Fr. Peter-Michael Preble

An Orthodox priest salutes Bishop Jenky’s courage

Fr. Peter-Michael Preble
By Fr. Peter-Michael Preble
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One of the fundamental characteristics of a good leader, no, strike that, a great leader is courage. Of all the skills that leaders, especially leaders in the Church, need it is courage. We are faced with an unprecedented attack on religious freedom in this country, and what we need more than anything are leaders who are not afraid to say what needs to be said. We need leaders who put themselves out in front to protect their flocks from attack. We need leaders who will speak the truth in all situations regardless of the consequences of that truth.

I spent twelve years in the Army of the United States, and I served under many leaders. The one thing that distinguished the good ones from the bad ones was courage. I am not talking about courage under fire on the battle-field, but courage to do what had to be done, regardless of the consequences. That is the mark of true leaders: the willingness to risk it all to complete a mission because they know what will happen if they fail. Courageous leaders always have the welfare of those they are leading in the fore-front of their mind and think of themselves only after they think of those they are leading. Their platoon’s or their church’s welfare is more important than their own.

Recently, Daniel Jenky, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Peoria, Illinois preached a sermon in which he said that President Obama was heading down the same road that Hitler and Stalin had taken. He was referring to the change in the HHS mandate that would require religious institutions to provide abortion and contraception coverage regardless of their moral objections. This change, in my opinion and the opinion of many others, is a direct attack on the religious freedom we have always enjoyed in America. I have written on this topic myself and was publicly taken to task by a bishop of my own Church for what I had to say.

(Click “like” if you want to end abortion! )

In that April 14 sermon, Bishop Jenky said that the Church will survive what is being done to her and that many “have tried to force Christians to huddle and hide within the confines of their churches.” It is important to note that those governments that have tried to extinguish the church have all fallen, yet the church continues. As Jenky said.

Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services and health care…

In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, Barack Obama - with his radical, pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a similar path….

Every other Roman Catholic bishop in America has made similar statements saying what the Church should be teaching and speaking what her bishops are speaking.

This takes courage! Shortly after Jenky’s sermon, a left-wing, God-hating group filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service citing the sermon as a violation of the IRS tax code in relation to churches. And the faculty of what used to be a Roman Catholic University, Notre Dame, publicly called on Bishop Jenky to retract his statements but so far he is standing by his words.

I believe we have lost sight of the fact that the Church does not change to fit the culture; the Church is supposed to influence the culture and keep the culture on track. When a church changes to fit what society wants her to believe, she has failed in her mission and confused the people. The Church does not decide matters of faith and morals based on opinion polls; the Church decides on what has been revealed to her by the Holy Spirit and through her long tradition. If the culture needs correction, it is up to the Church, and her authentic teachers, the bishops, to bring that culture back on track. I believe we are where we are as a society, because we, the Church, have not been doing our job effectively.

We can look back at the political takeovers of the last century, and see that one of the first things accomplished was the silencing of the Church. When the Nazis rolled into Poland the Roman Catholic Church gave her assent, because Hitler had promised that the Church would not be affected. Soon after the Nazis arrival, that all changed; the Church began to be persecuted.

The socialist plan will not work unless the government is in control of the moral compass of the people. The moral compass of the people is the Church, the authentic Church and her bishops. Right now, with few exceptions, the Roman Catholic Church is fighting this fight on her own. She has the loudest voice, yes, but this is not a simply a Roman Catholic issue, as the liberal media would like us to believe. This is an issue of religious freedom that will affect all of us in America. If we stay silent, we will end up like the Roman Catholic Church in Poland of the 1940s.

To be a leader means to have the courage that it takes to stand up when needed. Leaders cannot be afraid of the political or economic fallout of teaching and upholding what the Church teaches. The Church is to be counter-cultural and to remind people that we do have a moral code, a code that this country was founded on and, if we are not careful, a code that will become a distant memory.

This moral code is very counter-cultural, and most of the adherents to the Orthodox faith are confused on many of the issues that face them every day. The Orthodox faith is not simply a faith practiced on Sunday or when it is convenient another issue that the faithful need to consider but it is a faith that is lived, a faith that is part of the very fabric of our humanity. We can’t separate our life outside the Church from our life inside the Church, because there should be no difference.

