Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict on D-Day

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On the 6th of June, 1944, when the landing of the allied troops in German-occupied France commenced, a signal of hope was given to people throughout the world, and also to many in Germany itself, of imminent peace and freedom in Europe.  What had happened?  A criminal and his party faithful had succeeded in usurping the power of the German state. In consequence of such party rule, law and injustice became intertwined, and often indistinguishable. The legal system itself, which continued, in some respects, still to function in an everyday context, had, at the same time, become a force destructive of law and right. This rule of lies served a system of fear, in which no one could trust another, since each person had somehow to shield himself behind a mask of lies, which, on the one hand, functioned as self defense, while, in equal measure, it served to consolidate the power of evil.  And so it was that the whole world had to intervene to force open this ring of crime, so that freedom, law and justice might be restored.

We give thanks at this hour that this deliverance, in fact, took place. And not just those nations that suffered occupation by German troops, and were thus delivered over to Nazi terror, give thanks. We Germans, too, give thanks that by this action, freedom, law and justice would be restored to us.  If nowhere else in history, here clearly is a case where, in the form of the Allied invasion, a justum bellum worked, ultimately, for the benefit of the very country against which it was waged.

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PopeWatch: Pope Emeritus

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE

John Allen, from his new perch as a Boston Globe columnist, notes recent actions taken in support of Pope Francis by the Pope Emeritus:

 

First, his closest aide and confidante, German Archbishop Georg Gänswein, gave an interview to the Reuters news agency on Feb. 9 in which he insisted there’s “a good feeling” between Francis and Benedict, and that the two men see one another often.

Second, Benedict XVI made a surprise appearance at a Feb. 22 consistory ceremony in which Francis elevated 19 new cardinals into the church’s most exclusive club, sitting in the front row and beaming during the event.

When Francis made his way over to wrap Benedict in a hug, the pope emeritus removed his white zucchetto, a skullcap that’s one of the symbols of the papal office — a small gesture that told insiders he was acknowledging Francis as the new boss.

Third, Benedict responded in writing to questions by veteran Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli concerning speculation that he’d been pressured to step down and therefore his resignation was invalid under church law. Following that reasoning to its logical conclusion, it would suggest that Francis isn’t really the pope.

Benedict dismissed the hypothesis as “simply absurd.”

“I took this step in full awareness of its gravity and novelty but with profound serenity of spirit,” Benedict wrote in comments published Feb. 26. “Loving the church also means having the courage to make difficult, painful choices, always keeping the good of the church in mind and not ourselves.”

Fourth, Gänswein, who still acts as Benedict’s private secretary and who lives with the former pope in a monastery on Vatican grounds, gave another interview to the Washington Post in which he said the two pontiffs didn’t know one another well at the beginning but are becoming steadily closer. Continue reading

The Cross: Sign of God’s Life

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A Good Friday meditation on the Cross by commenter Greg Mockeridge.

Out of all Christian symbols, the sign of the Cross is by far the most significant. In the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox faiths, the blessings given by priests, which are believed to convey actual grace, are given with the sign of the Cross.


The Cross also symbolizes one of the cruelest forms of capital punishment ever inflicted in human history. So it should be no surprise that this “sign of contradiction” is seen by many as the largest “stumbling block” of the Christian faith.


Such reaction, while superficially understandable, ignores a foundational truth of human experience large and small as attested to by history: the greatest of life’s triumphs and successes have always come on the heels of the worst failures and horrors.


This truth finds it fulfillment in the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Our Lord.


While believing firmly in the truth of this great paradox, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the Cross symbolized something more than just a paradox, a deeply profound paradox though it may be.


In reading what then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now pope emeritus Benedict XVI) had to say regarding the sign of the cross in his book Spirit of the Liturgy, I believe my hunch was vindicated. The sign of the Cross is the sign of God’s mark on creation prior to being a sign of crucifixion.
He states: Continue reading

There Is Not Just One Way To Be Pope

One of the things that’s been bothering me (as well as several other good bloggers I read) in the days since the election of Pope Francis is the seeming need of many to identify a single cookie-cutter model which every “good” pope most follow. I recall some of this when Benedict succeeded John Paul, but it was perhaps more muted both by a certain gravity stemming from John Paul’s very public death and funeral, and also by the fact that the although we certainly lived in a “new media” age then, it hadn’t gained the dizzying speed which social media has since provided to “reax”.

