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Texas School Bans Christmas Trees, As Well As the Colors Red and Green

An elementary school in Frisco, Texas is planning a “winter” party with the halls decked out in… purple?
Nichols Elementary School will not have a Christmas tree, and boys and girls will not be permitted to make any reference to Christmas.  Also banned are the colors red and green.
According to Todd Starnes writing at Fox News, Texas State Representative Pat Fallon, who introduced a successful bill in the Texas Legislature last year titled the “Merry Christmas Bill”, was alerted to the new school policy by an angry parent.   Fallon said:
“When Gov. Perry signed ‘The Merry Christmas Bill,’ clearly that didn’t solve the issue.  The battle rages on. It’s distressing.”
The school countered, saying that they had been unaware of the notice to parents and the policy, and that in fact, students could mention Christmas whenever they wished.  Nonetheless, the policy remains in place.
Representative Fallon insists that despite his clarification regarding Texas law, the school-imposed ban remains in place.  The superintendent of schools is allowing principals to set their own policies regarding celebrations during the holiday season.  "That leads," Fallon says, "to confusion, misinterpretation and flaunting of the law."
The school principal has explained in an email to a concerned parent that they don’t want to offend any families [who might not celebrate the Christmas holiday], since each family contributes money to the school. 
Fallon has directed a letter to each school official in the district, reminding them that
“Texas law clearly permits Christmas-themed celebrations, events and displays,” Fallon wrote. “The district may also display scenes or symbols with traditional winter holidays (e.g. nativity scenes, Christmas trees, menorahs, etc.)”
To date, there has been no change in the school district’s policy. 
Read the rest of Todd Starnes’ report here.

Today on "Kresta in the Afternoon" – Dec. 5, 2013

Talking about the "things that matter most" on December 5

4:00 – Pope Francis: Why He Leads the Way He Leads
From choosing to live in a simple apartment instead of the papal palace to washing the feet of men and women in a youth detention center, Pope Francis’s actions contradict behaviors expected of a modern leader. Chris Lowney, a former Jesuit seminarian turned Managing Director for JP Morgan & Co., is here to show how the pope’s words and deeds reveal spiritual principles that have prepared him to lead the Church and influence our world—a rapidly-changing world that requires leaders who value the human need for love, inspiration, and meaning. Drawing on interviews with people who knew him as Father Jorge Bergoglio, SJ, Lowney challenges assumptions about what it takes to be a great leader. In so doing, he reveals the “other-centered” leadership style of a man whose passion is to be with people rather than set apart.

5:00 – How to Share Your Faith with Anyone: A Practical Manual of Catholic Evangelization

Recent popes have challenged all Catholics to participate in the New Evangelization. But most Catholics feel ill-equipped to take up the challenge. Terry Barber, founder of St. Joseph Communications, has written a practical guide that takes much of the pain and uncertainty out of sharing one's faith. Based on Barber's decades of personal experience as an effective evangelist and masterful communicator, and drawing on the perceptions, examples, and lessons of other great evangelists and apologists, How to Share Your Faith with Anyone informs, entertains, and inspires would-be, as well as, seasoned evangelists and teachers. Terry is here to discuss it.

Pope Francis Establishes New Commission to Combat Child Abuse

By Kathy Schiffer
This morning at the Vatican, it was announced that Pope Francis will set up a child protection commission to combat child abuse. 
Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who is in Rome to attend the Council of Cardinals meeting at the Vatican, told reporters that the commission will survey child protection programs and work with bishops and religious. 
Among the commission’s responsibilities will be reviewing existing guidelines, priestly formation programs, codes of conduct, and procedures for screening candidates for the priesthood.  
The commission will also focus on supporting victims of abuse, will issue recommendations regarding how the Church can best cooperate with civil authorities, and will advise the Pope on prevention policies and pastoral outreach for the victims. 
The commission will include both clergy and lay people.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will retain responsibility for investigating and trying accused priests.

