Thursday, February 28, 2013

Abp. of Glasgow Takes Over Card. O'Brien's Job; Pope Names Philip Tartaglia UK's Senior Cleric

The Archbishop of Glasgow has assumed temporary leadership of the Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh -- thus becoming the United Kingdom's highest Roman Catholic cleric -- following the resignation of Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the Christian Today website reports today (February 28, 2013).

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia will be Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese until a permanent successor for the cardinal can be found.

Cardinal O'Brien resigned this week after the news media reported his alleged inappropriate behavior toward three priests and a former priest.

The appointment of his temporary replacement was made by Pope Benedict XVI a day before his resignation from the papacy.

ADL Slams Joan Rivers for Vulgar Holocaust Joke; Said Heidi Klum's Oscars Dress Hot as Nazi Ovens

Popular comedienne and TV talk host Joan Rivers managed to get herself on the Anti-Defamation League's (ADL) bad side -- with a butt joke -- the Newser website reports today (February 28, 2013).

Speaking about how Heidi Klum (a German-American) looked in her Oscars dress, Rivers, 79,  noted on her TV show: "The last time a German looked this hot was when they were pushing Jews into the ovens."

The ADL was quick to call the joke "vulgar and offensive to Jews and Holocaust survivors, and indeed to all Americans," adding, "Of all people, Joan Rivers should know better."

Rivers -- who is Jewish herself -- would not apologize. "My husband lost the majority of his family at Auschwitz, and I can assure you that I have always made it a point to remind people of the Holocaust through humor," was her response to the ADL denunciation.

Benedict Vacates Vatican for Last Time as Pope; Pledges "Unconditional Reverence" to New Pope

Pope Benedict XVI left the Vatican today (February 28, 2013) for the last time as pope, flying by helicopter to the Vatican's vacation retreat, just hours before becoming the first pontiff to resign in 600 years, according to the Associated Press website.

As his closest aide wept by his side, Benedict bade farewell to Vatican officials gathered in the San Damaso courtyard of the Apostolic Palace -- a corps of Swiss Guards standing by at attention.

Benedict traveled by car to the helipad on the top of the hill of the Vatican gardens and boarded a helicopter along with his secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, for the 15-minute trip to Castel Gandolfo. Bells tolled as the helicopter took off.

Before leaving, Benedict pledged his "unconditional reverence and obedience" to his successor.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Va. Law Bars Universities from Say in Rel. Clubs; Clubs Can Set Up Their Own Membership Rules

Legislators in the state of Virginia have passed a law that seeks to protect the right of Christians -- and other religious groups -- on university and college campuses to create their own membership criteria, and to elect as leaders only those of the same faith, the Christian News Network website reports today (February 27, 2013).

The legislation -- which was introduced by State Senator Mark Obenshain, a professing Christian -- is in response to situations that arose in other states, where student groups were forced to include those of different religions, or be found in violation of the school's non-discrimination policy.

It requires that "only persons committed to the organization's mission may conduct certain activities."

The Virginia bill now heads to the desk of Governor Bob O'Donnell to be signed into law.

Supreme Court OKs Govt. Electronic Spying in US; Kills Bill of Rights, Sets Up a Surveillance Nation

The conversion of the United States into a type of "prison" with the inmates under the constant surveillance of the government "jailers" is progressing rapidly -- thanks to the help of the U.S. Supreme Court -- the New American website reports today (February 27, 2013).

By a 5-4 decision yesterday, the high court rejected a challenge to the constitutionality of government wiretaps and monitoring of citizens' e-mails, telephone calls, and electronic messages. Those targeted by the government for the surveillance are not suspected of committing any crimes, so searching their communications is in fact a direct violation of the Fourth Amendment.

The Fourth Amendment protects "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures..."

Due primarily to the fear of terrorism in the United States of Muslims (Islamophobia) that resulted from the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the Fourth Amendment had been temporarily repealed by the U.S. Congress, and Presidents Bush and Obama signed off on it. Now, the U.S. Supreme Court has joined the crew in permanently demolishing the U.S. Bill of Rights and constructing a despotic surveillance police state -- one similar to the former Soviet Union and present-day China --  on top of the rubble.

Miss Del.Teen USA Loses Crown Due to Sex Video; Melissa King Denies She Is in Posted Porn Website

Melissa King, 18, Miss Delaware Teen USA, resigned her crown yesterday after facing questions about an online sex video that claims to star her, the USA Today website reports today (February 27, 2013).

"I would like to confirm to you that Miss Delaware Teen USA pageant has received a resignation letter from Miss King's attorney," pageant spokeswoman Dara Busch wrote in an email this morning.

A porn website posted a sex video on February 25 featuring a woman who looks and sounds like King. The site claims it is the teen pageant winner. King denies it.

Busch -- who is executive vice president and managing director with Rubenstein Public Relations -- said the runner-up will take King's position. According to the Miss Delaware Teen USA website, Hailey Lawler of the Newark, Delaware area is the runner-up.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Greek Cath. Patriarch of Syria Urges End of War; Appeals to World for Dialogue to Solve the Crisis

Following a series of lethal explosions in Damascus last week, its Greek Catholic Patriarch, Gregory III Laham, has issued a statement urging the world to stop sending weapons to Syria, the ICN (Independent Catholic News) website reports today (February 26, 2013).

"We appeal to the whole world to stop arms from being sent to Syria. We ask the international community and the most important countries in the world, to support Syrian efforts to promote dialogue, in order to reach a diplomatic solution to the crisis," said the patriarch.

"From the depth of our heart we cry to the conscience of the entire world, to leaders of nations, especially of Arab countries, to international institutions, to peace militants, to His Holiness the Pope and to Bishops Conferences throughout the world. We beg them to listen to our voice and to see the suffering of the Syrian people," the patriarch added.

More than 70,000 Syrians have been killed in a brutal civil war that has pervaded Syria for the past 27 months.

TV's Donny Deutsch Slams First Lady's Oscar Role; Says Obama Was an "Uninvited Guest," "Intrusion"

Television personality Donny Deutsch -- appearing on CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight" show last night -- lambasted First Lady Michelle Obama's participation in the Oscars show on Sunday, calling her an "uninvited guest" and an "intrusion" in her role of announcing the Best Picture, The Blaze website reports today (February 26, 2013).

When asked by Morgan if the first lady should have been included, Deutsch said, "absolutely not." His main argument hinged on the notion that Obama was essentially an unwelcome political intrusion at the entertainment program.

"As far as I'm concerned, she was an uninvited guest," Deutsch said. "Now what I mean by that is, you have to give the consumer, the viewer, the ultimate respect. They have tuned in to watch movie stars, to watch movies. And all of a sudden, politics is thrown at them."

He went on to say that the first lady's tone was also inharmonious, claiming that her brief speech had a "monarch quality" and an "elitist flavor to it."