Thus it seems as if much of the coverage of the new pope boils down to, “Francis isn’t as intellectual and liturgically focused as Benedict, so he’s not as good” or else “Francis is so ‘humble’ and focused on the poor, he’s clearly a much better pope than Benedict”. Then there’s the next level of escallation in which each side tries to steal the virtues of the other: Oh yeah, well if Francis were really humble he wouldn’t insist on simplicity, which is really a subtle exercise in saying “look at me”! You say Francis cares about the poor and about simplicity? Well look how much Benedict cared about the poor and about simplicity!

I think this quickly gets silly, and more to the point it starts to act as if there is only gone right way for the pope to act. The fact is, being the shepherd of God’s flock on earth is a job large enough that there are multiple different ways of doing it that are right. (Which is not to say that every way is right, obviously, we’ve had some pretty bad popes over the centuries.)

It seems to me that John Paul II’s dense intellectualism combined with his oversize and highly charismatic personality was arguably exactly what the Church needed at the time of his pontificate — as we emerged from a time in which it seemed like the roof was coming down and everything was up for grabs. Benedict’s liturgical focus was another thing that the Church desperately needed at the time that he was chosen — and I think that his ability to write deeply yet clearly was also a huge need. If John Paul II’s struggle to incorporate Catholic teaching and a moderl philosophical understanding of the human person were something very much needed in our modern era, I at the same time suspect that Benedict’s books (both his books about the life of Christ and the many books he wrote prior to his pontificate) may actually be read more often by ordinary Catholics in the coming decades than anything that John Paul II wrote.

Similarly, I think that Francis’ intentional simplicity is something that we need to see in our pope at times. This is not to say that Benedict and John Paul were not simple. They were, though in different ways. But while not every saint needs (or should) be simple in the sort of over-the-top way that our pope’s namesake St. Francis of Assisi was, St. Francis nonetheless remains a good saint to have. That it is good that we have St. Francis as an example does not mean that every other saint is the less for not being St. Francis. (I mean, let’s be honest, St. Francis could be kind of nuts.) And similarly, admiration of Pope Francis’s qualities need not, and indeed should not, be turned into a criticism of other popes for not being like him in every way.

Atheist Defends Pope

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Hattip to Matt Archbold at Creative Minority Report.    I have always had a sneaking liking for magician and atheist Penn Jillette.  I disagree with most of what he says, but he always honestly says what he thinks, never simply to be part of the herd of independent thinkers, and he obviously attempts to think through his beliefs on the various topics he comments upon.  Go to New Advent here to see him defend the Pope Emeritus against “Catholic” Piers Morgan.  (I am afraid that I took delight in finding out that the wretched Piers Morgan, ratings plummeting, is a liberal “Catholic”.)

Pope Benedict XVI’s Helicopter Ride Full of Historical Images and Analogies

It was a stunning video, one full of historical and modern analogies all pointing to back to the man (Pope Benedict XVI) and the institution he ran (the Catholic Church.) The helicopter ride Pope Benedict XVI took from the Vatican to Castel Gandolfo flying over modern Rome and the ancient landmarks known the world over, such as the Coliseum and the Apian Way made for a breath taking array of images. For faithful Catholics one of the illuminating high points of watching papal transitions is the fact that the mainstream media is not always in control.

The historic images speak for themselves which must be somewhat maddening to those who have to throw their digs into the Church that Christ Himself started via Peter. NBC News anchor Brian Williams made the mainstream media’s point Friday on the lead off segment of the NBC Nightly News when he stated the Catholic Church does images well, but there is scandal behind the images we see. One could say the exact same thing about the mainstream media’s coverage of the White House and yet nary a word of that sort is heard.

