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May 1, 2009

Stem Cell Sensitivity -- Vatican Agrees with Doug Kmiec -- Obama acting "Cautiously"

Catholic News Service -- Faith & Precedent Column
Douglas W. Kmiec

At the end of May in Washington, D.C., Professor Robert George of Princeton and I, along with former Bush Administration Ambassador to the Holy See Mary Ann Glendon, will be having a public conversation at the National Press Club to evaluate President Obama's wider inclusion of embryonic stem cells in federally-supported medical research.

Each of us, as Catholics, have faith-based reservations to the President's use of embryos, but here is some encouraging news: the Obama administration has just issued its implementing regulations and they head in a noticeably more Catholic-friendly direction.

In his initial press conference, as I saw it, the President had already put off-limits the use of embryonic stem cells for reproductive cloning. Professor George thought the cloning limitation could have been stronger. Either way, the more general Catholic objection to the President's plan was its seeming support for the production of embryos for medical research seeking a cure for Parkinson's disease, cancer, and other illnesses.

The new regulations show even greater ethical sensitivity by the President, now by limiting the use of embryos in the medical research effort as well. Specifically, the regulations provide that only embryos created by couples to treat infertility and that turn out not to be needed may be used. These embryos, of course, would have been discarded if not devoted to medical research.

This is a salutary limitation upon the use of embryos, and if it sounds familiar, it is, because former President George W. Bush did something similar. Neither president thus met the Catholic objection which pertains to the use of any embryo.

President Obama's ethical mitigation was not finished, however. Specifically, he has authorized the National Institute of Health (NIH) to continue to invest several hundreds of millions of dollars in the types of "adult" stem cell research urged by Catholic scientists and doctors as an ethical alternative to the use of embryos.

Finally, in a move totally unexpected, the Obama administration announced informed consent rules that are far more strict -- and retroactive -- than what had been proposed by President Bush. In brief, if researchers do not follow the new informed consent rules, no funding. This may trigger some consternation among medical researchers, but it is a very positive sign that President Obama has been listening -- as he promised -- to the heightened claims of conscience posed by Catholics in the modern medical environment.

As noted, these new stem cell regulations are not yet the full Catholic position specifying the embryo as life's beginning point. Our faith makes a scientific claim and a moral one. As Cardinal Rigali has instructed, life begins with the embryo as "a matter of objective [biological or scientific] fact" and as a "moral" conclusion dependent upon a principle of "natural law accessible to people of good will."

I am especially pleased by Cardinal Rigali's recent letter to Congress highlighting the Pregnant Women's Support Act. The question bears examination however: Why do President Obama and other intelligent, non-Catholic people not agree with us totally?

Good question, and in the forthcoming conversation in Washington, we will more closely examine the source of this Catholic disagreement with our fellow citizens and our President. Taking our cue from Professor Bill Wagner of The Catholic University of America (CUA) who will be our host at the press club, and influenced by the intellectual courage and stature of Notre Dame that earlier in the same month of May will be hearing from the President and of course had invited former Ambassador Glendon as well. I regret Mary Ann felt it necessary not to come to Notre Dame. She will always be welcome at Our Lady's University, and of course, I know Professor George and I remain delighted that she will be in conversation with us. We intend to conduct our conversation as persons of faith witnessing Christ - that is, in a manner slow to judge and answering in love, and without recrimination or partisan suspicion.

May God bless the great Catholic Universities of this land, especially CUA and Notre Dame, for demonstrating how a world-class university can conduct inquiry with an open mind, anchored in faith and informed by reason. And may God bless President Obama for hearing -- and responding -- to the Catholic community. The President's strong motivation to assist in the treatment of devastating illnesses often associated with life's end is only ennobled by his willingness to be more ethically sensitive to the earliest moments of life.


And the Holy Father apparently agrees with Doug Kmiec!!

LOSSERVATORE-OBAMA Apr-29-2009 By John Thavis Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican newspaper said President Barack Obama's first 100 days in office have not confirmed the Catholic Church's worst fears about radical policy changes in ethical areas.

The comments came in a front-page article April 29 in L'Osservatore Romano, under the headline, "The 100 days that did not shake the world." It said the new president has operated with more caution than predicted in most areas, including economics and international relations.

