Archive for the ‘Catholic’ Category

Catholic Bishops Will Challenge Obama, Lawmakers, Nation on Abortion

November 12, 2008

The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops vowed Tuesday to forcefully confront the Obama administration over its support for abortion rights, saying the church and religious freedom could be under attack in the new presidential administration.

Bishop Dale J. Melczek of Gary, Ind., front left, and Archbishop ...
Bishop Dale J. Melczek of Gary, Ind., front left, and Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of St. Paul-Minneapolis, right, pray during the semi-annual meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2008 in Baltimore. The bishops discussed today Catholic politicians and abortion rights.(AP Photo/ Steve Ruark)

In an impassioned discussion on Catholics in public life, several bishops said they would accept no compromise on abortion policy. Many condemned Catholics who had argued it was morally acceptable to back President-elect Obama because he pledged to reduce abortion rates.

And several prelates promised to call out Catholic policy makers on their failures to follow church teaching. Bishop Joseph Martino of Scranton, Pa., singled out Vice President-elect Biden, a Catholic, Scranton native who supports abortion rights.

“I cannot have a vice president-elect coming to Scranton to say he’s learned his values there when those values are utterly against the teachings of the Catholic Church,” Martino said. The Obama-Biden press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of the Diocese of Kansas City in Kansas said politicians “can’t check your principles at the door of the legislature.”

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081112/ap_
on_re_us/rel_catholic_bishops;_ylt=AiMp4
0sZ19EOx_DLM21Ud2MGw_IE

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Catholics probe aid directed to ACORN

November 4, 2008

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has hired forensic accounting specialists to investigate more than $1 million in church funding to voter-registration group ACORN, fearing the money may have been spent in partisan or fraudulent ways that could jeopardize the church’s tax-exempt status.

The investigation is “thorough, serious and ongoing,” according to a July 11 letter to more than 200 bishops from New Orleans Bishop Robert Morin, chairman of the committee that oversees the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

By Julia Duin
The Washington Times

The CCHD sent $1,037,000 to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) in 2007, including a $40,000 grant to an ACORN affiliate in Las Vegas that was raided last month by the Nevada attorney general’s office in a voter-fraud probe.

An investigator enters the ACORN office in Las Vegas, Tuesday, ...
An investigator enters the ACORN office in Las Vegas, Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2008. A Nevada secretary of state’s office spokesman said Tuesday that investigators are looking for evidence of voter fraud at the office.(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The Catholic aid agency has given more than $7.3 million to ACORN over the past decade for about 320 projects, according to the Catholic News Service.

In June, the Catholic Church froze a $1.2 million grant for 38 ACORN chapters after the community-organizing group was accused of voter fraud in 15 states.

State elections officials and the FBI are questioning ACORN workers who submitted voter registration forms signed by Mickey Mouse and members of the Dallas Cowboys football team in their efforts to register voters in low-income neighborhoods, many of whom tend to favor Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama.

Mr. Obama once worked with ACORN as a community organizer and lawyer in Chicago.

“While there is value in registering low-income voters, I am concerned that the whole ban on partisanship has been violated,” Ralph McCloud, the new executive director for the CCHD, said Monday.

Mr. McCloud said he could not reassure Catholics that the funds donated before 2008 were not used in voter fraud.

“There is no way we can tell,” he said. “All our applications go through a rigorous screening, and we ask each organization to commit to being nonpartisan. The overwhelming reality is most of the groups we fund do tremendous work.”

The CCHD draws $9,439,000 a year in “second collections” from Catholic churches, the next one slated for Nov. 23. CCHD funds go to groups that fight poverty, interfaith….

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/
nov/04/catholics-probe-aid-directed-to-acorn/

Due To Sex Scandal; Future Candidates for Catholic Priest Must Meet These Psychological Screening Guidelines

October 31, 2008

The Vatican issued new psychological screening guidelines for seminarians Thursday — the latest effort by the Roman Catholic Church to be more selective about its priesthood candidates following a series of sex abuse scandals.

