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10 must-read quotations from Pope Francis: portrait of a forceful thinker

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March 15, 2013 (Mercatornet.com) - Who is Jorge Bergoglio, the new Pope? What does he think about contemporary issues? The handful of translated quotes which constitute his work in English up to now do not give a rounded idea of what he thinks. Here are a few paragraphs from his 2011 book Sobre el cielo y la tierra (On heaven and earth). It is a wide-ranging dialogue with a well-known Argentinian rabbi, Abraham Skorka, on religious and social topics.  

The future of religion

There have been worse times for religions than the present. Nonetheless they pulled through. Perhaps nowadays there is a scarcity of religious people, but there were times in the past when there was a scarcity of virtue. There have been corrupt times in the Church… There were very difficult times and nonetheless religion revived. Suddenly there appear people like Teresa of Calcutta who revolutionise the notion of personal dignity, who spend their time… helping people to die. These deeds create mysticism and renew the religious sense.

In the history of the Catholic Church, the true renovators are the saints. They are the true reformers, the ones who change, transform, lead and revive spiritual paths. Another example: Francis of Assisi, who introduced a new attitude towards poverty in Christianity when faced with the luxury, pride and vanity of the civil and ecclesiastical powers of the time. He introduced a mysticism of poverty, of detachment, and he changed history.

Poverty

When you pick up a volume of the social teaching of the Church you are amazed at what it condemns. For example, it condemns economic liberalism. Everyone thinks that the Church is against Communism, but it is as opposed to that system as it is to the savage economic liberalism which exists today. That is not Christian either and we cannot accept it. We have to search for equality of opportunities and rights, to fight for social benefits, a dignified retirement, holidays, rest, freedom for trade unions. All of these issues create social justice. There should be no have-nots and I want to emphasise that the worst wretchedness is not to be able to earn your bread, not to have the dignity of work.

Globalisation

If we think of globalisation as a billiard ball, the rich virtues of each culture will be destroyed. The true globalisation which we have to defend is like a polyhedron, in which everyone fits, but each one keeps their particular characteristics, which, at the same time, enrich the others.

Same-sex marriage

There have always been homosexuals. The island of Lesbos is known as a place where homosexual women lived. But never in history has anyone sought to give it the same status as marriage. Whether it was tolerated or not, whether it was admired or not, no one regarded it as equivalent. We know that in moments of great change, the phenomenon of homosexuality increased. But this is the first time that anyone posed the legal possibility of equating it with marriage. I regard it as a retrograde step, anthropologically speaking. I am saying this because it transcends the religious question; it is an anthropological one. If a union is private, no third parties or society are affected. But now that it has been given the status of marriage and given facilities for adoption, children will be affected. Everyone needs a masculine father and a feminine mother to help them shape their identity.

Euthanasia

Catholic morality says that one must do what is needed, the ordinary things, for someone whose life is drawing to a close. Quality of life should be assured. The power of medicine for terminal cases is not fundamentally in making someone live three days longer or two months longer, but in ensuring that the organism suffers as little as possible. One is not obliged to preserve life with extraordinary means. That can go against the dignity of the person.

Euthanasia is something different; it is killing. I believe that nowadays there is a hidden euthanasia: the health services pay up to a certain level of treatment and then they say “may God look after you”. An elderly person is not cared for as he or she ought to be and ends up on a scrap heap. Sometimes the patient is deprived of medicine and ordinary care and that kills them….

In Catholic moral teaching, no one is obliged to use extraordinary means to get better. We are talking about hanging onto a life which one knows is no longer a life. As long as recovery is possible, we do all that we can. But it is proper to use extraordinary means only if there is some hope of recovery.

The elderly

In our society we used to speak of the oppressors and the oppressed. As time passed, we realised that this framework was inadequate and we had to add another, those who are included and those who are excluded. Today things have become much worse and we need to add another framework: those who are needed and those who aren’t. In a culture driven by consumerism, hedonism and narcissism, we have become used to looking upon people as useless….