What we need now, more than ever before in the history of America, are leaders who are filled with the power and the boldness of the Holy Spirit, as the apostles were on the day of Pentecost. Courageous, Spirit-filled leaders leading the church and say what needs to be said, whether or not it is politically correct and regardless of the fallout. We need leaders who are not afraid to stand up and say that what is being done is not right and who will tell the world we will not be silenced.

But it is not just up to the leaders of the Church. The laity needs to support its leaders when they come under attack. The Church needs to be defended at all levels of society and everyone needs to be involved in this defense of the faith.

The Church needs courageous leaders who are and will be authentic shepherds of their flock and are, in a very real way, willing to lay down their lives for those that God has entrusted to them. Thanks be to God, the Church does have leaders like this, but we need so many more. We need leaders with the courage and conviction of Bishop Jenky, who will stand up and be counted, and take the government and the faithful to task for what they are doing or not doing.

Throughout Scripture, the image of the shepherd is used as an image of Jesus leading His flock. This image has been repeated throughout the history of the Church in reference to the clergy, who lead the Church as descendants of those very apostles. The shepherd who stands on the hillside is not there for his own gain, but to watch carefully over the flock that God has entrusted to him. He is constantly scanning the horizon for any threat to that flock. He provides the nourishment the flock needs. His first thought in the morning and his last thought at night is about his flock. If left alone, the flock is not able to defend itself. The flock needs the shepherd.

Each bishop of the Church carries a staff like those of the shepherds on the hill-side. That staff is to remind him, and the faithful, that he is there to protect them, nourish them, and lead them at all times. If the shepherd turns away, even for just a moment, he opens the flock up to attack. He needs to be as concerned for the ones in the back of the pack as he is for the ones in the front. The shepherd has to be fearless in the defense of his flock, and he has to be willing to lay down his life to save just one.

We have just completed the holiest week of the Church year. The entire week was spent focusing on the Cross. The hymns of the Church services and the Scripture reads helped us to focus on the events that took place. In a very real way, we walked along side Jesus as He went to His voluntary death. We walked alongside Him as He laid down His life for His flock.

The Romans had used the Cross as a symbol and instrument of terror and death for years. The action of one man, Jesus Christ, transformed it to a symbol of freedom. This symbol we need to cling to. With the Crucifixion of Jesus, the cross changed from a symbol of fear to a symbol of courage. We wear that Cross around our necks as a reminder what Jesus did for us. The Cross has become a symbol of truth, and if we just cling to that symbol, we find the courage that we need.

I was reminded recently that the role of the priest is to be the mediator for his people. When priests or bishops put on their vestments for the liturgy, we are reminded that we are clothing ourselves with the armor of God and preparing for battle. We are warriors in the army of the Lord and we are to use that armor to defend the flock.

More than 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ called twelve men to follow Him and to continue His teaching as the inheritors of His mission on earth. One of those chosen fell into temptation and sold Him into the hands of the enemy, but the others became the voice that has given us the church we have today.

The earliest settlers of America had the courage to leave all that they knew to come to a harsh and uninviting place, simply because they wanted to be able to practice their faith without government interference. For more than 200 years, that has been the law here in America. Recently, with the stroke of a pen, that liberty and freedom has been taken away. For the first time in the history of America, the government has forced the Church to go against her teachings. The wolf is standing close to the flock. We need leaders who are courageous who are not afraid to place themselves between the wolf and the flock.

After all, this is what Jesus did!


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Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus

African researchers warn early sexual activity increases risk of cancers

Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus
By Thaddeus Baklinski

A report on rising cancer rates in Africa delivered at a conference in Namibia last week warned that oral contraceptives and engaging in sexual activity from a young age lead to an increased risk of breast and reproductive system cancers.

Researchers presented the "2014 Integrated Africa Cancer Fact Sheet & Summary Score Card" during the 8th Stop Cervical, Breast and Prostate Cancer in Africa (SCCA) conference, held in Windhoek, Namibia from July 20 to 22, noted that cancer is a growing health problem in many developing countries and that breast and cervical cancer are the most common forms affecting African women.