The church said it issued the new guidelines to help church leaders weed out candidates with “psychopathic disturbances.” The scandals have rocked the church in recent years, triggering lawsuits that have cost hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements.

Three priests cross St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, in this ... 
Three priests cross St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, in this
Oct. 18, 2002 file photo.
(AP Photo/Luciano Del Castillo)

“(The guidelines) became ever more urgent because of the sexual scandals,” Monsignor Jean-Louis Brugues told reporters. He stressed, however, that psychological testing was used in some seminaries as far back as the 1960s — or at least a decade before the sexual abuse scandals exploded in public.

“In all too many cases, psychological defects, sometimes of a pathological kind, reveal themselves only after ordination to the priesthood,” the guidelines said. “Detecting defects earlier would help avoid many tragic experiences.”

The guidelines said problems like “confused or not yet well-defined” sexual identities need to be addressed.

The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests said the Vatican needs to go beyond screening seminarians to end what the group calls the church’s “virtually unchanged culture of secrecy and unchecked power in the hierarchy” that left dangerous priests in parishes.

“Every barrel will always have some bad apples,” the Survivors Network said. “Real change requires effectively reforming the barrel and those who oversee it.”

Vatican officials conducted an evaluation of U.S. Roman Catholic seminaries in response to the abuse crisis to look for anything that contributed to the scandal. The evaluation was completed in July of 2006, but the results have not been made public.

The bishops and seminary staff who conducted the onsite reviews gave special attention to what seminarians are taught about chastity and celibacy. The Vatican also directed the evaluators to look for “evidence of homosexuality” in the schools.

Studies commissioned by the bishops’ conference have found that the majority of known victims of abuse by priests in the last 50 years were adolescent boys. In response, some Catholics have blamed gay clergy for the scandal; experts on sex offenders contend homosexuals are no more likely than heterosexuals to molest children.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081031/ap_on_re_eu/eu_
vatican_screening_priests_12

Archbishop: Obama “Most Committed” Abortion-Rights Candidate, Supporters Do a “Disservice to the Church”

October 20, 2008

Denver Roman Catholic Archbishop Charles Chaput labeled Barack Obama the “most committed” abortion-rights candidate from a major party in 35 years while accusing a Catholic Obama ally and other Democratic-friendly Catholic groups of doing a “disservice to the church.”

 

By ERIC GORSKI
AP Religion Writer

Chaput, one of the nation’s most politically outspoken Catholic prelates, delivered the remarks Friday night at a dinner of a Catholic women’s group.

His comments were among the sharpest in a debate over abortion and Catholic political responsibility in a campaign in which Catholics represent a key swing vote.

The cathedral illuminated at night 

While Chaput has won praise from traditionalist Catholics for stressing opposition to abortion as a foundational voting issue, voices on the Catholic left have sought to apply church teachings to war, poverty, the environment and other issues.

Although the Catholic left is not new, several advocacy groups have either formed or ramped up activities since 2004. Partly, their efforts are a response to attention given to the pro-abortion rights stance of Democrat John Kerry, a Catholic who was criticized by a few bishops who suggested he should be denied or refrain from Communion.

Chaput, without getting into much detail, called Obama the “most committed” abortion-rights major-party presidential candidate since the landmark Roe v. Wade decision on abortion in 1973.

“To suggest—as some Catholics do—that Senator Obama is this year’s ‘real’ pro-life candidate requires a peculiar kind of self-hypnosis, or moral confusion, or worse,” Chaput said according to his prepared remarks, titled “Little Murders.”

The Obama campaign has been promoting an unusual-suspect sort of endorsement from Douglas Kmiec, a Catholic law professor and former legal counsel in the Reagan administration.

