We are infinitely pleased that The Nashville Post has returned our friend A.C. Kleinheider to us in glorious fashion. His independent voice would be one that the blogosphere in this State would sorely miss.
It says a great deal about the priorities of the current Democratic administration in Nashville that it can justify making significant cuts to the agency charged with protecting children from abuse, while the same administration can also somehow continue constructing a party bunker underneath a Governor's Mansion where the Governor does not even live.
Doesn't it make you feel good to know that Phil Bredesen is looking out for your interests?
First Read has an interesting piece this morning about the "power" of "Obama Nation" and their reaction to the perceived bias in ABC's presidential debate the other night. If Mark Murray is to be believed, this group of people is so powerful that they simply cannot be stopped. One thing I absolutely disagree with is Murray's impression that Move On and the Leftist blogosphere is going to be a deciding factor in this election cycle:
To put it simply, ABC was under siege yesterday. This may only be a taste of how the ObamaNation would react to a Clinton nomination. If MoveOn is motivated to do a petition campaign against the media over a debate, imagine what Clinton delegates and undecided superdelegates would face this summer if there is doubt.
And as thePolitico’s Ben Smithpointed out yesterday, it’s also what the GOP would face in the general election, especially if Obama is nominee. The level of devotion among Obama's supporters rivals what Bush had with his flock in 2004. The left-wing blogosphere is MUCH more powerful than what you see on the right this cycle and it reminds us of the advantage Bush had in '04. While we all know about that so-called right-wing voice machine, don’t forget that there is now a left-wing noise machine (on the internet) as well. And it has found its voice.
I agree with both Murray and Smith that the blogosphere on the Left has become a potent and effective political force. Whether that is good for the country is certainly questionable, but I think it is good for the blogosphere as a whole that sites like The Daily Kos and many others are proving that people can use the blogosphere as an effective political organizing tool. Conservative blogs and blog agregators such as Red State, GOPBlogs, the Tennessee ConserVoliance, and many others are proving just as effective in politics nationally and here in States like Tennessee as their liberal counterparts. The only real difference is that conservatives aren't enthused about their nominee-but I think the Left underestimates both conservative hatred for the Clintons and the newfound dislike for Barack Obama (not to mention Obama's ability to shoot himself in the foot in a way that will likely cost him in the General Election campaign).
The Left also believes-both in the blogosphere and out of it-that because of the nomination of John McCain, they have managed to neutralize the evangelicals who would normally vote for Republicans in droves. Our friends in the party opposite are failing to factor in a possible evangelical reaction against Obama in November that could bubble over because of a proliferation of things, including the Wright controversy and Obama's "bitter religion and guns" San Fransisco remarks. Further, with the Pope in the U.S. this week, the one question the press always fails to ask or answer effectively is this: What role will the Catholic Church play in this election?
Allow me to educate those of you who are regular readers but who are not Catholic about the nature of the Catholic vote in 2008. The national media tends to speak of the "Catholic vote" as though that is a singular thing and Catholics are a monolith. Catholics are not only an extremely diverse group of people, but there is a vast difference in the voting patterns of "Catholics" who identify themselves as such but don't regularly attend Mass or make frequent use of the sacraments, and those who are weekly (or greater) Mass-attendants, receive the Eucharist, go to Confession, and observe to the best of their ability the precepts of the Church. Among the latter group, there has been an extremely sharp right turn in the last 30 years. While the Church in the U.S. isn't big on getting involved in national elections, observant Catholics were sent an indirect but clear signal in 2000 that Al Gore was not acceptable. There was never any love lost between the Vatican and the Clintons, and it was presumed that Gore was more of the same.
In 2004, observant Catholics might as well have been sent a radio message from on High that said "vote for Bush." The so-called Catholic in the race was not Catholic enough, and was widely viewed as lacking any fidelity at all to the Holy See. I remember attending a talk in 2004 by Father John Corapi that focused largely on spiritual warfare. Father Corapi pulled no punches, however, in his view of John Kerry and his perceived heresy. Without mentioning Kerry by name, he called him "the candidate who doesn't get it, from the party that doesn't get it." He went on to speak directly of the Democratic Party-"it is sad," he said, "that they used to get it, but they choose not to anymore."
If Hillary Clinton somehow pulls the Democratic nomination out of a hat, the distrust among many in the hierarchy of the Church for the Clintons is so great that Cardinal Levada might as well unfurl a huge John McCain banner in St. Peter's Square. If Obama is the nominee, there is always the possibility that the Church as a collective order may choose to send no indirect signals to the faithful at all in this cycle, other than the normal bishops' letter shortly before the election. The reason would be because it will be presumed that Catholics are truly in fidelity with the Holy See will already be educated enough about Obama's pro-abortion record and liberal position on social issues to consider that when voting. Just as many evangelicals distrust McCain, so do many faithful Catholics...something the Church Universal is very mindful of.
If a few inderect signals are sent to those who are truly in union with the Holy See that the Democratic nominee and Democrats as a whole are again unacceptable, Obama will have a new problem on his hands: Convince faithful Catholics why they should support him when his views are so contrary to those of Holy Mother Church.
