Sundays.  See you in church.”

*     *     *     *     *
This year, most of the big chain retailers have announced that they’ll be open for at least a few hours on Thanksgiving Day. Getting a head start on “Black Friday” craziness, Kmart, Walmart, Target, Sears, and Toys “R” Us will remain open for business on the holiday.  Most Macy’s locations across the nation will open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving evening.
Why the new trend toward early-bird shopping?  As the economy has waned, more and more retailers are seeking new strategies to attract market share.  Tom Scott from the Michigan Retailers Association explains:  “A little bit earlier, a little bit earlier. Come up with a little bit more of a promotion to catch people’s attention, and now yank them away from the Thanksgiving table in order to go shopping.”
*     *     *     *     *
In our area there is one retail chainwhich has decided to keep store doors closed on Thanksgiving Day:  Menard’s.
Menard’s released the following statement on Tuesday:
As a family-owned company, Menards believes that Thanksgiving is a time for togetherness, which should be celebrated with all those we hold dear.  With this in mind, we decided to remain closed on Thanksgiving Day so you, as well as our Team Members, can celebrate this joyous time with family and friends.  We will open our doors bright and early at 6 a.m. on Friday morning, November 29th, so you can SAVE BIG with our 6 Hour After Thanksgiving Sale!
*     *     *     *     *
My advice:  Enjoy Thanksgiving with your young’uns and your family.  Eat turkey.  Watch the parade.  Watch football with Dad.  Play Mexican Train dominoes with Grandma.  Work puzzles with the kids.
And on Friday, get up early and go shopping.  My personal preference, when my children were young and home from school for a long holiday weekend, was to extend our shopping fast and enjoy our Friday, as well.  If you must shop, though, plan to hit the sales early on Black Friday.  Shop at Menard’s, even if you’ve never been there before, to show your support for their family-friendly policy.
And don’t forget that on-line shopping is increasingly popular, and is a good solution for harried mothers and fathers!
And on Thanksgiving, remember to be thankful!

New Documentary Offers an Inside Look at Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Man Who Would Be Pope

Francis: The Pope from the New World, the Knights of Columbus’ new documentary, is coming to television screens in Canada and in some American cities, courtesy of Salt + Light TV.
The hour-long documentary will air on Wednesday, November 27 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time.  At the same time, it will be live-streamed at the Salt+LightTV website.  The DVD is available for purchase at Amazon. 
Following is the description from the film’s website:

On March 13, 2013 the world was introduced to Pope Francis.  He was the first Pope from the Americas, the first Jesuit, and the first to take the name Francis.  Within days he had captured the hearts of the world through his gestures of humility and care for the common man.  Yet he remained largely unknown.
Francis: The Pope from the New World unveils the personality, passion and extraordinary faith of the new Pope.  Shot on location in Buenos Aires, and featuring interviews with close friends, collaborators, and his official biographer, this documentary film traces the remarkable rise of Jorge Mario Bergoglio.
From growing up surrounded by soccer games and tango music, to his defense of the poor and marginalized of Buenos Aires during his time as Archbishop, this film explores the abiding compassion and unwavering resolve of a priest, a bishop, and now a Pope seeking to bring the Church to the frontiers of society.  From overcoming the challenges of the day including Argentina’s Dirty War, to his tireless advocacy for the poor and marginalized, Francis: The Pope from the New World paints an indelible  portrait of a towering figure of our time.
Here is the trailer, which gives you an idea what you can look forward to.
If you can’t watch Wednesday evening, or if you’d like to see it again and again, order Francis: The Pope from the New World for your own film library.

Did Gay Waitress Lie About Family That Refused to Tip?

By Kathy Schiffer
Ave Maria Radio

Last week the Internet was abuzz over the story of a gay server at a restaurant in Bridgewater, New Jersey, who claimed that a customer denied her a tip and wrote her a hateful note on the receipt.
Dayna Morales, a former Marine who works as a waitress at Gallop Asian Bistro, told the Huffington Postthat a family had left no tip on their $93 bill, and instead scribbled a line through the receipt with a note which read, "I'm sorry but I cannot tip because I do not agree with your lifestyle."  