God must love old age a lot because someone who treats his parents respectfully is heaped with blessings. At 74, I am about to enter old age and I’m not reluctant. I am getting ready for it and I want to be vintage wine, not sour wine. The bitterness of an old man is the worst of all, because it is beyond the point of no return. An old man is called to peace, to tranquillity. I ask this grace for myself.

Abortion

The moral problem of abortion is of a pre-religious nature because the genetic code is written in a person at the moment of conception. A human being is there. I separate the topic of abortion from any specifically religious notions. It is a scientific problem. Not to allow the further development of a being which already has all the genetic code of a human being is not ethical. The right to life is the first among human rights. To abort a child is to kill someone who cannot defend himself.

Hope

You cannot acquire the virtue of hope by yourself; the Lord must give it to you. But another thing is how we use it, administer it, accept it... The way we look at it, hope is one of the three theological virtues, along with faith and charity. We normally give more importance to faith and charity. However, hope is what structures our path in life. One danger is that we fall in love with the path and lose sight of the goal; another danger is quietism: to be looking at the goal and doing nothing on the path. Christianity has experienced times when there were powerful quietist movements. These go against the commandment of God which says that we have to transform the world, to work.

Science

Science has its own autonomy and it must be respected and encouraged. We should not meddle with scientists’ autonomy. Unless, that is, they step outside the  boundaries of their own fields and step into the transcendent. Science is fundamentally a tool for the commandment received from God which says, increase, multiply and dominate the earth. Within its autonomy, science transforms a world without culture into a world with culture. But we must take care. When the autonomy of science is unaware of its own limits and steps out of bounds, its own creation can slip from its hands. This is the story of Frankenstein.

Religion in state schools

In the Bible, God presents himself as a teacher. “I myself taught Ephraim to walk, I myself took them by the arm,” it says. A believer is obliged to raise his children. Every man and every woman has a right to educate their children in their religious values. When a government deprives children of this formation, it can lead to cases like Nazism, when children were indoctrinated with values which were alien to the ones held by their parents. Totalitarianism tends to take over education to feather its own nest…

Translation by MercatorNet. Reprinted under a Creative Commons License.



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Claire Chretien Claire Chretien

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Texas AG to Target: Show me how you’ll protect women and kids from criminals

Claire Chretien Claire Chretien

AUSTIN, Texas, May 5, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – The latest backlash Target received as a result of its transgender bathroom policy was a letter from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asking the company to provide its safety policies to protect women and children from “those who would use the cover of Target’s restroom policy for nefarious purposes.” 

“Target, of course, is free to choose such a policy for its Texas stores,” Paxton wrote in a letter to Target CEO Brian Cornell. He noted the possibility of the Texas Legislature addressing the issue in the future, but said, “regardless of whether Texas legislates on this topic, it is possible that allowing men in women’s restrooms could lead to criminal and otherwise unwanted activity.”

“As chief lawyer and law enforcement officer for the State of Texas, I ask that you provide the full text of Target’s safety policies regarding the protection of women and children from those who would use the cover of Target’s restroom policy for nefarious purposes,” Paxton continued.

More than 1.1 million people have pledged to boycott Target over its new policy allowing men to access women’s bathrooms.  Opponents of the policy worry that it puts women and children at risk by emboldening predators, who may now freely enter women’s restrooms. 

Target’s new policy is “inclusive,” the company claims, and they say “everyone…deserves to be protected from discrimination, and treated equally.” 

“Texans statewide can no longer be silent on the issue of protecting the safety of women and children,” Texas Values President and Attorney Jonathan Saenz said in a statement Wednesday urging Texans to boycott Target.  This is the first time in its history the pro-family group has called for a boycott. 

“We need all Texans to understand that Target is using this radical change in their store policy to try convince people that our laws should be changed in this dangerous direction as well,” said Saena.  “Our goal with this boycott is for Target to change its dangerous new policy, to raise awareness of the real threats to safety that these policies bring and to help businesses and lawmakers understand the significant opposition to such measures that is growing daily… Texans all across our state must join this Boycott Target effort before someone gets hurt.”