Pope Answers U.S. Bishops' Questions at National Shrine
1. The Holy Father is asked to give his assessment of the challenge of increasing secularism in public life and relativism in intellectual life, and his advice on how to confront these challenges pastorally and evangelize more effectively.
I touched upon this theme briefly in my address. It strikes me as significant that here in America, unlike many places in Europe, the secular mentality has not been intrinsically opposed to religion. Within the context of the separation of Church and State, American society has always been marked by a fundamental respect for religion and its public role, and, if polls are to be believed, the American people are deeply religious. But it is not enough to count on this traditional religiosity and go about business as usual, even as its foundations are being slowly undermined. A serious commitment to evangelization cannot prescind from a profound diagnosis of the real challenges the Gospel encounters in contemporary American culture.
Of course, what is essential is a correct understanding of the just autonomy of the secular order, an autonomy which cannot be divorced from God the Creator and his saving plan (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 36). Perhaps America's brand of secularism poses a particular problem: it allows for professing belief in God, and respects the public role of religion and the Churches, but at the same time it can subtly reduce religious belief to a lowest common denominator. Faith becomes a passive acceptance that certain things "out there" are true, but without practical relevance for everyday life. The result is a growing separation of faith from life: living "as if God did not exist". This is aggravated by an individualistic and eclectic approach to faith and religion: far from a Catholic approach to "thinking with the Church", each person believes he or she has a right to pick and choose, maintaining external social bonds but without an integral, interior conversion to the law of Christ. Consequently, rather than being transformed and renewed in mind, Christians are easily tempted to conform themselves to the spirit of this age (cf. Rom 12:3). We have seen this emerge in an acute way in the scandal given by Catholics who promote an alleged right to abortion.
On a deeper level, secularism challenges the Church to reaffirm and to pursue more actively her mission in and to the world. As the Council made clear, the lay faithful have a particular responsibility in this regard. What is needed, I am convinced, is a greater sense of the intrinsic relationship between the Gospel and the natural law on the one hand, and, on the other, the pursuit of authentic human good, as embodied in civil law and in personal moral decisions. In a society that rightly values personal liberty, the Church needs to promote at every level of her teaching - in catechesis, preaching, seminary and university instruction - an apologetics aimed at affirming the truth of Christian revelation, the harmony of faith and reason, and a sound understanding of freedom, seen in positive terms as a liberation both from the limitations of sin and for an authentic and fulfilling life. In a word, the Gospel has to be preached and taught as an integral way of life, offering an attractive and true answer, intellectually and practically, to real human problems. The "dictatorship of relativism", in the end, is nothing less than a threat to genuine human freedom, which only matures in generosity and fidelity to the truth.
Much more, of course, could be said on this subject: let me conclude, though, by saying that I believe that the Church in America, at this point in her history, is faced with the challenge of recapturing the Catholic vision of reality and presenting it, in an engaging and imaginative way, to a society which markets any number of recipes for human fulfillment. I think in particular of our need to speak to the hearts of young people, who, despite their constant exposure to messages contrary to the Gospel, continue to thirst for authenticity, goodness and truth. Much remains to be done, particularly on the level of preaching and catechesis in parishes and schools, if the new evangelization is to bear fruit for the renewal of ecclesial life in America.
2. The Holy Father is asked about "a certain quiet attrition" by which Catholics are abandoning the practice of the faith, sometimes by an explicit decision, but often by distancing themselves quietly and gradually from attendance at Mass and identification with the Church.
Certainly, much of this has to do with the passing away of a religious culture, sometimes disparagingly referred to as a "ghetto", which reinforced participation and identification with the Church. As I just mentioned, one of the great challenges facing the Church in this country is that of cultivating a Catholic identity which is based not so much on externals as on a way of thinking and acting grounded in the Gospel and enriched by the Church's living tradition.
The issue clearly involves factors such as religious individualism and scandal. Let us go to the heart of the matter: faith cannot survive unless it is nourished, unless it is "formed by charity" (cf. Gal 5:6). Do people today find it difficult to encounter God in our Churches? Has our preaching lost its salt? Might it be that many people have forgotten, or never really learned, how to pray in and with the Church?
Here I am not speaking of people who leave the Church in search of subjective religious "experiences"; this is a pastoral issue which must be addressed on its own terms. I think we are speaking about people who have fallen by the wayside without consciously having rejected their faith in Christ, but, for whatever reason, have not drawn life from the liturgy, the sacraments, preaching. Yet Christian faith, as we know, is essentially ecclesial, and without a living bond to the community, the individual's faith will never grow to maturity. Indeed, to return to the question I just discussed, the result can be a quiet apostasy.
So let me make two brief observations on the problem of "attrition", which I hope will stimulate further reflection.
First, as you know, it is becoming more and more difficult, in our Western societies, to speak in a meaningful way of "salvation". Yet salvation - deliverance from the reality of evil, and the gift of new life and freedom in Christ - is at the heart of the Gospel. We need to discover, as I have suggested, new and engaging ways of proclaiming this message and awakening a thirst for the fulfillment which only Christ can bring. It is in the Church's liturgy, and above all in the sacrament of the Eucharist, that these realities are most powerfully expressed and lived in the life of believers; perhaps we still have much to do in realizing the Council's vision of the liturgy as the exercise of the common priesthood and the impetus for a fruitful apostolate in the world.
