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My People

Vol. 20, Issue 4, April 2007

"If my people, who are called by My name, humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land." — 2 Chronicles 7:14


Christians Must Be Alert To Multiple Attacks On Life
Formation Is Needed For Children, Media
In Defense of Life: Christians Need Not Speak
Prison To Praise: The Time Is Now
Quest For Gender Equality Progresses
Work Is Key In Human Development
Light to the Nations: A Christian Perspective on World News
TV Show Is Modern Morality Play
Pray the News


Christians Must Be Alert To Multiple Attacks On Life

Pope Benedict XVI stressed the significance of a properly formed Christian conscience in supporting the right to life at a February 24 meeting of the Pontifical Academy for Life in Vatican City.

The Holy Father said that "the Christian conscience. . . has an internal need to nourish and strengthen itself with the multiple and profound motivations that work in favor of the right to life.

". . .It is a right that must be sustained by all, because it is the first fundamental right of all human rights. The Encyclical Evangelium Vitae strongly affirms this: 'Even in the midst of difficulties and uncertainties, every person sincerely open to truth and goodness can, by the light of reason and the hidden action of grace, come to recognize in the natural law written in the heart (cf. Rom 2:14-15) the sacred value of human life from its very beginning until its end, and can affirm the right of every human being to have this primary good respected to the highest degree. Upon the recognition of this right, every human community and the political community itself are founded' (n. 2).

"The same Encyclical recalls that 'believers in Christ must defend and promote this right, aware as they are of the wonderful truth recalled by the Second Vatican Council: "By His Incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every human being"' (Gaudium et Spes, n. 22). This saving event reveals to humanity not only the boundless love of God who 'so loved the world that he gave his only Son' (Jn 3:16), but also the incomparable value of every human person (ibid.).

"Therefore, the Christian is continually called to be ever alert in order to face the multiple attacks to which the right to life is exposed. In this he knows that he can count on motives that are deeply rooted in the natural law and that can therefore be shared by every person of upright conscience.

"In this perspective, above all after the publication of the Encyclical Evangelium Vitae, much has been done to make the subject matter of these motivations better known in the Christian community and in civil society, but it must be admitted that the attacks on the right to life throughout the world have broadened and multiplied, also assuming new forms.

"The pressures to legalize abortion are increasing in Latin American countries and in developing countries, also with recourse to the liberalization of new forms of chemical abortion under the pretext of safeguarding reproductive health: policies for demographic control are on the rise, notwithstanding that they are already recognized as dangerous also on the economic and social plane.

"At the same time, the interest in more refined biotechnological research is growing in the more developed countries in order to establish subtle and extensive eugenic methods, even to obsessive research for the 'perfect child,' with the spread of artificial procreation and various forms of diagnosis tending to ensure good selection.

"A new wave of discriminatory eugenics finds consensus in the name of the presumed well-being of the individual, and laws are promoted especially in the economically progressive world for the legalization of euthanasia.

"All of this comes about while, on another front, efforts are multiplying to legalize cohabitation as an alternative to matrimony and closed to natural procreation.

"In these situations the conscience, sometimes overwhelmed by the powerful collective media, is insufficiently vigilant concerning the gravity of the problems at play, and the power of the strongest weakens and seems to paralyze even people of good will.

"For this reason it is necessary to appeal to the conscience, and in particular, to the Christian conscience. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, 'Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing or has already completed. In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right' (n. 1778).

"From this definition it emerges that the moral conscience, to be able to judge human conduct rightly, above all must be based on the solid foundation of truth, that is, it must be enlightened to know the true value of actions and the solid criteria for evaluation. Therefore, it must be able to distinguish good from evil, even where the social environment, pluralistic culture, and superimposed interests do not help it do so.

"The formation of a true conscience, because it is founded on the truth, and upright, because it is determined to follow its dictates without contradictions, without betrayal, and without compromises, is a difficult and delicate undertaking today, but indispensable.

"Unfortunately, many factors hinder this undertaking. In the first place, in the current phase of secularization, called post-modern and marked by disputable forms of tolerance, not only is the rejection of Christian tradition growing, but distrust for the capacity of reason to perceive the truth also distances us from the taste for reflection.

"According to some, for individual conscience to be unbiased it must free itself both from references to tradition and those based on human reason.

"Hence, the conscience, which as an act of reason aims at the truth of things, ceases to be light and becomes a simple screen upon which the society of the media projects the most contradictory images and impulses.

"One must be re-educated to the desire to know authentic truth, to defend one's own freedom of choice in regard to mass behavior and the lures of propaganda, to nourish passion for moral beauty and a clear conscience. This is the delicate duty of parents and educators who assist them; and it is the duty of the Christian community with regard to its faithful.

"Concerning the Christian conscience, its growth and nourishment, one cannot be content with fleeting contact with the principal truths of faith in infancy, but a program of accompaniment is necessary along the various stages of life, opening the mind and the heart to welcome the fundamental duties upon which the existence of the individual and the community rest.