Morales posted a photo of the receipt on-line and sent an angry email to Have a Gay Day, a pro-homosexuality organization.  Morales’ email, which was was later posted to the site’s Facebook page, read:
I am THOROUGHLY offended mad pissed off and hurt that THIS is what her kids will grow up learning and that I served in the Marines to keep ignorant people like them free. Sorry lady but I don't agree with YOUR lifestyle and the way you're raising your kids but you didn't see me throwing that in your face and giving you shitty service. Keep your damn mouth shut and pray we never cross paths again.
Readers, offended by the customer’s blatant prejudice against homosexuals, sent checks and monetary gifts as a sign of solidarity against the kind of prejudice Morales had faced.  To date, Morales has received more than $3,000 from people who oppose discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

But not so fast!  After the story aired on NBC New York, a family contacted the station to report that it was their bill which Morales had posted—only it had been altered, they did leave a tip, and they did not write a message of hate on the bill.  As evidence, they produced their copy of the receipt which showed a large tip, and which had the same date/time stamp and dollar amount as the receipt Morales had posted on social media. 

According to NBC New York:
The husband and wife, who asked to remain anonymous, showed NBC 4 New York a receipt that appeared to be printed at the same minute, on the same date, for the same $93.55 total, except with an $18 tip. 
They also provided a document they said was a Visa bill, which appears to indicate their card was charged for the meal plus the tip, for a total of $111.55. 
The couple told NBC 4 New York that they believed their receipt was used for a hoax. The wife says she is left-handed and could not have made the slash in the tip line, which she said looks to be drawn from the right. 
"We've never not left a tip when someone gave good service, and we would never leave a note like that," the wife said.
Gallop Asian Bistro has no explanation for the discrepancy, and is now investigating the incident.  Dayne Morales stands by her story.  She is still waitressing at the restaurant, and pledges to donate all the funds she’s received to help support the Wounded Warrior Project.

BREAKING: Supreme Court to Hear HHS Mandate Case – Will Be Historic Ruling on Religious Liberty

The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear two cases challenging to the contraceptive mandate in the "Obamacare" health policy.    In a conference on today, the justices decided to hear two cases in which employers have challenged the HHS mandate. The High Court chose to hear a case brought by Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma firm; and another brought by Conestoga Wood Specialties of Pennsylvania. A federal appeals court had sustained the Hobby Lobby challenge, while a different court rejected a similar challenge by Conestoga.     The split opinions in federal appeals courts, the dozens of challenges to the contraceptive mandate, and the need for a clear-cut decision on the federal health-care policy all weighed in favor of a Supreme Court hearing on the arguments.    The key question to be resolved is whether the mandate violates the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 by requiring business owners to pay for services they consider morally objectionable. The High Court has already ruled that corporations should be treated as persons for purposes of their political activity. The Hobby Lobby and Conestoga cases will revolve around the issue of whether corporations should be free to operate according to the religious principles of the individuals who control them. If the Supreme Court finds that corporations can have religious principles, the Obama administration will be forced to show that the federal government’s interest in providing contraceptive coverage is sufficiently urgent to outweigh the ordinary demands of religious freedom.     The Supreme Court will probably schedule arguments in the cases for the spring of 2014, with a decision likely by June. Either way it will be a landmark ruling on religious liberty with significant future ramifications.

Below is a round-up of articles published in the last couple hours.

U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Landmark Hobby Lobby Case - Beckett Fund

Supreme Court accepts Pa. Mennonite cabinetmakers’ challenge to abortion pill mandate - Alliance Defending Freedom

Supreme Court will take up new health law dispute - Associated Press

Supreme Court to decide Obamacare birth control mandate - Washington Times

Can a corporation have a religion?: Hobby Lobby challenge to contraception mandate heads to Supreme Court - Salon.com

The Supreme Court Prepares to Consider the Contraceptive Mandate - The Wire

This Advent, stop the clock: Slow down and savor the true beauty of the season

OSV Newsweekly

November 21, 2013

By Mary De Turris Poust

This Advent, stop the clock


By the time Advent officially begins, most of us have been bombarded by so much Christmas music and Christmas advertising and Christmas everything that we’re already sick of the season. In a world where the Christmas countdown begins sometime before Halloween, it’s easy to lose sight of the beauty of Advent, and to get so caught up in the material trappings that we can’t see the spiritual forest for the tinsel-covered trees.

 giving tree
Participate in a giving tree or some other opportunity to adopt a family or child who will otherwise not receive any gifts this Christmas. CNS

We live in a goal-oriented society, and in this case, Christmas is the end zone that we’re running toward at breakneck speed, hardly looking at what’s going on along the sidelines. But our faith beckons us to stop the madness, to stop the running, to focus on the journey as much as the destination. And to do that the Church gives us the four-week season of Advent, with its beautiful interplay of darkness and light, with its scriptural focus not only on the coming of the Christ Child but on the second coming of Jesus Christ, and with its quiet but constant insistence that we prepare — not just for a day but for a lifetime, and for the next life.