Second, we need to acknowledge with concern the almost complete eclipse of an eschatological sense in many of our traditionally Christian societies. As you know, I have pointed to this problem in the Encyclical Spe Salvi. Suffice it to say that faith and hope are not limited to this world: as theological virtues, they unite us with the Lord and draw us toward the fulfillment not only of our personal destiny but also that of all creation. Faith and hope are the inspiration and basis of our efforts to prepare for the coming of the Kingdom of God. In Christianity, there can be no room for purely private religion: Christ is the Savior of the world, and, as members of his Body and sharers in his prophetic, priestly and royal munera, we cannot separate our love for him from our commitment to the building up of the Church and the extension of his Kingdom. To the extent that religion becomes a purely private affair, it loses its very soul.
Let me conclude by stating the obvious. The fields are still ripe for harvesting (cf. Jn 4:35); God continues to give the growth (cf. 1 Cor 3:6). We can and must believe, with the late Pope John Paul II, that God is preparing a new springtime for Christianity (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 86). What is needed above all, at this time in the history of the Church in America, is a renewal of that apostolic zeal which inspires her shepherds actively to seek out the lost, to bind up those who have been wounded, and to bring strength to those who are languishing (cf. Ez 34:16). And this, as I have said, calls for new ways of thinking based on a sound diagnosis of today's challenges and a commitment to unity in the service of the Church's mission to the present generation.
3. The Holy Father is asked to comment on the decline in vocations despite the growing numbers of the Catholic population, and on the reasons for hope offered by the personal qualities and the thirst for holiness which characterize the candidates who do come forward.
Let us be quite frank: the ability to cultivate vocations to the priesthood and the religious life is a sure sign of the health of a local Church. There is no room for complacency in this regard. God continues to call young people; it is up to all of us to to encourage a generous and free response to that call. On the other hand, none of us can take this grace for granted.
In the Gospel, Jesus tells us to pray that the Lord of the harvest will send workers. He even admits that the workers are few in comparison with the abundance of the harvest (cf. Mt 9:37-38). Strange to say, I often think that prayer - the unum necessarium - is the one aspect of vocations work which we tend to forget or to undervalue!
Nor am I speaking only of prayer for vocations. Prayer itself, born in Catholic families, nurtured by programs of Christian formation, strengthened by the grace of the sacraments, is the first means by which we come to know the Lord's will for our lives. To the extent that we teach young people to pray, and to pray well, we will be cooperating with God's call. Programs, plans and projects have their place; but the discernment of a vocation is above all the fruit of an intimate dialogue between the Lord and his disciples. Young people, if they know how to pray, can be trusted to know what to do with God's call.
It has been noted that there is a growing thirst for holiness in many young people today, and that, although fewer in number, those who come forward show great idealism and much promise. It is important to listen to them, to understand their experiences, and to encourage them to help their peers to see the need for committed priests and religious, as well as the beauty of a life of sacrificial service to the Lord and his Church. To my mind, much is demanded of vocation directors and formators: candidates today, as much as ever, need to be given a sound intellectual and human formation which will enable them not only to respond to the real questions and needs of their contemporaries, but also to mature in their own conversion and to persevere in life-long commitment to their vocation. As Bishops, you are conscious of the sacrifice demanded when you are asked to release one of your finest priests for seminary work. I urge you to respond with generosity, for the good of the whole Church.
Finally, I think you know from experience that most of your brother priests are happy in their vocation. What I said in my address about the importance of unity and cooperation within the presbyterate applies here too. There is a need for all of us to move beyond sterile divisions, disagreements and preconceptions, and to listen together to the voice of the Spirit who is guiding the Church into a future of hope. Each of us knows how important priestly fraternity has been in our lives. That fraternity is not only a precious possession, but also an immense resource for the renewal of the priesthood and the raising up of new vocations. I would close by encouraging you to foster opportunities for ever greater dialogue and fraternal encounter among your priests, and especially the younger priests. I am convinced that this will bear great fruit for their own enrichment, for the increase of their love for the priesthood and the Church, and for the effectiveness of their apostolate.
Dear Brother Bishops. with these few observations, I once more encourage all of you in your ministry to the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care, and I commend you to the loving intercession of Mary Immaculate, Mother of the Church.
* * *
Before leaving, I would like to pause to acknowledge the immense suffering endured by the people of God in the Archdiocese of New Orleans as a result of Hurricane Katrina, as well as their courage in the challenging work of rebuilding. I would like to present Archbishop Alfred Hughes with a chalice, which I hope will be accepted as a sign of my prayerful solidarity with the faithful of the Archdiocese, and my personal gratitude for the tireless devotion which he and Archbishops Philip Hannan and Francis Schulte showed toward the flock entrusted to their care.
Last night's Democratic debate was a case study on political pandering of the worst sort, and on the part of both candidates. Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were obviously trying to undo their bad images-Hillary already has one, and Barack Obama has managed to create one for himself and may have fashioned the political noose on which his campaign will hang in November:
He said he was attempting to say that because voters feel ignored by government, "they end up being much more concerned about votes around things like guns where traditions have been passed on from generation to generation. And those are incredibly important to them."
