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Next week: Robert Spencer debating Muslim scholars on "Is Islam a Religion of Peace?" at Michigan conference

By Robert Spencer, www.jihadwatch.org

The editor of Reza Aslan’s Aslan Media, desperate as ever to silence the truth about Islam and jihad, has mounted the usual campaign of smears and defamation to get me canceled from this, but this time he has failed. This represents two defeats in a row for him, since I spoke at the conference in Sacramento, California from which he tried to get me canceled last weekend. And the Roman Catholic diocese of Sacramento, even after its bishop caved to this libelous campaign, had a booth at the conference — obviously they were fine with my being there after all. That is, of course, as it should be: the idea that fighting for the freedom of speech, the freedom of conscience and equality of rights for all people should be controversial at all shows how far the public discourse has degenerated.

Details on our conference appear below….

Conference Debates: "Is Islam a Religion of Peace?"

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life recently showed that 19% of U.S. Muslims said that “suicide bombing or other forms of violence against civilians in the name of Islam” could be justified. That number in Egypt is 29% and 40% in the Palestinian territories. Do these findings mock the claim that Islam is a religion of peace?

On Saturday, August 10, renowned experts on Islam from around the world come to MI discuss and debate the question, “Is Islam a Religion of Peace?” The one-day symposium will be held in the Student Center at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, MI

Featured debaters will be Robert Spencer, director of JihadWatch.org facing off against Shadid Lewis, regional director of the Muslim Debate Initiative in the US, on the question “Is Islam a Religion of Peace?”

Muslim columnist for the Turkish News Mustafa Akyol will debate Richard Thompson of the Thomas More Law Center on “Can Islam Support Religious Liberty?”

The Eastern Michigan University Student Center is located at 900 Oakwood Street, Ypsilanti, Michigan 48197. Registration for the symposium is $40, and includes a box lunch and free parking. Clergy and student rates are available.

Registration will begin at 8:00 a.m., and the conference will run from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. with Mass following.

To register for the conference, click here or call 734.930.5201.

How can I Avoid False Teachings on Prayer? (Part III of III)

…A faithful follower of the Lord asks: Dear Dan, I enjoy reading more modern writers about prayer and the spiritual life but I am always worried about false teachings that could lead me away from the heart of the Church. How can I know when an author is not orthodox or teaches something that could lead me to deception instead of to God?

428px-Visage_d'Elisabeth_de_la_TrinitéIn this third post we will explore the dangers of reducing God to a cosmic force along with ways we can better gain a healthy perspective on prayer and enhance rather than diminish our progress in prayer (you can read the first post here and the second post here). It is fitting that I have completed my edits and made this final post ready on the eve of a very special day for me. It is the day on which I was received into the Church and a day that draws our hearts to the most holy disciple of Christ, our Blessed Mother, along with the most sublime instructors of prayer that God has given to the Church, the great Carmelite Doctors. Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us and show us the way to Christ amidst the stormy seas of heresy and unbelief to our only true haven of rest in Christ.


The final and most dangerous aspect of modern popular teaching on prayer is depersonalization. The danger here lies in an essential denial of two central doctrines of Christianity: first, the Incarnation (Christ really did come in the flesh) and second, the distinction between Creator and creature (I am not God and he is not me).

The historical reality of the incarnation of Christ leads us to the critical understanding that God is person and we can commune with him as such. This is similar to saying, “My wife is a person, and I am a person, and therefore we can commune most fully as persons.” Now, if I were to treat my wife not as a person but as an ethereal cosmic being, communication would break down in short order.

We can envision two contrasting scenarios that illustrate this point.

1. In the non-person prayer orientation, the husband claims to love his wife and yet stares past her in a self-entranced muttering while she stands ignored. It doesn’t matter that he intends or wants to love her, or is open to loving her; his approach is self-centered rather than other-centered.

2. In a person-oriented understanding of prayer, the adoring husband kneels before his spouse and recites poetry rooted in an exalted language of love and adoration. As he offers his love, all his attention is focused on her. She receives his love, as it is clearly for her alone. This is true intimacy, even if only the beginning of a more complete intimacy of the marital embrace.