On Tuesday a male allegedly filmed an underage girl at a Frisco, Texas, Target fitting room.  Police are searching for the man. 

There have been numerous incidents of male predators across North America accessing women’s facilities and citing transgender policies as allowing them to do so.  



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Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party, represents virtually everything the Republican Party has typically defined itself over against a katz / Shutterstock.com
Albert Mohler

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Christians, America has reached a crisis point. Are you ready to take up this challenge?

Albert Mohler

May 5, 2016 (Albert Mohler) -- For nearly two and a half centuries, Americans have enjoyed the enormous privilege and responsibility of forming our own government—a privilege rarely experienced throughout most of human history. For most of history, humanity has struggled with the question of how to respond to a government that was essentially forced upon them. But Americans have often struggled with a very different reality; how do we rightly respond to the government that we choose? 

To put all of this in historical perspective, the Framers of the American experiment understood that a representative democracy built on the principle of limited government would require certain virtues of its citizens. These would include a restraint of passions and an upholding of traditional moral virtues, without which democracy would not be possible. As the idea of limited government implies, the citizenry would be required to carry out the social responsibilities of the community without the intrusion of government and, thus, citizens would be expected to have the moral integrity necessary for such an arrangement. The Framers of the American Republic also agreed that it would be impossible to have a representative democracy and a limited government if the people did not elect leaders who embodied the virtues of the citizenry while also respecting and protecting society’s pre-political institutions: marriage and family, the church, and the local community.

Thus, the idea of a limited government requires that society uphold and pursue the health of its most basic institutions. When a civil society is weak, government becomes strong. When the family breaks down, government grows stronger. When the essential institutions of society are no longer respected, government demands that respect for itself. That is a recipe for tyranny.

Much of this was essentially affirmed until the early decades of the 20th century when progressivists began promoting an agenda that fundamentally redefined the role of the federal government in public life. By the middle of the 20th century, the Democratic Party had essentially embraced this progressivist agenda, becoming committed to an increasingly powerful government—a government whose powers exceeded those enumerated in the Constitution. At the same time, the Democratic Party also began advocating for a basic redefinition of the morality that shaped the common culture. By and large, however, the Republican Party continued to maintain a commitment to the vision of America’s founders, advocating for a traditional understanding of morality while also upholding the principle of limited government.

By the 1980s, the two parties represented two very different worldviews and two very different visions of American government. For decades, each party has acted rather predictably and in ways that accord with their fundamental principles. All of that, however, has now changed.

The 2016 presidential campaign has developed in an entirely unpredictable manner and, in many respects, represents a crisis in American democracy. This crisis is not limited to either party. Bernie Sanders, the Independent senator from Vermont, has won several stunning victories in the primary season over presumed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. While it is still extremely likely that Clinton will become the Democratic nominee, Sanders support among voters represents a populist flirtation with Democratic Socialism. This pattern is something few Democrats could have imagined just one year ago. What this foray into Democratic Socialism represents, then, is a radical adjustment of the Democratic Party’s basic economic principles. Thus, even if Hillary Clinton becomes the nominee, the process will likely drag her even further to the left, eventually redefining the Democratic Party before our very eyes.

But if it is remarkable to see what is happening in the Democratic Party, it is absolutely shocking to see what is happening among Republicans. Traditionally, the Republican Party has established its reputation by standing for the principles advocated by the American Founders—limited government upheld by the health of society’s primary institutions such as marriage, family, and community. Yet Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party, represents virtually everything the Republican Party has typically defined itself over against. Clearly, both political parties are now redefining themselves. What is not clear is where each party will ultimately end up. What is also not clear is whether the American experiment can survive such radical political change.

As already noted, the American experiment in limited government requires that the citizenry and those who hold public office honor certain moral virtues and respect the institutions that are crucial for a society to rightly function. Yet, we now find ourselves in a situation where the three leading candidates for president show little to no respect for such institutions in their articulations of public policy.