"On ethical questions, too -- which from the time of the electoral campaign have been the subject of strong worries by the Catholic bishops -- Obama does not seem to have confirmed the radical innovations that he had discussed," it said.

It said the new draft guidelines for stem-cell research, for example, did not constitute the major change in policy that was foreseen a few months ago.

"(The guidelines) do not allow the creation of new embryos for research or therapeutic purposes, for cloning or for reproductive ends, and federal funds may be used only for experimentation with excess embryos," it said.

It added that the new guidelines "do not remove the reasons for criticism in the face of unacceptable forms of bioengineering" but are "less permissive" than expected.

The article saw a positive sign in the recent introduction of the Pregnant Women Support Act, which would help women overcome problems that often cause them to have abortions. It was sponsored by a group of pro-life Democrats.

"It is not a negation of the doctrine expressed up to now by Obama in the matter of interruption of pregnancy, but the legislative project could represent a rebalancing in support of maternity," the newspaper said.

May 8, 2009

Archbishop Burke regales fellow conservatives at annual Republican Catholic Prayer Breakfast

Archbishop Raymond Burke, the former steward of the St Louis Archdiocese, flew to Washington to join old friends at the sixth annual Republican Catholic Prayer Breakfast. This event, which was begun by several major fundraisers for the Bush Catholic Outreach effort, was organized again this year by the engineers of the unsuccessful McCain Campaign Catholic effort.

Archbishop Burke did not disappoint his fellow partisans. He spent virtually his whole speech condemning the Democrats, and one in particular. He condemned the University of Notre Dame for continuing its tradition of inviting the President of the United States to speak at their commencement. His remarks were lacking in subtlety, raising up his own brand of Catholicism over that of the majority of Catholics who voted for President Obama. Alluding to Notre Dame, he said the university was "not worthy of the name Catholic."

He condemned same-sex marriage as a threat to family life, but neglected to cite any of the more pressing issues that undermine the viability of the family--such as the closing of Catholic church communities, the barriers to the involvement of fathers in the lives of their children, and the current rapidly expanding unemployment around the world.

His remarks had some embarrassing moments. He stated incorrectly that a set of healthcare rules implemented in the last month of the Bush Administration would compel physicians to perform abortions. He said, "Those in power propose to force physicians and other healthcare professionals--in other words, those with a particular responsibility to protect and foster human life--to participate, contrary to what their conscience requires, in the destruction of unborn human lives, from the first or embryonic stage of development to the moment of birth." Conscience protections have been a matter of US law since the early 1970s, and no one has proposed reversing any of the three major legal structures governing conscience in healthcare.

He also stated that Catholic Hospitals might be compelled to close their doors under new regulations being considered by the current administration. The head of the Catholic Hospital Association has said unequivocally that such exaggeration is wrong and unhelpful.

He stated incorrectly that reversal of the Reagan-era Mexico City Policy would result in US funding of abortions abroad. He spoke twice about a "culture of death," but he made no mention of President Obama's efforts to stop the Iraq War, or the trend away from executions in the US, or the economy that is hurting so many families. He said nothing about the stagnation of abortion rates under President Bush, after a decade of significant progress under President Clinton.

In other words, his speech to a group of Republicans was exactly what the audience was looking for: a condemnation of our President that led the critics to believe that the Church supports the Republican Party. This line of reasoning carried on the previous work of other bishops with Republican sympathies who have spoken critically of the Democrats at this political event in previous years--specifically the bishops of Denver and Kansas City KS.

As intelligent as Archbishop Burke clearly is, he showed no awareness of how severely he has damaged the Church through his longstanding efforts to turn American Catholics against one another. He showed no understanding of the ways he has denigrated the central Sacrament of Catholic life by turning the Eucharist into a political football to be batted around by which ever political party happens to have his favor.

Archbishop Burke is now the prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature at the Vatican. His prominent appearance at a Republican political event like this is akin to someone like Justice Antonin Scalia violating his judical neutrality by attending a major political convention in the US. Perhaps not surprisingly, Justice Scalia was himself also in attendance.

