Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Troubling Call From Syria

The following excerpts are from AINA:

  • Early this morning [August 26] I received a phone call from Mary, a friend in Sweden who was born in Syria. She wanted me to check my Facebook account. A young Syrian woman, Nour, wanted to become friends with me. I accepted the request. A minute later, Nour wrote me her first message. She had pictures from Tabqa, a town that was totally emptied of Christian Assyrians [AINA 8-2-2013, 8-4-2013, 8-9-2013]. Nour also had the contact information of victims of fundamentalist Islam. They, the victims, want the world to know what has happened to them. A group of non-Syrian Mujahedeen drove them out of their homes.The message from the perpetrators was "convert to Islam or leave". I called one of the victims, and heard horrifying stories about religious and ethnic cleansing.
  • Christians in Syria are a vulnerable group. They comprise approximately 8 percent of the population. Tabqa used to be a modern city with cinemas, hairdressers, fashion boutiques and restaurants. Now it is driven by men in beards who no longer allow any of that.
  • An hour after my interview with that refugee, US Secretary of State John Kerry declared "there must be accountability" on behalf of the victims of a chemical weapon attack. Considering all the evidence emerging from witnesses, from images, from human-rights groups and from medical information provided by Doctors Without Borders, Kerry said "these all strongly indicate" that "chemical weapsons were used in Syria," and that they were fired by the Syrian government.
  • Doctors Without Borders didnt' appreciate its medical reports being used as a justification for possible military action. It issued a statement stressing that only "an independent investigation" can determine whether the hundreds of boides arriving at hospitals Aug. 21 were killed by chemical weapons, and that the organization has not placed blame anywhere.
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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Syrian Rebels Used Sarin Nerve Gas, Not Assad's Regime: U.N. Official

The following excerpts are from Assyrian International News Agency:

  • Testimony from victims strongly suggests it was the rebels, not the Syrian government, that used Sarin nerve gas during a recent incident in the revolution-wracked nation, a senior U.N. diplomat said Monday.
  • Carla del Ponte, a member of the U.N. Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, told Swiss TV there were "strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof," that rebels seeking to oust Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad had used the nerve agent.
  • But she said her panel had not yet seen any evidence of Syrian government forces using chemical weapons, according to the BBC, but she added that more investigation was needed.
  • Damascus has recently facing growing Western accusations that its forces used such weapons, which President Obama has described as crossing a red line. But Ms. del Ponte's remarks may serve to shift the focus of international concern.
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Syrian Bishop Warns Intervention Could Spark 'World War'

The following excerpts are from Assyrian International News Agency:
  • A Syrian Chaldean Catholic bishop on Monday warned that an armed intervention in Syria could unleash a "world war", while the Vatican's official newspaper called for more "prudence" from Western powers.
  • "If there is an armed intervention, that would mean, I believe, a world war. That risk has returned," Monsignor Antoine Audo of Aleppo told Vatican radio.
  • "We hope that the pope's call for real dialogue between the warring parties to find a solution can be a first step to stop the fighting," he said.
  • Audo is also the head of the Syrian arm of the international Catholic charity Caritas and has repeatedly warned about the human cost of the war.
  • The Vatican daily, L'Osservatore Romano, meanwhile criticised Western powers in an editorial.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Four Months After Their Abduction, Fate of Syrian Bishops Unknown | CNS News

The following excerpts are from

  • Orthodox Christians in Syria’s second city on Thursday will mark four months since their bishops went missing, their fate no clearer now than at any time since they were abducted by armed men and their driver shot dead near the Syria-Turkey border on April 22.
  • Greek Orthodox Bishop Boulos Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim, both based in Aleppo, are among at least five Christian leaders kidnapped this year in the Syrian civil war, in which minority Christians have been targeted by anti-Assad Sunni rebels who consider them to be supporters of the regime.

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Four Months After Their Abduction, Fate of Syrian Bishops Unknown | CNS News

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Obamacare Website Misleads on Abortion-Inducing-Drug Mandate | CNS News

The following excerpts are from

  • A website created by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services--a division of the Department of Health and Human Services--provides misleading information about abortion-inducing drugs that, because of an Obamacare regulation, must be covered by almost all health-care plans in the United States. 
  • On a page headlined “What are my birth control benefits?” says that “Plans in the Health Insurance Marketplace must cover contraceptive methods” and that, “All Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods prescribed by a woman’s doctor are covered, including … Emergency contraception, like Plan B and ella.”
  • But then it says: “Plans aren’t required to cover: Drugs to induce abortions.”
  • However, as Plan B's package itself states: “This product works mainly by preventing ovulation (egg release). It may also prevent fertilization of a released egg (joining of sperm and egg) or attachment of a fertilized egg to the uterus (implantation).”