This fundamental redefinition of the American political landscape requires Christians to think carefully about their political responsibility. Make no mistake; we cannot avoid that responsibility. Even refusing to vote is itself a vote because it privileges those who do vote and increases the value of each ballot. In truth, we bear a political responsibility that cannot be dismissed or delegated to others. Every Christian must be ready to responsibly steward his or her vote at the polls.

To put the matter bluntly, we are now confronted with the reality that, in November, Hillary Clinton will likely be the Democratic nominee and Donald Trump the Republican nominee. This poses a significant problem for many Christians who believe they cannot, in good conscience, vote for either candidate. As a result, Christians are going to need a lot of careful political reflection in order to steward their vote and their political responsibility in this election cycle.

Headlines from around the world tell us that other representative democracies are at a similar moment of redefinition. Political turmoil now marks the United Kingdom and also nations like France and other key American allies. Perhaps democracy itself is now facing a crucial hour of decision and a crucial season of testing. It is no exaggeration to say that democracy is being tested around the world; it is certainly being tested here at home. Yet if this is a moment of testing for democracy, it is also a crucial moment for Christian witness. This election cycle is going to be a particular test for American Christians—and we are about to find out if Christians are up to this challenge.

Reprinted with permission from Albert Mohler.



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Ben Johnson Ben Johnson Follow Ben

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‘Sick and twisted’: Scientists keep embryos alive outside womb up to 13 days for experimentation

Ben Johnson Ben Johnson Follow Ben

May 5, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Two teams of scientists have announced that they have been able to keep human embryos alive outside the womb for 13 days for the purpose of conducting scientific experiments. Some call the announcement the onset of a “Brave New World,” while others are petitioning lawmakers to lift sanctions that would keep scientists from experimenting on newly conceived babies even longer.

Researchers from Cambridge University, King's College, and Rockefeller University said in two separate reports that they stopped at 13 days only to avoid violating an internationally accepted law. At least 12 nations restrict the amount of time a newly conceived child may be kept alive in a laboratory to 14 days, the point at which scientists believe “individuality” begins.

The newest development allows scientists to observe newly conceived human beings after the point at which implantation in the womb would have occurred.

Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz, one of the studies' lead researchers, said her team's breakthrough could advance embryonic stem cell research and “can improve IVF success.”

Some scientists have called on the international community to extend the amount of time such experimentation can take place.

“If restrictions such as the 14-day rule are viewed as moral truths, such cynicism would be warranted,” three experts – Insoo Hyun, Amy Wilkerson, and Josephine Johnston – wrote in a commentary published yesterday in Nature magazine. “But when they are understood to be tools designed to strike a balance between enabling research and maintaining public trust, it becomes clear that, as circumstances and attitudes evolve, limits can be legitimately recalibrated.”

Pro-life experts said the experimentation destroys human life and could lead to grave ethical dilemmas by extending the research.

“No human being should be used for lethal experimentation, no matter their age or stage of development,” said Dr. David Prentice, a professor of molecular genetics and an Advisory Board Member for the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center. “The 14-day rule is itself arbitrary, and does not assuage those who believe life begins at the moment of sperm-egg fusion. Moreover, allowing experiments on human embryos beyond 14 days post-fertilization risks the lives of untold more human beings, because it further encourages creation and destruction for research purposes.”

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, called the experimentation “sick and twisted.”

“Science has undeniably proven that a new human life, with unrepeatable DNA, begins at conception,” she said. “There is no reason for experimentation on that human life and science itself should not be heralding thae fact that a tiny human being can survive now for two weeks outside of the womb, all for the sole purpose of experimentation.”

Dr. Prentice noted that embryonic stem cell research “has yielded no benefit thus far,” leading even its most vocal advocates, such as Michael J. Fox, to admit it has not lived up to its promise.

“If this research does not stop at 14 days, where does it stop?” asked Prentice. “This is a risky step which could encourage further eugenic attitudes and actions.”

Dr. Prentice encouraged Congress “to have a full and open debate on the issue of human embryo research before the research community moves further without oversight.”



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