May 17, 2009

Remarks of Rev John Jenkins at Notre Dame's 2009 graduation

Fr John I. Jenkins CSC, president of the University of Notre Dame, offered these remarks on Sunday May 17, at the 2009 Commencement Exercises. In the audience were the 12,000 assembled graduates, family and friends, and a national television audience. His words serev as both an elegant presidential valedictory and as the introduction for the featured speaker, President Barack H. Obama.

"President Obama, Fr. Hesburgh, Judge Noonan, Members of the Board of Trustees, Members of the faculty, staff, alumni, friends, parents, and most of all -- the Notre Dame Class of 2009:
Several autumns ago, you came to Notre Dame from home...now Notre Dame has become home. And it always will be. For home is not where you live. Home is where you belong. You will always belong -- and I pray you will always feel you belong -- here at Notre Dame.

You are ... ND.

In my four years as President of your University -- I have found that even among those who did not go to Notre Dame, even among those who do not share the Catholic faith, there is a special expectation, a special hope, for what Notre Dame can accomplish in the world. They hope that Notre Dame will be one of the great universities in the nation, but they also hope that it will send forth graduates who -- grounded in deep moral values -- can help solve the world's toughest problems.

Their hope is in you, the graduates of 2009.

That is a good place for hope to be. I have great confidence in what your talent and energy can accomplish in the world. But I have a special optimism for what you can do inspired by faith.

It is your faith that will focus your talents and help you build the world you long to live in and leave to your children.

The world you enter today is torn by division -- and is fixed on its differences.

Differences must be acknowledged, and in some cases cherished. But too often differences lead to pride in self and contempt for others, until two sides -- taking opposing views of the same difference -- demonize each other. Whether the difference is political, religious, racial, or national -- trust falls, anger rises, and cooperation ends -- even for the sake of causes all sides care about.

More than any problem in the arts or sciences - engineering or medicine -- easing the hateful divisions between human beings is the supreme challenge of this age. If we can solve this problem, we have a chance to come together and solve all the others.

A Catholic university -- and its graduates -- are specially called, and I believe specially equipped, to help meet this challenge.

As a Catholic university, we are part of the Church -- members of the "mystical body of Christ" animated by our faith in the Gospel. Yet we are also -- most of us -- citizens of the United States -- this extraordinary evolving expression of human freedom. We are called to serve each community of which we're a part, and this call is captured in the motto over the door of the east nave of the Basilica: "God, Country, Notre Dame."

As we serve the Church, we can persuade believers by appeals to both faith and reason. As we serve our country, we will be motivated by faith, but we cannot appeal only to faith. We must also engage in a dialogue that appeals to reason that all can accept.

When we face differences with fellow citizens, we will be tested: do we keep trying, with love and a generous spirit, to appeal to ethical principles that might be persuasive to others -- or do we condemn those who differ with us for not seeing the truth that we see?

The first approach can lead to healing, the second to hostility. We know which approach we are called to as disciples of Christ.

Pope Benedict said last year from the South Lawn of the White House: "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."

Genuine faith does not inhibit the use of reason; it purifies it of pride and distorting self-interest. As it does so, Pope Benedict has said, "human reason is emboldened to pursue its noble purpose of serving mankind, giving expression to our deepest common aspirations and extending ... public debate."

Tapping the full potential of human reason to seek God and serve humanity is a central mission of the Catholic Church. The natural place for the Church to pursue this mission is at a Catholic university. The University of Notre Dame belongs to an academic tradition of nearly a thousand years -- born of the Church's teaching that human reason, tempered by faith, is a gift of God, a path to religious truth, and a means for seeking the common good in secular life.

It is out of this duty to serve the common good that we seek to foster dialogue with all people of good will, regardless of faith, background or perspective. We will listen to all views, and always bear witness for what we believe. Insofar as we play this role, we can be what Pope John Paul II said a Catholic university is meant to be -- "a primary and privileged place for a fruitful dialogue between the Gospel and culture" [Ex corde ecclesiae, 3.34].

Of course, dialogue is never instantaneous; it doesn't begin and end in an afternoon. It is an ongoing process made possible by many acts of courtesy and gestures of respect, by listening carefully and speaking honestly. Paradoxically, support for these actions often falls as the need for them rises -- so they are most controversial precisely when they can be most helpful.