Kmiec wrote a book making a Catholic case for Obama. He argues the Obama campaign is premised on Catholic social teaching like care for working families and the poor and foreign policy premised on peace over war. Democratic efforts to tackle social and economic factors that contribute to abortion hold more promise, Kmiec said, than Republican efforts to criminalize it.

While applauding Kmiec’s past record, Chaput said: “I think his activism for Senator Barack Obama, and the work of Democratic-friendly groups like Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, have done a disservice to the church, confused the natural priorities of Catholic social teaching, undermined the progress pro-lifers have made, and provided an excuse for some Catholics to abandon the abortion issue instead of fighting within their parties and at the ballot box to protect the unborn.”

Pro-Obama Catholics “seek to contextualize, demote and then counterbalance the evil of abortion with other important but less foundational social issues,” said Chaput, who wrote a book this year, “Render Unto Caesar,” about Catholics and politics.

Chaput emphasized he was speaking as a private citizen and not as a representative of the Denver archdiocese. The IRS prohibits clergy, in their role as clergy, from supporting or opposing candidates. Chaput already has said that Obama running mate Joe Biden, a Catholic, should not present himself for Communion because of his abortion rights position.

Neither the Obama campaign nor Kmiec immediately responded to requests for comment.

But Chris Korzen, executive director of Washington-based Catholics United, which has argued in direct mail and TV ads that taking the “pro-life” position means more than opposing abortion rights, criticized Chaput’s statements.

“We are concerned that Archbishop Chaput’s comments—even those made in his personal capacity—will have a chilling effect on this dialogue,” Korzen said in a statement. “It is also profoundly unfortunate that Archbishop Chaput has chosen to make personal attacks on lay Catholics acting in good faith to promote Catholic values in the public square.”

Joe Biden, Because He Has No Integrity, Demeans Himself By Attacking Joe the Plumber

October 17, 2008

I have never had any respect and admiration for Joe Biden.  Now I have less.

Oh, he has my genuine sympathy.  But respect?

No.

I went to the Congress about a year before Joe Biden.  I was a lowly staff member working for a member of the House of Representatives. Less that a year after Joe Biden arrived I was outside a meeting room filled with Senators and House members.  Biden and several staffers arrived late.  After Biden went into the meeting, his employees commenced to tell stories about how stupid their boss was for about an hour.

I left in disgust.  Before that I thought all senators were special.

No more.

Democratic vice presidential candidate, Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., ...
Above: Joe Biden hides behind the Obama mantra of “Change.”  But he’s been a Senator from Delaware for some 35 years.  He claims he is a blue collar guy from Scranton, Pa., but he has a multi-million dollar house near his Mom’s in Delaware.  Here he speaks during a campaign rally in Henderson, Nev. on Friday, Oct. 17, 2008.(AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

You’ve witnessed some of Joe Biden at his normal, usual, incredible greatness since Barack Obama thought he needed someone smarter than himself on foreign policy.  You saw, “I have a three letter word for what’s important to Americans! J-O-B-S.”

That’s classic Joe Biden.  He also asked a state legislator who happens to be a paraplegic to “Stand up and take a bow!”

That’s Joe Biden.

But I never really had animosity toward Joe Biden until now.  Before this he only amused me and gained pity and laughter.  Now I have some distain for the man.

Joe Biden decided to pontificate on the issue of abortion at about the time of the Democratic National Convention.  He seemed to be telling Catholics that abortion was OK and his Church was confused.

Pontificating should be left to the Pontiff, Joe.

In fact, Mr. Biden (along with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi)  was confused about abortion and Catholic Church teaching.  Both earned repremands from multiple members of the Church hierarachy.

Did you see Joe Biden at the Catholic Charities dinner hosted by Cardinal Edward Egan last night?  John McCain and Barack Obama were welcome.  Joe Biden wasn’t welcome.  Why?  Because Joe Biden defies Catholic Church law and teaches his own version of Catholic Doctrine.

Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., ...
Above: Where’s Joe Biden? Not welcome.  Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., left, Cardinal Edward Egan, center, and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., laugh during the Alfred E. Smith Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, Thursday, Oct. 16, 2008.(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Biden, it seems, will do just about anything to get himself and Barack Obama elected to higher office.  Biden has forgotten that in politics, and in life, there is a “high road.”  Joe Bien has forgotten what “integrity” means.

So Biden has chosen the low road.

Case in point: Joe the Plumber. 

Joe the Plumber is a regular guy.  Joe the Plumber isn’t a perfect messenger and I love that.  He brought to the fore issues about Barack Obama’s economic and tax plan.

Joe Biden is all over Joe the Plumber like a dirty shirt.  Biden has pointed out that the Plumber lacks a plumbing license, might have a tax lien against him and maybe doesn’t even vote.

Who cares?  Joe the Plumber still got Obama to say what he really believes in: redistributing wealth from those that earn to those that don’t.

On Thursday Joe Biden went to NBC, which is clearly “in the tank” for Obama and not at all impartial, having lost all journalistic integrity, just to trash Joe the Plumber.  Biden opened the day on the “Today Show” and closed the day with Jay Leno.  Trashing Joe the Plumber all the way.

Host Jay Leno, right, and Democratic vice presidential candidate ...
Above: Host Jay Leno, right, and Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., talk during the taping of ‘The Tonight Show With Jay Leno’ at the NBC Studios in Burbank, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 16, 2008. Biden apparently went on Leno’s show just to attack Joe the Plumber…..(AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Biden was trying maybe to kill the messenger and by discrediting him, hoping we’ll all forget about his point: that Obama’s tax and economic plan is socialism that makes no sense to Americans earning a living.

Joe Biden: going after Mister Average should be beneath you.  You should be on the High Road.  But you’re not.

I have more respect for Joe the Plumber than Joe the Jerk Biden.  Any day.

********************

A few after thoughts:

1.  My Dad used to say, “You need a license to drive but not to say stupid things….”

2.  When I called my Vietnamese-born wife (she voted for the first time as a U.S. citizen four years ago) and said, “Joe Biden says Joe the Plumber doesn’t have a license so we shouldn’t believe him,” she responded, “Oh, PLEASE!”

3.


Above: A Plumber sent this to us…

Pope at St. Patrick’s in New York: We Owe Bishop Hughes

April 20, 2008

When the Pope celebrated Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, a TV newsman reminded us that the cornerstone of that magnificent church was laid in 1858.  But I was reminded of one of the men who made that church possible: “Dagger” John Hughes….

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom

John Joseph Hughes (1797–1864), Catholic Archbishop of New York, played three critical roles for Lincoln and the United States during the Civil War. He traveled to Europe in search of able-bodied Irishmen to enlist in the Union Army. He participated in tricky diplomatic missions to France and the Vatican to keep them out of the war. Finally, Hughes used his personal powers of persuasion and clout to help quell the 1863 draft riots in New York.

Archbishop John Hughes is also responsible for starting the project, raising the first monies and laying the cornerstone for St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York — where Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Catholic Mass this week end.

View of the cathedral from Rockefeller Center.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York
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By the time of the Civil War, “Dagger” John Hughes was nearing the end of his influence and his life. He earned the nickname “Dagger” for two reasons: first, he signed his name to include a small cross, often confused for a dagger. Second: Hughes’ hard-nosed style and ability to toughly face difficult challenges earned him the reputation as the “Dagger” of the Irish community in New York.After the Civil War began in 1861, Lincoln desperately needed to keep up a dialogue of understanding with European monarchs. Lincoln wanted to keep European nations from assisting the Confederacy. Lincoln wanted a Catholic of stature to assist him in dealing with the Catholic leaders in Europe. He chose Dagger John Hughes.

Lincoln paired Hughes with Thurlow Weed to head the mission to Europe.

