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Students represent the Archdiocese of Hartford at the March for Life today on the National Mall.

8202773256 5d16c585fa mA statue of Blessed Junipero Serra at the Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala in San Diego, Calif. (Photo by Bob Mullen/The Catholic Photographer)

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM MANILA, Philippines (CNS) – Pope Francis said his September trip to the U.S. will take him to Philadelphia, New York and Washington – where he intends to canonize Blessed Junipero Serra – but probably no other stops.

sledesky 053 webA man photographs Father Stephen Sledesky, pastor of St. Bridget Parish in Manchester, and friends during reception in priest's honor Jan. 11.

MANCHESTER – Hundreds gathered at St. Bridget Parish on Jan. 11 to honor Father Stephen Sledesky, who was recognized as this year’s Archdiocesan Distinguished Elementary School Pastor. The award is presented annually to a pastor who exemplifies leadership, dedication and commitment to Catholic school education.

20150118cnsbr7984 webAn aerial view shows pilgrims gathering to hear a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at Rizal Park in Manila, Philippines, Jan. 18. The view shows only a portion of the Mass site. (CNS photo/Philippine Air Force/Handout via Reuters)

MANILA, Philippines (CNS) -- Pope Francis told a crowd of an estimated 6 million gathered in a Manila park to protect the family "against insidious attacks and programs contrary to all that we hold true and sacred, all that is most beautiful and noble in our culture."

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FARMINGTON – The campaign for the 2015 Archbishop’s Annual Appeal got off to a rousing start with a reception and dinner for past donors at Farmington Gardens Jan. 9. Archbishop Leonard P. Blair spoke on the theme of this year’s appeal, “Living the Joy of the Gospel.”

st fran spirit award winners 2015 webFrom left, Mark and Barbara Lentini, Daniel O'Connell and Christopher M. Dadlez

HARTFORD – Archbishop Emeritus Henry J. Mansell and the late David A. Lentini were recipients of the St. Francis Spirit Award during the annual luncheon meeting of St. Francis Care, parent company of St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center, at the Connecticut Convention Center Jan. 7.

soccer web(Photo provided by Knights of Columbus/l'Osservatore Romano)

Wilfrid Macena and other members of a Haitian amputee soccer team present Pope Francis with a soccer jersey on Jan. 12, commemorating the fifth anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson stands to Mr. Macena’s left.

20150112cnsbr7611 webA Swiss Guard keeps watch as Pope Francis speaks during an audience with the Vatican diplomatic corps Jan. 12. (CNS photo/Claudio Peri pool via Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Highlighting some of the most urgent conflicts facing the world, Pope Francis said such strife and injustices were rooted in a culture of rejection that refuses to recognize God, to protect nature and to respect other human beings.

In a wide-ranging speech Jan. 12 to diplomats accredited to the Vatican, the pope urged the world's governments and individuals to work "to end every form of fighting, hatred and violence, and to pursue reconciliation, peace and the defense of the transcendent dignity of the human person."

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Archbishop Leonard P. Blair and Father John P. Gatzak record a session of “Archbishop’s Corner” at the chancery in Hartford for airing radio station WJMJ 88.9 FM. (Photo by Jack Sheedy)

HARTFORD – Bishops, priests and deacons often preach from a pulpit, high above the heads of their listening congregations. It’s part of their job – their ministry – but, for Archbishop Leonard P. Blair at least, it’s not enough.

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Weigel_NEWDuring his homily at the Mass pro eligendo Romano Pontifice (for the election of the Roman Pontiff) on April 18, 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger cautioned his fellow cardinals that John Paul II’s successor would have to deal with an emerging "dictatorship of relativism" throughout the Western world: the use of coercive state power to impose an agenda of dramatic moral deconstruction on all of society.

Some Catholic commentators charged that Ratzinger’s warning was so over-the-top that he could never be elected pope. Others thought the formula "dictatorship of relativism" a neat summary of a grave threat to freedom and believed that a man with the courage to call things by their true names would make a fine pontiff.

Recent events throughout the Western world have fully vindicated the latter.

In Canada, evangelical pastors have been assessed heavy monetary fines for preaching the Gospel truth about the ethics of love and marriage. In Poland, the priest-editor of a major Catholic magazine was convicted of violating a complainant’s human rights and assessed a heavy fine because he described abortion for what it is: the willful taking of an innocent human life. In the United States, health care providers and others involved in the health care system (including employers and insurers) are threatened by the dictatorship of relativism in the guise of the Obama administration’s Department of Health and Human Services, as the bishops of the United States have warned.

And then there is Australia, which I recently visited on a 10-day lecture tour.

A summary of opinion polling published in the Australian edition of the secular newsweekly The Week suggests that Aussies are, well, distinctive. More Australians believe in "human-induced climate change" than believe in God; yet 20 percent more of the folks living Down Under believe in angels than believe in evolution. Go figure.