Perhaps the helicopter ride of the Holy Father made many of the media’s gatekeepers cringe because those historical landmarks (the Coliseum, the Apian Way) were like many modern secular government’s landmarks, supposedly everlasting. If someone would have told the Roman power structure in Diocletian’s time that within 100 years Rome would be Christian and the empire would be gone, howls of laughter would have echoed through the Pantheon. Modern secular leaders and the often militant secular scholars whom they follow, view traditional Christianity much in the same way those in the seats of power in Rome once did, something that should have no influence or bearing on the affairs of its citizens.

Though a towering intellectual giant, Pope Benedict XVI is a simple man who never wanted to be Pope and pleaded that Pope John Paul II let him go back to Bavaria and write when then Cardinal Ratzinger reached the age of 75. His gentleness was seen in the Conclave when it was said he won many of the Third World Cardinal’s votes. It is said that he did so because he showed a kind father or grandfatherly hand when other princes of the Church were perhaps not so welcoming upon the Third World’s prelates arrival in Rome. This sort of gentleness coupled with a refusal to water down the truth made the man from Bavaria a towering figure in the history of the Church. Often the stature of towering figures grow with time, unlike our pop culture heroes whose legacy becomes all too often faded and forgotten. Continue reading

Resignation Questions

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Pope Benedict will  resign his office today.  I wish him all the best.  I can only imagine the burden he lays down now.  Actually I can’t.  Being the Vicar of Christ and having the responsibility of shepherding His Church?  Only the men who have have filled the shoes of the Fisherman can have any comprehension of what must be the crushing weight of that office.  I hope he enjoys his well earned rest.  What are the practical long term consequences of his decision?

1.  What does the old Pope think? The new Pope will have to deal with something none of his predecessors had to deal with:  an aggressive world wide media incessantly trying to ask Benedict how his successor is doing.  I am confident that Benedict will remain mum, but that will not stop rumors from constantly arising as to whether he is pleased or displeased with the actions of his successor.  If this resignation starts a trend in popes resigning, then this may be something new for future popes to have to wrestle with.

2.  Will Benedict write his memoirs?  I doubt it, but it is a possibility.  Popes commenting on their own papacy in retrospect is something new under the sun.

3.  New ammo for the sedevacantists?  Opposition to the new Pope, and opposition there will doubtless be, on the fringes may argue that he is not really Pope because the resignation was invalid.  Since popes have resigned before I do not find this argument logical, but I am certain this will be made.

4.  Push for a papal mandatory retirement age?  There is already a mandatory retirement age of 70 for priests and 75 for bishops and archbishops.  I always have thought this was an unwise act on the part of Paul VI and I fear that there may be a push for such a mandatory retirement age for popes.

5.  Psst, did you hear the Pope is going to resign?  The Vatican has always been a rumor mill and now we will have a new one.  Whenever a Pope sneezes the rumors are going to fly. Continue reading

Armchair Pontiffs Come Out of the Woodwork

Perhaps because it happens in sports, entertainment and politics, we knew it was bound to happen with pontificates. However, judging the accomplishments of holy leaders is a little different than judging whether a coach should have used a 4-3 defense, a President has the right tax policy, or a film director allows too little or too much dialogue.

Our friends in the mainstream media, especially those of the unabashed liberal persuasion (they seem less bashful in using that term these days) have certainly not backed away from critiquing Pope Benedict XVBI’s pontificate. However, even our friends on the political and theological right have taken their shots at the Holy Father as well.

Watching Morning Joe on MSNBC can certainly cause an orthodox minded Catholic to contemplate pulling their hair out. A recent episode in which Mika Brzezinski and Mike Barnicle, two northeast liberal Catholics, critique the current Holy Father’s pontificate and implore the upcoming conclave to change the direction of the Church by listening to the criticism of militant secularists seemed more than a little ridiculous. The Reverend Al Sharpton chimed in to tell the audience that African cardinals certainly don’t represent his views on the world (Thank God.)

The whole episode should have been a Saturday Night Live skit, but sadly they meant every word of it. The Western Left shouts from the rooftops about diversity, but when it comes right at them via the Third World, well then it really isn’t diverse. The Left preaches change but would never change their views to reflect reality, i.e. the House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (among others) insisting Washington doesn’t have a spending problem. All too often they unwittingly enjoy relishing in the Dictatorship of Relativism (coined by Pope Benedict XVI.) By doing so they unknowingly echo the words of Pontius Pilate, who said, “What is truth?”