If we’ve been paying attention these past few months, we’ve been given some sound advice on how to do all this from Pope Francis, whose pastoral theme has been one focused on moving away from materialism and toward a deepening relationship with others and God.

“Brothers and sisters, let us call upon the name of Jesus,” Pope Francis challenged during his Nov. 3 Angelus address. “… And let us welcome him with joy: He can change us, can transform our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, he can liberate us from selfishness and make our lives a gift of love.”

“Liberate us from selfishness.” Sounds like an Advent plan. So we start and end with Jesus, but how do we manage the days in between that are filled with things of a much less transcendent but somewhat necessary nature? It requires Herculean effort to silence the drumbeat of the secular version of this holiday and holy day. But by creating rituals and practices that refocus our attention on Jesus, we can bring some sanity, serenity and balance to the most difficult aspects of the season: the waiting, the buying and the praying amid the noise.

Waiting game

“Waiting is never easy, especially when we’re waiting for something as important and awesome as Christmas. Yet, the waiting itself is essential in properly preparing our hearts to welcome our Lord. If he just appeared suddenly — bing! Instant Savior! — then we wouldn’t have time for the prayer, meditation and contemplation that is required to reach the level of reverence that our hearts need and that he deserves,” said Marge Fenelon, author of “Waiting with Mary: Advent Reflections for Those Who Hate to Wait.”

“During Advent, the Church asks us to relive those weeks before Mary gave birth to Jesus. No mother (not even foster or adoptive) welcomes a child out of the blue. There always is a period of preparation and anticipation. Advent is a time for us to imitate Mary’s pregnant motherhood — yes, even the guys — in that we await his birth in our hearts on Christmas morning. Savoring the waiting takes practice and determination,” she said. “To pull it off fruitfully, we need to focus on the waiting itself and how we’re approaching it spiritually. We need to plan spiritual exercises, customs, and quiet times that will lead us into, and hold us in, the attitude of holy expectation. If we don’t plan for a waiting-ful Advent, it won’t happen by itself.”

Fortunately, the Church gives us a ready-made set of customs and exercises from which to choose. The Advent wreath is the most popular and familiar custom most Catholics use to mark the days of the season with prayer. But there are other opportunities to bring ritual and prayer into the season in ways that makes sense for you and your family. (See sidebar for Advent ideas.) Regardless of the method, the bottom line is prayer.

Advent Practices
The Advent wreath and the Advent calendar are classic traditions that keep Catholics focused on the “reason for the season,” but here some everyday Catholics offer ways they try to keep the spirit of Advent alive:Have everyone in the family go to confession during the Advent season.Cut up small pieces of yellow yarn or small pieces of cotton and each time someone does a good deed or acts like Jesus to someone else, he or she can place a piece in the crèche to prepare a soft place for the Baby Jesus.

Create an ‘Advent chain’ made of appropriate purple and pink paper strips to follow the liturgical colors of the season. Remove a link each day. Links can include a prayer, a Scripture quote or good deed.

Celebrate St. Nicholas Day on Dec. 6 by leaving a token gift — an orange, a piece of chocolate — in each child’s shoe. Then talk about the real St. Nick.

Participate in a giving tree or some other opportunity to adopt a family or child who will otherwise not receive any gifts this Christmas.

Serve lunch at a local soup kitchen before you head to your family celebration.

Create your own Jesse tree with a branch from your yard and some handmade ornaments. Talk about the meaning behind each symbol.

Turn your tree-trimming into a new tradition, either by chopping down your own tree or by blessing the tree as a family or by having a special dinner the night you decorate it. If possible, hold off on putting up the tree until the O Antiphons begin on Dec. 17, no easy feat in this rush-the-season world of ours.

Help your children make gifts for their siblings, parents, grandparents and friends: pictures, stories, dates out, free baby-sitting. Let kids get creative.