"People don't cling to their traditions on hunting and guns" out of frustration with their government, Clinton said. She added that Obama had a fundamental misunderstanding on the role of religion and faith.
I don't disagree with Hillary's statement that Barack Obama has a "fundamental misunderstanding" of the role of religion and faith, and its importance in American life. She is being disingenuous, however, because Barack Obama simply made the mistake of voicing in such a public setting the widely-held opinion of the intellectual Left that faith is unimportant and is only used as a "wedge issue." The Left fails to grasp that the decline of Christianity in America as the leading spiritual and cultural force is at the root of most of our country's social problems, and that the simple folks that they demean-intentionally or not-by thinking them "bitter" actually have a deep understanding of this reality. This understanding is the reason why the de-Christianization of the country at the hands of the Left is an issue for people in small-town America. Hillary Clinton shares Obama's view, of course, but she isn't clueless enough to say so publicly. Here is Hillary's real attitude about Middle America:
Should the administration make overtures to working class white southerners who had all but forsaken the Democratic Party? The then-first lady took a less than inclusive approach.”
“‘Screw 'em,’ she told her husband. ‘You don't owe them a thing, Bill. They're doing nothing for you; you don't have to do anything for them.’ The statement -- which author Benjamin Barber witnessed and wrote about in his book, ‘The Truth of Power: Intellectual Affairs in the Clinton White House’ -- was prompted by another speaker raising the difficulties of reaching ‘Reagan Democrats.’”
Further, she is shameless enough to misrepresent her own ideas to the people in order to try and gain a political advantage over Obama.
Clinton's sudden embrace of the Second Amendment is truly laughable. Both Clinton and Obama's language where firearms are concerned belies the Left's fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of the Second Amendment and the right to own a firearm. Yes, hunting and shooting are extremely important parts of the American tradition, but those things are not the reason that the founders guaranteed Americans a right to their weapons in the Constitution. The real purpose of the Second Amendment is that those weapons serve as Americans' ultimate check of last resort against overbearing and tyrannical big government, and the state that attempts to remove that right is taking the first step toward tyranny.
Since Obama and Clinton both embrace the idea of overbearing government, they cannot conceive of the reality that our guns are in our own hands to protect us from the excesses of government.
Address of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI at the White House
THE PRESIDENT'S REMARKS
10:38 A.M. EDT
PRESIDENT BUSH: Holy Father, Laura and I are privileged to have you here at the White House. We welcome you with the ancient words commended by Saint Augustine: "Pax Tecum." Peace be with you.
You've chosen to visit America on your birthday. Well, birthdays are traditionally spent with close friends, so our entire nation is moved and honored that you've decided to share this special day with us. We wish you much health and happiness -- today and for many years to come. (Applause.)
This is your first trip to the United States since you ascended to the Chair of Saint Peter. You will visit two of our greatest cities and meet countless Americans, including many who have traveled from across the country to see with you and to share in the joy of this visit. Here in America you'll find a nation of prayer. Each day millions of our citizens approach our Maker on bended knee, seeking His grace and giving thanks for the many blessings He bestows upon us. Millions of Americans have been praying for your visit, and millions look forward to praying with you this week.
Here in America you'll find a nation of compassion. Americans believe that the measure of a free society is how we treat the weakest and most vulnerable among us. So each day citizens across America answer the universal call to feed the hungry and comfort the sick and care for the infirm. Each day across the world the United States is working to eradicate disease, alleviate poverty, promote peace and bring the light of hope to places still mired in the darkness of tyranny and despair.
Here in America you'll find a nation that welcomes the role of faith in the public square. When our Founders declared our nation's independence, they rested their case on an appeal to the "laws of nature, and of nature's God." We believe in religious liberty. We also believe that a love for freedom and a common moral law are written into every human heart, and that these constitute the firm foundation on which any successful free society must be built.
Here in America, you'll find a nation that is fully modern, yet guided by ancient and eternal truths. The United States is the most innovative, creative and dynamic country on earth -- it is also among the most religious. In our nation, faith and reason coexist in harmony. This is one of our country's greatest strengths, and one of the reasons that our land remains a beacon of hope and opportunity for millions across the world.
Most of all, Holy Father, you will find in America people whose hearts are open to your message of hope. And America and the world need this message. In a world where some invoke the name of God to justify acts of terror and murder and hate, we need your message that "God is love." And embracing this love is the surest way to save men from "falling prey to the teaching of fanaticism and terrorism."
In a world where some treat life as something to be debased and discarded, we need your message that all human life is sacred, and that "each of us is willed, each of us is loved" -- (applause) -- and your message that "each of us is willed, each of us is loved, and each of us is necessary."
In a world where some no longer believe that we can distinguish between simple right and wrong, we need your message to reject this "dictatorship of relativism," and embrace a culture of justice and truth. (Applause.)
In a world where some see freedom as simply the right to do as they wish, we need your message that true liberty requires us to live our freedom not just for ourselves, but "in a spirit of mutual support."
Holy Father, thank you for making this journey to America. Our nation welcomes you. We appreciate the example you set for the world, and we ask that you always keep us in your prayers. (Applause.)
On Wednesday 16 April 2008, Pope Benedict XVI was welcomed to the White House by President George W. Bush and made the following remarks.