God is not a distant idea or cosmic force to be communed with in some dazed stupor or blank mind created by the misuse of a mantra-centered method. These distant, ephemeral and spiritual sounding descriptions of God and their related ideas are acid to the soul. They radically misrepresent who God is, how he has chosen to reveal himself to us, and what it means to be in a personal relationship with him.

If God is in any way depersonalized, then his incarnational essence and personhood can easily be morphed into some kind of cosmic force to be harnessed or absorbed into. Even worse, this can and does lead unsuspecting Catholics into the pseudo-faith of pantheism: “He is everything, and thus I am he.” In the end, the gurus of this false gospel seek to lead the naive practitioner to the center of their being where they then discover who they really are. The great triumph of this false prayer is the “realization” that we are God because there is no substantive distinction between us (they call this “non-dual thinking). Clearly, this idolatry will in no way lead us to heaven and is most definitely leading many down the broad path to spiritual destruction.

How Can I Protect Myself?

The key to avoiding these errors is to be aware of them but not to focus on them. Instead, we need to immerse ourselves in the truth. How? Begin with spiritual reading and meditation on the Catechism, and the Compendium of the Catechism, on the topic of prayer. These treatments are far from dry and, word for word, are the most valuable teachings on the topic in all of the Church aside from the words of Christ Himself. Second, we should immerse ourselves in the writings of the doctors of the Church, particularly those who have come to bear significant influence on how the Church understands what it means to commune with God (like Sts Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, and Thérèse of Lisieux). Modern writers like Fr. Thomas Dubay and Fr. Jacques Philippe provide fantastic resources on prayer that are faithful to this profound and rich Catholic tradition.

Read more: http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog/2013/08/02/how-can-i-avoid-false-teachings-on-prayer-part-iii-of-iii#ixzz2aqQOvPi4

The True Face of “Happy Divorce” is Quite Ugly

A feature film now in theaters tells the story of children devastated by divorce and the story of middle-aged adolescents living almost exclusively for themselves.

The Way Way Back is the story of teen-age Duncan, who spends part of a summer at a beach house with his mother Pam, her boyfriend Trent and her boyfriend’s snotty and obviously wounded teenage daughter.

Duncan is morose, deeply depressed by the situation he finds himself in. Trent bullies him. He demands that Duncan rate himself between one and ten. Humiliated, Duncan finally mumbles “six.” “No, you’re a three,” says Trent. And that’s the remarkable opening scene as they drive to the beach….

In one of the revealing moments in the movie Duncan finds the dinner table festooned with dirty plates after the adults have stumbled to the beach, this after Trent had ordered the boy to remove his own plate since “that is what we do in this house.” Trent is not only a bully, he is a hypocrite, too. But this becomes painfully clear when Duncan sees Trent making out with one of the married neighbors and that tees up one of the more dramatic and confrontational moments in the movie.

One of the film’s writers says the movie came from his own experience growing up in a divorced family and that the opening humiliating scene was almost verbatim from his own experience. Clearly the makers want us to see the children as victims of their parents’ sad “happiness” and the easy divorce culture that remains so much a part of our fraying social fabric. All the fathers are gone away to some mystical place where fathers get younger wives, spoken of only sotto voce. The only men left are the philandering boy friend who is no kind of father, and the feckless husband who knows his wife is canoodling with the boy friend but who cannot muster himself to do anything about it. The women are weak or drunk or both. There is a man-child at a local water park who befriends the boy and even cares for him but even he is a nearly hopeless case.

How could these kids not be disgusted and damaged almost beyond repair?

We were told at the dawn of easy divorce that it would be good for families, children and society. We were told children would be better off bouncing between happily divorced parents rather than living with unhappy ones. The important thing for children was the happiness of their parents.

Almost immediately after the divorce culture set in, we discovered something quite different. Entire generations have been harmed.

One of the best books on this topic remains Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce (Crown, 2005) by Elizabeth Marquardt, which reported “the first national study in the United States of grown children of divorce.” Marquardt and her colleague Norval Glenn performed 1500 telephone interviews of young adults, half from divorced families, half from intact families, in addition to 70 face-to-face interviews.

The first thing to understand is that of the one in two marriages that now end in divorce, overwhelmingly most were from low-conflict marriages. These are not couples that spent their days fighting and throwing things. These are couples that have simply grown bored, feel they now lack communication, having mid-life crises.

It is likely they never knew what marriage was in the first place.

