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New York Al Smith dinner features House Speaker as keynoter, actress as emcee

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NEW YORK — “Everyone looks great tonight,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told the crowd of women in ball gowns and men in white tie and tails at the 72nd Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in New York Oct. 19.

“We feel right at home. This looks just like our dinner parties in Janesville, Wisconsin,” the Republican said in his keynote speech.

House Speaker Paul Ryan delivers remarks at the 72nd Annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in New York Oct. 19. (CNS photo/Andrew Kelly, Reuters)

“Amazing, I don’t think I’ve seen this many New York liberals and Wall Street CEOs in one room since my last visit to the White House,” the Catholic congressman quipped.

His speech followed the customary tone for the event, which has been a traditional opportunity for speakers to poke good-natured fun at themselves, one another and prominent guests from the worlds of politics, business and philanthropy without inflicting wounds.

Ryan was accompanied by his wife, Janna, at the dinner hosted by New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan.

Actress Patricia Heaton, a Catholic, was the emcee, the first woman to take that role at the august dinner. She stars in the ABC series “The Middle” and also played Raymond’s long-suffering wife in the popular comedy series “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Heaton is well known, too, for her support for pro-life causes.

Others on the 50-seat dais included Mayor Bill de Blasio, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, former Mayors Michael R. Bloomberg and David N. Dinkins, Catholic leaders and other dignitaries. U.S. Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer of New York could not attend, as they had to be in Washington for votes.

The dinner is named for Alfred E. Smith, a former governor of New York who was raised in poverty. In 1928, he was the first Catholic nominated by a major political party to run for president of the United States.

During a presidential election year, the dinner planners invite the Republican and Democratic nominees for the nation’s highest office to roast one another usually good-naturedly.

At last year’s event with then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his rival, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, the gloves came off and by all accounts was more contentious than in previous years.

The New York Times reported that outside this year’s dinner, about 100 protesters marched past the hotel decrying Trump’s plan for a border wall.

The paper said another 50 people demonstrated against the president’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, and accused Ryan of not supporting continuing the program. A CNN story from September said that Ryan was for Congress trying to keep DACA.

In his dinner remarks, Ryan took some shots at Trump, but the House leader also aimed some jabs at much of Washington officialdom, including fellow members of Congress. He also made a few funny remarks about growing up Catholic and the Catholic Church in general.

“Now I promise you, you can all relax about my remarks,” Ryan said in his speech. “I know last year at this dinner Donald Trump offended some people with his comments which critics said went too far. Some said it was unbecoming of a public figure and that his comments were offensive. … Well, thank God he’s learned his lesson.”

“Everyone will report what happened here tonight differently,” Ryan continued. “Breitbart will lead with ‘Ryan slams the president amongst liberal elites.’ The New York Times will report, ‘Ryan defends the president in a state Hillary won.’ And the president will tweet, ‘300,000 at Al Smith dinner cheer mention of my name.’”

So Ryan said he wanted to give some background facts about himself for those who don’t know him very well. “And they all must be true, you can find them on the internet,” he said.

For starters, “I’m from Wisconsin. It’s a great state to visit in the fall. Looking back, someone should have told Hillary.” Clinton famously skipped the blue state, feeling it was so solidly Democratic, she didn’t need to campaign there. But she lost the state in last year’s election.

“Speaking of which, I got Hillary’s new book,” Ryan continued. “This sums up today’s politics perfectly. She took eight months, writing 10 hours a day, to explain what happened in 512 pages. The president explained it in a tweet, ‘Hashtag, I won.’”

Citing another fact, he said, “I once drove the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile, which meant people were constantly laughing at me. It was the perfect preparation for being in Congress.”

“I am proud member of the church,” Ryan remarked. “You know, the Catholic Church actually has a lot in common with Washington, D.C. Either place it takes about seven years for someone to get confirmed.”

He also said that the only difference “between a Catholic Mass and a filibuster is that one ends with a sip of wine and the other ends with an entire bottle.”

He noted that at Trump’s inauguration Jan. 20, Cardinal Dolan gave the benediction and recited a prayer from the Book of Wisdom, “a book no one in Washington is familiar with.”