Thank you for your gracious words of welcome on behalf of the people of the United States of America. I deeply appreciate your invitation to visit this great country. My visit coincides with an important moment in the life of the Catholic community in America: the celebration of the two-hundredth anniversary of the elevation of the country’s first Diocese – Baltimore – to a metropolitan Archdiocese, and the establishment of the Sees of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Louisville. Yet I am happy to be here as a guest of all Americans. I come as a friend, a preacher of the Gospel and one with great respect for this vast pluralistic society. America’s Catholics have made, and continue to make, an excellent contribution to the life of their country. As I begin my visit, I trust that my presence will be a source of renewal and hope for the Church in the United States, and strengthen the resolve of Catholics to contribute ever more responsibly to the life of this nation, of which they are proud to be citizens.
From the dawn of the Republic, America’s quest for freedom has been guided by the conviction that the principles governing political and social life are intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God the Creator. The framers of this nation’s founding documents drew upon this conviction when they proclaimed the "self-evident truth" that all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights grounded in the laws of nature and of nature’s God. The course of American history demonstrates the difficulties, the struggles, and the great intellectual and moral resolve which were demanded to shape a society which faithfully embodied these noble principles. In that process, which forged the soul of the nation, religious beliefs were a constant inspiration and driving force, as for example in the struggle against slavery and in the civil rights movement. In our time too, particularly in moments of crisis, Americans continue to find their strength in a commitment to this patrimony of shared ideals and aspirations.
In the next few days, I look forward to meeting not only with America’s Catholic community, but with other Christian communities and representatives of the many religious traditions present in this country. Historically, not only Catholics, but all believers have found here the freedom to worship God in accordance with the dictates of their conscience, while at the same time being accepted as part of a commonwealth in which each individual and group can make its voice heard. As the nation faces the increasingly complex political and ethical issues of our time, I am confident that the American people will find in their religious beliefs a precious source of insight and an inspiration to pursue reasoned, responsible and respectful dialogue in the effort to build a more humane and free society.
Freedom is not only a gift, but also a summons to personal responsibility. Americans know this from experience – almost every town in this country has its monuments honoring those who sacrificed their lives in defense of freedom, both at home and abroad. The preservation of freedom calls for the cultivation of virtue, self-discipline, sacrifice for the common good and a sense of responsibility towards the less fortunate. It also demands the courage to engage in civic life and to bring one’s deepest beliefs and values to reasoned public debate. In a word, freedom is ever new. It is a challenge held out to each generation, and it must constantly be won over for the cause of good (cf. Spe Salvi, 24). Few have understood this as clearly as the late Pope John Paul II. In reflecting on the spiritual victory of freedom over totalitarianism in his native Poland and in eastern Europe, he reminded us that history shows, time and again, that "in a world without truth, freedom loses its foundation", and a democracy without values can lose its very soul (cf. Centesimus Annus, 46). Those prophetic words in some sense echo the conviction of President Washington, expressed in his Farewell Address, that religion and morality represent "indispensable supports" of political prosperity.
The Church, for her part, wishes to contribute to building a world ever more worthy of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:26-27). She is convinced that faith sheds new light on all things, and that the Gospel reveals the noble vocation and sublime destiny of every man and woman (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 10). Faith also gives us the strength to respond to our high calling, and the hope that inspires us to work for an ever more just and fraternal society. Democracy can only flourish, as your founding fathers realized, when political leaders and those whom they represent are guided by truth and bring the wisdom born of firm moral principle to decisions affecting the life and future of the nation.
For well over a century, the United States of America has played an important role in the international community. On Friday, God willing, I will have the honor of addressing the United Nations Organization, where I hope to encourage the efforts under way to make that institution an ever more effective voice for the legitimate aspirations of all the world’s peoples. On this, the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the need for global solidarity is as urgent as ever, if all people are to live in a way worthy of their dignity – as brothers and sisters dwelling in the same house and around that table which God’s bounty has set for all his children. America has traditionally shown herself generous in meeting immediate human needs, fostering development and offering relief to the victims of natural catastrophes. I am confident that this concern for the greater human family will continue to find expression in support for the patient efforts of international diplomacy to resolve conflicts and promote progress. In this way, coming generations will be able to live in a world where truth, freedom and justice can flourish – a world where the God-given dignity and rights of every man, woman and child are cherished, protected and effectively advanced.
Mr. President, dear friends: as I begin my visit to the United States, I express once more my gratitude for your invitation, my joy to be in your midst, and my fervent prayers that Almighty God will confirm this nation and its people in the ways of justice, prosperity and peace. God bless America!
This morning the Holy Father received a welcome on the White House lawn that was actually befitting the Successor of Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, and the Servant of the Servants of God. Since the Reagan Administration, there has been a closeness between Republican administrations and the Holy See in collaborating on world problems. EWTN correspondent Raymond Arroyo warned the American press that this visit was not going to be some sort of "finger-wagging" at the President. Certain of the Leftist press were insistent on the notion that the Pope was going to use the occasion to chastise the President, but I doubt they understand that the Holy Father and the President see eye-to-eye on much more than they disagree.