A trick was played on kids from these low-conflict divorces and that is the myth of the happy divorce, a notion that Marquardt easily dispels with her research.

Divorce in a low-conflict marriage comes as a total surprise to the children. Out of nowhere a child’s world is ripped apart. The child may spend years or even his whole life trying to figure this out. Trying to figure this out is a huge and profoundly unfair burden to place on small shoulders. It traumatizes for life….

Marquardt writes, “Most startling, two-thirds said their divorced parents seemed like polar opposites, compared to one-third of those with married parents, even though few said their divorced parents conflicted a lot.” Consider that these types of interior conflicts begin when children are 4 or 8 or 12.

Marquardt’s cites a book called The Good Divorce by Constance Ahrons who tells the story of two little girls—4 and 7—who spend half the week with mom and half with dad but when the switch is made the four-year-old “regresses” and begins sucking her thumb, clings to her mother and whines, while the seven-year-old starts “to let go even before she left.” She becomes more independent and “ornery.” And these poor troubled girls are presented as a success story.

It is likely these poor girls are suffering and will suffer their whole lives because their parents went through a bored patch in their marriage, maybe had a wandering eye, decided they would be happier without their spouse and because of no-fault divorce there was nothing to stop them or even to slow them down.

The result of all this mess is that children of divorce, including children of “happy divorce,” have much higher incidents of deeply harmful pathologies including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, an inability to form relationships, and much more.

This is the true face of happy divorce in America.

The odious homosexual agitator Dan Savage makes an excellent point, one we should pay attention to. We marriage proponents wag our fingers at the homosexual penchant for multiple sexual partners even within “committed relationships.” Savage admits homosexuals do this and is unrepentant. And he wonders how we can criticize homosexuals for not being Ozzie and Harriet when we are so far from it ourselves.

In the coming months and years if we lose the marriage debate, if marriage is redefined to include homosexual couples, we should know we lost it a long time ago. We lost it when we devalued marriage to such an extent that it became easily disposable and we irreparably harmed our children for our own convenience and “happiness.”

Privacy and Common Core

Computer Security

There’s an intense debate right now over “Common Core,” an effort to implement a set of education standards in public schools nationwide. The Common Core State Standards thus far have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia.

Though it isn’t my area of expertise, I’ve received numerous impassioned emails on the subject. Among them, one person’s concerns particularly struck me.

This person is an expert in the field of education. She is thoughtful, serious, and no foe of public education. Her concerns especially hit home given current fears over privacy intrusions by the federal government. Those fears have swirled around the National Security Agency, the Justice Department, and the IRS. But they don’t end there. There are likewise potentially serious privacy problems involving current and proposed education policy, which likewise relate to data collection, dissemination, and use.

To that end, my friend is hoping to at least help kindle some public awareness.
“The portion [of current education policy] that I believe is most important for raising public awareness,” she writes, “is the changes to the FERPA regulations which have greatly expanded who has access to student data.” FERPA is the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974. Changes have been made to FERPA that (some believe) will leave parents uninformed as to how their children’s records are shared. “Parents seem totally unaware of what data is being collected,” she adds. “In Pennsylvania it is collected under something called the PIMS system, but in other states it has different labels.”

There’s more. There’s also the problem of a rise in “outside vendors and providers to manage student data—again, without parental consent.”

How, specifically, would this happen?

For starters, Common Core standards, as was the case with previous standards, lead to much testing, which involves a great deal of data collection on students. Coupled with this heightened collection of student data is the prevalence of so-called “longitudinal state reporting systems.” According to my friend, as part of the “Race to the Top” initiative, a federal educational initiative, states were encouraged to create “robust data collection systems.” These systems were touted as a mechanism to provide school districts, state governments, and federal policymakers with more data to analyze trends in student achievement and improve educational efforts. While this might seem benign, notes my friend, we cannot ignore the sheer volume of data that will be collected and how that data might be misused. For instance, most parents have no idea that their child’s “personal information” includes not just test scores but social security numbers, attendance records, records of interaction with school counselors, identification of learning disabilities, and even disciplinary records.

All of this is being collected.

Read the rest here.

This essay first appeared July 22, 2013 on the Visions and Values website and is reprinted with permission.