As we all know, a great deal of attention has surrounded President Obama's visit to Notre Dame. We honor all people of good will who have come to this discussion respectfully and out of deeply held conviction.

Most of the debate has centered on Notre Dame's decision to invite and honor the President. Less attention has been focused on the President's decision to accept.

President Obama has come to Notre Dame, though he knows well that we are fully supportive of Church teaching on the sanctity of human life, and we oppose his policies on abortion and embryonic stem cell research.

Others might have avoided this venue for that reason. But President Obama is not someone who stops talking to those who differ with him.

Mr. President: This is a principle we share.

As the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council wrote in their pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes: "Respect and love ought to be extended also to those who think or act differently than we do in social, political and even religious matters. In fact, the more deeply we come to understand their ways of thinking through such courtesy and love, the more easily will we be able to enter into dialogue with them."

If we want to extend courtesy, respect and love -- and enter into dialogue -- then surely we can start by acknowledging what is honorable in others.

We welcome President Obama to Notre Dame, and we honor him for the qualities and accomplishments the American people admired in him when they elected him. He is a man who grew up without a father, whose family was fed for a time with the help of food stamps -- yet who mastered the most rigorous academic challenges, who turned his back on wealth to serve the poor, who sought the Presidency at a young age against long odds, and who -- on the threshold of his goal -- left the campaign to go to the bedside of his dying grandmother who helped raise him.

He is a leader who has great respect for the role of faith and religious institutions in public life. He has said: "Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square."

He is the first African American to be elected President, yet his appeal powerfully transcends race. In a country that has been deeply wounded by racial hatred -- he has been a healer.

He has set ambitious goals across a sweeping agenda -- extending health care coverage to millions who don't have it, improving education especially for those who most need it, promoting renewable energy for the sake of our economy, our security, and our climate.

He has declared the goal of a world without nuclear weapons and has begun arms reduction talks with the Russians.

He has pledged to accelerate America's fight against poverty, to reform immigration to make it more humane, and to advance America's merciful work in fighting disease in the poorest places on earth.

As commander-in-chief and as chief executive, he embraces with confidence both the burdens of leadership and the hopes of his country.

Ladies and Gentlemen: The President of the United States."

May 27, 2009

Catholic Democrats rush to support one of their own in bid for seat on Supreme Court

26 May 2009--Catholic Democrats today applauded President Obama, who surprised court watchers by nominating Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court. Judge Sotomayor would be the sixth Catholic to join the current court, a remarkable departure from just 24 years ago when the court had only a single Catholic justice.

After President Bush nominated two Catholics to fill vacancies during his time in office, most commentators had dismissed the possibility of yet another Catholic joining the Court any time soon. But President Obama, himself a former beneficiary of grant funding from the US Catholic Bishops Conference when he was a community organizer in Chicago, chose a new kind of Catholic for this first opening on the Court--one more faithful in her judicial work to the social Gospel message of Vatican II.

"Not since President Eisenhower picked William Brennan in 1956 has a progressive Catholic been nominated to the Supreme Court," said Dr Patrick Whelan, president of Catholic Democrats. "At a time when a conservative Catholic block on the Court had fought in favor of executing minors, favored indefinite imprisonment, and accommodated torture-derived evidence through military tribunals, Judge Sotomayor represents a new kind of Catholic exemplar on the Supreme Court."

President Obama has now broken new ground with Catholics on many fronts: the most Catholics serving in the Cabinet (nearly 1/3), the first Catholic vice president, and now a sixth Catholic Supreme Court Justice. Steve Krueger, national director of Catholic Democrats, added, "When placed in the context of his Common Ground speech at the Notre Dame Commencement last week, President Obama has moved assertively to bring the common good sensibilities of the Catholic Social Tradition front and center in American public life."

Both of Judge Sotomayor's parents were from Puerto Rico, and she graduated from a Catholic high school in the Bronx. She is a jurist of unusual academic distinction, graduating Summa cum Laude from Princeton, completing law studies at Yale, and teaching law at both New York University and Columbia University.

May 28, 2009

Prof Miguel Diaz selected for Vatican post; 1st theologian to serve

Boston, MA -- Catholic Democrats has praise for the appointment of Dr. Miguel Diaz, Professor of Theology at St. John's University and the College of Saint Benedict near St. Cloud MN, as our nation's next Vatican ambassador. If confirmed, Dr. Diaz would be the ninth ambassador to the Vatican since formal diplomatic relations were established in 1984.