In my just released book; The Catholic Tide Continues to Turn, I note that the infamous American Bishop Shelby Spong dismissed his fellow African-Anglican clergy’s views on social teachings because they were in his words, “only one generation removed from Animism and their brand of Christianity was superstitious.” In rebuttal to Bishop Spong, the late Catholic priest, Father Richard John Neuhaus noted that there were a higher percentage of African-Catholic Cardinals with PhD’s than were those from Western Europe or North America.

Sadly, even some of our friends on the theological and political right have taken the opportunity to pile on what they view as the mistake prone pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. One of the more interesting critiques came from Joseph (Jody) Bottum, the former Editor of First Things. On a personal note, I owe a great deal of gratitude to Mr. Bottum who referenced a very early article of mine in one of his First Things article. Actually the positive reaction that stemmed from it helped convince me to right my first book. However, some of Mr. Bottum’s assertions in this Weekly Standard article on the pontificate of Benedict XVI should not go unanswered. Continue reading

Resignation Rumors

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Well this was inevitable.  When something that hasn’t happened for almost six centuries happens, there are going to be rumors about why it is happening:

VATICAN CITY – With just days to go before Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, the Vatican is battling rumours that his decision was triggered by an explosive report on intrigue in its hallowed corridors of power.

The secret report compiled by a committee of three cardinals for the pope’s eyes only was the result of a broad inquiry into leaks of secret Vatican papers last year — a scandal known as “Vatileaks”.

The cardinals questioned dozens of Vatican officials and presented the pope with their final report in December 2012, just before Benedict pardoned his former butler Paolo Gabriele who had been jailed for leaking the papal memos.

The Panorama news weekly and the Repubblica daily said on Thursday that the cardinals’ report contained allegations of corruption and of blackmail attempts against gay Vatican clergymen, as well as favouritism based on gay relationships.

The Vatican has declined to comment on these two reports, with spokesman Federico Lombardi saying they were “conjectures, fictions and opinions.”

In an interview with El Pais, one of the investigating cardinals, Julian Herranz, said the scandal was “a bubble” that had been “inflated”.

“There will be black sheep, I am not saying there are not, like in all families,” he said, adding that the investigators had “spoken to people, seen what works and what does not, lights and shadows”.

Speaking to Italy’s Radio 24, Herranz said the idea that “Vatileaks” might have influenced the pope’s decision was one “hypothesis” among many others.

“These are decisions that are taken personally in the deep of one’s conscience and they must be profoundly respected,” the 82-year-old said.

At his final public mass last week, Benedict himself condemned “religious hypocrisy” and urged an end to “individualism and rivalry”.

“The face of the Church… is at times disfigured. I am thinking in particular of the sins against the unity of the Church,” he said, without elaborating.

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Klavan on Pope Benedict

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Andrew Klavan, the mystery writer and humorist I have often quoted on this blog, is a big fan of the Pope:

Pope Benedict, as I’ve said before, is the Last European, by which I mean the last great man and mind who fully comprehends the beautiful but now dying culture that produced him.  It’s appalling to me–though not surprising–that the only thing the mainstream media ever covers about him is how often he apologizes for the abuses of some priests or how politically incorrect his view of gay people is or whatever.  I have now read a good selection of his writings and when the work of Foucault and Derridas and de Man and the rest of that benighted lot has toddled off to the obscurity it so dearly deserves, Benedict’s writings will stand.  They may be the final flares of genius to fly up from the continent he loves before darkness closes over it.

I’m not a Catholic.  My views on authority and sexual morality are too individualistic.  But when I see the level of thought coming out of Anglicanism  – especially the low and despicable crypto anti-semitism in the cowardly guise of anti-Zionism – and then read the grace-filled, spirit-inspired work of Big Ben, well, I’m embarrassed.