Today on "Kresta in the Afternoon" – December 4, 2013

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on December 4

4:00 – 2014 Catholic Almanac
It’s the absolute best source for trustworthy, accurate, up-to-date information. Our Sunday Visitor's Catholic Almanac remains the only annual, comprehensive guide to the Catholic Church. Published annually since 1904, this compendium of information is THE authoritative source for all your most up-to-date facts on the Catholic Church. With thousands of intriguing facts and essential details on a wide range of Catholic subjects, this almanac is completely updated every year and packed with topics relevant for researchers, homilists, writers, media professionals, students, parents, librarians, and teachers. We talk to Almanac editor Matthew Bunson.

5:00 - Contraception and Catholicism: What the Church Teaches and Why

Catholic teaching on contraception...a hard pill to swallow? Despite the Catholic Church's clear opposition to contraception, many individuals, including Catholics, consider the Church's stance misogynistic and outdated. In perspective of the prevailing ideologies of today's mainstream society-a morality dictated by feeling, the assumed inevitability of extramarital sexual activity as necessary for human fulfillment, and the unconsidered idea that contraception is a magic cure for unwanted pregnancy and disease-the Church's teaching on contraception may surely seem like a hard pill to swallow. But really, it is not. Author Angela Franks, PhD, an experienced pro-life speaker and educator, discovered this truth herself. After questioning the Church's stance as a young Catholic, she realized that the Church was not forcing an old-fashioned view on our intimate relationships. Rather, the Church was aligning to the reality already present in our biology. She is here to present a comprehensive look at the Church's view on the meaning and purpose of sex as love and life, unity and procreation. She equips you with the information that you need to understand, adopt, and/or teach the Church's position on contraception. 

Toward a Theology of Authentic Masculinity

A guest blog by Dave McClow, M.Div, LCSW, LMFT, clinical pastoral counseling associate of the Pastoral Solutions Institute. Isn’t it time for a Theology of Masculinity for the New Evangelization? Sparked by Fr. David Vincent Meconi’s, SJ September 2013 editorial in Homiletic & Pastoral Review, I wanted to expand on his questions and comments about [Read More...]

Syrian Nuns Kidnapped; Pope Francis Calls for Prayer

By Kathy Schiffer

Monastery of St. Tecla
Pope Francis, at the end of his General Audience on Wednesday, December 4, called on everyone to pray for a group of Syrian nuns who were kidnapped from the Monastery of Saint Tecla, a Greek Orthodox monastery near the ancient Christian town of Ma’lula, about 35 miles north of Damascus. 

The Holy Father said,

“Now I would like to invite everyone to pray for the religious sisters of the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Saint Tecla in Ma’lula, in Syria, who, two days ago, were taken away by force by armed men.  Let us pray for these sisters, and for all those who have been kidnapped on account of the on-going conflict. Let us continue to pray and to work for peace.”

Pope Francis then led the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square in praying the Hail Mary, encouraging them to have confidence in Mary and invoking the Blessed Mother as “Queen of Peace.”

According to media reports, the religious superior and four other sisters were kidnapped during the night by armed men who took them to nearby Yabrud.  The government’s Sana news agency speculated that the kidnapping was the work of the Al Nusra Front, which the U.S. State Department defines as a terrorist organization linked to al-Qaida.

Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, said that Christians feel more threatened now because the kidnapping has brought the war “to a sacred Christian place, one where for centuries nothing like this has happened.”  
Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo
Bishop Audo told Vatican Radio,
“Maaloula is an important symbol not only for Christians, but also for Muslims in Syria and throughout the Middle East, because it is known that people there still speak the Aramaic dialect, the language of Christ.”
Bishop Audo said the church in Syria does not want to say this is a war against Christians, because they want to be a presence for reconciliation and coexistence.  He added, “That is our vocation. We don’t want to create provocations with the Muslims.”


