The past few years have seen cordial but cooling relations between the United States and the Vatican. Since President Obama took office, he has visited the Vatican just once, and the administration has demonstrated little more than a perfunctory interest in the Holy See's diplomatic role in the world. This is a lost opportunity at a critical time for America.U.S. foreign policy has much to gain from its relationship with the Holy See, the governing body of the Catholic Church. No institution on earth has both the international stature and the global reach of the Holy See — the "soft power" of moral influence and authority to promote religious freedom, human liberties, and related values that Americans and our allies uphold worldwide.
President Reagan established full diplomatic relations with the Holy See in 1984 because, among other reasons, he realized that he could have no better partner than Pope John Paul II in the fight against communism -- and he was right. The administration of George W. Bush continued to expand these relations, even in difficult times while engaged in a conflict in Iraq of which the Holy See had strongly and vocally disapproved. Before President Obama's recent appointment of Ken Hackett as the next U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, there was growing speculation that the administration was considering completely eliminating the diplomatic mission, or reducing it to an appendage of the Embassy in Rome.While the Obama administration has been in conflict with the Catholic Church on a range of issues from abortion to contraception, it is clearly in America's national interests to strengthen diplomatic ties with the Holy See to advance our interests around the world. Read more (www.usatoday.com)
During a Mass last week, Pope–Petrus Romanus–Francis called ideological Christianity "an illness." According to the Encarta dictionary, Ideology can mean 1) an organized system of beliefs, values, and ideas forming the basis of a social, economic, or political philosophy or program. 2) a set of beliefs, values, and opinions that shapes the way a person or a group such as a social class thinks, acts, and understands the world. When considering Christianity then the second seems most applicable but it is not necessarily negative. It seems to me it means one tries to live consistently with what claims to believe. Pope Francis finds that unacceptable:
Interestingly, the Pope also criticized conservative Catholics for protesting abortion and same-sex marriage. When asked about homosexual priests who had infiltrated the Roman system he replied, "Who am I to judge?" startling words from the so-called vicar of Christ. As a result, secular humanists, abortionists and homosexuals are beside themselves with joy over the pope's position against the hated fundamentalism. The term "fundamentalist" has been given a bad spin and I would like to correct it.Read more (www.logosapologia.org)
The National Security Agency is harvesting hundreds of millions of contact lists from personal e-mail and instant messaging accounts around the world, many of them belonging to Americans, according to senior intelligence officials and top-secret documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
The collection program, which has not been disclosed before, intercepts e-mail address books and "buddy lists" from instant messaging services as they move across global data links. Online services often transmit those contacts when a user logs on, composes a message, or synchronizes a computer or mobile device with information stored on remote servers.
Rather than targeting individual users, the NSA is gathering contact lists in large numbers that amount to a sizable fraction of the world's e-mail and instant messaging accounts. Analysis of that data enables the agency to search for hidden connections and to map relationships within a much smaller universe of foreign intelligence targets.
During a single day last year, the NSA's Special Source Operations branch collected 444,743 e-mail address books from Yahoo, 105,068 from Hotmail, 82,857 from Facebook, 33,697 from Gmail and 22,881 from unspecified other providers, according to an internal NSA PowerPoint presentation. Those figures, described as a typical daily intake in the document, correspond to a rate of more than 250 million a year.
Each day, the presentation said, the NSA collects contacts from an estimated 500,000 buddy lists on live-chat services as well as from the inbox displays of Web-based e-mail accounts.Read more (www.washingtonpost.com)
Pope Francis broke bread with the poor and embraced the disabled on a pilgrimage to his namesake's hometown Friday, urging the faithful to follow the example of the 13th-century St Francis, who renounced a wealthy, dissolute lifestyle to embrace a life of poverty and service to the poor.
According to tradition, God told St Francis to "repair my house," and the first pope to take the saint's name has made clear that he sees that as his own mission as well. Read more (www.telegraph.co.uk)
Vatican City (AFP) - The Vatican on Monday said late popes John Paul II and John XXIII would be made saints at an unprecedented joint ceremony on April 27, 2014 in a bid to unite Catholic conservatives and liberals.