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Obamacare Website Misleads on Abortion-Inducing-Drug Mandate | CNS News

Friday, August 16, 2013

Respect and Decency...Where Have They Gone?

Come on now. Tell me the truth... you've said it. You have heard it said again and again. You have discussed it with your family, co-workers, friends, and even strangers in impromptu conversations. It's more often than not in the form of a question. And that question is.."where has common decency gone?"

We have all said it, and with good reason too. You cannot turn on the radio, the television, the computer; you cannot go to the movies, without being bombarded with sexual innuendos, graphic pictures, graphic talk, and just plain out and out filth. You know it is getting bad when the first words a five year old uses after about a week in his kindergarten class is a word that, as my mom would have put it, "is enough to make a sailor blush".

Unfortunately, in this day and age, filthy talk is the "norm" in society at large. So much so, that "polite society", kindness, and just plain old manners seem to have gone the way of the dinosaur. People use the "F" word freely, randomly, no matter who may be present, and with no more forethought or concern than that which is required for taking their next breath. They willingly take the Lord's name in vain, as if there is nothing shameful or harmful in doing so.

I live in the mountains of North Carolina, one of those southern states, that was known throughout the USA, even the world, for the friendliness, hospitality, courtesy and gentility of its people. Yet, more and more, those good qualities seem to be seen and heard less and less. People seem to have lost respect for others, and even more so, for themselves.

People say, "well, times have changed"....people aren't so "uptight" as they were 10, 20, or 30 years ago. How "uptight" is it, to resist using the foul language that seems so rampant? I recall as a youngster, my father impressing on all three of his sons that at no time was cursing in public permissible and certainly no foul language in mixed company. We all knew that if we slipped up and did or said anything outside of the boundaries set for us, we'd catch it and catch it big! Although it was not fear of punishment that kept us following his instruction, it was his teaching us that not only was it showing good manners and respect to others, it was also a matter of honor.

Anyone who used such language was common, what we in the south called "trash". That may seem a harsh word or term, but has the same meaning and connotation as "common" is used in other countries. Yet, time and again, we see and hear indecency in film, music, television, and on the "net". People laugh when they hear or see it. Yet, is it laughter from finding things said and done funny, or is it a nervous laugh because they don't know quite else what to do? They don't want to be seen as "old fashioned" or as a "stick in the mud", so they either keep quiet or they go along with it, refusing to go against the current. How many times have we gone along with language or actions just to be "part of the gang"? We may even participate, and then claim it is all just harmless "fun" that hurts no one. There are no injuries; there is no victimization by seeing and repeating indecencies. Why, who in the world could be hurt by saying the "F" word? Who could be hurt by listening to music or watching movies with profanity and worse? Who? YOU!!!

Yes, you!! When we use foul language, when we listen to the music, when we watch films with all its foulness and all of its anti-social qualities, WE are the losers. Here is a little parable on how it eventually affects us: John is a worker with a landscaping company. John is very proud of the fact that he is immune to the effects of poison ivy. He brags how he could roll in it, and never break out from coming into contact with it. He grabs it with his bare hands and pulls it up by the roots. He carries it from wherever he is working, and laughs as other workers move quickly out of his way when he carries it to be hauled away with other brush. Then after a few years of this, John is carrying away an armful of it from a job sight. The poison ivy is in his bare arms, some of it even brushing against his face. Three nights later, John awakens with a terrible burning itch all over his arms and face. When he looks at his arms, they are covered with an angry looking red rash he is not familiar with. When he looks in the mirror, he sees the same red rash over his face, almost in his eyes. John goes to the doctor, and finds he had a reaction to poison ivy. John finds, that repeatedly coming into contact with the poison ivy has lowered his resistance to it, and that now he is just as susceptible to it as everyone else.

When we, participate in indecent behavior, through language, actions, or whatever, we then lower our resistance to it, and our participation becomes easier, and our conscience is dulled towards it.

Mark 7: 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.

James 3: 8 But the tongue no man can tame, an unquiet evil, full of deadly poison. 9 By it we bless God and the Father: and by it we curse men who are made after the likeness of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. 11 Doth a fountain send forth, out of the same hole, sweet and bitter water? 12 Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear grapes? Or the vine, figs? So neither can the salt water yield sweet. 13 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge, among you? Let him shew, by a good contestation, his work in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter zeal, and there be contention in your hearts: glory not and be not liars against the truth. 15 For this is not wisdom, descending from above: but earthly, sensual, devilish. 16 For where envying and contention is: there is inconstancy and every evil work. 17 But the wisdom that is from above, first indeed is chaste, then peaceable, modest, easy to be persuaded, consenting to the good, full of mercy and good fruits, without judging, without dissimulation. 18 And the fruit of justice is sown in peace, to them that make peace.