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B-16′s greatness doesn’t lie in his papacy. Or that is, if it does, I wouldn’t know. It’s his writing, his theology, his thought that elevate him in my mind. When I was but a youngish dude, pounding my way through the great works, it seemed to me that the wisdom of many of the great German thinkers of the 18th and 19th centuries had been thrown aside for no good reason. Kant and Hegel had philosophically rescued the essence of Christianity for the scientific age, and had been ultimately left behind by mainstream thinkers not because they were wrong, but because they were just sort of out of keeping with the atheistic spirit of the day.

As Nietzsche understood, that God-is-dead zeitgeist would perforce lead to moral relativism. And so it has. But Ratzinger, shrugging off the zeitgeist like the cheap suit it is, humbly went on tilling the Kantian and Hegelian fields, making his way back not just to the essentials of Christianity but to the sacred person of Christ himself. Continue reading

At Last Night’s Emergency SCHISM Meeting…

(originally posted at Acts of the Apostasy)


EXT. SWAMP – NIGHT

Moonlight streaks through moss-covered trees. In the middle of a clearing stands a black-domed structure – the secret hideout for the nefarious super-villain group SCHISM [Society of Catholycs Hellbent on Instituting Secular Modernism].

INT. SECRET HIDEOUT

People seated around a large round table in a dimly lit room. One person is standing, a scowl on his face. It’s KING KÜNG (aka Hans Küng), leader of SCHISM. With him are REESE’S PIECES (Fr Tom Reese); McBRAIN (Fr Richard McBrien);RAINBOWKID (GLBTQ androgynous-looking character); LIVE CURRANT (Fr Charles Curran); COSMIC GIRL (Sr Joan Chittister); and the SOUR PATCH KID (YouthGen member from Call-to-Action).

KING KÜNG

Ah, fellow SCHISM members, ist everyvun present? EX-cellent. I zhingk you all know vhy I have called zhis meetingk?

RAINBOWKID

You DVR’d the Grammy’s?

KING KÜNG

Vhat? Vhat’s a “Grammy”?

LIVE CURRANT (to SOUR PATCH KID)

What’s “DVR’d”?

KING KÜNG

Ach, be quiet, you dummkopf. No, not you, CURRANT, zee other dummkopf, zee RAINBOWKID. Now listen to me, all of you. Zhis morning, our nemesis, zee German Shepherd…

ALL

Hisssssssssssssssssssssssssss!!!!!!!

KING KÜNG

…announced zhat he ist resigningk at zee end of zee month. A vonderful opportunity has been dropped right onto our face! Continue reading

Fools to Judge his Papacy

Pope Benedict

I have always shuddered when a Pope dies because I am filled with dread of what comes next:   Endless reams of bad commentary by people who pretend to know something about the Vatican but who usually succeed only in revealing their bone ignorance of the subject.  The resignation of Pope Benedict I expect to inspire more of the same.

First up is John Moody, Executive Vice President, Fox News, and a former Vatican correspondent, who takes Pope Benedict to task for what he perceives to be a failed papacy.  Pope Benedict’s main crime appears to be that he was not Pope John Paul II:

By contrast, Benedict’s meek initial outings were public relations meltdowns.  His smile, though genuine, looked somehow sinister, as if he were about to bite  his audience. Determined to restore the Church’s luster in Europe, where it is  often treated like a dotty old aunt, Benedict gave a lecture in Regensburg, Germany, in 2006  that appeared to denigrate Islam. The non-Catholic world howled; the Vatican  cringed and apologized.

On his first visit to the U.S. as pope, Benedict offered contrite apologies  for the Church’s ham-handed treatment of the U.S. church’s sex scandal involving  its priests. Even the pope’s humble mien did not satisfy some, who pronounced  him cold and unfeeling toward the plight of victims of clergy abuse. He joined  the Twitterati, but his first attempt was a sterile: “I am pleased to get in  touch with you through Twitter. I bless all of you from my heart.” At least he  stayed under 140 characters.