Amid the postmodern confusions, however, Australia is like the rest of the West in that the proponents of "marriage equality" are at the forefront of efforts to impose the dictatorship of relativism, in this instance from Perth to Sydney and at all points in between. Moreover, their rhetoric has become brazenly Orwellian. Thus, when Prime Minister Julia Gillard (an avowed atheist who makes Nancy Pelosi seem like Margaret Thatcher) nonetheless announced that a "gay marriage" proposal would get a "conscience vote" in the federal parliament, she was accused by her lefter-than-left opponents of being … undemocratic.

For those unfamiliar with Westminster systems, most parliamentary votes are, as the British say, subject to the party whip: that is, members are expected to vote with the party leadership and are subject to severe retribution (such as being "decertified" as a party-supported candidate at the next election) if they resist the whip. By contrast, a "conscience vote" is one in which parliamentarians may vote as they like (for reasons of conscience, or what they deem political expedience, or both). But according to Senator Gavin Marshall, chairman of the "Left federal parliamentary Labor Party caucus," writing in the Australian daily newspaper The Age, Gillard’s decision to allow a "conscience vote" on "gay marriage" is "not democratic," because it "exposes individual parliamentarians to powerful conservative lobby groups" and the retrograde opinions of those "stubbornly opposed to all social reforms."

Imagine that: defenseless "individual parliamentarians" having to contend with deeply held (and often religiously informed) moral convictions. What will those nasty, unscrupulous opponents of "social reform" think of next?

George Orwell – our great pathologist of debauched political speech – would have gagged at Senator Marshall’s op-ed piece. A coerced whip-line vote that imposes a radical and philosophically incoherent agenda on a country not at all sure it wants to go down that road is "democratic," whereas a free vote on whether the state can redefine a basic human institution at its whim is undemocratic? Please.

If Senator Marshall is right, then the word "democratic" means nothing but willfulness manifest through legislation. That the willfulness in question is based on a deeply confused relativism about right and wrong, and that it chooses to impose itself through coercive state power, only underscores the point Joseph Ratzinger was making in 2005.

George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

 

Events Calendar

January 2015
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07:00 PM
Caritas Christi Center, Hamden, Hamden, United States
"Finding the Sacred in Everyday Life," a two-part program, will be presented by Lisa Velazquez, certified [...]
Date :  January 19, 2015
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09:00 AM
Cathedral of St. Joseph, Hartford
Archbishop Leonard P. Blair will celebrate the annual Rally for Life Mass at 9 a.m. Jan. 24 at the [...]
09:00 AM
Doubletree by Hilton, Bristol, Bristol, United States
Magnificat for women will meet for breakfast from 9 a.m. to noon Jan. 24 at the Doubletree by Hilton in Bristol. Registration begins at [...]
Date :  January 24, 2015
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12:00 PM
St. Mary School, Newington, Michigan City, United States
Saint Mary School in Newington will host several open houses next week for families interested in the [...]
Date :  January 25, 2015
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02:00 PM
Spiritual Renewal Center, Norwich, Norwich, United States
A Mass of Healing will be celebrated at 2 p.m. Jan. 26 at the Spiritual Renewal Center in Norwich. It is [...]
05:15 PM
Albertus Magnus College, New Haven, New Haven, United States
Dr. Denys Turner will speak on “A Teacher and Two Students: Albert, Thomas Aquinas and Meister Eckhart” on from 5:15-6:30 p.m. Jan. 26 in the Hubert Campus Center on the New Haven campus [...]
07:00 PM
Caritas Christi Center, Hamden, Hamden, United States
"Finding the Sacred in Everyday Life," a two-part program, will be presented by Lisa Velazquez, certified [...]
12:00 AM
Knights of Columbus Museum, New Haven, New Haven, United States
The Knights of Columbus Museum’s 10th annual Christmas crèche exhibition, “Buon Natale: Crèches of Italy,” opened Dec. 1 and remains on view until Feb. 1 with [...]
Date :  January 26, 2015
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01:00 PM
St. Mary School, Newington, Michigan City, United States
Saint Mary School in Newington will host several open houses next week for families interested in the [...]
Date :  January 29, 2015
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06:30 PM
My Father's House, Moodus, East Haddam, United States
MOODUS – Healing and a spaghetti supper will be combined at 6:30 p.m. Jan 30 at My Father’s House at [...]
Date :  January 30, 2015
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01:30 PM
Caritas Christi Center, Hamden, United States
Caritas Christi Center's ongoing centering prayer program will continue from 1:30-3:30 p.m. Jan. 31 at the [...]
09:00 AM
My Father's House, Moodus, East Haddam, United States
MOODUS – Matthew Arnold, speaker, author, producer and host of the radio program “Shield of Faith” on Radio Maria, will present a program titled [...]
Date :  January 31, 2015

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