“Actually, there was just this one awkward moment — when the cardinal talked about the infallible almighty Supreme Being, the president stood up and took a bow … both presidents actually,” Ryan laughed, referring to Trump and former President Barack Obama.

Ryan ended his speech on a serious note, calling the evening “a magnificent event, and a much needed one, one needed now more than ever.”

“It is an opportunity for all of us to come together in support of a truly righteous mission — to bring hope to the neediest children of the Archdiocese of New York,” Ryan said. Earlier that day, he said, Cardinal Dolan had taken him to the Foundling Hospital, “where they are just doing incredible work to help underserved families rebuild their lives, to reclaim a greater sense of dignity and purpose.”

“We can achieve so much when we tackle poverty eye to eye, and soul to soul. As Catholics, we call this solidarity and subsidiarity,” he said.

He urged the audience to think of “our fellow citizens beyond these (New York) boroughs who are hurting tonight,” referring to the victims of hurricanes in Texas and Puerto Rico and of wildfires in California.

“So much has been taken, but not our spirit. Not our resilience. Not our faith,” he said.

“In these moments when people are suddenly isolated and separated from everything they know, it is those unspoken bonds between us — that common humanity — which brings us together and lifts us up,” Ryan said. “A lot of people are hurting tonight. Please keep them in your prayers. May they, in the fullness of time, find comfort and renewal.”

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Powerful Pandas sweep Auks in top-six volleyball battle

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Dialog reporter

 

CLAYMONT – A near-sellout crowd turned out at Moglia Fieldhouse on Oct. 20 to see top-ranked Padua take on No. 6 Archmere, and the visiting Pandas silenced the Auks’ faithful with a 3-0 sweep. Set scores were 25-14, 25-18, 25-18.

Archmere came out hot early, taking a 5-2 lead in the first. But the Pandas used contributions from their deep roster to take control. Jess Molen was scoring with regularity on kills, and she added a few aces, and Michelle Kozicki came on to pick up points on a kill and a pair of blocks. Emily Jarome then warmed up, and the defending state player of the year made her presence known over and over and over again as setter Emma Lucey went her way all night. Read more »

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Million’s play on both sides of ball help Sals to win over Colonials

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Dialog reporter

 

WILMINGTON – Garrett Million was feeling like a million bucks Oct. 20, scoring on a long run and a fumble recovery as Salesianum wrapped up a four-game homestand with an impressive offensive performance, defeating William Penn, 35-21. The Sals improved to 5-2 with the win.

Million’s backfield mate, Carson Salvo, was making noise on the first Sallies scoring drive early in the second quarter. Salesianum quarterback Zach Gwynn delivered a key play, scrambling for 12 yards on a fourth-and-10 from the Colonials’ 20. Caron Salvo picked up four yards on first down, setting up a controversial call on the next play. Read more »

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Vatican Letter: Pope Francis’ pro-life challenge: Respect all life, oppose death penalty

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis’ recent statement that the death penalty is incompatible with the Gospel focused less on a government’s role in protecting its people and more on the need to defend the sacredness and dignity of every human life. Read more »

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Raiders overcome slow start to defeat Force

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For The Dialog

 

WILMINGTON – Second-ranked Ursuline shrugged off a subpar first set to defeat No. 5 Wilmington Charter, 3-1, on Oct. 19. The set scores were 11-25, 25-17, 25-12 and 25-16. Read more »

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Pope: Catholics, Methodists can strengthen each other through shared witness of faith

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Catholics and Methodists can strengthen each other through a shared witness of faith, especially through acts of love toward the poor and the marginalized, Pope Francis said.

The mutual call to holiness shared by both communities “is necessarily a call to communion with others, too,” the pope said Oct. 19. Read more »

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U.S. bishops back extension of protected migrant status

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WASHINGTON — The head of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration said some migrants from Honduras and El Salvador cannot safely return to their home countries in the near future and should have a special immigration permit extended. Read more »

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R E S P E C T — Don’t just tolerate other religions, Vatican officials say

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Peace and harmony will not result from members of different religions simply tolerating each other; respect and appreciation of customs and cultural diversity is required, top Vatican officials said in a message to the world’s Hindus.