John Paul II visited the White House under Jimmy Carter, but no Pope has received the kind of welcome that truly befits the office from a Democrat. That party is frightened of God and its so-called Catholics run from the Church and from the Holy Father as though the Church is a plague and they are ashamed of the Pope.
In recent days, no small number of loudmouth schismatics and heretics have infected the airwaves claiming that the Church is "out of touch" and that "we need more democracy in the Church." Christ did not say to Peter "upon this Rock I will build a democracy." The truth is not a matter for a majority vote. Christ established a Church, not a democratic state. If you fancy yourself a Catholic and you think the Church ought to be a democracy, that would make you a Protestant by definition-I know plenty of good Protestants, many of whom support me and my work. It is fine if that is what you want to be, but don't claim to be a Catholic anymore if you don't want to obey the precepts of the Church.
The President's brother is a good Catholic, it should be remembered (and Jeb is also a Brother Knight). It is quite clear that the President has the kind of respect for the Church that the Church merits, but beyond that, it is at occasions like this that one can tell that the President is, in spite of his many faults, a believer in Christ.
As for obedience and fidelity to the Holy Father, I am not ashamed of the Gospel and I am not ashamed of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Further, I love the Holy Father and I pledge my undying loyalty and obedience to the Vicar of Christ Benedict XVI, and his successors according to law. I'm not ashamed to admit that, either. Unlike some so-called Catholic "leaders," I am unwilling to sacrifice the Truth on the altar of electoral victory.
John McCain has decided that a gas tax holiday for the summer would be just the ticket to ease gas prices and lower Americans' overall tax burden-if only temporarily:
To help people weather the downturn immediately, McCain urged Congress to institute a "gas-tax holiday" by suspending the 18.4 cent federal gas tax and 24.4 cent diesel tax from Memorial Day to Labor Day. By some estimates, the government would lose about $10 billion in revenue. He also renewed his call for the United States to stop adding to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and thus lessen to some extent the worldwide demand for oil.
McCain's proposal is a fine idea, and his staff is apparently drafting a bill to this effect which, as we all know, is not likely to pass. People in the party opposite, as well as some Republicans and State Governors clamoring for highway money will surely oppose the legislation. McCain has to know this as well, but as both a Senator and as a candidate for the presidency, he is certainly right to raise the critical issue of gasoline tax relief at a time of serious economic downturn when Americans need both basic tax relief and relief from the high cost of fuel (since the latter leads to nearly every shipped commodity costing more money).
Knowing that his proposal will not pass, but that it is an issue that needed to be raised for the good of the American people, we now must ask a fair question: The price of fuel is not likely to drop significantly between now and next January, so can we trust that a President McCain will move to relieve Americans of the federal gas tax until the dollar and the economy stabilize?
Barack Obama thinks people in Middle America "cling to guns or religion or antipathy," and if nominated may have successfully turned every hamlet and country precinct in the nation metallic racecar red. Adam Graham, John McJunkin, Fabian Story, and Hatton Humphries join a roundtable discussion.
Today the Holy Father will arrive in Washington at around 3:30pm. The anticipation of this apostolic visit has been building for many months, and the Knights of Columbus have collectively gotten in on the act by dedicating all First Degrees to the Pope between now and June. I came very close to petitioning the Chancery of the Diocese of Knoxville for a ticket allotment to one of the D.C. public events (I didn't want to bother with the mess that will be New York), but Nicole could not have guaranteed that she could get the time off.
This is a diplomatic visit for the Pope, however. He will be meeting the President and addressing the United Nations while he is here. The other pastoral events are the things a Pope can be expected to do-he's not going to visit some place for a summit of world leaders and not make Christ the center of his activities. For the Pope to visit any American city (or any city in the world, for that matter) on a purely pastoral visit, he has to be invited to do so.
The local bishop is who invites the Pope to come to a community for a pastoral visit, and he usually does so when he visits Rome for his ad limina visit (a trip to Rome for prayer at the major basilicas and meetings with the Pope that takes place every five years or so). The Diocese of Knoxville currently has no bishop, and we anxiously await word as to who that person will be. Whenever the next bishop is appointed, perhaps he should keep in mind that John Paul II once visited Columbia, South Carolina-a place with about as many Catholics as Knoxville.
I'm sure our new bishop, whoever he may be, will be looking for ways to get his flock fired up and energized-and all new bishops say they want to "bring the Church closer to the people." I really can't think of a better way to do that than a Papal visit to Rocky Top. The next bishop really ought to consider inviting the Holy Father to come to Knoxville.
Somehow I don't think that the University of Tennessee will have much of a problem lending Neyland Stadium out for a Pontifical Mass. I doubt accommodations will be much of a problem, either. Some hotels can brag that the President stayed there, not many can say that the Vicar of Christ took up residence for a couple of days on the top floor. I think the Diocese of Knoxville could pull it off, and would Mayor Haslam and Mike Ragsdale really want to say no to having the Pope in town just for a day or two, even with the traffic and the security?