"Only in this way will it be possible to prepare youth to comprehend the values of life, love, marriage, and the family. Only in this way can they be brought to appreciate the beauty and the sanctity of the love, joy, and responsibility of being parents and collaborators of God in giving life.

"In the absence of a continuous and qualified formation, the capacity for judgment of the problems posed by biomedicine in the areas of sexuality, new-born life, procreation, and also in the way to treat and care for patients and the weaker sectors of society, becomes even more problematic.

"It is certainly necessary to speak about the moral criteria that regard these themes with professionals, doctors and lawyers, to engage them to elaborate a competent judgment of conscience, and if need be, also a courageous objection of conscience, but an equal need rises from the basic level for families and parish communities in the process of the formation of youth and adults.

"Under this aspect, next to Christian formation, whose aim is the knowledge of the Person of Christ, of His Word and Sacraments in the itinerary of faith of children and adolescents, one must consistently fuse the discourse on moral values that regard the body, sexuality, human love, procreation, respect for life at every moment, at the same time with valid and precise motives, reporting behavior contrary to these primary values.

"In this specific field the work of priests must be opportunely flanked by the commitment of lay educators, also specialists, dedicated to the duty to guide the ecclesial reality with their knowledge enlightened by faith.

"Therefore, I ask the Lord to send among you, dear brothers and sisters, and among those dedicated to science, medicine, law, and politics, witnesses endowed with true and upright consciences in order to defend and promote the 'splendor of the truth' and to sustain the gift and mystery of life.

"I trust in your help, dearest professionals, philosophers, theologians, scientists, and doctors. In a society at times chaotic and violent, with your cultural qualifications, by teaching and by example, you can contribute to awakening in many hearts the eloquent and clear voice of conscience.

"The Second Vatican Council teaches us that 'man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. His dignity lies in observing this law, and by it he will be judged' (Gaudium et Spes, n. 16). The Council has offered wise directives so that 'the faithful should learn to distinguish carefully between the rights and the duties which they have as belonging to the Church and those which fall to them as members of the human society,' and 'they will strive to unite the two harmoniously, remembering that in every temporal affair they are to be guided by a Christian conscience, since not even in temporal business may any human activity be withdrawn from God's dominion' (Lumen Gentium, n. 36).

"For this very reason the Council exhorts lay believers to welcome 'what is decided by the Pastors as teachers and rulers of the Church,' and then recommends that 'Pastors. . . should recognize and promote the dignity and responsibility of the laity in the Church. They should willingly use their prudent advice' and concludes that '[m]any benefits for the Church are to be expected from this familiar relationship between the laity and the Pastors' (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 37).

"When the value of human life is at stake, this harmony between the magisterial function and the committed laity becomes singularly important: life is the first good received from God and is fundamental to all others; to guarantee the right to life for all and in an equal manner for all is the duty upon which the future of humanity depends. The importance of your study meeting emerges also from this perspective. . ."


Formation Is Needed For Children, Media

The 41st World Communications Day will be on May 20. Pope Benedict XVI issued his message for this day on January 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron of the Catholic press.

The pontiff pointed out the theme of this year's event "... 'Children and the Media: A Challenge for Education,' invites us to reflect on two related topics of immense importance. The formation of children is one. The other, perhaps less obvious but no less important, is the formation of the media."

He continued: "The complex challenges facing education today are often linked to the pervasive influence of the media in our world. As an aspect of the phenomenon of globalization, and facilitated by the rapid development of technology, the media profoundly shape the cultural environment (cf. Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter The Rapid Development, 3). Indeed, some claim that the formative influence of the media rivals that of the school, the Church, and maybe even the home. 'Reality, for many, is what the media recognize as real' (Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Aetatis Novae, 4).

"The relationship of children, media, and education can be considered from two perspectives: the formation of children by the media; and the formation of children to respond appropriately to the media. A kind of reciprocity emerges which points to the responsibilities of the media as an industry and to the need for active and critical participation of readers, viewers, and listeners. Within this framework, training in the proper use of the media is essential for the cultural, moral, and spiritual development of children.

"How is this common good to be protected and promoted? Educating children to be discriminating in their use of the media is a responsibility of parents, Church, and school. The role of parents is of primary importance. They have a right and duty to ensure the prudent use of the media by training the conscience of their children to express sound and objective judgments which will then guide them in choosing or rejecting programs available (cf. Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, 76). In doing so, parents should have the encouragement and assistance of schools and parishes in ensuring that this difficult, though satisfying, aspect of parenting is supported by the wider community.

"Media education should be positive. Children exposed to what is aesthetically and morally excellent are helped to develop appreciation, prudence, and the skills of discernment. Here it is important to recognize the fundamental value of parents' example and the benefits of introducing young people to children's classics in literature, to the fine arts, and to uplifting music. While popular literature will always have its place in culture, the temptation to sensationalize should not be passively accepted in places of learning. Beauty, a kind of mirror of the divine, inspires and vivifies young hearts and minds, while ugliness and coarseness have a depressing impact on attitudes and behavior.