The report said that sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) play a major role in reproductive system cancers and that young girls who engage in sexual activity risk getting, among other STDs, the human papilloma virus (HPV), some strains of which are linked to cervical cancer.

The report said although HPV infections are common in healthy women, they are usually fought off by the body’s immune system, with no discernible symptoms or health consequences.

The Cancer Association of South Africa points out that of the scores of HPV types, 14 of the more than 40 sexually transmitted varieties are considered "high risk" for causing serious illness, while two, HPV-16 and HPV-18, are linked to cervical cancer.

“Long-term use of oral contraceptives is also associated with increased risk [of cancer], and women living with HIV-AIDS are at increased risk of cervical cancer,” the report said.

Dr. Thandeka Mazibuko, a South African oncologist, told the conference attendees that when an 18-year-old is diagnosed with cervical cancer, “this means sex is an important activity in her life and she indulged from a young age.”

Mazibuko said the standard treatment for cancer of the cervix is seven weeks of radiation therapy.

“After the treatment they cannot have sex with their husbands or partners. They cannot bear children because everything has been closed up. Some may still have the womb but radiation makes them infertile,” Mazibuko said, according to a report in The Namibian.

Statistics from the Cancer Association of Namibia show that cases of cervical cancer have risen from 129 in 2005 to 266 in 2012.

The SCCA Conference theme was, "Moving forward to end Cervical Cancer by 2030: Universal Access to Cervical Cancer Prevention."

In his keynote address, host and Namibian President Hifikepunye Lucas Pohamba urged African countries to help each other to expand and modernize health care delivery in the continent.

"Within the context of the post-2015 Development Agenda and sustainable development goals, the provision of adequate health care to African women and children must be re-emphasized," said the president, according to AllAfrica.

The Namibian leader urged mothers to breastfeed their children for at least six months as a measure to prevent breast cancer.


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Hilary White Hilary White Follow Hilary

Allow ‘lethal injection’ for poor to save on palliative care: Lithuanian health minister

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By Hilary White

Euthanasia is a solution for terminally ill poor people who cannot afford palliative care and who do not want to “see their families agonize” over their suffering, Lithuania’s health minister said last week.

In an interview on national television, Minister Rimantė Šalaševičiūtė added that the Belgian law on child euthanasia ought to be “taken into account” as well. 

Šalaševičiūtė told TV3 News that Lithuania, a country whose population is 77 percent Catholic, is not a welfare state and cannot guarantee quality palliative care for all those in need of it. The solution, therefore, would be “lethal injection.”

“It is time to think through euthanasia in these patients and allow them to make a decision: to live or die,” she said.

Direct euthanasia remains illegal in the Balkan state, but activists tried to bring it to the table in 2012. A motion to drop the planned bill was passed in the Parliament in March that year in a vote of 75 to 14. Since then the country has undergone a change in government in which the far-left Social Democrats have formed the largest voting bloc.

Šalaševičiūtė is a member of Parliament for the Social Democrats, the party originally established in the late 19th century – re-formed in the late 1980s – from Marxist principles and now affiliated with the international Party of European Socialists and Socialist International.

Fr. Andrius Narbekovas, a prominent priest, lecturer, physician, bioethicist, and member of the government’s bioethics committee, called the suggestion “satanic,” according to Delfi.lt. He issued a statement saying it is the purpose of the Ministry of Health to “protect the health and life, instead of looking for ways to take away life.”

“We understand that people who are sick are in need of funds. But a society that declares itself democratic, should very clearly understand that we have to take care of the sick, not kill them,” he said.


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Islamists in Mosul mark Christian homes with an Arabic "N" for Nazarene.
Gualberto Garcia Jones, J.D.

We must open wide our doors to Iraq’s Christians

Gualberto Garcia Jones, J.D.
By Gualberto Garcia Jones J.D.

On July 18, the largest Christian community in Iraq, the Chaldean Catholics of Mosul, were given a grotesque ultimatum: leave your ancestral home, convert to Islam, or die.

All but forgotten by the 1.2 billion Catholics of the world, these last Christians who still speak Jesus’ native tongue of Aramaic and live in the land of Abraham and Jonah are being wiped out before our very eyes.