Knoxville and East Tennessee would never be the same again-and I think we could pull it off. If John Paul could go to Columbia, South Carolina, Benedict XVI can come to Knoxville.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in the United States of America,
The grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you! In just a few days from now, I shall begin my apostolic visit to your beloved country. Before setting off, I would like to offer you a heartfelt greeting and an invitation to prayer. As you know, I shall only be able to visit two cities: Washington and New York. The intention behind my visit, though, is to reach out spiritually to all Catholics in the United States. At the same time, I earnestly hope that my presence among you will be seen as a fraternal gesture towards every ecclesial community, and a sign of friendship for members of other religious traditions and all men and women of good will. The risen Lord entrusted the Apostles and the Church with his Gospel of love and peace, and his intention in doing so was that the message should be passed on to all peoples.
At this point I should like to add some words of thanks, because I am conscious that many people have been working hard for a long time, both in Church circles and in the public services, to prepare for my journey. I am especially grateful to all who have been praying for the success of the visit, since prayer is the most important element of all. Dear friends, I say this because I am convinced that without the power of prayer, without that intimate union with the Lord, our human endeavours would achieve very little. Indeed this is what our faith teaches us. It is God who saves us, he saves the world, and all of history. He is the Shepherd of his people. I am coming, sent by Jesus Christ, to bring you his word of life.
Together with your Bishops, I have chosen as the theme of my journey three simple but essential words: "Christ our hope". Following in the footsteps of my venerable predecessors, Paul VI and John Paul II, I shall come to United States of America as Pope for the first time, to proclaim this great truth: Jesus Christ is hope for men and women of every language, race, culture and social condition. Yes, Christ is the face of God present among us. Through him, our lives reach fullness, and together, both as individuals and peoples, we can become a family united by fraternal love, according to the eternal plan of God the Father. I know how deeply rooted this Gospel message is in your country. I am coming to share it with you, in a series of celebrations and gatherings. I shall also bring the message of Christian hope to the great Assembly of the United Nations, to the representatives of all the peoples of the world.
Indeed, the world has greater need of hope than ever: hope for peace, for justice, and for freedom, but this hope can never be fulfilled without obedience to the law of God, which Christ brought to fulfillment in the commandment to love one another. Do to others as you would have them do to you, and avoid doing what you would not want them to do. This "golden rule" is given in the Bible, but it is valid for all people, including non-believers. It is the law written on the human heart; on this we can all agree, so that when we come to address other matters we can do so in a positive and constructive manner for the entire human community.
I direct a cordial greeting to Spanish-speaking Catholics and manifest my spiritual closeness, in particular to the youth, the ill, the elderly and those who are in moments of difficulty of feel themselves in need. I express my heartfelt desire to be with you soon in this beloved nation. In the meantime, I encourage you to pray intensely for the pastoral fruits of my imminent apostolic trip and to keep high the flame of hope in the resurrected Christ.
Dear brothers and sisters, dear friends in the United States, I am very much looking forward to being with you. I want you to know that, even if my itinerary is short, with just a few engagements, my heart is close to all of you, especially to the sick, the weak, and the lonely. I thank you once again for your prayerful support of my mission. I reach out to every one of you with affection, and I invoke upon you the maternal protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Que la Virgen María les acompañe y proteja. Que Dios les bendiga. [May the Virgen Mary accompany and protect you. May God bless you.]
A few days ago, at a San Francisco fundraiser, Barack Obama described Americans who live in small towns or other areas that have experienced a loss of jobs as "bitter" people, adding that it didn't surprise him that they, "..cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
These hard working men and women aren't "bitter". They love their country, their faith, their family and their traditions. They are the heart and soul of this country, the foundation of our strength and the primary authors of its essential goodness - Barack Obama should get to know them.
If Barack Obama is the Democrat nominee in the general election, the American people will have a clear choice between two different visions - Senator Obama's liberal, elitist philosophy and John McCain's faith in the small town values that continue to make America great. John McCain will not forget them or write them off. Neither should Barack Obama.
It is a pleasant surprise to see that someone in the McCain camp has finally grown some intestinal fortitude. It is also clear from the tone of this fundraising letter that John McCain is preparing for a General Election in which Barack Obama will be his opponent. McCain appears ready to do exactly what I predicted he would do, which is the reverse of the conventional political norm: He ran to the center in the primaries, but during the General Election John McCain will run to and campaign from the Right.
For once, I agree with Knoxville News-Sentinel editor Jack McElroy-at least in part. He wrote an interesting response to a gentleman who is a newcomer to Knoxville whose complaints about the News-Sentinel were not the typical rants you might read of here. Instead, this fella doesn't like it that East Tennessee's biggest newspaper actually covers the local news from an East Tennessee perspective:
I am a new subscriber to the News Sentinel. I must say I am surprised. I have never been exposed to a newspaper that is so, well......local. Reading your headlines is like asking a local resident for directions. If you don't know the local history or rumor behind many of your stories, you are totally lost. Just like if you don't know where "Old Uncle John's Barn" used to be down by where Betty used to have her "Dippy Dew" beauty shop, then you need not bother asking directions."
I shall say of this person what I am sure Jack McElroy does not feel at liberty to say-this person surely must be a moron of the first-rate. A local newspaper's primary job is to cover the news from a local perspective, and the more local it is the better the paper is likely to be. If you actually live in East Tennessee for any length of time, you'll get used to what things mean and how the news gets reported. If you don't like it, don't read the paper, or for that matter don't watch the local television news. If you're really that up in arms about it, you don't have to live here, either.