1 Corinthians 15: 33 Be not seduced: Evil communications corrupt good manners.

Ephesians 5: 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness: but rather reprove them. 12 For the things that are done by them in secret, it is a shame even to speak of.

Hebrews 12: 14 Follow peace with all men and holiness: without which no man shall see God. 15 Looking diligently, lest any man be wanting to the grace of God: lest any root of bitterness springing up do hinder and by it many be defiled.

Copyright © 2006-2013 Gary Stephen Smith. All Rights Reserved.

NOTE: This post originally appeared on our "Spirituality and Mysticism" blog (now archived) in 2006.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Anti-Catholic Facebook pages worry Latino communities :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)

The following excerpts are from CNA (Catholic News Agency):
  • Facebook's continued tolerance for obscene anti-Catholic pages in Spanish are causing some users to question the site's policies – and whether they should keep using the social network.
  • “I report anti-Catholic pages every so often,” user Carlos Wadsworth of Costa Rica said in response to an open Facebook query from CNA executive director Alejandro Bermudez.
  • “...and it is so disgusting that when I report a comment that is literally an insult to a bishop and/or to all Catholics the answer from Facebook is that the post does not violate Facebook policies.”
  • Mario De Jesús Gallardo Mendiolea, who says he is involved in evangelization in the Diocese of Leon, Mexico, claims that Facebook's policy is “very tolerant of anti-Catholicism.”
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Friday, August 09, 2013

Today's Christianity

NOTE: The post below originally appeared on our "Spiritual Warfare" blog (now archived) in 2006. I thought it worth posting here for those who may not have ever read it.

Pick and Choose Theology

There is a trend in today’s Christianity that is ever growing, and is an alarming trend that threatens the very foundations and tenets of our faith. That trend is not limited to any one geographical or denominational identifier, but, is widespread among all nations, all peoples, and all systems of Christian belief. Thousands and thousands of people who would identify themselves as Christian have willingly been led into "pick and choose" theology. Most of these pick and choosers tend to identify themselves as “progressive Christians”.

What was that? You’re asking me what is a "progressive Christian"? You sure you want the answer? Especially coming from me, one who is an unabashed conservative. You really want my answer? OK, then…you asked for it…too late to cry now, so here it is: A “progressive Christian” is a person or group of people who though they claim to be nominally Christian, do not have the faith, courage, integrity or intestinal fortitude to stand up for God and His truth, but, have the unwavering, unflinching, unmitigated gall to stand up for anything and everything that opposes God, opposes His Church, opposes the teachings of His prophets and His Apostles. They are the ones who will call sin good, and call that which is good evil.

We see these people making their outlandish and ungodly stands on television, radio, the internet, and in the print media as well. If there is a camera, a microphone or pen and paper to be had, they will do all that they can to try to destroy all that God has wrought. You will see them use terms like “social justice” where they accuse the conservatives of ignoring the poor and vulnerable while focusing on issues like abortion and same sex marriage.

I tend to think they want we conservatives to ignore abortion and same sex marriage issues, because deep down they know that theologically the “progressives” don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to those two issues. The “progressives” would like for us all to think…no, to believe that because man changes, God changes, too. I think they actually believe that God should reform to suit what they think and what they believe, and that God and His law are merely words written in a book that can be taken or discarded at will.

They really don’t understand scripture or the teachings of the Apostles and the Church, and they tend to prove so each and every time they open their mouths. For instance, when conservatives oppose the gay lifestyle that is so often promoted by these “progressives”, the progressives will tell us, and in quite a smug manner, too, that “if Jesus was walking on earth today, He would be spending His time with the gays and lesbians” and so forth. I have to agree. He more than likely would. What they fail to comprehend with what they have said, is that they themselves have just made an admission of the gay lifestyle being a sin, and that all of us... are in need of His redemption. For when Jesus taught in Palestine, He was always with the sinners, and in Mark 2: 16 And the scribes and the Pharisees, seeing that he ate with publicans and sinners, said to his disciples: Why doth your master eat and drink with publicans and sinners? 17 Jesus hearing this, saith to them: They that are well have no need of a physician, but they that are sick. For I came not to call the just, but sinners. Further, they also should realize, that as His instructions to them would be as His instructions to the woman caught in adultery in John 8: 10 Then Jesus lifting up himself, said to her: Woman, where are they that accused thee? Hath no man condemned thee? 11 Who said: No man, Lord. And Jesus said: Neither will I condemn thee. Go, and now sin no more.