In nearly eight years, Benedict issued three encyclicals – direct messages to  the faithful that often reveal a pope’s enthusiasms and interests. Benedict’s  first – entitled “God is Love” — is a caressing, simply worded, logic-based  reassurance that our Lord loves us. Yet even his writing about love suffers in  comparison with John Paul’s towering, intellectual yet intimate canon of  work.

None of which lessens Benedict’s place in the line of Vicars of Christ. His  decision to resign was a brave one, based on personal humility, in keeping with  his message to the faithful that the things of Earth are transient, but the  promise of heaven lasting and infinite.  For that he should be  remembered.

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Pope Benedict XVI, A Pontificate Steeped In Humility

Pope Benedict XVI has taken the ultimate step in humility and has decided to resign, because he felt the duties of the Petrine Ministry were too important to continue in a diminished state. I have no doubt that this will be the wave of the future for successive popes. Our previous Holy Father, Pope John Paul II soldiered on to help the show the world that disability was no disgrace. However, Pope Benedict XVI must have felt that since that example was already shown to us, he would chart a different path.

The humility of the Holy Father was first seen when then Father Josef Ratzinger had his sister listen to his homilies and his college seminary lectures for he did not want to go over the heads of his parishioners and seminary students. The Holy Father was somewhat of a prodigy as a child. Though he liked to play soccer with the rest of the boys in Traunstein, a small town in Bavaria, he realized he would never become a great athlete, so he throw himself into his studies and into the History and workings of religion in general and Catholicism in particular.

During the eight years of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI reached out to everyone, the poor, the marginalized, the wealthy and creative, those of other faiths, schismatic Catholics as well as those whose world views were totally different than his. However, the man from Bavaria never compromised on the issue of truth; he railed against the Dictatorship of Relativism and against the idea of social engineering which seems to have engulfed the Western world.

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Pope Resigning

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There is a report just in that Pope Benedict is resigning on February 28.

VATICAN CITY) — Pope Benedict XVI has announced that he will resign Feb. 28, the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years. The decision sets the stage for a conclave to elect a new pope before the end of March.

The 85-year-old pope announced his decision in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals Monday morning.

This would be the fifth time that a Pope has abdicated in the history of the Papacy, the most recent being Pope Gregory XII in 1415.  Further details as they come in.

Update:  Here is the statement of the Pope:

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Pope Addresses Our Truly Confused Age

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We live in a time of technological wonders and ”let’s pretend” denial of basic facts of the human condition.  Pope Benedict looked at one pernicious aspect of this “let’s pretend” mindset in an address on December 21:

 The Chief Rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, has shown in a very detailed and profoundly moving study that the attack we are currently experiencing on the true structure of the family, made up of father, mother, and child, goes much deeper. While up to now we regarded a false understanding of the nature of human freedom as one cause of the crisis of the family, it is now becoming clear that the very notion of being – of what being human really means – is being called into question. He quotes the famous saying of Simone de Beauvoir: “one is not born a woman, one becomes so” (on ne naît pas femme, on le devient). These words lay the foundation for what is put forward today under the term “gender” as a new philosophy of sexuality. According to this philosophy, sex is no longer a given element of nature, that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society. The profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves. According to the biblical creation account, being created by God as male and female pertains to the essence of the human creature. This duality is an essential aspect of what being human is all about, as ordained by God. This very duality as something previously given is what is now disputed. The words of the creation account: “male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27) no longer apply. No, what applies now is this: it was not God who created them male and female – hitherto society did this, now we decide for ourselves. Man and woman as created realities, as the nature of the human being, no longer exist. Man calls his nature into question. From now on he is merely spirit and will. The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man’s fundamental choice where he himself is concerned. From now on there is only the abstract human being, who chooses for himself what his nature is to be. Man and woman in their created state as complementary versions of what it means to be human are disputed. But if there is no pre-ordained duality of man and woman in creation, then neither is the family any longer a reality established by creation. Likewise, the child has lost the place he had occupied hitherto and the dignity pertaining to him. Bernheim shows that now, perforce, from being a subject of rights, the child has become an object to which people have a right and which they have a right to obtain. When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being. The defence of the family is about man himself. And it becomes clear that when God is denied, human dignity also disappears. Whoever defends God is defending man. Continue reading

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