"Like education in general, media education requires formation in the exercise of freedom. This is a demanding task. So often freedom is presented as a relentless search for pleasure or new experiences. Yet this is a condemnation not a liberation! True freedom could never condemn the individual – especially a child – to an insatiable quest for novelty. In the light of truth, authentic freedom is experienced as a definitive response to God's 'yes' to humanity, calling us to choose, not indiscriminately but deliberately, all that is good, true, and beautiful. Parents, then, as the guardians of that freedom, while gradually giving their children greater freedom, introduce them to the profound joy of life (cf. Address to the Fifth World Meeting of Families, Valencia, July 8, 2006).

"This heartfelt wish of parents and teachers to educate children in the ways of beauty, truth, and goodness can be supported by the media industry only to the extent that it promotes fundamental human dignity, the true value of marriage and family life, and the positive achievements and goals of humanity. Thus, the need for the media to be committed to effective formation and ethical standards is viewed with particular interest and even urgency not only by parents and teachers but by all who have a sense of civic responsibility.

"While affirming the belief that many people involved in social communications want to do what is right (cf. Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Ethics in Communications, 4), we must also recognize that those who work in this field confront 'special psychological pressures and ethical dilemmas' (Aetatis Novae, 19) which at times see commercial competitiveness compelling communicators to lower standards. Any trend to produce programs and products - including animated films and video games - which in the name of entertainment exalt violence and portray anti-social behavior or the trivialization of human sexuality is a perversion, all the more repulsive when these programs are directed at children and adolescents. How could one explain this 'entertainment' to the countless innocent young people who actually suffer violence, exploitation, and abuse? In this regard, all would do well to reflect on the contrast between Christ who 'put his arms around [the children], laid his hands on them, and gave them his blessing' (Mk 10:16) and the one who 'leads astray. . . these little ones' for whom 'it would be better. . .if a millstone were hung round his neck' (Lk 17:2). Again I appeal to the leaders of the media industry to educate and encourage producers to safeguard the common good, to uphold the truth, to protect individual human dignity, and promote respect for the needs of the family.

"The Church herself, in the light of the message of salvation entrusted to her, is also a teacher of humanity and welcomes the opportunity to offer assistance to parents, educators, communicators, and young people. Her own parish and school programs should be in the forefront of media education today. Above all, the Church desires to share a vision of human dignity that is central to all worthy human communication. 'Seeing with the eyes of Christ, I can give to others much more than their outward necessities; I can give them the look of love which they crave' (Deus Caritas Est, 18)."


In Defense of Life: Christians Need Not Speak

Fred H. Summe
Fred H. Summe, vice president of Northern Kentucky Right to Life
by Fred H. Summe

"Your Excellency, we are confused," pleads the ad of the American Life League, published in the Catholic publication, The Wanderer, which publicly asks Archbishop Donald Wuerl, of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., why the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, a pro-abortion, self-proclaimed Catholic, is permitted to receive the Holy Eucharist.

As Canon Law states: "Those…who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to communion."

It is not just the so-called medical provider, who performs the abortion, who is guilty of the grave sin of abortion. Those who encourage someone to have an abortion or pay for the abortion, as well as those who have supported and have voted for the legalization of abortion, as well as those who oppose any effort to again re-criminalize the act of abortion, share in the guilt of this grave sin.

On the other hand, wouldn't it equally be wrong for a bishop to deny Holy Communion to an elected official who publicly dissents from the Catholic Church's moral teachings on abortion by voting for and supporting the legalization of killing unborn children? Would this not amount to the Church trying to control how an elected official votes?

Although a bishop may have no right to control how a legislator votes, he has an obligation to determine if someone should not receive Holy Communion who has publicly rejected the truths of the Church.

Failure to do so may not only jeopardize the eternal salvation of the elected official, by allowing him to think that he can be at the same time Catholic and pro-abortion, but it also misleads other Christians into thinking that one can be in favor of killing an innocent child and at the same time be following Christ. A loving Church cannot simply ignore the public actions of someone who is not only jeopardizing his soul, but also encouraging others to commit grievous sins.

Imposing Morality

Can the Church impose its morality on others?

In this case, the Church is not imposing its morality on an elected official. It is advising the elected official that if he truly desires to be a Catholic, one who in reality strives to live the teachings of Jesus, he cannot support, by his votes, this American holocaust.

The Church does have an obligation to "impose" Christ's moral teachings on those who desire to truly adhere to Catholic morality. If they publicly reject the Church's teachings on morality, their scandal needs to be exposed so as to not mislead others.

The human secularists, especially in the news media, and even sometimes in the so-called Catholic news media, have taken the statement "you cannot force your morality on other people," to mean that anyone who enters the debate in the marketplace of ideas cannot bring with them Judeo-Christian principles.

The basic principle of secular humanism is that there are no moral absolutes. These secularists impose upon everyone the rule that you cannot bring to the public debate universal truths. To allow someone to express the principles of natural law, would undermine their basic principle that there is no moral absolute.

To them the debate must be explicitly sectarian. Even though they claim to be tolerant, they are intolerant of anyone who questions their basic "moral" belief that there are no universal truths.