Atheist Group Is Established at a Christian School; Texas Christian U. Org. Wants School Recognition

A group of students -- who attend the Texas Christian University -- has created an atheist organization, and now wants official recognition from their school, the Christian News Network website reports today (February 26, 2013). The group is called the "Freethinking Frogs," a reference to the school mascot.

It was formed by 32-year-old transfer student Alexis Lohse. She told the Christian News Network that the organization -- which has about 30 members --  is for people who are agnostic and secular.

University officials say that they have received the application for official recognition, and that a decision will be made soon.

Located about 35 miles from Dallas, Texas Christian University is affiliated with the Christian Church through the Disciples of Christ, a Protestant denomination.

Monday, February 25, 2013

ADL Rips MacFarlane and Oscars for Jewish Jokes; Says Jokes Are Offensive, Reinforce Anti-Semitism

Seth MacFarlane's "Jewish jokes" -- which he aired as host of last night's Academy Awards show -- sparked anger from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today (February 25, 2013), according to the Inquisitr website.

The ADL -- led by Abraham Foxman -- blasted MacFarlane today for a segment of the show it believes perpetuates anti-Semitic stereotypes.

In a skit involving a digital teddy bear named Ted, MacFarlane -- who actually played the role of speaker for the teddy bear -- said that Jews controlled Hollywood, and that being Jewish was necessary to advance in the entertainment industry.

In a statement slamming MacFarlane, the ADL wrote, "What he did at the Oscars was offensive and not remotely funny. It only reinforces stereotypes which legitimize anti-Semitism. It is sad and disheartening that the Oscars show sought to use anti-Jewish stereotypes for laughs."

UK's Top Card. Resigns, Won't Vote for New Pope; Asserts "I Apologize to All Whom I Have Offended"

Britain's most senior Roman Catholic cleric -- who declared last week that the new pope should allow Catholic priests to be married -- resigned today (February 25, 2013), following allegations he behaved in an inappropriate way with priests. He said he would not take part in the election of Pope Benedict's replacement, according to the Reuters website.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien said he tendered his resignation some months ago, ahead of his 75th birthday in March because he was suffering from "indifferent health."

The Vatican said that Pope Benedict -- who steps down as pope on February 28 -- had accepted O'Brien's resignation as Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh.

"Looking back over my years of ministry: For any good I have been able to do, I thank God. For any failures, I apologize to all whom I have offended," O'Brien said in a statement, which made no reference to the recent allegations against him.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

German Cath. Church OKs a "Morning-After Pill;" May Be Taken Only By Women Who Were Raped

The Roman Catholic Church in Germany said it would permit certain types of "morning-after pill" for raped women, after two hospitals last week provoked an outcry for refusing to treat a rape victim, the WWRN (World Wide Religion News) website reports today (February 24, 2013).

The German Bishops' Conference said church-run hospitals would now ensure proper medical, psychological, and emotional care for rape victims -- including administering pills that prevent pregnancy without inducing an abortion.

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch said a four-day meeting of German bishops in the western town of Trier had "confirmed that women who have been victims of rape will get the proper human, medical, psychological, and pastoral care."

The Catholic Church remains firmly opposed to abortion and artificial birth control, but in Germany it will now differentiate between pills that prevent sperm from fertilizing an egg in the womb and pills that induce an abortion, in cases of rape.

New Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarch Invested Today; Is Spiritual Leader of Bulgaria's Orth. Christians

Bulgaria's new Orthodox patriarch was enthroned in a mass in Sofia today (February 24, 2013) that leaves the soft-spoken theologian the task of restoring the reputation of a church hurt by links to businessmen and communist secret police, according to the Yahoo News website.

Neofit, 67, Bishop of Rousse, took over the 1,100-year-old Orthodox Church, which survived centuries of  Islamic Turkish domination and decades of communism, as Bulgaria now heads for early elections by May, after the government resigned last Wednesday (February 20) during protests over the cost of living and corruption.

About 80 percent of Bulgarians are Orthodox Christians -- the primary religion also in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Greece, Romania, and Serbia -- but only a small percentage view churchgoing as important to their lives, recent surveys show.

Trust in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church was shaken after a history commission showed in January 2012 that 11 of its 15 bishops collaborated with the former communist-era secret police.

The election by a church council of Neofit -- known for theological learning, humble demeanor, and exquisite singing -- was welcomed by believers and analysts who see him as a worthy successor to Patriarch Maxim, who died last November at the age of 98.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Syrian National Coalition Will Boycott Peace Talks; Due to "Shameful" Failure of Nations to Stop War

The Syrian National Coalition (SNC) said today (February 23, 2013) it will boycott peace talks in protest at what it calls the "shameful" failure of the international community to stop the war in Syria, according to the Global Post website.

Syria's biggest opposition group said it would not attend a Friends of Syria meeting in Italy, nor planned talks in the United States or Russia.

The SNC accused other countries of failing to stop the "crimes committed against the Syrian people," and specifically blamed Russia for supplying President Bashar al-Assad's regime with weapons.

Activists reported on February 22 that Russian-made Scud missiles had been fired on the Syrian city of Aleppo, killing at least 12 people and flattening dozens of homes. The Syrian civil war -- now in its 23rd month -- has resulted in the deaths of more than 70,000 Syrian citizens.

UK Rabbi Likens Spread of Anti-Semitism to Virus; Claims It Is the Worst It Has Been Since Holocaust

On a recent visit to Israel, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks -- the chief rabbi of the United Kingdom -- told listeners that the return of anti-Semitism within living memory of the Holocaust is a serious problem, the Spero Forum website reports today (February 23, 2013).

Speaking at Tel Hai College, Rabbi Sacks spoke on "The 21st Century Challenge for Jews and Israel." The leading challenge for Jews today, said the rabbi, is anti-Semitism.

Rabbi Sacks added that seeing young Jews assaulted on European university campuses has been the "shock of my life."

Calling anti-Semitism a set of "internally contradictory set of beliefs" -- rather than coherent doctrine -- Rabbi Sacks likened anti-Semitism to a virus that "invades nations, bodies politics, in the way a biological virus attacks the human body."

Friday, February 22, 2013

Czech Republic Signs Deals with 16 Rel. Groups; Will Pay Them Billions of $ for Estates It Seized

The Czech government signed deals with representatives of 16 religious groups today (February 22, 2013) to pay them billions of dollars in compensation for property that the country's former Communist regime seized from them, according to the Alliance Alert website.

The move is considered highly controversial in the Czech Republic, and the left-wing opposition has asked the country's highest legal authority -- the Constitutional Court -- to disapprove it.

After today's signing, Prime Minister Petr Necas called the deals to pay 59 billion koruna ($3.1 billion) in financial compensation over the next 30 years "an act of justice."

The payment is part of a religious restitution plan approved by Parliament last year. Under it, the 16 religious groups also will get back 56 percent of their former property now held by the state -- valued at 75 billion koruna ($3.9 billion).