Hindu women pray for peace Oct. 1 at the Sri Bunar Maha Shiva Hindu temple in Yangon, Myanmar. Peace and harmony will not result from members of different religions simply tolerating each other; respect and appreciation of customs and cultural diversity is required, top Vatican officials said in a message to the world’s Hindus. (CNS photo/Nyein Chan Naing, EPA)

“Respect creates space for every person and nurtures within us a sense of feeling at home with others. Rather than dividing and isolating, respect allows us to see our differences as a sign of the diversity and richness of the one human family,” said the message from the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and Bishop Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, respectively the president and secretary of the pontifical, extended their best wishes to the world’s 1.1 billion Hindus for the feast of Diwali, a three-day religious festival, which was to begin Oct. 19 in most parts of the world. The festival focuses on the victory of truth over lies, light over darkness, life over death and good over evil.

The path to mutual respect between communities has no room for intolerance, which spawns “violence in many parts of the world,” the message said. Thus, a true culture of respect is required for peacemaking and harmonious living between communities.

“We are challenged then to go beyond the confines of tolerance by showing respect to all individuals and communities for everyone desires and deserves to be valued according to his or her innate dignity,” said the Vatican officials.

The message to Hindus was released Oct. 16 at the Vatican.

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Catholic groups settle in lawsuit against HHS contraceptive mandate

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Dozens of Catholic groups that challenged the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act have reached a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department, they announced late Oct. 16.

The groups, including the Archdiocese of Washington and the Pennsylvania dioceses of Greensburg, Pittsburgh and Erie, were represented by the Cleveland-based law firm Jones Day.

Activists participate in a rally in late September to protect the Affordable Care Act outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (CNS photo/Aaron P. Bernstein, Reuters)

Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl wrote an Oct. 16 letter to archdiocesan priests saying the “binding agreement” ends the litigation challenging the Health and Human Services’ mandate and provides a “level of assurance as we move into the future.”

The Washington archdiocese was one of dozens of groups challenging the mandate, which went to the Supreme Court last year in the consolidated case of Zubik v. Burwell. Although it was most often described as the Little Sisters of the Poor fighting against the federal government, the case before the court involved seven plaintiffs and each of these combined cases represented a group of schools, churches or church-sponsored organizations.

Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik, whom the case is named for, said he was grateful for the settlement, which he described as an “agreement with the government that secures and reaffirms the constitutional right of religious freedom.”

In an Oct. 17 statement, the bishop said the diocese’s five-year-long challenge to the mandate “has been resolved successfully” allowing Catholic Charities in the diocese and other religious organizations of different denominations to be exempt from “insurance coverage or practices that are morally unacceptable.”

He said the settlement follows the recent release of new federal regulations that provide religious organizations with a full exemption from covering items that violate their core beliefs.

On Oct. 6, the Trump administration issued interim rules expanding the exemption to the contraceptive mandate to include religious employers who object on moral grounds to covering contraceptive and abortion-inducing drugs and devices in their employee health insurance. The same day, the U.S. Department of Justice issued guidance to all administrative agencies and executive departments regarding religious liberty protections in federal law.

Cardinal Wuerl said in his letter to priests that the new guidelines and regulations were extremely helpful but that the “settlement of the Zubik litigation adds a leavening of certainty moving forward. It removes doubt where it might otherwise exist as it closes those cases.”

“The settlement adds additional assurances,” he added, “that we will not be subject to enforcement or imposition of similar regulations imposing such morally unacceptable mandates moving forward.”

The cardinal thanked the Jones Day law firm for its legal representation in the case and thanked Catholics for their prayers and support for the petitioners in the long legal fight.

Thomas Aquinas College of Santa Paula, Calif., one of the groups that fell under the Washington archdiocese’s challenge of the HHS mandate to the Supreme Court, similarly thanked the law firm Jones Day for representing the school pro bono.

The school’s president, Michael McLean, said in an Oct. 16 statement that as part of the settlement, the government will pay a portion of the legal costs and fees incurred by the law firm.