Jihad Story of the Day: Ramadan observance in Iraq: Sunnis, Shi’ites hit each others’ mosques, murdering 26

Note: “Is Islam a Religion of Peace?” major conference sponsored by Ave Maria Radio, is coming up August 10. Don’t forget to register at www.avemariaradio.net.

The AP headline is “Drive-by shootings, bombings kill 26 in Iraq.” Once again, we see the curious displacement of agency that is so common in such stories. Actually, it was Islamic jihadis who killed 26 in Iraq.

“Drive-by shootings, bombings kill 26 in Iraq,” by Sameer N. Yacoub for the Associated Press, July 31:

BAGHDAD — Attacks including bombings of Shiite and Sunni mosques left 26 dead in Iraq, the latest in a surge of bloodshed that is raising fears of a return to widespread sectarian killings, officials said Wednesday.Most attacks on Shiites are presumed to be carried out by the country’s branch of al-Qaida, which claimed credit on Tuesday for a wave of bombings the day before that killed at least 58 people. It said the attacks were carried out on behalf of “oppressed Sunnis,” suggesting the group is trying to capitalize on Sunnis’ complaints of being treated as second-class citizens by the Shiite-dominated government.

Attacks on Sunni civilians are rarer but have also been a feature of the surge of bloodletting that has left 3,000 dead since April. More than 730 people have been killed in July alone, according to an Associated Press count, with 563 killed since the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

The uptick of violence is dampening hopes for a return to normal life nearly two years after the last U.S. forces withdrew from the country.

On Wednesday morning, a carload of gunmen sped through a commercial street in Baghdad’s Shiite-dominated Ur district and opened fire, apparently at random, killing five pedestrians and wounding nine others, a police officer said. In the southeastern suburb of Nahrawan, also a majority Shiite area, drive-by shooters sprayed farmers in a pickup truck with bullets, killing two and wounding three, another police officer said.

In the afternoon, gunmen killed five off-duty soldiers in a drive-by shooting near the city of Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad. Police said that the soldiers were heading to their base when they were attacked.

Also, police said three Sunni anti-al-Qaida fighters were killed when gunmen in a speeding car sprayed their checkpoint with bullets near Hawija, 240 kilometers (150 miles) north of Baghdad.

The Sunni fighters were members in the militia group known as Sahwa, which joined with U.S. troops in the war against al-Qaida at the height of Iraq war. Ever since, it has been a target for Sunni insurgents who consider them traitors.

Late Tuesday, a suicide bomber set off his explosives among Shiite worshippers leaving a mosque in the city’s suburb of Hussainiya, killing seven. Another bomb struck a Sunni mosque in the ethnically mixed northern town of Tuz Khormato killed four, local police chief Col. Hussein Ali Rasheed said. Four others were wounded.

Medical officials confirmed casualty figures for all attacks. All spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information to reporters.

Al-Qaida’s Tuesday statement also said that a campaign called “Breaking the Walls,” which made freeing its imprisoned members a top priority, had come to a close with two attacks on prisons last week that allowed hundreds of inmates, including senior al-Qaida members, to escape. The militant group said that it was opening a new campaign called “The Harvest of the Soldiers,” but offered no specifics.

Madagascar Bishops and Clergy Complain about Catholic Relief Services’ Activities