Cardinal: Married Cath. Priests Should Be Allowed; Cites Vatican's OK of Greek Cath. Church Priests

Roman Catholic priests should be allowed to marry and have children, Britain's most senior Catholic cleric said today (February 22, 2013), with the hope that a newly-elected pope will implement such a policy,  according to the Associated Press website.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien -- who heads the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland -- said the requirement for priestly celibacy is "not of divine origin" and could be reconsidered.

He told BBC Scotland that "the celibacy of the clergy, whether priests should marry -- Jesus didn't say that."

O'Brien, 74, said that the next pope -- expected to be elected next month -- would be free to consider changing church policy on issues, including celibacy for priests, that were not "basic dogmatic beliefs." He explained that for many years in some branches of the Catholic Church -- such as the Greek Catholic Church that is prevalent in much of eastern Europe and the Middle East -- Catholic priests have been allowed to be married, "so that is obviously not of divine origin and it could get discussed again."

Multitude of Jews Now Leaves Hungary Each Year; Due to Its Bad Economy, Increase of Anti-Semitism

Hungary -- which has more Jews than any other country in Central Europe -- has been experiencing an exodus of Jews in recent years, due primarily to the country's poor economy and its rampant increase of anti-Semitism, the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports today (February 22, 2013).

Although Hungary has about 100,000 Jews, as many as 1,000 of them are leaving the country each year. Immigration to Israel has tripled in the past three years, to 170 in 2012. Many others have sought new lives in Berlin, London, and Vienna -- the Austrian capital just a two-hour train ride away.

The Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation -- a Chabad-affiliated body -- said in a statement that it "could not rule out that the increasingly anti-Semitic sentiment may factor heavily in the minds of those who leave."

Oskar Deutsch -- the president of the Jewish community of Vienna -- said that Hungarian anti-Semitism was driving Jewish immigration to Vienna. The community has set up a program to help assimilate -- even lure -- the newcomers with language courses, help in finding employment, housing, and Jewish education.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Puerto Rico Denies Gays Right to Adopt Children; High Court:Family Comprised of a Mother, Father

Puerto Rico's Supreme Court has narrowly voted to uphold a law banning gay couples from adopting children, the NBC Latino website reports today (February 21, 2013).

Yesterday's 5-4 vote comes in the case of an unidentified woman who sought to adopt a child that her lesbian partner had through in vitro fertilization.

A majority of judges upheld the constitutionality of a law specifying that a family is comprised of a mother and father, saying that is best for a child's dignity and well-being.

Chief Justice Federico Hernandez Denton dissented. He said that the plaintiff's attorneys proved the adoption would benefit the child.

Expert: Obama Most Hostile Pres. to Rel. Freedom; Admin. Is Worst toward Rel. Liberty in US History

An expert on religious freedom issues believes that President Barack Obama has headed "the most hostile" administration toward religious freedom in American history, the Christian Post website reports today (February 21, 2013).

Ken Klukowski -- Director of the Center for Religious Liberty at the Family Research Council (FRC) -- told the Christian Post at an FRC event on February 20 that he believes the Obama administration has been unprecedentedly hostile to religious liberty.

"I think the record is clear that this president and this administration are the most hostile towards religious liberty in all of American history," said Klukowski.

He added, "I say that without exaggeration. There are all sorts of lines that previous presidents have just not crossed... political operators around the president strongly encouraged him with regards to this HHS (Health and Human Services) mandate that this is just a bridge too far. And yet the president chose to go after it anyway."

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Christian College Fires Woman for Being Pregnant; Says Unwed Worker Violated Covenant She Signed

A California woman is suing a Christian college for wrongful termination, after she was fired for having a sexual relationship outside of marriage, the New American website reports today (February 20, 2013).

Teri James had worked for two years as a financial aid specialist for San Diego Christian College, but when the 29-year-old unmarried woman admitted that she was pregnant, the school's human resources director gave her an ultimatum: either quit or be fired.

Among other things, the covenant -- which James signed and agreed to honor -- states the conviction that "marriage is a covenant relationship between a man and a woman, and that God has commanded that no sexual activity be engaged in outside of marriage," according to the school's handbook.

James has hired famed women's rights attorney Gloria Allred to represent her in a lawsuit against the school, which Allred argues violated California law prohibiting an employer from discriminating against an employee on the basis of such issues as age, race, gender -- and marital status.

Cath. Group Launches Petition Against Mahony; Demand Disgraced Card. Forgo Vatican Conclave

A U.S. Catholic group has launched an online petition to keep a cardinal linked to a sex abuse scandal from attending the Vatican conclave that will select a new pope next month, the Reuters website reports today (February 20, 2013).

Catholics United -- a non-profit and non-partisan organization -- says that former Los Angeles Archbishop Roger Mahony should refrain from attending the papal conclave and recuse himself from voting. The petition -- launched last week -- had more than 5,000 signatures as of yesterday, representing a tiny fraction of the roughly one in four Americans who are Catholics.

"Please do not bring further scandal to our Church that has already been rocked by the sex abuse crisis by attending the Papal Conclave. You have been disciplined and you have lost your ability to have a voice within our Church," said the petition from the Washington-based group.

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez stripped Mahony, 76, of his duties last month due to his shielding a multitude of sexually-abusive priests.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Man Arrested for Theft of Bronze at NY Cemetery; $160,000 Worth of Metals Stolen from Grave Sites

An arrest was made tonight (February 19, 2013) in a series of thefts at a historic Bronx cemetery, according to the CBS website.

Earlier today, police released a photo of 56-year-old Louis Peduto, who they said was seen inside the cemetery yesterday in possession of stolen brass handles and air vents.

While conducting a patrol inside the cemetery, officers found Peduto -- who is homeless -- and placed him under arrest.

Officials said $160,000 worth of bronze and other metals from at least 60 mausoleums and grave sites at St. Raymond's Cemetery in Throgs Neck had been stolen.

Patriarch: Many Greeks Prefer to Live in Turkey; Says Some Greeks Have Family Roots in Turkey

Many Greek citizens are looking to move to Turkey due primarily to the dire economic situation in Greece, Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew said yesterday, the Hurriyet Daily News (Turkish) website reports today (February 19, 2013).

According to Patriarch Bartholomew -- spiritual leader of the world's 400 million Orthodox Christians -- both Greeks who left Turkey in the past, as well as those with familial roots in the country, are seeking to go east to live in Turkey.

"Although Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan invites the Greeks of Istanbul origin, it is not easy for them to return. But I wish they would return. In Athens, there is a federation for those who are of Istanbul origin. The federation demands the return of their citizenship from the Turkish government," Bartholomew said.

Turkish citizenship could be granted to them in order to encourage their migration to Turkey, he said, but added that the move would not be enough on its own because those who have departed now possess no land or real estate in Turkey.