Pope Francis made the historic announcement at a meeting of cardinals known as a consistory.
The canonisation of the two popes is expected to bring hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to Rome.
The popular Polish pope John Paul and his Italian predecessor known as "Good Pope John", are two of modern-day Catholicism's most influential figures. Read more...
As a group of eight Catholic cardinals handpicked by the Pope to shake up the Vatican’s murky and autocratic bureaucracy prepares to meet, the group’s leader has said they plan to rip up and rewrite the apostolic constitution which apportions power at the Holy See.
The cardinals, who were appointed in April by Pope Francis and will confer with him for the first time at the Vatican on Oct. 1-3, were briefed to revise the constitution, known as Pastor Bonus, drawn up in 1988 by Pope John Paul, in a bid to give a great voice to bishops around the world.
But Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, read more...
Pope Francis said the Catholic Church must shake off an obsession with teachings on abortion, contraception and homosexuality and become more merciful or risk the collapse of its entire moral edifice "like a house of cards".
In a dramatically blunt interview with an Italian Jesuit journal, Francis said the Church had "locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules" and should not be so prone to condemn.
Its priests should be more welcoming and not cold, dogmatic bureaucrats. The confessional, he said, "is not a torture chamber but the place in which the Lord's mercy motivates us to do better."
His comments were welcomed by liberal Catholics; but they are likely to be viewed with concern by conservatives who have already expressed concern over Francis's failure to address publicly the issues stressed by his predecessor, Benedict.
Francis, the first non-European pope in 1,300 years, the first from Latin America and the first Jesuit pope, did not hold out the prospect of any changes soon to such moral teachings.
But, in the 12,000-word interview with Civilta Cattolica, he said the Church must find a new balance between upholding rules and demonstrating mercy. "Otherwise even the moral edifice of the Church is likely to fall like a house of cards."
In the interview with the magazine's director, Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, he also said he envisioned a greater role for women in the 1.2 billion member Church but suggested it would not include a change in the current ban on a female priesthood.
In comments likely to enhance his progressive reputation, Pope Francis has written a long, open letter to the founder of La Repubblicanewspaper, Eugenio Scalfari, stating that non-believers would be forgiven by God if they followed their consciences.
Responding to a list of questions published in the paper by Mr Scalfari, who is not a Roman Catholic, Francis wrote: “You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience.
“Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience.”Read more
Nuclear Reactor Contamination Continues
Radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear plant, crippled by the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan, has been leaking radioactive water into the ocean.
· Ultimate, worst-case scenario” underway at Fukushima? New York Times: Experts suspect intense contamination is flowing from below melted reactors and into Pacific — Will surpass even the leaks that occurred in disaster’s early days
· Nuclear Expert: Fukushima melted fuel is drifting in ocean and onto land, lacking any containment — It ends up on coastline and blows into communities — People get an exceptional dose — Health harm will go on for thousands, if not tens of thousands of years (AUDIO)
· New Scientist: Dump all Fukushima nuclear waste in Pacific, no risk to U.S. — “They have to make people understand low levels of radiation don’t matter” — “None of this is going to do anything health wise”
· AP: Experts fear giant underground reservoir of extremely contaminated water on verge of entering Pacific at Fukushima — In contact with melted nuclear fuel? A race against the clock — Nobody knows when this will end
· Emergency at U.S. Nuclear Site: Gov’t activated alert, workers ordered to ‘take-cover’ — Several hospitalized — Ex-employee: “Stuff goes on all the time we don’t know about, it’s scary” — Governor: No ‘immediate’ health hazard (VIDEO) #Hanford
· TV: “Fish and water have shown signs of Fukushima contamination” in U.S. Northwest — Officials to start radiation testing due to news from Japan — NOAA: Nuclear plant leaks “a surprise to everybody, we weren’t aware of it” (VIDEO)
A top secret National Security Agency program allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals, according to documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The latest revelations will add to the intense public and congressional debate around the extent of NSA surveillance programs. They come as senior intelligence officials testify to the Senate judiciary committee on Wednesday, releasing classified documents in response to the Guardian's earlier stories on bulk collection of phone records and Fisasurveillance court oversight.