Those who hold a worldview that is based on religious thoughts and teachings are told that they must always argue from the secular assumptions that there are no moral truths. This excludes from the debate those who want to establish laws on moral principles which are not subject to constant changes by those who are currently in control of the legislative or judicial branches of government.

Is this not the basic principle of the Founding Fathers that some truths are self-evident, which the government simply must recognize, and has no authority to alter or to deny. One of those, as identified in our Declaration of Independence, is the "right to life."

In reality, it is those who believe that religious values should have no part of or should not influence public debate, who are imposing their understanding of morality on others, by excluding them from the public discourse. It is they who create and impose the rule that one can only argue from secular assumptions.

As The Catholic World Report noted:

"Even those who claim no religious affiliation or belief in any moral absolutes belie their own self-proclaimed neutrality when they insist on the rightness of their position and on the adoption of laws that reflect their own laissez-faire or morally relativistic views."

This is what Pope Benedict XVI refers to as "dictatorship of relativism." When those who hold religious beliefs are banished from the public marketplace of ideas, because they have values religiously formed, then only those who reject moral absolutes are left in control.

When there are no absolute values or human rights that cannot be abandoned by the majority vote, then there are no limits on what actions the government can take.

"So the religion of relativism, in which any opinion is allowed except one that is believed to be universally true, becomes the established religion imposed at the price of our freedom, our rights, and our democracy," states The Catholic World Report.


But shouldn't a Catholic politician follow his conscience? If he thinks that abortion is not wrong, or if he is opposed to any regulations governing abortion, is he not free morally, as a Catholic, to vote his conscience?

If this is true, then how can we criticize the Nazi regime in Germany? Did not many of them believe that they were bringing about a great good by eliminating those "undesirables," those "useless eaters," those lives "unworthy to be lived"? Can one's conscience make an intrinsically evil act, morally acceptable?

As The Catholic World Report explains:

"Catholic teaching holds that a Catholic must form his conscience in accord with the truth as revealed in Scripture and authoritative Church teaching. Willfully to dissent from a fundamental moral precept and cling to one's own poorly formed conscience is not viewed by the Church as an act of integrity; it is a moral sin. As St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke and a handful of other bishops have pointed out, Catholic politicians who commit such a sin scandalize the faithful and forfeit their right to Holy Communion."

Secularists, denying universal truths, have nothing on which to base their conscience, other than their personal thoughts, feelings, concerns, self-interest, ambition, etc. They are then free to justify any action, based on "principles" which are subject to constant change.

From his own experience with Nazism, Pope Benedict XVI testifies to the reality expressed in his statement of September 2006, that when "…the subjective 'conscience' becomes the sole arbiter of what is ethical. …this is a dangerous state of affairs for humanity…"

When an elected official, claiming to be Catholic, votes to deny the right to life to a member of the human family, that officeholder has manifested a grave sin. After correction, if he persists in such sinful actions, the Church, to protect the faithful from being misled, must take public action. As required by Canon Law, he must be denied receiving Holy Communion.


Prison To Praise: The Time Is Now

by Timothy Hawkins

(Editor's note: Mr. Hawkins writes from Missouri. He is a student in Guadalupe Bible College, which is part of Presentation Ministries. The issue he refers to was a state constitutional amendment that would allow for embryonic stem cell research and cloning. This issue passed. We welcome contributions from prisoners and would like to hear from a variety of prisoners.)

By the time this is printed, the voters will have decided the Amendment 2 issue and I pray that it failed. I am proud of the effort put forth by the Church to fight this obvious attempt at depleting the dignity of life even further. The fact that this issue even got to a ballot reveals that we have lost another battle in the war against secularism, a battle we are fighting everyday in the world and within ourselves.

Moral relativism, which is the foundation of secularism, is the belief that right and wrong are relative to one's own opinions and therefore not anchored by a moral compass. As a society we have given in to this ideology and unfortunately, as Catholics, many of us have been guilty of the sin of indifference. We have compromised truth in order to avoid stepping on toes.

Bishop Fulton Sheen was correct when he said that the use of birth control would lead to a high divorce rate, abortion and, eventually, euthanasia. Bishop Sheen has unfortunately proved himself a modern-day prophet.

We have lost many battles along the way to the forces of secularism: battles such as abortion, prayer in schools, and Christian displays of faith like nativity scenes and the Ten Commandments. These are the casualties of this war, not the enemy. The enemy is the evil one, and secularism is the means by which he is misleading the masses.

The moral compass that Catholics attempt to live by has to first be reinforced from the lectern. Our leaders need to call us to action by encouraging and commanding us to participate in the faith through our sacramental life of service and prayer. Bishop Gaydos exemplifies this message of faith and truth to us every week in his weekly visits.

What do we do now? We have to bring about a renewal in the Church (the caretaker of Truth). We have to affirm Truth, which is our moral compass. First, we have to begin with prayer for the Church and society. We have to pray that society sees the consequences of our apathy towards the basic dignity of life. Prayer is an important weapon and the battle could not be won or even fought without it. The Rosary is my weapon. The disciplined devotion to the meditations surrounding the life of Christ opens me to the Truth that dwells in Christ and is revealed in the Gospel.