Meeting with CRS Head Carolyn Woo Last Year Proved Fruitless

MADAGASCAR. – Catholic Relief Services (CRS) claims that allegations that it has used funding from American Catholics to distribute contraceptive and abortifacient drugs and devices in Madagascar are “simply false.” Yet these charges do not originate with PRI, but reflect the views of the bishops and clergy of Madagascar.
During our month-long investigation of CRS activities in Madagascar, our investigator interviewed a number of bishops and clergy in the country, many of whom leveled serious charges against CRS. These ranged from promoting abortifacient contraception and a failure to hire Catholics, to wasteful spending habits and a refusal to work through the local ordinary. Here are a series of quotes from these interviews:
Promoting and Distributing Contraceptives and Abortifacient Drugs
“Even in my own diocese! Without my knowledge,…they [CRS] were working on an artificial contraception project here…And, then, the Catholic people around here heard about it and said: “What’s that all about? That’s supposed to be ‘Catholic’??” So, there you have it: They [CRS] were following the instructions of USAID.’” Archbishop Désiré Tsarahazana of Toamasina (Tamatave)
“Well, one thing for sure, you can go into the most remote, middle-of-nowhere place now and you’ll find it well stocked with abortifacient products. And, you know, they [the community health workers under CRS] are giving the shots (depo provera) now!” Fr. Jean Jagu, Vicar at SMM Church in Brickaville
Failure to Hire Catholics
“I’m not sure why, and I don’t want to exaggerate, but maybe 70% of its staff, or even more – is not Catholic; they’re not Catholic… I do understand that about CRS’s commitments to the U.S. Government…but, the question that remains is: Why are there so few Catholics on CRS’s staff…that I don’t understand so well.” Archbishop Désiré Tsarahazana of Toamasina (Tamatave)
“CRS has a very bad reputation here in the diocese: most of its employees are Protestants!” Diocesan Priest
“The problem here in Madagascar is that CRS is staffed by Protestants.” Fr. Jean Aimé, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Toamasina
“Maybe CRS’s participation in artificial-contraception-promotion programs is the reason that CRS mainly hires Protestants, who have no objection to family planning. If CRS hired Catholics, some of those Catholics might object more strongly to CRS’s participation in that kind of thing.” Fr. Liva, SMM, Pastor, St. Thérèse Parish, Tamatave

Refusal to Work Through the Local Bishop and Through the Local Church
“You know, CRS works outside of the Church. It has the name ‘Catholic’ Relief Services but [laughing] doesn’t work, really, with Catholics. Even the personnel of CRS are nearly all Protestant.” Father Jean Noel, Head of Bureau de Coordination des Actions Sociales, archdiocese of Antananarivo.
“We [the Montfort Fathers] might have the same name [Catholic] but we’re not in the same family.” Fr. Jean Jagu, Vicar at SMM Church in Brickaville
I had been here in Tamatave for already more than three years, and, maybe this was partly my fault, but, I didn’t even know where the CRS office in town was! … So, when I got back to Tamatave I did go over to their office and, to my great surprise – have you seen it? – it’s a very big office and organization!
Just this year CRS held a very big meeting here in town – a “capacity-building” meeting or something, at a hotel here – and I heard about it only accidentally, when I was up in the [town] of Diego, and somebody told me about the meeting to be held [in my own town]. I was embarrassed; I didn’t know anything about it. Archbishop Désiré Tsarahazana of Toamasina (Tamatave)
“You never see ‘them’ [CRS] en brousse [in the bush]. They drive in…and then they disappear.” Fr. Jean Jagu, Vicar at SMM Church in Brickaville
That’s what really hurts me. How to work with those CRS people?… But, you know, as soon as I speak of a ‘partnership’ with them, then everybody runs away and hides.” Archbishop Odon Razanakolona of Antananarivo, [the Capital City of Madagascar]
“The archbishop recently told one parish not to bother applying to CRS for aid, because it wouldn’t work, and if it did, the reporting/accounting procedures would be impossible for the parish to fulfill. He directed the parish to BUCAS [Bureau de Coordination des Actions Sociales] instead.” Fr. Jean Noël Rakotondrazafy
Wasteful Spending Habits
“And then, the money that CRS gets: a large part of it goes towards administration, while they make us work like dogs. And then they collect two-thirds…and they give us crumbs. They are the ones who need to explain: Why do they receive such big salaries?” Archbishop Odon Razanakolona
“They [CRS] were only good for providing big cars and big salaries and c[a]n’t see that they accomplished much.” Fr. Jean Jagu
“Yes; one time, for ‘visibility’ purposes, they [CRS-Madagascar representatives] came in here [to my office] and asked me to put up this thing, this sign, with “USAID” on it; to put it up behind my desk. I threw them the hell out of my office: ‘Take your sign and your money out of here. I don’t need it. I’ve lived in my poverty; leave me in my poverty.’” Archbishop Odon Razanakolona

CRS Claims at Odds with Views of Local Bishops

Compare the above quotes from Malagasy bishops and clergy, who have long experienced how CRS operates on the ground in their country, with what CRS says about its policies:

  • “As a pro-life organization, CRS programming does not include the promotion or distribution of artificial family planning or the distribution of abortifacients in any country in which we work.
  • “Committed to our Catholic identity, we review all organizations via a vetting process that begins with our local Bishops in-country.”
  • Serving the poor and the Church to bring God’s love to neighbors in need, while promoting the dignity of life from beginning to end, is a PRIVILEGE for CRS.”
The Catholic Church in Madagascar would have trouble accepting any of these claims. Local clergy distainfully refer to CRS as the so-called “Catholic” Relief Services, complain that it is violating Church teaching on the Life issues, and suggest that, instead of standing in solidarity with the local Church, it is instead practicing a kind of economic apartheid.
Malagasy Bishops Complained Privately to Carolyn Woo Last Year — to no avail.
CRS claims that “we are open to and welcome correction, presented to us in the spirit of Christian charity and with the intention of helping us better animate the Gospel mission of serving the poorest and most vulnerable around the world.”
But it then goes on to attack PRI for airing the grievances of the Catholic Church in Madagascar: “In substance and tone, these recent unrelenting attacks do not manifest this spirit. They attempt to cause division in the Body of Christ. This is harmful to the Church and to the pro-life cause.”
The truth is somewhat different.
In September 2012 Carolyn Woo came to Madagascar at the request of the Madagascar bishops, who had been trying to arrange a meeting with the heads of CRS for several years. At that meeting they told Dr. Woo of their concerns about CRS’ activities in their dioceses.
Nothing happened.
It is thus no surprise that some months later, their patience exhausted, they shared their frustrations with CRS with us. Some months have gone by since then and we, too, have been disappointed by the lack of corrective action on the part of CRS.
CRS’ quarrel is not with Population Research Institute, but with the Catholic Church of Madagascar.
It is CRS’ activities there, in Madagascar, that are, to quote CRS’ own words, “caus[ing] division in the Body of Christ [and are] … harmful to the Church and to the pro-life cause.”
Catholic Relief Services, for the love of God and the unity of the Catholic Church, heal thyself!

John Newton’s Amazing Grace

Hymn-writer and reformed African slave shipmaster John Newton.
from TheChristians.com: Hymn-writer and reformed African slave shipmaster John Newton

By Carl M. Cannon
July 24, 2013

Today is the birthday (in 1725) of John Newton, the author of an enduring work of art, “Amazing Grace.” The verses, originally composed as an accompaniment to a 1773 New Year’s Day sermon, chart his personal faith journey. Born in London, he went away to sea as a boy, and developed into a bawdy and rebellious sailor who openly mocked religion and became captain of a slave ship.
His conversion came while out on the ocean, when caught in a bad storm of the coast of Newfoundland. His transformation wasn’t immediate; like “Amazing Grace” itself, it took a while to take hold.

But in time, the words were destined to be sung millions of times a year into a new millennium he could only imagine. “Amazing Grace” became a famous Christian hymn, a moving African-American spiritual, an iconic ballad of the self-help movement, and, ultimately, an ecumenical — and sometimes even secular — expression of the perpetual human search for redemption. John Newton’s newfound Christian faith, and the seriousness with which he embraced it, led him inexorably to the abolitionist movement — “was blind, but now I see” being more than an evocative couplet.

Originally titled, “Faith’s Review and Expectation,” his verses began showing up in Southern hymnals in the 1830s as “Amazing Grace.” After South Carolina-born composer William Walker assigned a melody known as “New Britain” to it, the song essentially became part of the American canon, and a particular favorite of African-American church-goers.

Its words were so powerful, its tune so hypnotic, and its applied meaning so profound that it was embraced by lapsed Christians, and even non-Christians. In the 20th century, “disrobed” versions, in the language of author Steve Turner, became popular. One of the most notable was by folk singer Judy Collins, who performed it one day to ease tensions in her 1970s encounter group. Her record producer, who happened to be present, included it on her next album.

Yes, the song was meant to soothe — but also to challenge. And in his book on “Amazing Grace,” Turner contrasts Collins’s version with the rousing, live, 14-minute rendition performed by Aretha Franklin at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Watts.

“Perhaps Aretha Franklin giveth,” wrote Newfoundland literary scholar Steve King, “what Judy Collins hath taken away.”