Harper’s Weekly reported on November 23, 1861 that “Mr. Weed [and Archbishop Hughes] left this port [New York] on Saturday last for Europe. He states himself that he goes on private business; the public, however, will be apt to suspect that his private business concerns the public interest. If the suspicion be correct, we may feel assured that our affairs will suffer no mischance in his hands. Few men in the country are such true patriots as Thurlow Weed.”


Archbishop John Hughes

European leaders wanted a divided nation on the American continent. In September 1861, England’s former Colonial secretary Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton stated that a permanent division of the United States would benefit the “safety of Europe.” A truly united United States “hung over Europe like a gathering and destructive thundercloud … [but] as America shall become subdivided into separate states … her ambition would be less formidable for the rest of the world.”

“Dagger” John understood his mission and President Lincoln’s concerns: even though he harbored no animosity toward the Confederacy. “My mission was and is a mission of peace between France and England on the one side, and the United States on the other. ….I made it known to the President that if I should come to Europe it would not be as a partisan of the North more than of the South; that I should represent the interests of the South as well as of the North; in short, the interests of all the United States just the same as if they had not been distracted by the present civil war. The people of the South know that I am not opposed to their interests.”

While Weed headed to London to apply his tact and persuasion on members of Queen Victoria’s government, Dagger John went to France to call upon Napoleon III.

Historian Dean B. Mahin wrote that “Napoleon thought an independent Confederacy would provide a buffer between royalist Mexico and the republican United States.”

Even so, Hughes convinced the monarch to avoid involvement in the American conflict.

Then Hughes went to Italy on two missions. The first mission involved convincing the Vatican to keep out of the conflict. Hughes’ second mission was to persuade Irishmen serving as mercenaries in the Army of the Vatican to join their Irish immigrant countrymen in America and fight for the Union.

Hughes accomplished both missions. The Catholic Pope stayed out of the war, despite intense pressure and diplomatic maneuvering from the Confederacy. Jefferson Davis sent Bishop Patrick Lynch of Charleston to the Vatican in 1861 and Father John Bannon in 1864. Nether could change the neutrality of the influential Pontiff.

In Rome, Hughes also met with leading and influential Irish mercenaries, including Miles Keogh and John Coppinger. Both agreed to join the Union cause and both persuaded others to join them.

A short time later General George McClellan described Keogh as “a most gentlemanlike man, of soldierly appearance,” whose “record had been remarkable for the short time he had been in the army.”

Keogh would serve in many engagements of the Civil War and die alongside George Armstrong Custer at the Little Big Horn on June 25, 1876.

Bishop Hughes recruit John J. Coppinger also served with Custer. During the Civil War, General Custer wrote that Coppinger’s “ability as an officer is of the highest order. … As a soldier I consider him a model.”

Coppinger was still serving the United States during the Spanish-American War of 1898 when he was promoted to Major-General of Volunteers.

Hughes remained on his diplomatic mission in Europe until the summer of 1862.

Dagger John’s final, but perhaps most significant, contribution to the Union cause came during New York’s draft riots of July 1863.

The Irish, most of whom were Catholics, hated the Union Army draft. Most Irishmen lacked the funds to buy their way out of service, the way more wealthy men did throughout the war. The Irish also avidly read newspapers recounting the valor of the Irish Brigade and other units. But Irish losses appalled them — and seemed disproportionate to the losses of non-Irish units. Irish boys made up about 15 percent of the Union army – and they were dying in droves.

The Irish had also reacted badly to Lincoln’s January Emancipation Proclamation. The Irish, arguably members of the lowest echelon of free American society, believed Lincoln’s emancipation of the slaves only added another large population to their small niche of society.

So when Lincoln called a draft of even more men, the Irish went wild.

The New York Times reported that, “It seemed to be an understood thing that the negroes should be attacked wherever found.” An orphanage was burned to the ground, stores were ransacked and dozens of police officers were killed or injured.

In three days of mayhem and unrest, 443 people were arrested, 128 wounded, and over 50 people dead. The rioters also burned down more than 100 buildings and damaged about 200 others. Many of the killed and wounded were free Black men. were killed. Irishmen were largely responsible for the rioting.