Everything is rooted in a prayerful watching and waiting. Fenelon, who says she wrote her book precisely because she lacks patience, told Our Sunday Visitor that prayer is essential if we’re going to try to slow down this season.

“Waiting is hard because we’re trained not to wait. Everything is instantaneous now — information, mental stimulation, recreation and even relationships. Digital technology puts it all right at our fingertips at a second’s notice … Prayer can’t be measured in gigabytes; it is measured in heartbeats. It’s also addictive. The more we pray, the more we feel the need to pray,” she said. “It can be a real struggle to reach the point of deeply fulfilling prayer when we’re feeling pressured by holiday preparations. We might not even feel like praying at all. That’s when we have to start with baby steps.”

Those baby steps can be something as simple as lighting a candle before dinner each night and stopping for just a minute to refocus attention on the sacred rhythm of the season, or it might be a conscious decision to avoid playing Christmas music or putting Christmas decorations up too early in the season. It’s not easy when “Jingle Bells” is playing from every radio station and when Santa is waving from every shopping center. But making an intentional effort to go against the grain will slow things down and allow you to savor the true beauty of Advent.

Consumerist culture

 family time
Spending time with loved ones is more important than shopping. Shutterstock

Perhaps nothing says Christmas like consumerism in mainstream America. We are living in a material world, and during the weeks and months leading up to Christmas, that fact is magnified to the point of the absurd. Gone are the days of handmade gifts and thoughtful trinkets. Now it’s not unusual for people to ask for gift cards, which is really just a polite way of saying, as Sally does in “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “Just send money. How about tens and twenties?”

Quantity counts a little too much when it comes to Christmas these days, a point that is driven home by the folks at Advent Conspiracy, an organization that strives to make people aware of the over-the-top spending that goes on in the name of Jesus and offers ways to reverse that.

In a video clip that went viral when it was first posted in 2006 — and which has done the same every year since — Advent Conspiracy points out that Americans spend $450 billion on Christmas every year, most of it on credit. That’s a lot of stuff, most of it unnecessary.

The video encourages people to give more of their time and their love and themselves, and less of their paycheck and watch the magic start to happen.

“I think people want a different way because they see all this stuff they’re buying is not doing it … We give people permission to relax, to enjoy the season and to push back on the tendencies they have to buy,” Tony Biaggne, creative director of Advent Conspiracy, told OSV.

Biaggne said people innocently try to fill the empty spaces in their lives with material things because that’s what the world tells us will make us happy. Advent Conspiracy started asking people to consider cutting back on even one gift and distributing that money to a good cause.

What happened was staggering. The group has raised millions of dollars for Living Water International, which works to end the “clean water crisis.”

But Biaggne is quick to mention that Advent Conspiracy is an “upside down charity.” It didn’t start out as an effort to raise money; it started as an effort to raise awareness of Jesus’ importance in our lives.

“We gave people a chance to focus on Jesus. The natural outflow is love, grace and mercy. It just happens,” he said. “People desperately are searching for a chance to truly connect with the God of the universe who truly does give them a sense of peace on earth.”

But that doesn’t mean forgoing gifts and taking on a Scrooge persona. Instead, the idea is not to stop giving gifts, but to give more intentional gifts, not necessarily handmade gifts but gifts from the heart.

Gifts from the heart

What does that look like in our modern world?

Well, it could be as simple as giving a child a “date” with mom or dad, a special day where they get to go somewhere or do something with a parent without interruptions or distractions like Facebook or work phone calls or TV.

Get Real this Advent: A Checklist
Set aside time for silence and prayer. Forgo Christmas music and listen to Advent chants and hymns. Light a candle before dinner each night and reflect on the season.

Make an effort to spend more time with loved ones.

Even gift cards can become heartfelt gifts when done right, said Biaggne.

“So if you give a gift card, you might say, ‘I know you love to shop at this store. The only catch is, I want to be with you and have lunch with you and shop with you,’” he said. “It becomes relational, and that redeems what seems like an empty gift.”

Biaggne is also quick to explain that Advent Conspiracy and other efforts to restore some sanity to the season cannot work without Jesus at the heart. He said that choosing not to include Jesus in a meaningful Christmas season is like choosing not to breathe oxygen when you take a breath. It can’t be done.