The files shed light on one of Snowden's most controversial statements, made in his first video interview published by the Guardian on June 10.
"I, sitting at my desk," said Snowden, could "wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email".
US officials vehemently denied this specific claim. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, said of Snowden's assertion: "He's lying. It's impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do." Read more..
A Conservative Member of Parliament has said that the Guardian should be prosecuted for publishing stories about mass surveillance by the British security services revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Julian Smith, MP said the newspaper had “broken the law” at a parliamentary debate on the issue of surveillance, and that the paper had seriously damaged national security. Smith had also complained to police and criticized the newspaper for writing stories without consulting with the government. “To communicate, not just publish, any identifying information about GCHQ personnel is a terrorist offence,” he said. “This is not press freedom – this is the Guardian’s devastating impact on national security.”
Some Labour and Tory MPs accused Smith of McCarthyism saying the material the Guardian published is “certainly in the public interest.”
The Guardian responded that Smith has “propagated a series of myths” about the Guardian’s reporting. “When responsible journalists working on the same story share documents they are engaged in journalism not terrorism. Senior politicians and government officials in the UK and internationally, over 30 of the world’s leading newspaper editors, and an overwhelming majority of the public, have all said that the Guardian’s reporting on this story is important for democracy.”
It was suggested that “Smith should be more concerned that UK government secrets were accessible to hundreds of thousands of US government employees,” including Snowden, if he was so worried about national security.
Freedom of the press is a key component of liberty enshrined in British common law. Britain is part of the “five eyes” nations that have a global surveillance partnership and share information freely among themselves and others. Publically attacking a news source bullies the media outlet to be more cautious in the future about revealing information about abuses the government would not want to be known. Fear of prosecution could provoke media companies to silence.
Every protection of freedom will be removed in Britain as well as the United States.
Evangelical Christians, pro-life groups and members of the Tea Party are a threat to the United States, and are “tearing the country apart,” soldiers were told in a pre-deployment briefing at Fort Hood. Any of them caught donating to those groups would be subjected to punishment under military code, the soldiers were told in a half-hour lecture on “Christian Extremism.” An investigation of the briefing is under way.
It happens that Fort Hood is the very site of a mass murder by a radical Muslim soldier. The statements making evangelicals appear to be enemies of the nation has some soldiers shocked and worried whether they can attend church, tithe and donate to Christian charities or to politicians who happen to be part of the Tea Party. Hardly a word was said about Islamic extremism say soldiers who attended the meeting.
“I felt like my religious liberties, that I risk my life and sacrifice time away from family to fight for, were being taken away…” said one soldier. “This is a slap in the face,” he said. “The military is supposed to defend freedom and to classify the vast majority of the military that claim to be Christian as terrorists is sick.”
Though the Fort Hood public affairs office denies the allegations, they have refused to provide detail of the content of the briefing. This is not the first time Christians have been in the Army’s crosshairs. “Last April an Army Reserve briefing classified Evangelical Christianity and Catholicism as ‘religious extremism.’”
Also, recently “several dozen active duty troops at Camp Shelby in Mississippi were told the American Family Association, a well-respected Christian ministry, should be classified as a domestic hate group because it advocates for traditional family values.”
The military has claimed that these were isolated incidents, but the growing list of such events reveals that they are not. Questions are being raised whether this kind of training is being directed from the Pentagon or even higher.
Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance, called the military’s behavior dishonorable. “Far from mere ‘isolated incidents,’ as the Army has dismissed previous occurrences, this latest incident demonstrates a pattern and practice of Army briefings identifying mainstream religions, such as Evangelical Christianity, Judaism, and Catholicism, as examples of ‘religious extremism’ similar to Al Qaeda, Hamas and the Ku Klux Klan.”