Today on "Kresta in the Afternoon" – December 3, 2013

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on December 3

4:00 – ACLU lawsuit aims at Church ethical directives on hospital policies
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit against the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), claiming that the ethical directives issued by the American bishops are responsible for negligence in the care of a woman treated in a Michigan Catholic hospital. Tamesha Means, who reportedly suffered damaging infections during a troubled pregnancy that ended in miscarriage, should have been advised to abort the child, the ACLU argues. The lawsuit claims that officials at Mercy Health Muskegon, a Catholic hospital, failed to provide the woman with the best medical options because of restrictions imposed on Catholic hospitals by the USCCB’s ethical directives. The ACLU case has important implications for the American health-care system overall, since 13% of the hospitals in the US operate under the auspices of the Catholic Church.  We get analysis from Dr. John Haas of the National Catholic Bioethics Center

4:20 – Kresta Comments

5:00 – Study of 36 Chinese Abortion-Breast Cancer Studies a “Game Changer”
A systematic review and meta-analysis of 36 Chinese studies by Dr. Yubei Huang and his colleagues in the prestigious journal, Cancer Causes Control, last week reported a significant 44% increased breast cancer risk among women with at least one induced abortion, compared to women without induced abortions.  Huang's team cited and supports a 1996 review and meta-analysis, led by Joel Brind, Ph.D. and colleagues at Penn State, who found a 30% risk elevation for women with any history of induced abortions. We talk to Dr. Brind about his long-time fight to get the medical community to recognize the abortion – breast cancer link.

5:20 – More of the Holy Spirit: How to Keep the Fire Burning in Our Hearts
In the last forty years, many Catholics have experienced an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in their lives that resulted in a new passion for God and a zeal for spreading the gospel. In addition to a newfound love of prayer, Scripture, and the Eucharist, many have been blessed with the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as tongues and healing. Yet as the years go by, many often experience a waning of the gifts of the Spirit as well as a luke-warmness creeping into their lives. What can we do to keep that fire for God, which may have been ignited many years ago, burning brightly in our hearts? Sr. Ann Shields is here to tell us.

Presidential Medal Should Have Gone to a Different Feminist

Radical feminist icon Gloria Steinem, who is among the most influential and controversial proponents of abortion in America, last week received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama. 