I like to think that John Newton would have appreciated both July Collins’s and Aretha Franklin’s versions. As King notes in his essay on Newton, the sailor-turned-pastor left behind an autobiography and many letters in addition to “Amazing Grace.” In those letters, “the old African blasphemer” reveals himself as quite human, and ever-mindful of the sinner that lurks beneath the man who was saved:

Last week we had a lion in town. I went to see him. He was wonderfully tame; as familiar with his keeper, as docile and obedient as a spaniel. Yet the man told me he had his surly fits, when they durst not touch him. No looking-glass could express my face more justly than this lion did my heart. I could trace every feature: as wild and fierce by nature; yea, much more so; but grace has in some measure tamed me. I know and love my Keeper, and sometimes watch his looks that I may learn his will. But, oh! I have my surly fits too; seasons when I relapse into the savage again, as though I had forgotten all.

Read the rest here.

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington Editor for RealClearPolitics.

Cardinal George Stands on Principle

July 31, 2013

Bill Donohue defends Francis Cardinal George:

  Everyone knows that the Catholic Church has a long and proud history of immigrant outreach. Everyone knows that the Catholic Church, like virtually every religion in the history of the world, believes marriage should be confined to one man and one woman. It should come as no surprise, then, that Catholics who financially support pro-immigrant organizations expect that their contribution will not fund entities that reject Church teachings on marriage.

The Chicago Archbishop, Francis Cardinal George, made a principled decision not to funnel funds, via the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), to the Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights, a pro-gay marriage institution. This has led to an uproar among some in Chicago. Their angst is contrived.

As Cardinal George said in his open letter of July 29, organizations that apply for CCHD funding do so knowing that they are expected to respect Church teachings. No one forces them to apply; they are free to secure funds elsewhere. But when they violate their agreement, and are called out for doing so, they should not pretend to be victims.

Mark Brown, a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, writes today that all along he has said that “it’s a mistake for the church to use the grants to punish organizations that it knows to be doing good work in the community….” So when an organization applies for funding, and is then denied because it violated an agreement that it voluntarily entered into, it is being punished for doing so. Amazing logic. Hope any handyman who enters into an agreement with Brown knows about his moral compass.

If Cardinal George denied funding to a pro-immigrant organization that was aligned with racist or anti-Semitic causes, he would be heralded as a champion of human rights. But because the issue is gay marriage, he is condemned. The politics are so transparent that it’s making a joke of those promoting it.

Pope Francis: "Who am I to judge?" Secular media twists compassion into approval for gay lifestyle


Ann Arbor, MI, July 29, 2013 - On the plane back from Brazil’s World Youth Day, Pope Francis conversed with journalists on a broad range of subjects. The next morning, his statement, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” was reported by leading media outlets as a signal for change within the Catholic Church. Generally ignored was the pontiff’s reiteration that the Church teaches that homosexual acts are a sin.

“This is yet another example of the mainstream media being utterly incompetent when reporting on matters of religion,” says Al Kresta, author of the new book, Dangers to the Faith: Recognizing Catholicism’s 21st Century Opponents and host of Ave Maria Radio’s “Kresta in the Afternoon.”

He says that any journalist worthy of the title need only reference the Catechism of the Catholic Church to understand the context of the Pope’s statement. “In fact,” says Kresta, “one need only to read the next sentence of Pope Francis’ comments: ‘The problem is not having this orientation. We must be brothers.’”

Instead of understanding the Church’s constant teaching, Kresta says the media used the Pope’s words as a shameful attempt to pit Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis against each other. “The Pope broke no new ground because Catholic teaching is, and always will be, that homosexual orientation is not in and of itself sinful.”

The pope also spoke about the female priesthood, “The church says no. That door is closed,” he was quoted as saying. “What the media ignored was that Pope Francis called for a deeper involvement in the Church,” says Teresa Tomeo, best-selling author of  Extreme Makeover: Women Transformed by Christ, Not Conformed to the Culture.

The talk show host of Ave Maria Radio’s “Catholic Connection” says our last several popes have raised the bar for women. She was one of 250 delegates from around the world to attend Pope Benedict’s Vatican Women’s Congress in 2008. “Feminists are completely ignoring role of women in the Church,” according to her. The real story, Tomeo says, is how open the Church is to leadership roles for women. “The Church looks to Mary, our Blessed Mother as an example,” she says. “We are created equal for different roles, this is not about sameness. This cannot and should not include the male priesthood, but that does not mean we are sidelined.”

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