“You cannot enter into this without bringing your faith to the table and bringing Christ to the center of it and focusing on why the Christmas story matters,” he said. “It’s the most surreal, beautiful, most unexpected way that a Savior would enter into our world for all time.”

Change begins at home

So, for those of us just trying to balance the spiritual and the secular this season, how do we make it work?

“Forget trying to change the world and simply try to change your family,” said Al Kresta, president and CEO of Ave Maria Radio and author of “Dangers to the Faith: Recognizing Catholicism’s 21st Century Opponents” (OSV, $14.95). “You ask how Catholics can change. We won’t if we don’t recognize the seduction of consumerism. In spite of strong, even pointed, papal preaching, most Catholics still don’t feel that consumerism is much of a problem. It is, according to John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. Consumerism is the life orientation that our identities are formed by purchasing and consuming goods and services.”

Kresta told OSV that rather than scold others or society for the sad state of the Advent and Christmas season, do small things at home to make a difference where it counts — in the heart of your family.

That means, first and foremost, treating Advent as a season and an event separate from Christmas, rather than an extended shopping season.

“We sing Christmas carols all through Advent. We put Baby Jesus in our crèche scenes before the Nativity. Stop it. Don’t scold others about it. Stop it yourself and in your family. Try to enjoy the fact that our culture still has a way of recognizing the Incarnation, as inadequate a celebration as it is, and don’t be a scold. But be merrily different and when questions arise, enjoy making the point about Advent as a season of anticipation and the octave of Christmas as a season of thanksgivng,” he said. “One way to ensure that Advent will be a time of reflection rather than a time for commercial hype is to simply try and do as much Christmas shopping as possible the week before Advent begins. This requires more planning but I do know people who do and they exhort the rest of us to try. Advent, they say, has never been more meaningful.”

Biaggne from Advent Conspiracy also stressed the importance of doing small things that have the potential for big results. He suggested taking time to be silent now and then, saying that Psalm 46:10 — “Be still and know that I am God” – is his favorite go-to Scripture verse during the otherwise hectic season.

“I love that God is constantly trying to get us to shut up. Be quiet, not just physically, but turn off the buzzing in your head, turn off the quickening pace of your heart because of stress and know,” Biaggne said, adding that when we do that others pick up on the shift in us.

“They catch a whiff of grace. They notice we’re living differently, more at peace. ‘What’s your trick?’ they ask,” he said.

The answer is simple but not always welcome: Jesus, at the heart of Advent, at the heart of everyday life.

How does that translate into Advent action in Biaggne’s home?

He recalled how last year his 9-year-old son gave him a “date day” for Christmas. He made Biaggne his favorite pasta, served it up with sparkling grape juice, and asked his dad to talk about his life.

“It was a dinner I’ll never forget,” Biaggne said, reminding parents that their kids are not likely to remember the action figure or game they got years ago but the time you spent with them and the special rituals you created.

He recalled how his own father used to pick him up from his Catholic school to take him to a business club for Christmas lunch.“It wasn’t about what he gave me,” he said. “It was all about the time we spent together.”

Papal words, example

When we start to feel our spirits flagging as the push to conquer Christmas continues, we can look to Pope Francis for inspiration and guidance.

Although the message isn’t groundbreaking, he has put renewed emphasis on the dangers of materialism, a message that seems especially appropriate during this season of excess.

“Pope Francis perfectly follows the emphases of John Paul II and Benedict XVI on this matter of consumerism. The advantage that Pope Francis has is that he is living as close as possible to the very people he wants to reach and can better depict the immediate love of Jesus for the lonely, the poor and disabled. Like Jesus, he is with the people and by living with us he affirms our dignity and value,” said Kresta, who devotes a chapter to “Consumerism: Branding the Heart” in his book.

“To redeem means to buy us back from the slave market of sin. Consumerism sees redemption as a matter of coupon clipping or payment plans. It buys back products; Christ redeems persons. One of the purposes of the Incarnation is to break the bonds of consumerism,” Kresta explained. “Christ’s coming shatters its false scale of value so that we will no longer live enthralled by the impulses of the flesh, the seduction of the world or the manipulations of the devil. … We imitate the one who ‘though he was rich, yet became poor for our sakes’ (2 Cor 8:9). This strikes me as a particularly poignant theme for American Catholics to ponder during Advent.”

Mary DeTurris Poust is the author of “Everyday Divine: A Catholic Guide to Active Spirituality” (Alpha, $14.95).