Second, we have to show our neighbor the joy that is only attainable by living out the faith. I would imagine that those of us that read The Catholic Missourian are already at least somewhat active in our faith. It is our responsibility to evangelize our fellow Catholics. We have to inspire the nominal Catholics who come to Mass for the sole purpose of paying off their "sin credit card" every week. I would point out that there are those who have a very quiet deep devotion and are not nominal Catholics. I doubt that those that leave Mass after receiving the Eucharist, and are in their cars before the closing hymn fades away, are the quietly devoted people I described. I see this lackadaisical behavior here in prison, and I am told that it is prevalent in free society as well.

We should love these brothers and not judge them. We need to show faith working through love and not guilt. We have to inspire others by the example of living out our own faith. Then, we have to get people involved in their faith at whatever level they are called to serve. We are asked to pray for vocations to the priesthood and the religious life every week, but I believe we should pray for all vocations. We are all called to a vocation: the only way we will ever experience true joy and peace comes from living out that vocation. We are all called to the same vocation to preach the Gospel to all the nations (cf. Mark 16:15). The vehicle by which we work our vocation is our apostolate and ministerial vocations. parents have the most critical and important vocation in our war with secularism. They will play the most instrumental role in renewing the Church. Our children have to see us living out our faith, professing our faith, and educated in our faith. We have to take the part of "role model" away from the actor, athlete, and rap star.

It is vital that the laity get active. Ask someone to help in a cause and express your need for his or her assistance. Help them get a starting point to find their mission. Invite a person to your prayer or study group. The trick here is not to do it in a condescending fashion. The nominal Catholic sometimes requires the door of opportunity to be cracked a bit in order for them to grasp the courage needed to walk through and receive the grace waiting on the other side. It is important to point out that if you are turned down, seek the next person.

This is how I was drafted. I was asked to be a cantor at Mass by a saintly volunteer about three years ago, and I had to be almost dragged up there. She did not take no for an answer. I was nervous and uncomfortable for months, but after experiencing the joy that my participation brought me, I couldn't imagine myself not cantoring. I would not have gotten up there by myself without invitation and encouragement, and I thank God for that volunteer everyday. My service to God at Mass has opened the door to make other works seem effortless. The joy and peace that comes by serving God can only be described by experiencing it. Once a person experiences it, they are hooked.

We can change the world. We can crush the secularism that has taken foothold in society. We are Catholic, and more than a billion strong, but before the Holy Spirit can renew the earth we have to allow Him to renew the Church. We are the Church, instituted by Christ to be His instrument to make this pilgrimage through life bearable for humankind.

If the world continues status quo, in a generation or so living a Christian life may lead to persecution to a degree that we have never known. Christ promised that the gates of hell would not prevail. The Church will eventually prevail as promised by Christ in the Gospel, and I pray that we work together as a family to renew our children, the Church, the nation, and the world.


Quest For Gender Equality Progresses

At a March 8 meeting of the United Nations in New York, the Vatican's permanent observer at the UN Archbishop Celestino Migliore, told the 61st session of the General Assembly that:

". . .The legitimate quest for equality between men and women has achieved positive results in the area of equality of rights. This quest needs to be accompanied by the awareness that equality goes hand in hand with and does not endanger, much less contradict, the recognition of both the difference and complementarity between men and women. Without this recognition the struggle for equality would not be authentic."

He continued: "It seems, in fact, that oftentimes the ideas on the equality of rights between men and women have been marked by an antagonistic approach which exalts opposition between them. This approach juxtaposes woman against man and vice-versa, while the identity and role of one is emphasized with the aim of merely diminishing that of the other. Success in the quest for equality and the empowerment of women can best be achieved when such antagonism gives way to mutual respect and recognition of the identity and the role of one towards the other.

"A second tendency is to blur, if not entirely deny, the differences between men and women. In order to avoid the domination of one sex over the other, their differences tend to be obscured or viewed as mere effects of historical and cultural conditioning. Physical difference is often minimized, while the purely cultural dimension is maximized and held to be primary. This blurring of differences has impact on the stability of society and of families and, not least, on the quality of the relations between men and women. Equality between women and men and the empowerment of women will be attained when the differences of the sexes are recognized and highlighted as complementary and the cultural element of gender is understood in its proper context.

"Empowerment of women refers to increasing their social, political, economic, and spiritual strength, both individually and collectively, as well as to removing the obstacles that penalize women and prevent them from being fully integrated into the various sectors of society. Concretely, it means addressing discriminatory practices that exclude women from decision-making processes, oftentimes caused or aggravated by discrimination based on a woman's race, ethnicity, religion, or social status. That women in society must be involved in decision-making is not only right for reasons of equality, but also for the specific insights that women bring to the process. This 'feminine genius' will prove most valuable, as women increasingly play major roles in the solution of the serious challenges the world is facing. Empowerment of women also means equal pay for equal work, fairness in career advancement, and equality of spouses in family rights. Likewise, it means that women who choose to be wives and mothers are protected and not penalized.