NY Mom Arrested, Hired Strippers for Son's Party; Paid Two Female Strippers for Son's 16th Birthday

A woman in New York state was arrested yesterday for hiring female strippers -- who stripped totally naked -- for her son's 16th birthday party, the Raw Story website reports today (February 19, 2013).

Judy Viger, 33, has been charged with five counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

Police said Viger paid for two adult female entertainers to perform "personal and intimate dances" at the birthday party at Spare Time Bowling Center in South Glens Falls last November. The party was attended by several teens -- both boys and girls -- younger than 17.

"The charges stem from allegations that she endangered not only the welfare of her own child, but the welfare of the 14- and 15-year-old children that were at the birthday party as well," Saratoga County District Attorney James Murphy said.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Egypt Salafists Set Greek Catholic Church on Fire; Christians in Egypt Now Demoralized, Insecure

A mob of hundreds of Egyptian Salafists (Islamic fundamentalists) surrounded a Coptic Church on February 16, threw stones at it, and set it on fire.

The attack took place in Sarsena, a village 60 miles southwest of Cairo, the Catholic Culture website reports today (February 18, 2013).

"The Christians don't feel secure at all, especially now," Father Rafic Greiche, spokesman for Egypt's Greek Catholic Church, told Vatican Radio.

Fr. Greiche added, "We have a lack of security, and the people are demoralized."

Czech Republic OKs Marijuana for Med. Purposes; Users Need a Prescription from a Doctor to Get It

Czech President Vaclav Klaus has signed legislation that makes it legal to use marijuana for medical treatment in the Czech Republic, the New York Times website reports today (February 18, 2013).

The legislation had been approved by both houses of Parliament. It allows marijuana to be imported and later grown locally by registered firms licensed for such activity, which had been illegal.

Patients will need a prescription from a doctor to get the drug at pharmacies.

The use of marijuana for medical treatment will not be covered by health insurance.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

COMMENTARY: Mass. Needs to End Its Policy of Allowing Transgender Boys in Public Schools to Enter Girls' Facilities

Massachusetts -- by far the most liberal of all 50 American states -- recently implemented a new policy for its public schools that could be shocking even to the most liberal-minded educator.

Massachusetts now requires all of its public schools to permit "transgender" boys to use girls' locker rooms, bathrooms, and changing facilities if boys "assert" they are really girls.

This new policy is mind-boggling and beyond belief, to say the least.

According to this policy, a boy does not need a doctor's note, parental permission, or any other requirement to switch his sexual preference, but only needs to tell a teacher that he is a girl, in order to enter the girls' facilities.

The official Massachusetts document states, "Some students may feel uncomfortable with a transgender student using the same sex-segregated restroom, locker room, or changing facility, but this discomfort is not a reason to deny access to the transgender student."

We believe that this "discomfort" of the girls is a valid reason to deny a transgender student use of girls' facilities. Moreover, girls should not have to be confronted with the immoral message that this ridiculous policy conveys.

The new policy also puts teachers in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" predicament, since it requires them to allow boys to enter girls' facilities. In other words, how will a teacher know if a boy really is transgender, or if he just wants to be with girls in an intimate milieu?

In the final analysis, this policy is an invasion of girls' privacy and is even a threat to their safety.

Indeed, it is a policy that never should have been implemented by the state of Massachusetts -- and a policy that must be nullified quickly.

Pope Thanks 50K in St. Peter's Sq. for Affection; Says "Continue to Pray for Me and the Next Pope"

Calling this an unusual time for him and for the church -- but not specifically mentioning his resignation -- Pope Benedict XVI thanked a crowd of more than 50,000 in St. Peter's Square today (February 17, 2013) for their affection and asked them to continue their prayers, reports the Catholic News website.

A roar of applause rose up from the assembled crowd as Pope Benedict came to his studio window to lead the Angelus prayer.

People came to St. Peter's in larger numbers than normal for a Sunday Angelus because it was the first completely public, no-tickets-needed event since the pope announced on February 11 that he would be stepping down on February 28.

As he does every week, he greeted groups of pilgrims in their native languages. Addressing Spanish speakers, he said, "My heartfelt thanks ... for your prayers and affection in these days. Continue to pray for me and the next pope."

One Billion Drive Acts to Subdue Abuse of Women; A Billion of World's 3B Women Raped in Lifetime

In an effort to raise awareness for men and women to work together to change the attitudes that contribute to rape, abuse, and and assault of women and girls, a flash mob erupted in the cafeteria at the Ecumenical Center in Geneva, Switzerland on February 14, 2013 as part of the One Billion Rising initiative, according to the Ekklesia website.

Twenty dancers performed to a song -- titled "Break the Chain" -- whose lyrics condemn violence against women and convey that one billion of the world's three billion women and girls will be raped or attacked in their lifetime.The song ends with a stirring call for people to rise up and stop the violence.

Similar dance events were held in countries from Australia to Lebanon as part of the One Billion Rising campaign created by V-Day -- a global activist movement that promotes creative events to increase awareness about violence against women and to re-energize anti-violence organizations.

The event at the Ecumenical Center in Geneva -- which is home to global church organizations and non-governmental organizations -- was organized by the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC).

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Mass Rally Occurs in Singapore over Immigration; Natives Oppose Govt.Plan to Increase Immigrants

Singaporeans staged a rare demonstration today (February 16, 2013), in protest at government plans to allow more immigration, according to the BBC website.

Organizers said more than 4,000 people attended the rally, making it one of Singapore's largest ever protests.

They are angry at a recent government policy paper that predicted the population would grow by 30 percent to 6.9 million by 2030, with immigrants making up nearly half that figure. Many locals blame immigration for rises in property prices and living costs.

The peaceful three-hour rally took place in heavy rain at a park venue known as Speakers' Corner, where protests are allowed without a police permit. Only a handful of uniformed officers was seen close by.

Two Fifth-Grade Boys Planned to Kill a Classmate; Brought Semiautomatic Handgun in Bag to School

Residents of the eastern Washington state town of Colville are stunned after police announced they had uncovered a murder plot by two fifth-grade boys, the Newser website reports today (February 16, 2013).

The boys brought a .45-caliber Remington 1911 semiautomatic handgun and a knife to school, intending to kill a classmate, "because she was really annoying," say school officials.

The incident occurred on the morning of February 7 when a fourth-grade student told a teacher he had seen an older student with a knife. The teacher searched the fifth-graders' bags and found the weapons.

A hearing to determine whether the boys had the capacity to commit a crime is scheduled for February 20.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Mass.Law Allows Boys to Use Girls' Locker Rooms; Transgender Boys Can Do So without Doctor's Note

A new, official interpretation of state law -- released by Massachusetts Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester -- requires schools to permit "transgender" boys to use girls' locker rooms, bathrooms, and changing facilities if boys "assert" they are really girls, the WND (World Net Daily) website reports today (February 15, 2013).

