Shine Your Light

Two U.S. cardinals recently made a powerful pitch for the new evangelization of America. Speaking with the Register’s radio apostolate, Register Radio News, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago pointed out that evangelizing individuals is not enough. Cultures have to be evangelized as well.

“We are all converted by Jesus Christ,” the archbishop said, “but we live in groups called cultures. … If a culture is compatible with the Gospel … our own personal conversion is easier. If it's very much opposed to the Gospel, then you have to evangelize the culture.”

Cardinal Adam Maida, archbishop of Detroit, also had a word about culture, especially Europe's. There is “too much history” in Europe, the cardinal said, and “culture can be an awful lot of baggage that gets in the way of clear dialogue between people.” On the other hand, he said, “In America we are rather young as a country. … We haven't developed the animosities, the deep histories and the cultural differences that exist in Europe.”

From the two cardinals, then, comes a great challenge and a reason for hope: The United States needs to be evangelized urgently, but this task may prove easier here than in Europe, where a special synod has been convened to address what is being called a continentwide “apostasy.”

What will it take to re-evangelize the States, and the West in general? Christ began his Church with a dozen apostles and a group of committed disciples who shone their light over the world. With today's communications technology — like the radio on which these cardinals' voices were heard — there's no reason the Church couldn't mobilize an army of new apostles.


Conscience in California

The headline is alarming. “The End of Catholic Health Care in California?” asks the editorial in the Oct. 1 edition of The Tidings, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

The editorial goes on to describe how a new law, signed in September by Gov. Gray Davis, forces all employer-carried health insurance plans to pay for prescription contraceptives. The governor, himself a Catholic, did not respond to the California Catholic Conference's request for a conscience clause for Catholic hospitals.

As The Tidings notes, this means that Catholic institutions in California will have to choose between obeying the law or their consciences. But the editorial sees an even worse consequence:

“We suspect that in refusing to provide an adequate conscience clause, the bill's authors and sponsor (none other than Planned Parenthood) believe they have finally found a way to cripple or eliminate the last and most formidable challenge to their pro-choice juggernaut. Far-fetched? Planned Parenthood has already expressed its anger — and fear — that the growing number of Catholic hospitals may mean less access to abortion and contraceptive services in California.”

In legislative trends, laws that take hold in California are likely to show up in state legislatures around the nation. This is a direct challenge to American Catholics.

America was established as a free haven for people of conscience. Catholics must not be denied the freedom to follow theirs. Will California's Catholics let their outrage be felt?


A Bad Joke

Apart from being a bad joke, Jan Fransen's remarks to the European Parliament in Brussels were sadly revealing.

According to the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-Fam), the demographer made the joke during a United Nations Population Fund briefing to mark Oct. 12, the day that world population was estimated to reach 6 billion.

Fransen, a one-time Population Fund representative, said that to “increase mortality” would help curb population growth in Africa. During a question-and-answer period, a representative from Marie Stopes International, one of the largest abortion providers in the world, took the joke a step further, and pointed to AIDS as a possible way to population reduction, according to C-Fam.

AIDS has reached crisis proportions in Africa, dropping the life expectancy in some countries from 61 to 47. Fransen went on to say that the appropriate number of people on earth is somewhere between 700 million and 1 billion people.

That these comments were made at such a forum and were not greeted with outrage reveals a sick truth about the zeal for a smaller population. It can make us so numb to the value of individual human lives that the painful suffering of AIDS is seen as a benign influence in the world.

And, at the end of a century that tore Europe apart over racial, political and economic struggles, this anti-population mentality can allow a European leader to callously note an epidemic of African deaths while arguing that the world should be five-sixths smaller than it is.