So, yes. I agree Jesus would be with them, and He would tell them, as He tells us all to “go and sin no more". His being with them would not be to approve their lifestyle, but, to reprove it.

What people do not want to realize, do not want to admit, is that no matter how much man changes, no matter how much the times may change, God does not change. God is not bound by time, He is beyond all time, and His ways and His thoughts are above our ways and our thoughts. God is not bound by what we may think is right or wrong, but, man is bound to honor and obey what God says is right and what He says is wrong, and there is nothing or no one who can change what God’s law is, and no matter what man may think it should be, God has told us all what His law is, and a feeble excuse on His Day of Judgment that “the times had changed” is not going to hold up. We know what His law is. It is up to each of us to do it. Calling oneself “progressive” is just an excuse to live as we please, and not as God pleases. After all, God’s way is tough. The progressive way is not, and is a way of denying that sin is indeed, sin.

Isaiah 5:20 Woe to you that call evil good, and good evil: that put darkness for light, and light for darkness: that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.21 Woe to you that rue wise in your own eyes, and prudent in your own conceits. 22 Woe to you that are mighty to drink wine, and stout men at drunkenness. 23 That justify the wicked for gifts, and take away the justice of the just from him. 24 Therefore as the tongue of the fire devoureth the stubble, and the heat of the dame consumeth it: so shall their root be as ashes, and their bud shall go up as dust: for they have cast away the law of the Lord of hosts, and have blasphemed the word of the Holy One of Israel.

2 Timothy 4: 1 I charge thee, before God and Jesus Christ, who shall judge the living and the dead, by his coming, and his kingdom: 2 Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine. 3 For there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: 4 And will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables. 5 But be thou vigilant, labour in all things, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill thy ministry. Be sober.

Copyright © 2006 - 2013 Gary Stephen Smith. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Cardinal Francis Arinze On Three Videos From The 2011 Eucharistic Congress in The Diocese of Charlotte

The following three videos are from Franics Cardinal Arinzes keynote address to Diocese of Charlotte, NC, USA Eucharistic Congress, in September 2011.

I wasn't able to attend, but I enjoyed the good Cardinal's talk, and learned a great deal. I thought you might enjoy them as well.

Part one of three from Cardinal Francis Arnize's talk

Part two of three from Cardinal Francis Arnize's talk

Part three of three from Cardinal Francis Arnize's talk

Same-Sex Couple to Sue Church of England for Marriage Rights | Daily News |

The following excerpts are from National Catholic Register's Daily News:
  • Following legislation that permits same-sex “marriage” in the U.K. yet prohibits the Church of England from performing the ceremony, two men are planning to sue to be able to marry in their church.
  • “We are happy for gay marriage to be recognized — in that sense, it is a big step. But it is actually a small step because it is something we still cannot actually do,” Barrie Drewitt-Barlow told the Essex Chronicle Aug. 1.
  • “We need to convince the church that it is the right thing for our community for them to recognize as practicing Christians.”
  • On July 17, the U.K.’s same-sex “marriage” bill became law, meaning that, beginning next year, same-sex couples — who can already obtain civil unions — can become married in England and Wales, though not in Scotland or Northern Ireland.
  • The legislation allows churches and other religious groups to conduct wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples at the church’s discretion, though the U.K.’s established church, the Church of England, is barred from doing so.
  • Drewitt-Barlow and his partner, Tony, are members of the Church of England, and they are upset that they will not be able to marry in their own church.
Read more by clicking below:
Same-Sex Couple to Sue Church of England for Marriage Rights | Daily News |

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Pope Francis thinking about declaring Pius XII a saint :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)

The following excerpts are from Catholic News Agency((CNA/EWTN News):
  • Pope Francis is considering whether he will make Pope Pius XII a saint, in the same way that he approved the cause of John XXIII.
  • A source who works at the Vatican’s Congregation for Causes of Saints, who asked for anonymity, told CNA July 25 that “just as Pope Francis moved ahead with John XXIII’s canonization, he is considering the same thing for Pius XII.”
  • According to the normal procedures, Pius XII would be beatified once a miracle attributed to his intercession is officially certified by a team of doctors and recognized by a commission of cardinals.
  • But if Pope Francis decides to go ahead without a miracle, he could “even canonize him with the formula of scientia certa (certainty in knowledge), thereby jumping over the step of beatification,” the source said.
  • “Only the Pope is able to do it, and he will, if he wants to.”
  • Pope Francis is very interested in Pius XII because “he considers him ‘a great,’ in the same way as John XXIII is, even if for different reasons,” the source explained.
  • But there is also a historical reason that Pope Francis is interested in Pius XII.
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