"Some students may feel uncomfortable with a transgender student using the same sex-segregated restroom, locker room, or changing facility," the official document states, but then concludes, "this discomfort is not a reason to deny access to the transgender student."

Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, however, says there's something far more significant than "discomfort" at stake.

"The School Commissioner's first duty is to protect all students, from kindergarten to grade 12, not endanger them," Mineau said in a statement. "The overriding issue with this new policy is that opening girls' bathrooms to boys is an invasion of privacy and a threat to all students' safety."

Furthermore, the policy document explains, neither doctor's note nor hormone therapy -- nor even parental permission -- is needed for a student to switch sex: If a boy says he's a girl, as far as the schools should be concerned, he's a girl.

Lesbian Mil. Spouse Buried in National Cemetery; Is 1st Same-Sex Spouse Buried In Natl. Cemetery

Retired Lt. Col. Linda Campbell was happy to find out that the Department of Veterans Affairs had approved her request to have her partner, Nancy Lynchild -- who died in December -- buried in Willamette National Cemetery, southeast of Portland, Oregon, the Daily Beast website reports today (February 15, 2013).

Unlike Campbell, Lynchild herself was not a veteran, and she is believed to be the first same-sex spouse of a military member buried in a national cemetery.

Although the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy has been abolished, same-sex marriage is still not formally recognized by the military.

The Secretary of Veterans Affairs said it was actually the first time he had been asked to consider such a case, and emphasized that his decision applies solely to Campbell and Lynchild, and should not be viewed as establishing a new policy.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Portrait of Jesus to Remain on Wall of Ohio School; ACLU and FFRF File Lawsuit to Have It Taken Out

A portrait of Jesus will remain on the wall at an Ohio school despite a pending lawsuit. The school board contends that taking the portrait down would violate students' freedom of speech, the Inquisitr website reports today (February 14, 2013).

Ohio's Jackson City School District is facing a lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) on behalf of three unidentified individuals. The organizations believe that the painting of Jesus -- displayed in a public school -- is an unconstitutional governmental endorsement of religion.

School officials have chosen to keep the painting where it has remained for the past 65 years.

In a vote taken last night, the Jackson City Schools board voted 4-0 to keep the painting in place, despite the lawsuit.

Report: 5.8M Women Used the Morning-After Pill; Half Feared Their Birth Control Method Had Failed

As many as 11 percent -- or 5.8 million -- of American women ages 15 to 44 have used emergency contraception, according to a federal report released yesterday, the Daily Beast website reports today (February 14, 2013).

In the first federal study of emergency contraception since the so-called "morning-after pill" was approved in 1998, the National Center for Health Statistics said it conducted the survey of 12,279 women between 2006 and 2010.

Half of the women who used the morning-after pill said they did so because they feared their birth-control method had failed, while the rest said they had unprotected sex.

Among women aged 20 to 24, 23 percent had used emergency contraception, while just 5 percent of women ages 30 to 44 had used it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Muslims Plan to Alter German Church to Mosque; Reflects Islam as Germany's Fastest Growing Rel.

Muslim plans to convert a former Lutheran church in the city of Hamburg into a mosque is generating controversy across Germany, the Europe News website reports today (February 13, 2013).

The gradual proliferation of mosques housed in former churches reflects the rise of Islam as the fastest growing religion in Germany.

The latest bone of contention involves the former Kapernaumkirche (Capernaum Church), located in the Horn district in downtown Hamburg.

The church -- a cultural heritage site -- was abandoned in 2002 for financial reasons due to declining membership. The building -- with its surrounding land -- was sold in December 2012 to an Islamic organization in Hamburg.

France's National Assembly OKs Gay Marriage Bill; Redefines Marriage as a Contract Between 2 People

France's National Assembly approved the government's controversial "marriage for all" bill in a final vote yesterday, after months of fierce debate, the France 24 website reports today (February 13, 2013).

France's lower house voted by a clear majority to approve the marriage reform, which will allow same-sex couples the same spousal and adoption rights as their heterosexual counterparts.

The legislation -- which is President Francois Hollande's first major social reform and a key election pledge -- was backed by 329 deputies and opposed by 229.

The bill redefines marriage as a contract between two people rather than between a man and a woman. It will now go to the left-wing-controlled Senate -- or upper house -- on April 2, which is expected to approve it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Spain Offers Citizenship to Its Jewish Descendants; Expelled Its Jews During 15th Century Inquisition

In what can be described as an invitation by a nation that is very unusual -- perhaps even unprecedented -- Spain has offered immediate citizenship to descendants of Jews who were forced out of the country during the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th century, The World website reports today (February 12, 2013).

Spain's Justice Minister, Alberto Ruizo-Gallardon, recently told an audience at a Jewish center in Madrid,  "The measure we're announcing will let anyone who can prove their Sephardic origins obtain Spanish nationality."

In 1492 the Spanish Catholic monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabela, expelled the Jews from what is now modern-day Spain. Jews who stayed were forced to convert to Catholicism. Some 200,000 Jews chose to leave. More than five centuries later, very few have come back.

Enticing Jews to come back might be in order to give a boost to Spain's shrinking economy. It is also believed that Spain made the offer at this time to appease Israel, in view of the fact that Madrid supported last year's successful Palestinian bid for a seat at the United Nations.

Arkansas Law Allows Concealed Guns in Churches; Law Lets Each Church Decide If It Will Allow Guns

Gov. Mike Beebe of Arkansas has signed into law a measure allowing concealed handguns in churches, and says he believes a follow-up bill addresses the concerns that some pastors had about the new law, the One News Now website reports today (February 12, 2013).

Beebe told reporters that he signed into law the bill that would leave it up to churches and other places of worship to decide whether to allow the concealed weapons.

The concealed handguns would be banned at churches unless they specifically allowed them. Beebe told reporters that a companion bill -- filed last week -- addresses the worries raised by some clergy.

The recently filed House bill would require churches allowing concealed weapons to post signs notifying visitors about the decision.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Syria's Greek Orth. Church Enthrones Patriarch; John Yazigi Is Patriarch of Antioch, All the East

Syria's Greek Orthodox Church enthroned a new patriarch during a ceremonial mass in Damascus yesterday amid civil war, the Huffington Post website reports today (February 11, 2013).

John Yazigi, 57, replaces Ignatius Hazim as the Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East. Hazim died in December.

There are a number of Eastern Orthodox churches in the Middle East and the region also has more than a half dozen patriarchs, including the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians.

Christians represent about five percent of the population in Syria, where -- for nearly two years -- rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar Assad have been fighting a civil war the UN says has killed more than 60,000 people. During yesterday's enthronement ceremony in the Church of the Holy Cross in Damascus, Patriarch Yazigi said he will work for peace and pray for unity.