As a way of issuing a thinly-veiled threat, reminiscent of the Nazi persecution of the Jews, the Arabic letter “N” (for Nazarean) has been painted on the outside of the homes of all known Christians in Mosul.

These threats, issued by the fanatical Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) known for its bloodthirsty rampage of executions, have been taken very seriously by the several hundred thousand Christians in Mosul who have left with little more than the clothes they were wearing. 

At least most of these Christians were able to flee and find temporary protection among the Kurds in their semi-autonomous region.  However the Kurds do not have the resources to defend or shelter the Chaldean Christians for much longer.

On Monday, during an interview on Fox News, Republican U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, who recently joined with 54 other members of the House of Representatives in a letter to President Obama asking him to act to protect these communities, stated that while Iraqi President Maliki had sent military flights to Mosul to evacuate Shiite Muslims, the US has done nothing to protect the Chaldean Christians.  Rep. Wolf also stated emphatically that President Obama has done “almost nothing” about the genocide taking place.

The silence from the White House is deafening.  But the lack of leadership from the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in America has been shocking as well.

Nevertheless, the plight of these Iraqi Christians is beginning to be taken seriously.   This is due in large part to the heroic efforts of local Iraqi religious leaders like Chaldean Patriarch Sako, who has gone on a whirlwind tour of the world to alert us all of the plight of these Iraqi Christians.  In a statement demonstrating his character, he told the Christians of Iraq last week, “We are your shepherds, and with our full responsibility towards you we will stay with you to the end, will not leave you, whatever the sacrifices.”

Before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was launched there were approximately 1.5 to 2 million Christians living in Iraq.  Today, there are believed to be less than 200,000.  The numbers speak for themselves.

Now that the world is beginning to be aware of the genocide in Northern Iraq, many of us ask ourselves: what can we do?  As citizens and as Christians blessed to live in nations with relative peace and security, what can we do?

The answer is quite simple and unexpected.  Demand that our government and church pull its head out of the sand and follow France. Yes, France.  

Yesterday, in a heroic gesture of Christian solidarity that would make Joan of Arc proud, the government of France opened wide its doors to the persecuted Iraqi Christians.  

”France is outraged by these abuses that it condemns with the utmost firmness," Laurent Fabius, France's foreign minister, and Bernard Cazeneuve, France's interior minister, said in a joint statement on Monday.

"The ultimatum given to these communities in Mosul by ISIS is the latest tragic example of the terrible threat that jihadist groups in Iraq, but also in Syria and elsewhere, pose to these populations that are historically an integral part of this region," they added. "We are ready, if they wish, to facilitate their asylum on our soil.  We are in constant contact with local and national authorities to ensure everything is done to protect them.”

The French statement drives home three crucial elements that every government, especially the United States, should communicate immediately:

  1. Recognize the genocide and name the perpetrators and victims.

  2. Officially condemn what is happening in the strongest terms.

  3. Offer a solution that includes cooperation with local authorities but which leads by making solid commitments such as offering asylum or other forms of protection.

With regard to the Church, we should look to the Chaldean Patriarch and the Iraqi bishops who shared their expectations explicitly in an open letter to “all people of conscience in Iraq and around the world” to take “practical actions to assure our people, not merely expressions of condemnation.”  Noticeably, the last section of the letter from the Iraqi bishops, before a final prayer to God, is an expression of thanks to the Kurdish government, which has welcomed them not just with “expressions” of goodwill but, like France, with a sacrificial hospitality.

On Friday, July 25, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops did issue a statement, but unfortunately it lacked much in terms of leadership or solutions.  We should encourage our bishops to do better than that, be bolder and stronger for our persecuted brothers and sisters, name names and offer concrete sacrificial aid. In a word, be more like the French.

In 1553, Rome welcomed the Chaldean church into the fold of the Catholic Church.  Nearly 500 years later, Catholic Americans must find ways to welcome these persecuted people into our country, into our churches, and into our own homes if need be.

I say, I am with you St. Joan of Arc.   I am with you, France.  I am with you, Chaldeans!

Gualberto Garcia Jones is the Executive Director of the International Human Rights Group, a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC, that seeks to advance the fundamental rights to life, the natural family, and religious liberty through international law and international relations. 


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