Now the part where McElroy is wrong:
I expect the News Sentinel to become more locally focused in the years ahead. The reason: local content is our niche. It's the only product we can produce that customers can't get elsewhere.
There are all kinds of places where local consumers can get local news, information, and content that is as good (and usually better) than what the News-Sentinel is producing. Between Tennessee's rich State and local blogosphere, and dozens of free news and information sites other than the News-Sentinel, East Tennesseans have a multitude of local information options, so we can "get it elsewhere."
The News-Sentinel is the newspaper of record for much of East Tennessee, however. The biggest problem with that is that there is no real competition for the News-Sentinel as the East Tennessee paper of record. Knoxville and/or East Tennessee really needs a second major newspaper. The Knoxville Journal with its traditionally Republican editorial outlook provided the newsroom competition to make the Sentinel better. What remains of the Journal now is a weekly rag that barely gets the news it covers right, and has long fallen into disrepute. Its days as the regular Republican editorial voice for East Tennessee are long behind it-it has been reduced to running stories like this.
An interesting rumor that I have heard in recent weeks is that a consortium of people may be readying themselves to start a number of small "Today" newspapers in small towns and communities across East Tennessee. One of these papers may be called White Pine Today, I've been told. If there is any truth to the story that some folks are about to launch a small paper in this town, they might consider giving it a name that reflects the town's heritage. Years ago, White Pine had its own paper-it was called the White Pine Enterprise. It is no longer in publication, and to my knowledge no one holds the rights to that name. Perhaps a White Pine paper should again be called The Enterprise.
Political insiders differed on whether Obama's comments, which came to light Friday, would become a full-blown political disaster that could prompt party leaders to try to steer the nomination to Clinton even though Obama has more pledged delegates. Clinton supporters were eagerly hoping so.
They handed out "I'm not bitter" stickers in North Carolina, and held a conference call of Pennsylvania mayors to denounce the Illinois senator. In Indiana, Clinton did the work herself, telling plant workers in Indianapolis that Obama's comments were "elitist and out of touch."
It doesn't matter how Obama "meant" his comments, they were wholly inappropriate. The Democratic Party can't play the game of class warfare anymore, and from the tone and tenor of Obama's words, it sounds like he and the Democratic Party are the ones who are bitter.
Barack Obama's address in which he said that people in Middle America "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them," and that we "get bitter" was directed at a group of rich, well-educated San Francisco liberals. There is nothing wrong with being wealthy or well-educated, but the Democratic Party claims to be the party of the common man, the party of working people, and even the party of small-town America. This is a political party whose leaders know little about the America they are claiming to be representative of, and that shows in the attitude reflected in the comments from Obama and those in the Democratic Party who are like him. This is not a mentality that is exclusive to Obama, but it is a widespread feeling within the socio-political circles of the Left-the people who run the national Democratic Party. These folks believe that they can dish a bunch of class warfare rhetoric to those of us out in Real America, and that will be enough to get us to vote with them. When we do not do so, the elitist side of the Left shows when they accuse us of not voting our economic or social best interest.
Who died and gave these people the right to determine just what our best interests happen to be? Apparently, the almighty oligarchy of the intellectual Left has a better idea of our interests than we do. People in the Heartland can sense that the Left has a general "we're better than you" attitude about them. Barack Obama gave public voice to that reality in San Francisco. Obama will now get drubbed in Pennsylvania. If he is nominated, the Republicans will destroy him in the fall.
The Benedictine Monks of Conception Abbey chanting the Regina Caeli during the Easter Season:
Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia. For He whom you did merit to bear, alleluia. Has risen, as he said, alleluia. Pray for us to God, alleluia. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia. For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.
Let us pray. O God, who gave joy to the world through the resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, grant we beseech Thee, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, His Mother, we may obtain the joys of everlasting life. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
"You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them," Obama said. "And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
The McCain campaign also (ironically) pounced on the report from the Huffington Post, a liberal blog. "It shows an elitism and condescension towards hardworking Americans that is nothing short of breathtaking," McCain adviser Steve Schmidt toldPolitico. "It is hard to imagine someone running for president who is more out of touch with average Americans."
Hillary Clinton jumped on the issue through her surrogates in North Carolina, but it is said the issue isn't sticking among Democratic voters there:
But the issue doesn't seem to be sticking. Clinton himself has been silent on the issue. But at the first two events of the day, the campaign has sent one of Carolina's hometown boys out to push the issue before Clinton takes the stage. Tom Hendrickson, a Clinton supporter and former Democratic Party chairman, included a reading of Obama's comments in his introduction of Clinton.
"Senator Obama, don't pity us and think that we're bitter and frustrated," he said in Winterville this morning. "We are hard-working family folks who are smart, and we get it. We don't need pundits to tell us what to think."
I don't think the issue will stick-in the remaining Democratic primaries after Pennsylvania. Obama has managed to hand the McCain campaign a winning General Election strategy if McCain will use it. He can now successfully paint Barack Obama as totally aloof and completely removed from the realities of Middle America.
If this is played right, every little hamlet and country precinct in the Union has just turned fire engine red.
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