“In New York no one had to ask who ruled the Church,” explained Professor Jay P. Dolan of the University of Notre Dame in his book “The Immigrant Church: New York’s Irish and German Catholics, 1815-1865.”

“John Hughes was boss….He ruled like an Irish chieftain,” wrote Professor Dolan. A newspaper reporter of the time wrote that Archbishop Hughes was “more a Roman gladiator than a devout follower of the meek founder of Christianity.”

But Hughes and the Irish did not rule all New York. New York was rued by Protestants, who winked at the unruliness of the Irish Catholics. The historian E.P. Spann called New York City in the mid-19th century “the capital of Protestant America.” Protestant leadership, said Spann, “made no secret of their belief that Roman Catholicism was alien and inferior.” Though not condoning the riot, the Protestant leadership of New York largely considered the disorder “a Catholic problem.”

Hughes left his death bed to appeal to the Irish, their honor and their pride. Hughes challenged the Irish leaders with the words, “no blood of innocent martyrs, shed by Irish Catholics, has ever stained the soil of Ireland.” Thus Archbishop Hughes convinced the Irish to end the rioting and peace was restored in New York.

President Lincoln wrote that “having formed the Archbishop’s acquaintance in the earliest days of our country’s present troubles, his counsel and advice were gladly sought and continually received by the Government on those points which his position enabled him better than others to consider. At a conjuncture of deep interest to the country, the Archbishop, associated with others, went abroad, and did the nation a service there with all the loyalty, fidelity and practical wisdom which on so many other occasions illustrated his great ability for administration.”

Dagger John Hughes proved himself a formidable force in an era when a fighting bishop was needed. When the Vatican nuncio, Archbishop Bedini, asked an American priest to explain why people in America held Archbishop Hughes in such esteem, the answer was: “It is because he is always game.”

Dagger John Hughes: Lincoln emissary and leader of American Irishmen died in New York on January 3, 1864.

John Hughes is also the one man most responsible for the building of the St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
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Catholics have made a very long and indelible contribution to the history of North, South and Central America.  It is appropriate at the time of Pope Benedict’s visit to recall Archbishop John Hughes.
****
Mr. Carey is president of International Defense Consultants, Inc.  He writes for the Washington Times.

Pope Benedict XVI waves before leaving Saint Joseph Seminary ... .
Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI holds a Mass at Nationals Park in Washington ... 
From

REUTERS/Jim Bourg 

Pope Benedict XVI passes St. Patrick's Cathedral in New ... 
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Pope Benedict XVI passes St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York while riding up 5th Avenue in the Popemobile following a Mass at the Catherdral April 19, 2008.REUTERS/Mike Segar 
  

 
 
 

 

 

Irish mark Saint Patrick’s Day with parades, optimism on peace

March 17, 2008

DUBLIN (AFP) – Hundreds of thousands of revellers took to the streets of Ireland Monday for celebrations to mark the annual Saint Patrick’s Day national holiday.

Simon Rielly enjoys the festivities at the 184th consecutive ...
Simon Rielly enjoys the festivities at the 184th consecutive St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Montreal, Canada on Sunday, March 16, 2008.(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Graham Hughes)

An estimated half a million people watched the country’s biggest event in the capital, Dublin, where a 3,000-strong parade snaked its way through the city centre.

The procession was bolstered by 16 marching bands from countries including Ireland, Japan, Italy and the United States and members of Ireland’s burgeoning immigrant population.

Other parades were held across the country while a cross-community, multi-cultural parade was held in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

President Mary McAleese, who reviewed the Dublin pageant, said the Belfast event was particularly poignant because it was the first since a power-sharing government was set up in Northern Ireland last May.

“This year, more than any in our recent past, is one to savour with special joy,” she said.

“The welcome return of devolved government to Northern Ireland has brought to the island of Ireland a promising era of peace, prosperity and partnership,” she added.