On November 20, the President presented the Medal of Freedom to sixteen individuals who had, he claimed, by their work enriched the lives of their fellow Americans.  The President stated,
"The Presidential Medal of Freedom goes to men and women who have dedicated their own lives to enriching ours.  This year's honorees have been blessed with extraordinary talent, but what sets them apart is their gift for sharing that talent with the world.  It will be my honor to present them with a token of our nation's gratitude."
Cathy Young, a columnist for RealClearPolitics and contributing editor at Reason magazine, noted that Steinem’s selection has gone largely unchallenged in the media, except for a few charges by far-right and pro-life blogs which focused on her advocacy and abortion rights positions.  Young pointed out that even pro-abortion supporters should have reservations about honoring Steinem.  Young wrote,
Despite her undeniable talent and charisma, Steinem is practically a poster girl for the gender-war paranoia and the ideological dogmatism that have led the women’s movement down such a destructive path.
Writing on RealClearPolitics, Young asserted that Gloria Steinem represents the worst of modern feminism.  To prove her point, Young cited seven features of Steinem’s worldview about which Christians and other conservatives should be concerned:
Dogmatic denial of sex differences.  Young acknowledges the argument that male/female differences are culturally influenced and less important than individual differences.   There is certainly widespread support for the loosening of traditional gender-based restrictions. But Steinem takes the anti-difference view to fanatical extremes of what dissident feminists Daphne Patai and Noretta Koertge have dubbed “biodenial.” In 1997, interviewed for John Stossel’s ABC News special, “Boys and Girls Are Different: Men, Women and the Sex Difference,” Steinem derided scientific research on sex differences in brain functioning as “anti-American crazy thinking.” She also suggested that upper-body strength tests requiring firefighters to lift heavy loads were sexist. What about situations when firefighters have to carry injured or unconscious people out of burning buildings? Steinem insisted, with a straight face, that it was better to drag them, since “there’s less smoke down there.”
Fixation on male villainy. Like many in the sisterhood, Steinem does not let her belief in absolute equality interfere with a focus on men as perpetrators of violence and evil. In theory, she blames “the patriarchy,” asserting that it has robbed men as well as women of full humanity; she has even said (rightly) that we won’t have real equality until we recognize men’s capacity for care and nurture just as we have recognized women’s capacity for strength and achievement. Alas, actual, unreconstructed men usually appear in Steinem’s writings as dangerous brutes.
In her 1992 book, Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem, Steinem writes, “The most dangerous situation for a woman is not an unknown man in the street, or even the enemy in wartime, but a husband or lover in the isolation of their own home.” She has also touted the long-discredited notion of a long prehistoric period of peaceful, benevolent, egalitarian “gynocentric” societies later displaced by violent, oppressive male rule.
Junk scholarship. Steinem’s talk of peace-loving prehistoric matriarchies is just one example of her penchant for peddling pseudo-scholarly nonsense -- often on college campuses, where she is a popular speaker. Thus, in a 1993 speech at Salem State College, Steinem rehashed not only the matriarchy theory but the myth that the witch-hunts in Europe were an effort to exterminate still-existing pagan religion and killed as many as nine million women. She also spun a fanciful “revisionist” history of Joan of Arc as a pagan worshipper who led French armies to victory but was executed as a witch once the war was won because she had grown too powerful. (In fact, Joan, by all available evidence a devout Catholic, was executed for heresy after being taken prisoner in the still-ongoing war.) While Steinem is not an academic, equally shoddy pseudo-scholarship is all too common in women’s studies classrooms.
Misinformation. Steinem’s dissemination of faux facts is not limited to distant history. In Revolution from Within, she asserts that 150,000 women and girls in the United States die from anorexia every year -- multiplying the actual number by about 1,000. (As Christina Hoff Sommers documented in her 1994 book, Who Stole Feminism?, the claim of a 150,000 death toll was based on a feminist professor’s mangling of a statistic referring to anorexia sufferers.) The same book discusses an alleged crisis in girls’ self-esteem based on a single shoddy study from the American Association of University Women.
The victimhood cult. In Steinem’s case, the fixation on the sexual victimization of women and girls has led the activist into some strange places, such as the active promotion of “recovered memories” of sexual abuse. E. Sue Bloom’s 1990 book, Secret Survivors: Uncovering Incest and Its Aftereffects in Women, which prominent journalist Joan Acocella termed “one of the most outrageous [recovered memory] manuals,” bore a blurb from Steinem claiming that it could “set millions free” by encouraging them to explore hidden memories of molestation. She is also implicated in a particularly bizarre offshoot of the “recovered memory” movement, the panic over supposedly rampant satanic ritual abuse. In 1993, Ms., the magazine founded by and closely associated with Steinem, ran a lurid piece titled “Surviving the Unbelievable,” a supposed firsthand account by a woman who had grown up in a Satanic cult.) Left-wing critics such as Alexander Cockburn and Debbie Nathan have identified the radical feminist establishment, and Steinem in particular, as major contributors to the ritual abuse hysteria of the 1980s and ’90s.
Ironically, the sexual abuse craze not only pushed untold numbers of women into harmful quack therapies but led to the wrongful imprisonment of a number of female day care workers. Indeed, Steinem personally labored to aid one such persecution -- the notorious McMartin preschool case in Manhattan Beach, California in the 1980s. The famous feminist put up funds for an (unsuccessful) excavation effort to find tunnels underneath the school to corroborate the claims of some children -- made under the guidance of a rogue therapist -- that they had been taken to such tunnels for grotesque sexual rituals. 
Contempt for freedom of speech. Steinem was largely responsible for the women’s movement’s embrace of the divisive anti-pornography crusade; but her pro-censorship streak also extends to political expression. Last year, she joined fellow activists Robin Morgan and Jane Fonda (with whom she co-founded the Women’s Media Center) in penning a CNN.com op-ed calling on the FCC to yank the licenses of radio stations that carry Rush Limbaugh’s show, accusing Limbaugh of “toxic, hate-inciting speech” and lamenting that “for 20 years, Limbaugh has hidden behind the First Amendment.” While the trio hilarious claims that its stance “isn’t political,” UCLA constitutional scholar Eugene Volokh noted that they were urging the FCC to curb Limbaugh’s speech “based on the ideology that it expresses [which] is precisely what the Supreme Court has rightly said is impermissible.”
Knee-jerk partisanship. Steinem’s solidarity with women stops at the party line. In 1993, she flew to Texas to campaign against then-Senate candidate Kay Bailey Hutchison, a moderate pro-choice Republican, and slammed her as “a female impersonator.”
Steinem is an undeniably talented and charismatic woman; her message is often couched in appealing terms of female empowerment, freedom, and basic fairness. But in practice, her advocacy promotes far less positive values. This is a Medal of Freedom recipient who has backed attacks on free speech and colluded in the imprisonment of innocent people.
Cathy Young correctly labeled Gloria Steinem as a class war feminist.  The President, if he wanted to honor the feminist movement, should—according to Young—instead have posthumously honored Betty Friedan, author of the groundbreaking The Feminine Mystique.  While one might strongly disagree with Friedan on some issues (such as abortion), at least Betty Friedan—unlike the strident Steinem—warned against embracing anti-male, anti-family ideologies that treat relations between the sexes as class warfare. 

