Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

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Week 52 in Catholic Media, 2013

December 30th, 2013, Promulgated by Diane Harris

This is the final news report for 2013 and, in celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord, we look at hope born anew, even where pain and sin yet prevail.  Often the bad news is so compelling that it makes the headlines, at the expense of covering the good news.  So in the interest of wrapping up 2013 on a high note (realizing, full well, that the news opening 2014 is likely to be much more somber and challenging), this week’s post will cover some high points of 2013 that might be easily missed. 

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The ACLJ (American Center for Law and Justice) in particular has delivered good news of note during 2013.  As we look to worthy organizations to support, the ACLJ shows a persistence and sincerity of purpose around Freedom of Religion issues.  What is especially attractive about the ACLJ is its ability to care about the individual in the midst of major issues — about the high school student whose microphone gets shut off during her Valedictory for mentioning “God,” and for the evangelical pastor still trapped in an Iranian prison for preaching the Gospel, but not forgotten.  Many organizations report the news, but the ACLJ is doing something about it.  In the final analysis, when Catholic priests are arrested for preaching from Romans Chapter 1, or for requiring a firm purpose of amendment in the confessional for forgiveness of popular sexual sins, it may well be the ACLJ which comes to their defense.  The good news is not so much in any individual item as much as it is to the presence of the ACLJ itself.  Among some of its 2013 highlights are:

1.  In God We Trust:  The ACLJ filed an amicus brief on behalf of  41 United States Congressmen, The American Catholic Lawyers Association, and over 87,500 concerned Americans  in support of the U.S. motion to have a case dismissed which was brought by 11 self-identified Atheists and Secular Humanists to have “In God We Trust” stripped from U. S. currency on grounds that it is unconstitutional.   The brief noted that the national motto serves as a reminder that the “source of inalienable rights [is found] in a Creator rather than the government precisely so that such rights cannot be stripped away by government.” Judge Harold Baer of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed the case, concluding that the inclusion of the motto on U.S. currency does not violate the Establishment Clause.  The judge’s decision  reaffirms the understanding that the Establishment Clause does not require the government to ignore the religious principles upon which this nation was founded.  More detail.

2.  False Blasphemy Charge:  The ACLJ (ECLJ) affiliate in Pakistan successfully obtained an acquittal of Pastor Karma Patras,  falsely accused of blasphemy against Islam.  He was arrested in October 2012 and charged with Section 295-A of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) that covers offenses relating to religion or, commonly known as, blasphemy laws, punishing with up to ten years in prison for “[d]eliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.”   He had been invited to address a funeral gathering, sharing Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection. A few hours later, the police arrived and arrested him, saying a Muslim man had accused him of speaking against the Islamic ritual of sacrifice.  A mob surrounded the police station and demanded that he be handed over to them, but the pastor had already been transferred … the local Muslims told his family to leave the village or they would be set on fire.  On June 10, 2013, the Director of ECLJ’s affiliate in Pakistan, filed a petition of acquittal with the Judicial Magistrate’s court. In court the complainant testified that he had mistakenly accused Pastor Karma Patras of speaking against Islam.  The Pastor was acquitted for lack of evidence, but it is clear that without such advocacy this case could have gone very differently. 

3. Bibles to School In September 2013 the ACLJ was contacted by a mother whose son is a fifth-grader in the Los Angeles School Unified District, told by his teacher that he could not read his Bible or bring it to school. With ACLJ’s help the principal was made to understand that the school’s policy is unconstitutional, and allowed the student to bring his Bible to school and read it outside of class time.

4. Ground Zero Cross:   A New York federal judge ruled resoundingly that the Ground Zero Cross presence in the 9/11 Museum did not violate the Establishment of Religion Clause of the Constitution.  The ACLJ called the ruling is “a victory for history and for common sense….The history here is beyond dispute.  Following the 9/11 attacks, rescue workers did discover to Cross in the wreckage, and the Cross did, in fact, become a source of solace not only to workers on the scene but also to Americans across the nation.  Atheists may dislike these historical facts.  They may wish their fellow citizens saw the crossed beams as merely another piece of debris, but their wishes do not change history.”   …  “It is part of the history of the recovery efforts after the 911 attacks.” American Atheists’ lawsuit [would] deny future generations the opportunity to know who we were on 9/11 and what was actually important to many, many Americans after those terrible days.   The American Atheists aren’t dropping their challenge and plan to appeal the trial court’s ruling…”  If so, ACLJ will continue to defend the Ground Zero Cross, “on behalf of the thousands of Americans who want to preserve our heritage, the integrity of our Constitution, and  some measure of common sense in public life.”