Saint Patrick was a fifth century Christian missionary who is the Catholic country’s patron saint.

Related:
St. Patrick’s Day Celebration Can Be Too Costly

Why Americans love the Irish (St. Patrick’s Day is Today!)

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20080317/ts_afp/lifestyleirelandholidayfestival;_
ylt=AgYO73jAc.JOor6ne91EH1Ws0NUE

For Vietnam Members of Congress Stand Up For Human Rights

January 31, 2008

January 23, 2008

The Honorable Michael Chertoff
Secretary
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20528

Dear Secretary Chertoff:

We are extremely concerned that thousands of Vietnamese nationals currently living in the United States may be forcibly returned to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, a country with an extensive and continuing record of human rights violations. It is appalling and unbelievable that this Administration would even consider returning those who escaped Communism back to the clutches of the very Communists that they escaped.

According to an ICE press release, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the government of Vietnam today. This MOU will apparently permit the deportation of Vietnamese nationals who entered the United States on or after July 12, 1995.

In the 2006 Country Report on Human Rights Practices, the U.S. State Department described the human rights situation in Vietnam as “unsatisfactory”. The March 6, 2007 report documented a litany of human rights violations, including:

• Abuses by government officials for exercise of religious freedom;
• Prohibition of political opposition movements;
• Arbitrary arrest and detention for political activities;
• Governmental control over the press and the internet;
• Abuse of suspects during arrest, detention, and interrogation;
• Denial of fair and expeditious trials;
• Limitation of citizens’ privacy rights and freedom of speech, press, assembly, movement, and association;
• Prohibition of independent human rights organizations;
• Violence and discrimination against women, including limited child prostitution and trafficking in women and children;
• Societal discrimination of some ethnic minority groups; and
• Limitation of workers’ rights, especially to organize independently.

Likewise, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) reported that “Vietnam has initiated a severe crackdown on human rights defenders and advocates for the freedoms of speech, association, and assembly, including many religious leaders.” In particular, USCIRF found that “[t]he Vietnamese government continues to remain suspicious of ethnic minority religious groups, such as Montagnard and Hmong Protestants and Khmer Buddhists; those who seek to establish independent religious organizations, such as the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, Hao Hoa, and Cao Dai; and those it considers to pose a threat to national solidarity or security, such as ‘Dega’ Protestants and individual Mennonite, Catholic, Buddhist, and house church Protestant leaders.”

In addition, respected non-governmental entities such as Amnesty International also documented wide-spread human rights violations in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam:
Restrictions on freedom of expression and association continued. Members of unauthorized churches seen as opposing state policies faced harassment. Dissidents using the Internet were harassed, threatened and imprisoned. Small groups of ethnic minority Montagnards continued to flee human rights violations in the Central Highlands and seek asylum in neighbouring Cambodia; at least 250 remained imprisoned after unfair trials in Viet Nam.

Given the rampant violations of human rights committed by the Socialist Republic of Vietnam as documented by our own State Department and other governmental and non-governmental experts, we are very troubled that ICE has entered into an agreement to deport Vietnamese nationals living in the United States into such conditions. We ask that you brief us personally on the MOU. In particular, we would like to know the process by which the agreement was reached, including whether ICE was aware of and considered the Socialist Republic of Vietnam’s human rights record in reaching the agreement. Furthermore, we insist that no implementation of this agreement take place until agreed to by Congress. We would appreciate your response no later than close of business on Friday, January 25, 2008.

Sincerely,

Zoe Lofgren
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Michael Honda
Lincoln Diaz-Balart
Loretta Sanchez
Mario Diaz-Balart
Linda Sanchez
Keith Ellison
Jim Costa
Dennis Cardoza
Ed Perlmutter
Al Green
Barbara Lee
Jim Costa

cc: Secretary Condolezza Rice, U.S. Department of State

Assistant Secretary Julie Myers, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Vietnam Police Probe Church Land Dispute

January 29, 2008

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Police in Vietnam’s capital have launched a criminal investigation into Catholic Church protests over a land dispute, while state-run media accused church leaders Tuesday of abusing their power to incite followers to confront the Communist government.