Pope Benedict Says He'll Retire at End of Month; Feels Poor Health Hinders His Ability to Be Pope

Pope Benedict XVI was cheered by conservatives for trying to reaffirm traditional Catholic identity, but liberals accused him of turning back the clock on reforms and hurting dialogue with non-Catholic Christians, Muslims, and Jews, according to the Reuters website.

The 85-year-old German-born pontiff announced today (February 11, 2013) that he will be stepping down at the end of this month because the effects of old age meant he would be unable to effectively complete his ministry.

Benedict enjoyed relatively good health most of his life, but the first clear sign that he was slowing down occurred in October 2011, when he began using a wheeled platform to move in the main aisle of St. Peter's Basilica.

In a book in 2010, Benedict said he would not hesitate to become the first pontiff to resign willingly in more than 700 years, if he felt himself no longer able, "physically, psychologically, and spiritually" to run the Roman Catholic Church.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Mahony Used Money of Dead in Abuse Lawsuits; Used $115M from Cemetery Fund to Settle Suits

Pressed to come up with hundreds of millions of dollars to settle clergy sex abuse lawsuits, Cardinal Roger Mahony turned to one group of Catholics whose faith could not be shaken: the dead. This secretive, deceptive, and horrific means of obtaining hundreds of millions of dollars was revealed by the Los Angeles Times today (February 10, 2013).

Under Mahony's leadership in 2007, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles quietly appropriated $115 million from a cemetery maintenance fund and used it to help pay a landmark settlement with molestation victims of Catholic clergy.

The church did not inform relatives of the deceased that it had taken the money, which amounted to 88 percent of the fund. Families of those buried in church-owned cemeteries and interred in its mausoleums have contributed to a dedicated account for the perpetual care of graves, crypts, and grounds since the 1890s.

Mahony and other church officials also did not mention the cemetery fund in numerous public statements about how the archdiocese planned to cover the $660-million abuse settlement. In detailed presentations to parish groups, the cardinal and his aides said they had "cashed in substantial investments" to pay the settlement, but they did not disclose that the main asset liquidated was cemetery money.

At Least 10 Feared Dead at Rel. Festival in India; Due to Collapse of Footbridge Near Ganges River

At least 10 people were feared dead and 30 more were injured today (February 10, 2013), after a stampede broke out at a train station in the northern Indian town of  Allahabad where millions of devout Hindus gathered for a religious festival, according to the Canada website.

New Delhi Television channel reported that the stampede broke out after a footbridge at the Allahabad train station collapsed today, and said at least 10 people were feared dead. CNN IBN news channel said at least 20 were feared dead.

An estimated 30 million devotees were expected to take a dip at the Sangam, the confluence of three rivers -- the Ganges, the Yamuna, and the mythical Saraswati -- today, one of the holiest bathing days of the Kumbh Mela, or Pitcher Festival. The festival -- which lasts 55 days -- is the world's largest religious gathering.

Devout Hindus believe a dip in the sacred river on one of these days will wash away their sins and free them from the cycle of death and rebirth.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Egypt Court Orders Govt. Ban YouTube for Month; Due to Its Access of an Anti-Islamic Film Last Year

An Egyptian judge has ordered the government to block YouTube for a month over the anti-Islamic video that showed up last year and caused deadly riots, the Newser website reports today (February 9, 2013).

The judge called "The Innocence of Muslims" film "offensive to Islam," but it is unclear whether the government would be able -- or be willing -- to enforce the penalty. YouTube parent Google has yet to comment on the judge's ruling.

"This verdict shows that judges' understanding of technology is weak," says a human rights lawyer in Egypt. "The judges do not realize that one wrong post on a website does not mean you have to block the entire website."

Another court in Egypt last year sentenced seven of the film's promoters to death, but that, too, seems impossible to enforce, given that all seven live outside the country.

Raped Kashmir Woman Dies in Abortion Surgery; Police Disregarded the Incident to Protect Rapist

A young Muslim woman has died during an ill-treated abortion surgery, after being raped and tortured in a remote village in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, the Eurasia Review website reports today (February 9, 2013).

Earlier, the rapist -- a 51-year-old man -- was convicted by a tribal court and ordered to pay a fine (about $5,000 in American currency) to the family of the victim. Police were aware of the incident, but deliberately remained silent and did not interfere into the matter to protect the rapist.

The victim of the incident could not survive the agony, torture, and humiliation of repeated sexual assaults, which she was facing for several months. The pregnant woman died when she was undergoing an ill-planned and mistreated surgery to abort delivery of the illicit child.

The incident was highlighted only after women social workers -- who helped in the funeral arrangements of the deceased -- found scars of brutal attacks over the body of the victim and a swelling on her belly.

Reports: Jesse Jackson Jr. Agrees to a Plea Deal; Will Plead Guilty, Still Faces Up to 5 Years in Jail

Embattled former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., 47, of Illinois has agreed to plead guilty -- and still faces possible jail time -- as part of a deal with federal authorities investigating accusations he misused campaign money, the Washington Times website reports today (February 9, 2013).

A federal judge soon will decide whether the Chicago Democrat -- son of well-known civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson -- serves jail time, several Chicago television channels reported. He could serve up to five years behind bars.

New reports have circulated for months that the Chicago Democrat has been under federal investigation over his role in discussions about raising money for then-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's campaign, in exchange for Blagojevich appointing him to president Obama's former U.S. Senate seat in late 2008.

The former Illinois governor in 2011 was sentenced to 14 years in prison on charges connected with the awarding of the Obama Senate seat.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Bolivia Lauds World's Largest Virgin Mary Statue; Rises 22 Feet Taller Than Brazil's Statue of Christ

The largest statue of the Virgin Mary in the world -- dedicated to Our Lady of Socavon -- was inaugurated at a February 1, 2013 ceremony in the city of Oruro in Bolivia, according to the Catholic News Agency website.

Rolando Rocha -- the lead sculptor for the project -- told reporters that more than simply "a work of engineering and art, the monument is an act of faith that strengthens our traditions."

Towering at 149 feet, the statue is located on a 12,000-foot mountain south of LaPaz -- Bolivia's capital and second largest city. It stands 22 feet taller than the Christ the Redeemer statue atop Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The statue's unveiling ceremony was attended by both Bolivian president Evo Morales and Oruro mayor Rossio Pimentel. Our Lady of Socavon is the patroness of miners.

Accused Witch Burned Alive in Papua New Guinea; Was Accused of Sorcery in Death of 6-Year-Old Boy

A mob stripped, tortured, and bound a woman accused of witchcraft -- then burned her alive in front of hundreds of witnesses -- in Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea, police said today (February 8, 2013), after one of the highest profile sorcery-related murders in this South Pacific island nation, according to the USA Today website.

Hundreds of bystanders -- including many children -- watched, and some took photographs of the brutal slaying on February 6. The Papua New Guinea prime minister, police, and diplomats condemned the killing.