"This appointment serves to emphasize how seriously President Obama takes our relationship with the Vatican," said Dr. Patrick Whelan, president of Catholic Democrats. "Professor Diaz has distinguished himself as a scholar of modern Catholicism, deeply familiar with the documents of Vatican II and their implications for the work of the Church in the world today. By choosing someone who has devoted his life to the Church and to the Catholic Social Tradition, President Obama has sent yet another signal that he plans to engage fully with the Vatican in addressing the whole range of human needs about which both the Church and the Administration share such deep concern."

"Dr. Diaz is passionately engaged in inter-cultural and ecumenical aspects of faith in public life," said Steve Krueger, national director of Catholic Democrats. "His work reflects the spirit of President Obama's call at Notre Dame to embrace 'open minds, open hearts and fair minded words.' President Obama has appointed someone who can help build mutual understanding among Catholics in this turbulent time, particularly when such bridges are so sorely needed."

Born in Havana Cuba and the first in his family to attend college, Dr Diaz would be the first theologian to serve as U.S. ambassador to the Vatican. He shares the legacy of growing up in a Spanish-speaking family with President Obama's newly-announced nominee to the US Supreme Court, Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Both have spoken publicly about the impact of Latino culture on their respective world views.

Professor Diaz is a nationally-recognized scholar who has earned the respect of the breadth of the Catholic community. He served as the Academic Dean at the St Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Florida, is a former president of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States, and currently serves on the Board of the Catholic Theological Society of America.

May 31, 2009

Abortion provider is murdered, and conservative groups rush to evade blame

Dr George Tiller, a Kansas abortion provider, was murdered at the beginning of a religious service in his Lutheran church Sunday morning. He served there as an usher, and his wife sang in the choir. A suspect was said to be in custody in Wichita, where the killing occurred. He is a 51-yr-old man named Scott Roeder, who had a previous criminal record and had blogged on the Operation Rescue website in 2007 about his plans to disrupt Dr Tiller's church.

Leaders of several abortion organizations put out statements condemning the violence. Among them was Fr Frank Pavone, a conservative political activist who had a high profile during the recent controversy at Notre Dame. He said, "We at Priests for Life continue to insist on a culture in which violence is never seen as the solution to any problem."

Fr Pavone might have stopped there. But in an email circulated to his supporters, he listed a series of similar murders that occurred during the 1980s, and said, "The point should not be missed that the killings of other abortionists and their staff ... occurred in an environment in which there was a lot of frustration over the pro-abortion initiatives of President Clinton. Now, there is similar frustration regarding the Obama Presidency and its support of abortion. This is not to blame our Presidents for someone's misguided actions. But neither should we miss what may be emerging as a pattern: when hope diminishes that the government is going to do something to protect the vulnerable, the temptation to take the law into one's own hands increases."

More to the point is the culpability that people like Fr Pavone himself have for this kind of violence, and the fury provoked among conservatives toward President Obama by the extreme language about Democrats and abortion. Despite the expressed intent of President Obama to work collaboratively to decrease the numbers of abortions, Fr Pavone and many other activists with Republican sympathies have condemned the President using the most insulting imaginable terms.

Fr Pavone has also joined conservative political writers like George Weigel and Deal Hudson in a campaign to have the editor of the Vatican newspaper, Giovanni Maria Vian, fired from L'Osservatore Romano because he expressed support for the abortion reduction message President Obama issued week before last at the Notre Dame Commencement.

"It is not enough to denounce violence," said Dr Patrick Whelan, president of Catholic Democrats. "Any Catholic public figure who insults someone else with the 'pro-abortion' label is actually hurting the anti-abortion cause by obstructing common ground solutions, sowing division within our Church, and contributing to the penchant toward violence that was on display again today. There is nothing Catholic about the kind of angry language that falsely blames abortion on our elected officials, when it is our job as people of faith to work constructively toward a society in which no one chooses to have an abortion."

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

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"Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America: They will be met.

"On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

"On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics."

First Inaugural Address, President Barack Obama



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