Could this process be laying the groundwork for more precise targeting of Christians, particularly those who uphold and honor the whole law of God? By making Christians in general feel vulnerable to discrimination or even persecution, will Evangelical and other Christians be quick to redirect the hostility to a smaller group who keep God’s holy Sabbath, and that can become the scapegoat instead of themselves?
“The remnant church will be brought into great trial and distress. Those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus will feel the ire of the dragon and his hosts. Satan numbers the world as his subjects, he has gained control of the apostate churches; but here is a little company that are resisting his supremacy. If he could blot them from the earth, his triumph would be complete. As he influenced the heathen nations to destroy Israel, so in the near future he will stir up the wicked powers of earth to destroy the people of God. All will be required to render obedience to human edicts in violation of the divine law. Those who will be true to God and to duty will be menaced, denounced, and proscribed. They will “be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends.” Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 5, pages 472 and 473
Polyamory, having simultaneous close emotional and sexual relationships with two or more other individuals, is increasingly being profiled as acceptable, especially since same-sex marriage has become increasingly normal in western societies. The polyandrous relationships may be straight, gay, lesbian, or bi-sexual, but having multiple stable partners is difficult to achieve.
According to the “poly” subculture, this is not about swinging, cheating or kinky sex. It’s not just a fling or a phrase to them. “It’s an identity. They want to show that polyamory can be a viable alternative to monogamy, even for middle-class, suburban families with children, jobs and house notes.” Instead of following the Bible principles of marriage, they are trying to promote the idea that “everyone has the right to develop a relationship structure that works for them.”
Polyamorists admit that it’s not for everyone. It takes a lot of work dealing with jealousy and other emotions and problems related to having multiple partners. They also face disapproval of neighbors, family and co-workers. So, like the LGBT community, of which this is yet another variation, they want identity and recognition and ultimately acceptance. They want to change their status quo. So, some have started to talk to the media, march in parades and praise the idea of being “poly” as an acceptable social behavior. “Someday, they want to challenge laws that criminalize adultery and cohabitation.”
“We want to promote the idea that any relationship is valid as long as it is a choice made by consenting adults,” said one polyamorist. “In this regard, and as in most things, promoting public acceptance is the first step.”
And they try to make it sound good. “Polyamory is the nonpossessive, honest, responsible and ethical philosophy and practice of loving multiple people simultaneously,” said a brochure supporting polyamory. “Polyamory is not a swing club or group. Polyamory is not about recreational or promiscuous sex.” Otherwise, there are no universal rules for “how it works…”
One question. God gave rules for stable families. If man can change them, where does it end? Why can’t they be changed again and again? Will the rule-changing end with polyamory? Will that be the last frontier? Or will something else even more out there on the edge take its place?
Most polyamorous people are not open about their multiple relationships. But with the LGBT movement making huge strides in western nations, this will surely increase the profile of these types of relationships. “Many poly people stay closeted out of fear of discrimination, social alienation or because they simply prefer privacy…” say some sociologists. Though admitting that polyamory can be a disaster (like many monogamous relationship), these group relationships can be a legitimate form of “providing excellent nurturing for children,” they say.
But while some evolutionary scientists say that monogamy is probably not humans’ natural state, “many therapists say learning to control sexual impulses toward multiple people is a hallmark of emotional maturity.” Often non-monogamy destroys relationships because instead of focusing on the primary relationship, partners turn to others for fulfillment. It is a choice “to be with someone else instead of being attentive to your spouse when the relationship is troubled.” Polyamorous relationships, say counselors, rarely work out well for everyone. “It has shown to be damaging and destructive to a person as an individual, to the couple’s relationship and the family unit as a whole,” said one therapist.
No one has done studies on the effect polyamory has on children brought up in that kind of environment. But television is exploring and promoting the concept with shows like “Polyamory: Married and Dating” and “Sister Wives.” So the boundaries are again being removed before there is any understanding of the potential damage it can do.
Will polyamorists soon demand marriage licenses and legal adoption rights, among other things? The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage benefits is seen among “polys” as a sign that society is becoming more accepting of alternative relationships to monogamy.