The death was the first sorcery-related murder in Papua New Guinea in a year, national police spokesman Dominic Kakas said.

Kepari Leniata -- a 20-year-old mother -- had been accused of sorcery by relatives of a 6-year-old boy who died in a hospital the day before. Prime Minister Pete O'Neill said he had instructed police to use all available manpower to bring the killers to justice.

Boston Archdiocese: Cath. Can Miss Mass Sunday; Due to Blizzard Expected to Dump 2 Feet of Snow

In what can be viewed as a rare "dispensation," the Boston archdiocese today (February 8, 2013) urged Catholics to heed safety warnings from public officials during the current blizzard, and to only try to attend Mass on Sunday if they can do so safely, according to the Boston Globe website.

As part of its faith, the Roman Catholic Church requires its followers to attend Mass on Sundays.

"The faithful are encouraged to use good judgment when planning to travel to Mass," the archdiocese said in a statement.

"In the event that roadways are not clear for travel on Sunday, the faithful are reminded that the obligation to attend Sunday Mass does not apply when there is grave difficulty in fulfilling this obligation," the statement added.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Thousands Go to DC for National Prayer Breakfast; Obama Says He Now Focuses on the Power of Faith

Thousands gathered in Washington, D.C. today (February 7, 2013) for the National Prayer Breakfast, where they put their political differences aside to focus their shared faith in Jesus Christ, according to the Christian Broadcast Network website.

President Obama told those attending the event that his recent inauguration caused him to focus on the power of faith.

"Sometimes I search scripture to determine how best to balance life as a president and as a husband and as a father," he told the audience.

"I often search for scripture to figure out how I can be a better man as well as a better president," he continued. "And I believe that we are united in these struggles."

Female Circumcision Now a Problem in Germany; Some 150M Women Worldwide Are FGM Victims

Doctors, teachers, and social workers in Germany report being confronted in ever growing numbers of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), as a result of young girls being circumcised, the Jewish Press website reports today (February 7, 2013).

Between 130 and 150 million women around the world are victims of genital mutilation -- most of them Africans. Female circumcision is a common Islamic cultural practice -- not a religious practice -- used to curb the sexual desire of females and to help ascertain that their virginity will be preserved until marriage.

FGM is practiced in 29 African countries, even though it is illegal in some of them. It is usually done when girls are between the ages of four and eight -- by using razor blades, kitchen knives, and even broken glass and tin lids to remove the clitoris. Because these tools are used more than once, FGM increases the spreading of blood-based diseases like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.

An estimated 30,000 women living in Germany have been subjected to FGM and 6,000 girls are at risk, according to the human rights organization Terre des Femmes (Women's World).

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Poll: Most Americans Feel Govt. Threatens Rights; Distrust Federal Govt., Assert It Defies Dec. of Ind.

In the American Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers stated that "Governments are instituted among men" to secure the fundamental rights of the people, and that governments derive their "just powers from the consent of the governed."

But now, a clear majority of the American people distrust the federal government and believe that it "threatens their own personal rights and freedoms," the New American website reports today (February 6, 2013).

Pew Research Center for the People and the Press has tracked public opinion regarding trust in the federal government across the span of several presidential administrations, and the level of distrust has steadily grown. In a January 31, 2013 release accompanying the latest poll results ("Majority Says the Federal Government Threatens Their Personal Rights"), the Pew Research Center noted that an overwhelming majority of American citizens operate on the assumption that the federal government will not do the "right thing."

The poll emphasizes that most Americans do not view the federal government as an abstract threat, but rather as a concrete danger to their liberties; even 34 percent of self-described "liberal Democrats" view the federal government as threatening their "personal rights and freedoms." A majority of Americans share that assessment.

Ireland's Nuns Quelled Women into Forced Labor; Report Finds Govt. Forced Thousands to Laundries

An expert panel has found that Ireland should be legally responsible for workhouses run by Catholic nuns that kept thousands of women and teenage girls against their will in unpaid, forced labor, the Religion News website reports today (February 6, 2013).

Yesterday's report -- which analyzed the now defunct Magdalene Laundries -- found state authorities committed about one-quarter of 10,012 women to the workhouses from 1922 to 1996, often in response to school truancy or homelessness.

Ireland stigmatized them as "fallen" women -- in other words, it viewed them as prostitutes -- but most were simply unwed mothers or daughters of them.

The report found that 15 percent lived in the workhouses for more than five years, and police caught and returned women who fled. The women endured 12-hour work days of washing and ironing.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

OR Probes Baker Who Won't Make Lesbians Cake; Says He'll Close Bakery before Compromising Faith

An Oregon baker is under investigation by the state for notifying a lesbian woman that he did not make cakes for same-sex ceremonies, the Christian News Network website reports today (February 5, 2013).

Last month, Aaron Klein -- who owns a bakery with his wife called Sweet Cakes by Melissa -- was approached by a mother and her daughter interested in a cake for the daughter's upcoming wedding to her lesbian partner.

After Klein informed the women that the bakery did not make cakes for same-sex marriage, they filed a complaint with the state.

Klein affirmed that he would rather close down the bakery than compromise his faith. "My First Amendment rights allow me to practice my religion as I see it," he said.

Teen Swears at Judge, Flashes Him Middle Finger; Judge Finds Her in Contempt, Adds 30 Days in Jail

After a Miami judge doubled 18-year-old Penelope Soto's bond from $5,000 to $10,000, the teen seemed quite surprised, the Fox News Insider website reports today (February 5, 2013).

"Are you serious?" she exclaimed. The judge responded, "I am serious. Adios."

That's when Soto -- as she exited the courtroom -- swore at the judge and flashed him her middle finger. He called her back to verify what she had just said.

The judge said, "I find you in direct criminal contempt. Thirty days in the county jail."

Soto was originally arrested for illegal possession of anti-anxiety medication.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Bp. Welby Confirmed as Abp. of Canterbury Today; Seen by Anglicans Worldwide as 1st Among Equals

The Bishop of Durham (England) officially became the Archbishop of Canterbury at a ceremony today (February 4, 2013) -- succeeding Dr. Rowan Williams to become the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury -- according to the Christian Today website.

The Confirmation of Election took place in St. Paul's Cathedral and forms part of the legal process bringing the Right Reverend Justin Welby's appointment as Archbishop into effect.

The ceremony was overseen by the Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu. Also present were the Bishops of London, Winchester, Salisbury, Worcester, Rochester, Lincoln, Leicester, and Norwich.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is honored by Anglicans worldwide (Anglicans are called Episcopalians in the United States) as the "first among equals," and his role is regarded as a focus of unity within the Anglican Communion.

U. of Michigan Kicks Christian Club Off Campus; Due to Christian Fellowship's Ban of Unbelievers

The University of Michigan has booted an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship chapter off its campus for requiring its members to be Christians, The Blaze website reports today (February 4, 2013).