"With regard to empowering women through microfinance, my delegation takes pride in the fact that for decades some institutions and agencies of the Catholic Church have been active in microfinancing. Just to cite one example, Catholic Relief Services, which operates in 99 countries from all continents, began microfinance programs in 1988 in five countries. Now programs are operational in at least thirty countries, with more than 850,000 clients, of whom almost 75% are women. The program focuses on the poor, especially poor women, in remote rural communities where there is no access to financial services. Moreover, in order to build managerial capacities and assure program sustainability, the clients are directly involved in the management and administration of the services they receive.

"Studies have shown how microfinance has led to a wide-ranging improvement of the status of women, from earning greater respect from men to being acknowledged as society's important contributors; from achieving better family health to greater awareness of the value of education; from greater self-esteem to taking a leading role in poverty reduction. These and other positive effects on the daily life of women tell us that microfinance is warmly to be supported. However, we must be aware that it is hardly a panacea for all the ills afflicting women in developing countries. Further, the system is not immune from abuse. It is, in fact, noted that in some circumstances and places, men ask their wives to get loans from microfinanciers, and then they take the loan and run the business themselves, or even, use the money for other purposes.

"Hand in hand with the empowering benefits brought about by initiatives like microfinance, goes the need for education and awareness-raising, especially at the level of the local community. Education for women in particular remains the most vital tool in the promotion of equality between men and women and in the empowerment of women to contribute fully to society. The Holy See desires for its part to continue to educate boys and girls, men and women, to foster and uphold the dignity, role, and rights of women. With tools such as these, women's empowerment can begin to take root and flourish in those places where it is still largely lacking. . ."


Work Is Key In Human Development

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican's permanent observer to the United Nations, spoke of the critical need for full employment and decent work for all in a February 8 address in New York. He spoke to the 45th session of the commission for social development of the UN Ecomonic and Social Council.

Archbishop Migliore stated: ". . .A constant policy goal at national and international levels must surely be the creation of a balance between economic development on the one hand and social justice on the other, enshrined in law, which protects workers and promotes their rights, especially those who earn very little for their labor or those whose work is potentially unsafe or humanly unrewarding. . . Recent years have witnessed a steady globalization and interconnection of markets with a growing fluidity in trade and in the sourcing of production in countries far from where goods are consumed. Often motivated principally by the pressure for higher profits, this latter aspect of globalization has nevertheless brought work to many in the south while leading to inevitable readjustments in the north, often towards other sectors of employment. Now it falls to the international community and governments to ensure both an enabling economic environment and the availability of work which is decent and properly remunerated.

"A very great number of workers would benefit from a fair outcome in the negotiations of the WTO's Doha Round. This chance currently risks being squandered, but a farsighted breakthrough could still be made, in particular regarding agricultural trade rules, to the benefit of many millions of the world's 1.1 billion agricultural workers, 60% of whom are in workforces with little or no social safety nets. The evident consequences of such a shift for northern economies would in turn have to be mitigated by the deployment of that region's much greater resources to assist those affected and to address legitimate concerns for the way of life in the countryside.

"Nowadays, equal pay for equal work seems obvious, but women are still too often overlooked or undervalued in this regard, leading to discrimination against them in both rich and poor countries. The equality of women and men should be evident also in their treatment in the workplace, in salaries and in the acquisition of pensions. The presence of women throughout the workplace can only help to improve it, revealing and overcoming the contradictions present in many societies, including those organized principally according to the criteria of efficiency and productivity. Equality will be seen immediately through equal pay for equal work, protection for working mothers, and fairness in career advancement.

"Working parents, both women and men, should be assisted, if necessary by law, to bring their own unique and irreplaceable contribution to the upbringing of their children, to the evident benefit of the whole of society. It is also important that men and women with families receive adequate and fair wages that are sufficient to meet ordinary family needs, especially in view of their responsibilities towards their children. A just wage will also eliminate the necessity, sometimes forced upon the very poor, to require their children to work, to the detriment of children's education, their childhood, and their growth into well-adjusted adults. Beyond all other considerations, child labor exploitation is a moral question: it is a violation of the dignity with which every person, no matter how small or seemingly unimportant, is endowed.

"Another category that deserves the special attention of the Commission is that of the very poor, present in every country without exception. There is no government, of however modest means, that should tolerate extreme poverty in today's world. Excluded from their right to work, shunned by those with work, the extreme poor should in fact be the particular concern of every government and every civilized society. The world is far too rich to let the scandal of extreme poverty continue due to lack of imagination or politics of neglect. Access to decent, safe, and fulfilling work for the extreme poor is fundamental to the achievement of social development.

"Given the dramatic shift in the population pyramid in many countries, governments would also do well to find ways to encourage older people to remain in the job market. There should be greater flexibility in pension systems and job markets so as to encourage the aged to contribute what they can to society for as long as they are willing and able. Younger workers should also be educated to appreciate, work with, and respect the talents and experience that only older people can bring to their work.