On the Web◗ General and seasonal Catholic resources, links, crafts and more at catholicmom.com◗ O Night Divine, Advent resources, at onightdivine.com

◗ Devotions, blessings and commentaries at usccb.org/advent

◗ Resources, alternative gift ideas and more at adventconspiracy.org


“Advent Reflections: Come Lord Jesus,” by Cardinal Timothy Dolan (OSV, $6.95)

“O Radiant Dawn: 5-Minute Prayers Around the Advent Wreath,” by Lisa Hendey (Ave Maria Press, $1.25)

“Rediscover Advent,” by Matthew Kelly ($8.99, St. Anthony Messenger)


“Advent at Ephesus,” by Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles” (De Montfort, $15)

“Advent,” by the Gregorian Singers of Minneapolis (Church Publishing, $17.95)

“Gregorian Chant for Advent and Christmas,” by the Gregorian Chant Schola of St. Meinrad Archabbey (St. Meinrad Archabbey, $16.95)


Source: https://www.osv.com/OSVNewsweekly/InFocus/Article/TabId/721/ArtMID/13629/ArticleID/13460/This-Advent-stop-the-clock.aspx

The Real Richard Dawkins?

November 21, 2013
To The Source
by Dr. Benjamin Wiker
 side barside barside barside barside barside barside barside barside barside barWhat do we find out about Richard Dawkins in his recently-penned autobiography? Maddeningly little.

We find that Dawkins—Clinton Richard Dawkins, to be precise—had a kind of romantic beginning living in Africa. He was born in Nairobi, Kenya to kind and loving parents who treated him well, and who remained married until his father passed away at 95 years old, just a bit after the couple's 70th wedding anniversary.

While his parents, John and Jean, were non-religious, they were not anti-religious. We don't find an overbearing religious tyrant-father against whom the son could rebel, or a model of militant atheism to devotedly imitate.

His parents didn't take him to church while they lived in Africa, but he did go (in good English fashion) to boarding schools where students went regularly to chapel, and said communal prayers every evening. Young Dawkins is quite happy to sing and pray along with everyone else—he loves hymns and prays nightly just like every other child-like child. If anything, boarding school caused belief to blossom.

So, when his family moved to England, his boarding school experiences only deepened his faith. Near the end of his time at Chafyn Grove, when he was thirteen years old, young Richard was confirmed at St. Mark's Anglican Church. "I became intensely religious around the time I was confirmed. I priggishly upbraided my mother for not going to church," he reports. A very interesting sort of rebellion against one's parents, given his later career.

The year after his confirmation Dawkins went from Chafyn Grove to another prep school, Oundle. He began, as before, with prayers and chapel, but would end up, within three years, refusing to kneel or pray with the others. Why?

As a first phase of the transformation, he came to reject what he calls "the particulars" of Christianity as a result of doubts sown by his mother when he was just nine. She told him that there were other religions than Christianity, "and they contradicted each other." So, Dawkins reasoned, five years after this seed was planted, "They couldn't all be right."

The result was interestingly mixed. He gave up anything particular (as in, the "particular" beliefs of the "particular" religion that surrounded him as a "particular" English Anglican adolescent) and embraced an "unspecified creator…because I was impressed by the beauty and apparent design of the living world, and—like so many others—I bamboozled myself into believing that the appearance of design demanded a designer."

In a very strange and ironic twist, having given up Christianity, Dawkins now imagined himself to have a vocation, a calling "to devote my life to telling people about the [unspecified] creator god—which I would be especially well qualified to do if I became a biologist like my father."

If Dawkins had continued on that trajectory, he might have become as famous for his arguments on behalf a designing God as he is now famous for his arguments against a designing God.

What happened? "I became increasingly aware that Darwinian evolution was a powerfully available alternative to my creator god as an explanation of the beauty and apparent design of life." Interestingly, "it was my Father who first explained it [i.e., natural selection] to me but, to begin with, although I understood the principle, I didn't think it was a big enough theory to do the job….I went through a period of doubting the power of natural selection to do the job required of it."

One wonders what would have happened if Dawkins had followed through on these doubts. That would have put him among those evolutionists who believe in God precisely because they find that atheistic natural selection alone is woefully insufficient as an explanation for the drama of the majestic development of life.

Read the rest here:
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