According to Greg Jao -- InterVarsity's field director -- the university gave the Asian chapter of the group two options: either reverse its constitution to be in compliance with university policy or leave campus.

The problem began last December when group members were brought before officials to discuss a problematic part of the Asian InterVarsity group's constitution. The document required club leaders to sign a statement affirming their Christian faith -- something the university said was a violation of its non-discrimination policy.

While students were given an option to submit a new constitution that complied with these rules, they decided to refrain from doing so and to stick with their values. Consequently, the Asian InterVarsity group was de-recognized by the school and forced to relocate off-campus.

NYC Schools Hand Out 12,721 Morning-After Pills; Parents Shocked, Blast Mayor for Keeping It Secret

New York City schools are offering young girls a full menu of birth control options -- free of parental counsel and knowledge -- thanks to an unpublicized project by Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration, the Washington Times website reports today (February 4, 2013).

School nurses handed out 12,721 doses of the Plan B One-Step "morning-after" pill in 2011-12, up from 10,720 in 2010-11, and 5,039 in 2009-10.

Mona Davids -- president of the New York City Parents Union -- was stunned by the report.

"I'm in shock," Davids said. "What gives the mayor the right to decide, without adequate notice, to give our children drugs that will impact their bodies and their psyches? He has purposely kept the public and parents in the dark with his agenda."

NYC officials refused to discuss the project, which also includes some 40 school-based clinics that have been dispensing prescriptions for contraception, intrauterine devices, and hormone-delivering injections.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Russian Patriarch Urges Church Posts on Internet; In Effort to Combat "Lies, Hypocrisy, and Hatred"

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia yesterday lamented a high number of anti-church Internet posts, and said the Russian Orthodox Church he leads should be present in social networks to tell the truth to its audience, the RIA Novosti (Russian) website reports today (February 3, 2013).

"Blogs and social networks give us new opportunities for the Christian mission" at a time when the Orthodox Church comes under attacks more often than before, the patriarch said. "Not to be present there means to display our helplessness and lack of care for the salvation of our brothers."

"Now that social media shows a huge interest -- although not always a sound one -- in church life, our duty is to convert it for a good cause, to create conditions for young people to know about Christ, know the truth about the life of people inside the Church," Patriarch Kirill said.

"When a person makes a query on church life in an Internet search engine, he finds a lot of lies, hypocrisy, and hatred," the patriarch said at a meeting of the Russian Orthodox Church's Bishops Council in downtown Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral. "These are the visible results of activity by the enemy of mankind," he added.

COMMENTARY: Worcester Diocese Was Wrong to "Cave In" to Muslim Pressure

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester (Massachusetts) last week rescinded an invitation to Robert Spencer -- a Catholic whose work depicts Islam as a violent religion -- to speak at its annual Catholic Men's Conference next month.

The invitation was withdrawn, after several Muslims expressed their concerns to the Worcester diocese about Spencer as a speaker.

Spencer is director of the anti-Islamic blog called Jihad Watch. He has also written several books critical of Islam, and he believes that jihad is a major principle of Islam.

We believe that the Worcester diocese was wrong in rescinding Spencer's invitation to speak at its Catholic Men's Conference. Doing so only reinforces the Islamic belief that pressure on Catholics -- as well as other Christians -- will be effective in intimidating their organizations to silence when they want to be critical of Islam. In other words, the Worcester diocese is setting a bad precedent.

Moreover, rescinding Spencer's invitation is contrary to the democratic principles upon which the United States was founded, in that it negates the freedom of speech and the free exchange of ideas to which Americans are entitled.

Indeed, American organizations must not be pressured into silence with respect to having a speaker who may be critical of Islam.

To do so conveys a message of cowardice toward Islam by that organization, as well as a denial of the constitutional rights that should be an integral part of the American democratic process.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

NJ Cath. School Girls Take "No-Cursing" Pledge; Principal Says "Girls Have the Foulest Language"

Female students at a Catholic high school in northern New Jersey took a "no-cursing" pledge yesterday at the request of school administrators, but some people question why no such demand was made of male students, the Associated Press website reports today (February 2, 2013).

Lori Flynn -- a teacher who organized the campaign at Queen of Peace High School in North Arlington -- said there is no double standard. She explained that while males weren't asked to take the vow, they had been asked not to swear when girls are near them.

Flynn said school officials want "ladies to act like ladies." Brother Larry Lavallee -- the school's principal -- said that "girls have the foulest language."

Dana Cotter, 16, thought that male students should join the pledge because "boys should be more like gentlemen."

Albania Police Nab Antique Thief at Greek Border; Tried to Smuggle Rel. Antiques in Car into Greece

Albanian police at the border crossing of Kakavije with Greece arrested Edjon Abazi yesterday for trying to smuggle religious antiques out of the country in the trunk of his car, the Balkan Insight website reports today (February 2, 2013).

Police then searched Abazi's home in the Albanian port town of Durres, where they found a treasure trove of antiques coming from the black market.

Police found 16 medieval jars of various sizes, 11 antique marble columns, two amphoras, and dozens of other smaller objects.

Since the collapse of communism in 1991, Albania's museums and archeological sites have suffered many thefts. Medieval Greek Orthodox churches -- particularly those located in remote areas -- have often fallen prey of thieves.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Protesters in Egypt Try to Overthrow Pres. Morsi; Most Intense Clashes Occur Outside Pres. Palace

Thousands of protesters returned to the streets in Cairo, Egypt today (February 1, 2013) -- many of them battling with police -- in a call to overthrow President Mohamed Morsi and his dictatorial Islamic government, according to the Global Post website.

The Egyptian president said security forces will "deal firmly" with violence against state institutions -- even as demonstrators tried to set his presidential palace aflame.

The most intense clashes occurred outside the presidential palace, where protesters threw at least one Molotov cocktail that landed near or inside the palace grounds.

Some protesters are fighting using fireworks as weapons, while police unleash tear gas on the crowds. Police also have burnt tents belonging to a sit-in.

Calif. Cardinal Mahony Fired for Protecting Priests; Covered Up for Priests Who Sexually Abused Teens

Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles -- one of the most powerful Catholic leaders in the United States -- has been relieved of his public roles for covering up for sexually abusive priests, the USA Today website reports today (February 1, 2013).

Just hours after a court-ordered massive release of priest personnel files revealed the extent of Mahony's role in covering up for known sexual predators, Archbishop Jose Gomez announced last night that he has relieved Mahony of his remaining duties.

This is the first time this has occurred since the massive abuse scandal exploded in 2002 when there were direct repercussions for top church officials. In December 2002, Cardinal Bernard Law resigned his post as Archbishop of Boston when protesters and priests called for him to step aside.

"I find these files to be brutal and painful reading," Gomez said in a statement, referring to the newly released files made public by the church last night just hours after a judge's order. "The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil. There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children."