"On a topic now related to that of aging, migrants have become an important source of labor. They not only earn a salary for themselves and their families but, if allowed to do so by legislators and their electorates, they will also become an important source of wealth for their host countries by maintaining standards of living through their contribution to the host economy. Migrants are often motivated by the simple wish to work in order to support their families. They too deserve equal pay and equal protection under the law, not least because the jobs they do are often the ones that no one else wants. Legal arrangements should be made to allow families to reunite, not only for the sanity of family life, but also to the social and moral benefit of the communities around them. Too often a lack of normal family life leads to evils such as human trafficking and prostitution on the margins of migrant communities. The market for such modern slavery could be undermined by allowing families to live together in the receiving country.

"Work itself should be decent. The Holy See understands decent work as that which is both properly remunerated and worthy of the human person. Work is a right but it is also the duty of all people to contribute to the good of their society and the whole human family. Work is dignified by the people who do it; but it must also be dignified in itself.

"Full employment and decent work cannot include work that is not as safe as possible, justly remunerated, or worthy of the human person. If work is an essential part of our human vocation, only decent work in this sense can ever be suitable for the promotion of human dignity and the achievement of social development. . ."


Light to the Nations: A Christian Perspective on World News

Catholic Relief Services Assists Over 100,000 Lebanese

BERUIT, LEBANON – Against a backdrop of increasing sectarian tensions, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) completed the first phase of its post-war recovery work in Lebanon after last summer's conflict with Israel. With $3.2 million in funding from the U.S. government, CRS was able to assist over 100,000 Lebanese of all faiths in 80 villages around the country.

Working with Lebanese partner organizations Caritas Lebanon and Development of People and Nature Association, CRS supported families with food, clean water, vouchers for crops and livestock, and innovative psychosocial activities to help children — innocent victims — cope with the trauma of war and explore issues of multiculturalism.

"Thanks to the hard work of our Lebanese partners, we gave thousands of people the food, clothing, and fuel they needed after the conflict," said CRS/Lebanon Country Representative Melinda Burrell. "We've also helped farmers to restart their dairy farms destroyed in the war, fishermen to clean oil from their fishing grounds, students to study in newly-refurbished schools, and parents to take their children to safe, mine-free playgrounds."

Much of this recovery work was carried out by hundreds of enthusiastic youth volunteers, who went door-to-door to learn the specific needs of families, and then helped distribute the food, hygiene items, and other assistance packets in the villages. Youth also helped organize festivals for children to help alleviate the stress of their post-war lives.

"The youth volunteers intuitively did a great job navigating the politics of polarized communities," said Burrell. "Now we want to help them take on even stronger leadership roles in their villages."

Engaging youth in future development, good governance, and conflict transformation programs will be a key goal for CRS, as decades of civil strife and lack of employment opportunity in Lebanon have contributed to a "brain drain" migration of the country's youth.

(Source: Catholic Relief Services, press release)


Pope Appeals to Media Leaders

VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict met with participants in a meeting of the Pontifical Council for Social Communication on March 9.

He stated: ". . . Undoubtedly much of great benefit to civilization is contributed by the various components of the mass media. One need only think of quality documentaries and news services, wholesome entertainment, and thought-provoking debates and interviews. Furthermore, in regard to the internet it must be duly recognized that it has opened up a world of knowledge and learning that previously for many could only be accessed with difficulty, if at all. Such contributions to the common good are to be applauded and encouraged.

"On the other hand, it is also readily apparent that much of what is transmitted in various forms to the homes of millions of families around the world is destructive. By directing the light of Christ's truth upon such shadows the Church engenders hope. Let us strengthen our efforts to encourage all to place the lit lamp on the lamp-stand where it shines for everyone in the home, the school, and society (cf. Mt 5:14-16)!

"In this regard, my message for this year's World Communications Day draws attention to the relationship between the media and young people. My concerns are no different from those of any mother or father, or teacher, or responsible citizen. We all recognize that 'beauty, a kind of mirror of the divine, inspires and vivifies young hearts and minds, while ugliness and coarseness have a depressing impact on attitudes and behavior' (No. 2). The responsibility to introduce and educate children and young people into the ways of beauty, truth, and goodness is therefore a grave one. It can be supported by media conglomerates only to the extent that they promote fundamental human dignity, the true value of marriage and family life, and the positive achievements and goals of humanity.

"I appeal again to the leaders of the media industry to advise producers to safeguard the common good, to uphold the truth, to protect individual human dignity, and promote respect for the needs of the family. And in encouraging all of you gathered here today, I am confident that care will be taken to ensure that the fruits of your reflections and study are effectively shared with particular Churches through parish, school, and diocesan structures. . ."



TV Show Is Modern Morality Play

by Michael Halm

"Heroes" is proving to be this season's most popular new TV show. It has already received several award nominations. More important than its popularity or critical acclaim as mere entertainment, however is its role as a modern morality play.