Catholic parishioners and priests have been holding daily vigils for the past month at the disputed land, a block away from St. Joseph’s Cathedral in downtown Hanoi. They are praying, singing and holding candles while demanding the handing over of the land, which was taken by the government nearly four decades ago.Thousands of followers blocked the street Friday in the largest gathering, as many from outside Hanoi….

Read the rest:
http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/080129/vietnam_church_land_dispute.html?.v=1

People check decoration for Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, in ...
Tet decorations are all over in Vietnam despite the
church land dispute.

The old Vatican embassy, a former Hanoi church property is seen ...
The old Vatican embassy, a former Hanoi church property is seen Sunday, Jan. 13, 2008, in Hanoi, Vietnam. For several weeks, church leaders and their followers in Hanoi have been gathering daily to pray in front of the old Vatican embassy, one of many church properties taken over by the government after 1954. The church wants the government to return the one-hectare lot in central Hanoi, where such land is worth millions of dollars.

Vietnamese Demand Return of Seized property

January 6, 2008
by Frank Zeller

HANOI (AFP) – Hundreds of Vietnamese Catholic Christians held prayer vigils in the capital at the weekend, the latest in a series asking for the return of church land seized by the communists half a century ago.

Vietnamese Catholic Christians sing and pray for the return ...
Vietnamese Catholics sing and pray for the return of church land in Hanoi, taken by communist authorities half a century ago, in the latest of a string of such meetings, on January 5.(AFP/Frank Zeller)

Priests and Catholic followers lit candles, placed flowers and sang at the iron fence around a property near Hanoi‘s central St Joseph’s Cathedral after Saturday prayers and Sunday masses.

They say the large French-colonial villa and the 1.1 hectares (2.7 acre) it sits on are the former office of the Vatican‘s delegate to Hanoi, confiscated by the state when he was expelled in the late 1950s.

Hanoi authorities have kept the building intact but used it as a sometime discotheque while local officials have also used the garden area, shaded by an enormous banyan tree, as a motorcycle carpark, the Christians say.

“It’s the land and the property of the church. We have the certificate of ownership of the property since 1933,” one priest from the Hanoi archdiocese told AFP, speaking on condition he not be named.

Catholics are now hopeful the dispute will be resolved after Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung met Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet during a prayer meeting with thousands of followers in late December, pledging to consider the issue.

Vietnam, a former French colony and a unified, communist country since the war ended in 1975, has Southeast Asia’s largest Catholic community after the Philippines — about six million out of a population of 84 million.

Its officially atheist communist rulers have long worried that religious groups, both Christian and Buddhist, could undermine their authority, but conditions have improved, especially for Catholics, in recent years.

While all religious activity remains under state control, the government started a dialogue with Catholics in the 1990s which led to a milestone visit to the Vatican almost a year ago by Prime Minister Dung.

Hanoi had tense relations with pope John Paul II, deemed a contributor to the defeat of Soviet communism, but congratulated his successor Benedict XVI soon after he became pontiff in 2005, saying it wanted closer relations.

Christian festivals such as Christmas have become popular, with thousands of followers and curious now crowding Vietnam’s cathedrals and churches.

Still, religious issues remain sensitive, and the state-controlled media has refrained from covering the mass prayer meetings.

Undercover police have milled in the crowds, taking video and photographs, the priest said.

“Some Catholic followers were questioned by security officials, and some say they were pressured not to attend the prayers,” said the priest, who stressed he was not speaking on behalf of the Catholic church.

Asked how he rated religious freedom in Vietnam, the priest said Catholics still cannot study to become diplomats or police officers, and that the church remains barred from operating its own newspapers, schools and hospitals.