Read the rest of Cathy Young’s analysis here.

Today on "Kresta in the Afternoon" – December 2, 2013

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on December 2

4:00 – Poverty in Evangelii Gaudium
“If there is anyone in the world today who embodies the joy of the Christian Gospel, it is Jorge Mario Bergoglio. And the happiness offered by embracing and living true faith in Christ and His Church (rather than the vapid sentimentalism that often passes for love these days) permeates Pope Francis’s new (and rather long) apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, from beginning to end. Reading the text, one does experience a profound sense of just how life-transforming belief in Christ should be.” That’s how Sam Gregg begins his piece the Pope’s exhortation. Sam joins us to discuss poverty, the Pope and Evangelii Gaudium.

4:20 – Kresta Comments - Evangelii Gaudium

5:00 – Evangelii Gaudium: Pope Francis the Revolutionary
According to George Weigel, the first nine months of the pontificate of Pope Francis have often resembled a gigantic Rorschach test in which various commentators inside and outside the Catholic Church have “seen” their dreams and fears realized. Alas, what has been “seen” has often had little to do with the record of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as priest and bishop or with his most consequential decisions as Pope. Those projections reached fever pitch with the publication on Tuesday of Francis’ first apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel), which was celebrated, or lamented, as if it were an Occupy Whatever position paper for a G-8 summit. Instead, the papal document should be read and appreciated for what it manifestly is: a clarion call for a decisive shift in the Catholic Church’s self-understanding, in full continuity with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. George joins us to make his case. 

5:20 – Former Ambassadors: Obama’s call to close Vatican embassy is ‘slap in the face’ to Roman Catholics
Plans to move the U.S. embassy to the Vatican onto the grounds of the larger American embassy to Italy, though in a separate building and with a distinct entrance, are drawing fire from five former American envoys despite the tacit consent of the Vatican itself. Justified primarily on the grounds of enhanced security, the move is drawing fire from former Vatican Ambassadors James Nicholson, Francis Rooney, Mary Ann Glendon, Raymond Flynn, and Thomas Melady. Ambassador Flynn is here to explain his objections.

5:30 – U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Landmark Hobby Lobby Case
The U.S. Supreme Court last week agreed to take up two challenges to the HHS Mandate, one of which is Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a landmark case addressing the Constitutionally guaranteed rights of business owners to operate their family companies without violating their deeply held religious convictions. We talk to Lori Windham, an attorney with the Beckett Fund which filed this case. 

5:40 – The Philosophy of “The Hunger Games”
With the amazing success of the film The Hunger Games: The Girl on Fire over the last week, we talk about the Philosophy of the books – and now the movies. Katniss Everdeen is "the girl who was on fire," but she is also the girl who made us think, dream, question authority, and rebel. The post-apocalyptic world of Panem's twelve districts is a divided society on the brink of war and struggling to survive, while the Capitol lives in the lap of luxury and pure contentment. At every turn in the Hunger Games trilogy, Katniss, Peeta, Gale, and their many allies wrestle with harrowing choices and ethical dilemmas that push them to the brink. Co-editor of The Hunger Games and Philosophy, George Dunn, joins us.

Sign Here: “Delivery Man” Drops an Opportunity At Catholics’ Doorstep

I saw the movie “Delivery Man” this past weekend.  Vince Vaughn plays a meat delivery guy who, 20 years before,  paid for his parents’ anniversary trip to Italy by donating sperm to a fertility clinic over 600 times.  Due to an administrative error, the clinic overused his “donations” and, as a result, he is the [Read More...]
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