As writers Joe Polaski and Aron Coleite explain at "We all make good and bad choices. Selfish and selfless. These characters are no different. Every action has a consequence. People will be forgiven, seek redemption, and be punished."

The idea for "Heroes" isn't so much about people with superpowers. It's more, as Joseph Campbell wrote, about our universal need for the heroic. "The hero's journey crosses all cultures, so to find something similar in a different culture is not surprising."

The characters have had to deal with some pretty serious decisions. Isaac chose not to go back to his habitual drug abuse. Niki turned herself in trying to protect her family from her deadly alter ego. Claire repented of revenging her attempted rapist, and forgave her lying foster father. Matt forgave his unfaithful wife, and she in turn encouraged him to return diamonds that didn't belong to him.

They have saved lives and grown spiritually by using their newly discovered powers, identified explicitly as gifts from God. Some have misused their gift and taken lives.

With the unusually large number of regular characters and built-in mystery, the internet discussions are part of the whole phenomenon. Missed shows can be downloaded to computer or other player; so can a companion graphic novel.

The official site even has a do-it-yourself Heroes test to see if you have the makings of being a Hero. They mention three characteristics: a mysterious guidance for the creating of what isn't or recreating what was, a longing for the extraordinary and a dissatisfaction with present underachievement, and an attunement to the collective unconscious with longing to more deeply belong. More simply, these might be called a hero's faithful soul, hopeful spirit, and loving heart.

In describing how they're relating the struggle to be more heroic, the writers say, "We're dropping into scenes at the most critical moments and we're jumping from scene to scene knowing our audience is smart to enough to keep track. And that keeps it fresh – for the audience and for us."

The seeking to do better seems to apply for the people involved in the show as well. Tim Kring is the one behind the idea, the one they call OFL (Our Fearless Leader), although all the writers contribute to every episode. He was the executive producer under whom Polaski and Coleite wrote for "Cross Jordan."

Masi Oka, while playing the time-stopping and time-traveling Hiro, still works part-time on special effects for George Lucas. He's worked on Star Wars I, II and III, The Perfect Storm, Terminator III and Pirates of the Caribbean II. Oka was already on a Time cover as a whiz kid at 12 for his 180 IQ. He got the role of Hiro partially by translating and performing his screen test script in Japanese. So far Hiro has warned of a disastrous future, found and lost love in the past, quests for the sword of legendary samurai Kensei (sword-saint) Takezo, and faced off his demanding father, played by George Takei. Takei, of course, played Sulu on "Star Trek" and won the role with the same trick as his "son," in Japanese.

Just as Oka actually was born in Japan, Sendi Ramamurthy, who plays the Hero-hunting Dr. Mohindar Suresh, was born in India. He has appeared in "Numbers," "Gray's Anatomy," and "Guiding Light."

Several others of the cast have humble soap opera backgrounds. Jack Coleman, who plays Bennet, started with "Days of Our Lives" and has more recently acted on "Without A Trace" and "CSI: Miami." Tawny "Simone Devereau" Cypress was in "All My Children." Hayden Panettiere, who is now the indestructible cheerleader Claire Bennet, started on "One Life To Live" at 5.

Ali Larter, who was a model at 13, plays the double role of the vastly different Niki and Jessica Sanders, not so unlike her very different film credits, Legally Blonde and House on Haunted Hill. Noah Gray-Cabey, 9, plays her computer-commanding son, Micah. He started on "CSI: Miami" at 7.

Besides the Asians, the cast also includes the British Christopher Eccelston, formerly the ninth Dr. Who, Chilean Santiago Cabera, and Haitian Jimmy Jean-Lewis as "the Haitian." Leonard Roberts played Joe Lewis in Joe and Max, and Milo Ventimiglia played Rocky Jr. in Rocky Balboa.

The show has even featured cameos by people as Stan Lee, the creator of the Hulk and Spiderman.

Finding the answer to "Who among the characters will make the right choices and become Heroes?" keeps fans blogging and tuning in. When they ask the writers questions like "Who is Uluru?" they are evasively told to look up the mythology of Ayers Rock. "We did lots of research in crafting our stories – some of which came from Hindu and Indian mythology. Remember how we've said the number 9 is important? When they ask 'Does the Haitian have other powers than mind-wiping?', they are told 'Our minds are blank.'"


Pray the News

Because we are sons and daughters of God, saved by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we do not merely read the news but make the news. We direct the course of world events by faith expressed in action and intercession. Please pray for the stories covered in this paper. Clip out this intercessory list and make it part of your daily prayer.

  • We pray that all will have a great Holy Week and Easter season.
  • We pray for an end to war and violence and we pray especially for the Middle East.
  • We pray that human life will be respected in all its stages, from conception to natural death.
  • We pray in thanksgiving for Catholic Relief Services and for its continued growth and effectiveness.
  • We pray for Christians in the media to express their faith and values in their professional efforts.
  • We pray for children to receive the education and formation they need.


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Cincinnati, OH 45211
Phone: (513) 662-5378

Published by: Presentation Ministries, 3230 McHenry Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45211, (513) 662-5378,



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