“And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.” Genesis 6:12. “As it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.” Luke 17:26
A storm has killed 13 people in the UK and in Europe with Germany hit the hardest. Hurricane-force winds of up to 160 kph knocked down trees, flooded low areas and left hundreds of thousands without power. At least five people died in the UK and four in Germany with two additional deaths at sea. There were also deaths in Denmark and the Netherlands.
One of the worst storms to hit Britain in years spread travel chaos to airports, trains and roads. Ports were closed, a building crane in London was knocked over, while some roads, train stations and rail lines were also shut down due to storm damage.
Everything in the world is in agitation. The signs of the times are ominous. Coming events cast their shadows before. The Spirit of God is withdrawing from the earth, and calamity follows calamity by sea and by land. There are tempests, earthquakes, fires, floods, murders of every grade. Who can read the future? Where is security? There is assurance in nothing that is human or earthly. Rapidly are men ranging themselves under the banner they have chosen. Restlessly are they waiting and watching the movements of their leaders. There are those who are waiting and watching and working for our Lord’s appearing. Another class are falling into line under the generalship of the first great apostate. Few believe with heart and soul that we have a hell to shun and a heaven to win.“ Desire of Ages, page 636
The United States must embrace the Vatican, wrote Francis Rooney, former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See in a USA Today op ed. The “cordial but cooling relations” between the U.S. and the Vatican, he suggested, have not taken into account the Holy See’s diplomatic role in the world. He argued that the Catholic Church could be much more helpful to U.S. global diplomatic interests and challenges if the relationships would be warmer.“No institution on earth has both the international stature and the global reach of the Holy See — the ‘soft power’ of moral influence and authority to promote religious freedom, human liberties, and related values that Americans and our allies uphold worldwide.”
Claiming that it is a lost opportunity, Rooney pointed out that U.S. President Barack Obama has only visited the Vatican but once in his nearly six years in office.
In 1984 President Ronald Reagan established full diplomatic relations, Rooney said, because “he realized that he could have no better partner than Pope John Paul II in the fight against communism.” That fight, through the collaboration of the U.S. and the Vatican, led to the downfall of European communism. George W. Bush expanded the U.S.-Vatican relationship.
“The United States and the Holy See remain two of the most significant institutions in world history, one a beacon of democracy and progress, the other a sanctum of faith and allegiance to timeless principles,” Rooney said. “They are natural partners.” He added that “America’s foreign policy is much more likely to succeed with the support of the Holy See. “No two sovereigns are more naturally aligned than the United States and the Holy See…”
“While the Obama administration has been in conflict with the Catholic Church on a range of issues from abortion to contraception,” he said, “it is clearly in America’s national interests to strengthen diplomatic ties with the Holy See to advance our interests around the world.”
Rooney also pointed out that the Church has powerful ways of persuading nations, including bilateral relationships that help find diplomatic solutions to “international predicaments…” The Vatican represents more than a billion people on the global stage, said Rooney. Its power and influence is often underestimated. It has no military and a negligible economy (though it owns vast resources), but it is the “soft power” of its moral influence, which gives it a greater reach and influence than almost any other nation on earth. And the nations acknowledge this power.
Rooney is promoting a closer alliance between the U.S. and the Holy See, a relationship described in scripture as fornication with a prostitute or whore. See Revelation 17:1, 2, 18:3, etc.
“Through the two great errors, the immortality of the soul and Sunday sacredness, Satan will bring the people under his deceptions. While the former lays the foundation of spiritualism, the latter creates a bond of sympathy with Rome. The Protestants of the United States will be foremost in stretching their hands across the gulf to grasp the hand of spiritualism; they will reach over the abyss to clasp hands with the Roman power; and under the influence of this threefold union, this country will follow in the steps of Rome in trampling on the rights of conscience.” Great Controversy, page 588
The Vatican maintains diplomatic ties in a number of ways with the current Obama administration. They are generally not very public as they were with George W. Bush, and they are sometimes strained. But political winds change. The Vatican may have to bide its time until a more favorable political wind arises in the United States. A change will certainly come. In the mean time, it is hard to ignore the vast influence of the Catholic Church in global politics.