5.  Score 7-0 ACLJ vs Obama Administration on HHS Mandate:  In early 2013, the ACLJ filed the first lawsuit against the HHS Mandate on behalf of a for-profit employer, O’Brien Industrial Holdings, required to provide coverage of abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, sterilization, and related education and counseling in their employee health plans, with no religious exemption or accommodation for business owners who believe that providing such coverage is immoral.  In November, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an injunction in favor of Frank O’Brien and his business, allowing  O’Brien to continue operating his business according to his religious beliefs pending the appeal of the case.  The ACLJ has obtained a preliminary injunction in 6 other cases, including from two other federal courts of appeal.  Most recently, Judge Ruben Castillo of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois entered a preliminary injunction protecting clients, Fred and Catherine Hartenbower, and Hart Electric and H.I. Hart, from having to comply with the Mandate. What ACLJ said in the recent motion captures what is at stake in the Mandate challenges pending in federal courts across the country:

“Plaintiffs wish to run their businesses in a manner consistent with their religious values and beliefs, including in the choice of a health plan for themselves and their employees. Plaintiffs’ religious principles and beliefs not only provide that abortion, contraception, and sterilization are immoral, but that directly paying for the use of such products and services through a group health plan is immoral as well.”  …. This is a choice the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment do not allow the federal government to impose on its citizens. If the free exercise of religion means anything, it means the right of citizens to conduct their personal and professional lives in a manner true to their religious beliefs.”

Reflection

There are other items of good news as 2013 ends, though only time will tell in which direction the trend will go.  ACLJ is suing to stop abuse by the Obama Administration for IRS targeting coservatives.  They’ve aided in stopping support of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and  jihadist terrorists in Syria.  And the ACLJ is fighting to end taxpayer support for Planned Parenthood.   We are in a time of major secular wars against religion and, as in most combat, the balance will shift from time to time.  One positive development in 2013 was the reduction in abortions (although the presence of abortifacients makes direct comparsion difficult.)  Nevertheless,  at least 44 abortion clinics – a record number – have closed down in 2013. The number of surgical abortions have fallen from a high of 1.6 million in 1990 to 1.2 million in 2012. The number of abortion-only facilities continues to fall.  Of course, it is hard to see any “good news” at all in the remaining 1.2 million surgical abortions.  Texas passed a much more restrictive law with a cut-off at 20 weeks.  Yes, that is progress, but abortions under 20 weeks is hardly “good news.”  NYS defeated the Cuomo-sponsored extreme abortion law, which is bound to again rear its ugly head.  For every euthanasia bill defeated, another one looms.  Yet, we can only prayerfully work as best we can.  There is no guarantee it will be enough, but not fighting for life and right only ensures the slide into evil accelerates.  So it is not inappropriate to rejoice in small victories, while continuing to work for the larger ones.

We end on a high note from the Pope’s traditional “Ubi et Orbi” given each Christmas as his call to the world, just as the angels called out to those who were still awake at the midnight hour — the shepherds.  Gloria in Excelsis Deo!  Come let us adore Him!

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Ubi et Orbi by Pope Francis on Christmas Day

VATICAN CITY, December 26, 2013 Excerpts.  See also full text.

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors (Lk 2:14)

Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the whole world, Greetings and Happy Christmas!

I take up the song of the angels who appeared to the shepherds in Bethlehem on the night when Jesus was born. It is a song which unites heaven and earth, giving praise and glory to heaven, and the promise of peace to earth and all its people.  I ask everyone to share in this song: it is a song for every man or woman who keeps watch through the night, who hopes for a better world, who cares for others while humbly seeking to do his or her duty.

Glory to God!

Above all else, this is what Christmas bids us to do: give glory to God, for He is good, He is faithful, He is merciful. Today I voice my hope that everyone will come to know the true face of God, the Father who has given us Jesus. My hope is that everyone will feel God’s closeness, live in His presence, love Him and adore Him.  May each of us give glory to God above all by our lives, by lives spent for love of Him and of all our brothers and sisters.

Peace to mankind

The Holy Father mentions people and situations in his prayers:  “… Syria, the Central African Republic,  South Sudan, Nigeria, “rent by constant attacks which do not spare the innocent and defenseless…” and prays for “a favorable outcome to the peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians” and healing for “the wounds of the beloved country of Iraq….,”  for “the displaced and refugees, especially in the Horn of Africa,  eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and for the migrants who died at Lampedusa,” and for “the many children who are kidnapped, wounded and killed and protection for “all the victims of natural disasters, especially the beloved people of the Philippines.”

Pope Francis concludes:  “Let us not fear that our hearts be moved. We need this! Let us allow ourselves to be warmed by the tenderness of God; we need His caress. God’s caresses do not harm us. They give us peace and strength. We need His caresses. God is full of love: to Him be praise and glory forever! God is peace: let us ask Him to help us to be peacemakers each day, in our life, in our families, in our cities and nations, in the whole world. Let us allow ourselves to be moved by God’s goodness.”

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