He said the college welcomed the broadening of the exemption from the HHS mandate by the Trump administration in early October but he similarly said the settlement of the case provides “something even better: a permanent exemption from an onerous federal directive and any similar future directive that would require us to compromise our fundamental beliefs.”

“This is an extraordinary outcome for Thomas Aquinas College and for the cause of religious freedom,” he added.

The school’s statement said according to the terms of the settlement, the government concedes that the contraceptive mandate “imposes a substantial burden” on the plaintiffs’ exercise of religion and “cannot be legally enforced” under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The contraceptive mandate, in place since 2012, required all employers to provide contraceptive coverage in their employer insurance. Last year when opposition to this mandate came to the Supreme Court, the justices unanimously returned the case to the lower courts with instructions to determine if contraceptive insurance coverage could be obtained by employees through their insurance companies without directly involving religious employers who object to paying for such coverage.

Erie Bishop Lawrence T. Persico, representing one of the groups that challenged the mandate, said in an Oct. 17 statement that it has been “difficult for people to understand that this lawsuit was not just about contraceptives.

“The real issue,” he said, “was the government attempting to narrow the definition of freedom of religion, using the HHS mandate to exempt only a small subset of religious employers. Churches were declared exempt, but their hospitals, Catholic Charities agencies, schools, and universities were not.”

The bishop said he was pleased with the settlement particularly because the church continues to assert that all of its ministries “are inextricably tied to the practice of our faith.”

     

Mark Zimmermann, editor of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Washington Archdiocese, contributed to this report.

      – – –

      Follow Carol Zimmermann on Twitter:@carolmaczim.

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Senate confirms Callista Gingrich as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See

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WASHINGTON — The Senate confirmed Callista Gingrich as the new U.S. ambassador to the Holy See.

Voting late Oct. 16, senators approved her nomination 70-23. More than 20 Democrats joined Republicans in supporting Gingrich, the wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a vocal ally of President Donald Trump.

Callista Gingrich testifies during a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing in Washington July 18 after being nominated by President Donald Trump to be the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican. The U.S. Senate Oct. 16 voted to confirm Gingrich, wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. (CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

Gingrich, 51, a lifelong Catholic and a former congressional aide, has been president of Gingrich Productions, a multimedia production and consulting company in Arlington, Virginia, since 2007.

She was expected to present her credentials at the Vatican in the coming weeks.

Gingrich’s associates welcomed the vote. Among them was Msgr. Walter R. Rossi, rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, where Gingrich has been a longtime member of the choir.

“Callista has been part of our shrine family for two decades and so, as any family rejoices when good news arrives, we rejoice with Callista,” Msgr. Rossi said in an Oct. 17 statement. “Both Callista and Speaker Gingrich are wonderful supporters of our ministry here at Mary’s shrine, most especially our music program.

“More importantly, Callista has a great love for the church and our country,” he added. “Her faith is an integral part of her life and I am confident that her faith will be her solid foundation as she enters a new service to church and nation.”

The Bethlehem University Foundation wished Gingrich “great success in her new role.” The Gingrichs have been foundation patrons, serving as advisers to its executive director and donors.

During her confirmation hearing July 18, Gingrich emphasized her desire to work with the Vatican to protect religious freedom and human rights, fight terrorism and human trafficking, and seek peaceful solutions to international crises.

Gingrich also explained under sharp questioning that the U.S. wanted to be a leader in addressing environmental issues despite initiating efforts to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. She said the White House was committed to sustaining “our clean air and our clean water.”

“We are all called to be stewards of the land,” she said, echoing a theme expressed by Pope Francis.

In 2010, Gingrich’s company released the film “Nine Days That Changed the World” about St. John Paul II’s nine-day pilgrimage to Poland in 1979 and how it played a part in the fall of communism in Europe. She also has written the “Ellis the Elephant” children’s American history series and co-authored “Rediscovering God in America.”

Gingrich graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, in 1988, majoring in music, a passion that has remained with her throughout life. She served as a congressional aide for more than 30 years.

She is the third woman to serve as ambassador to the Holy See after Lindy Boggs, who held the post from 1997 to 2001, and Mary Ann Glendon, who served in 2008-2009. Gingrich succeeds Ambassador Ken Hackett, who retired in January.

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