Archive of November 13, 2003

Pope celebrates Mass for deceased Cardinals

Vatican City, Nov 13, 2003 (CNA) - Following a November tradition of praying for the repose of the souls of the dead, Pope John Paul II presided today at a Mass in the Vatican Basilica in remembrance of the cardinals, archbishops and bishops who died during the last 12 months. 

During the homily for the Mass, which was celebrated by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, dean of the College of Cardinals, the Pope said that “the memory of the cardinals that have left us was particularly present during the recent consistory.  In this moment, I remember especially: Hans Hermann Groer, Gerald Emmet Carter, Aurelio Sabattani, Francesco Colasuonno, Ignacio Antonio Velasco Garcia, Corrado Ursi and Maurice Michael Otunga.  I also remember Patriarch Raphael I Bidawid.”

John Paul II also asked those present to pray for the bishops who have died in recent months.  “It is consoling,” he said, “to think that these venerated brothers of ours, who were zealous servants of the Gospel during their earthly life, are now in the provident ‘hands’ of God who has welcomed them into the eternal embrace of His love.”

 “In their pastoral care, they educated the faithful,” he concluded, “by word and example in the true and eternal values, as they themselves tried to become models for the flock entrusted to them.  Therefore, we trust that the Lord will reward His faithful servants.”

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Same-sex unions can never be equal to marriage: U.S. bishops

Washington D.C., Nov 13, 2003 (CNA) - It is not unjust to deny legal status to same-sex unions because marriage and same-sex unions are essentially different realities, said the U.S. bishops in their first public statement on same-sex marriage.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued the document, called “Between Man and Woman: Questions and Answers About Marriage and Same-Sex Unions”, at their semi-annual meeting yesterday in response to the growing movement in the U.S. in favor of making same-sex unions legally equivalent to marriage.

“To uphold God's intent for marriage … is not to offend the dignity of homosexual persons,” reads the bishops’ statement. “Christians must give witness to the whole moral truth, and oppose as immoral both homosexual acts and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons.”

The statement, based on reason and faith, argues that marriage is instituted by God and cannot be separated from procreation and parenting. Marriage is both a natural institution and a sacred union because it is rooted in the divine plan for creation, said the bishops, making reference to the book of Genesis.

Since marriage originated from God, “neither church nor state can alter the basic meaning and structure of marriage,” they said.

The document states that marriage is a "lifelong union of a man and a woman," and says that approving any same-sex union legally "contradicts the nature of marriage”, based on the “natural structure of human sexuality” and the complementarity of men and women.

“Only a union of male and female can express the sexual complementarity willed by God for marriage,” reads the statement. Since people in same-sex unions “cannot enter into a true conjugal union,” it continues, “it is wrong to equate their relationship to a marriage.”

The bishops also argue that marriage is the foundation of the family – and has been the basic unit of society throughout history and across cultures and religions – and it “provides the best conditions for raising children.

“The state rightly recognizes this relationship as a public institution in its laws because the relationship makes a unique and essential contribution to the common good,” said the bishops. “The state has an obligation to promote the family, which is rooted in marriage. Therefore, it can justly give married couples rights and benefits it does not extend to others.”

The bishops also acknowledged the important role laws play in society, stating that they are educational “insofar as they shape patterns of thought and behavior, particularly about what is socially permissible and acceptable. In effect, giving same-sex unions the legal status of marriage would grant official public approval to homosexual activity and would treat it as if it were morally neutral,” they said.

The bishops concluded their statement, urging Catholics to take part in the national debate, to defend marriage and to oppose the legalization of same-sex marriage.

For the complete statement, go to

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Catholic Bishops' document to reject "pro-choice" politics as compatible with Catholic identity

Washington D.C., Nov 13, 2003 (CNA) - Pro-abortion politicians who claim to be Catholic may be hearing from their bishops soon. The U.S. bishops are considering developing a new statement that condemns politicians from both parties, who claim to be Catholic and pro-abortion.

They are also considering whether to impose sanctions against Catholic pro-abortion politicians, such as being denied honorary degrees and refusing to allow them to speak at Catholic institutions. The bishops announced this new initiative at their semi-annual meeting in Washington, following a campaign by the American Life League, urging them to take action on this issue.

Bishop John Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Fla., is chairman of a bishop’s committee that will develop such guidelines, intended to persuade politicians and to advise bishops on disciplinary measures that could range from prohibiting disobedient politicians from speaking at Catholic events to excommunication.

Francis Cardinal George, archbishop of Chicago and president of the USCCB, commented on the controversial committee. "Does the code [of canon law] permit us to impose sanctions - and if it does, is it pastorally wise to do so?" he asked. "Because no bishop wants to count anyone out, ever. At the same time, we're challenged by people who feel the situation is scandalous - and rightly so - to do something."

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American Life League applauds Bishops' response on "pro-choice" Catholic politicians

Washington D.C., Nov 13, 2003 (CNA) - The American Life League applauded the U.S. bishops' decision earlier this week to study how the Church should respond to pro-abortion politicians who claim to be Catholic.

As part of its Crusade for the Defense of Our Catholic Church, the league has focused attention on such politicians whose positions contradict crucial Church teachings.

The issue was the focus of their ad campaign that appeared in the Washington Post Monday, urging the bishops to take the problem by the horns during their semi-annual meeting here this week. The bishops responded by appointing a committee to study appropriate Church responses to pro-abortion politicians.

According to the league, there are more than 400 pro-abortion Catholic politicians in the U.S.

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Bishop speaks out on Terri's behalf

, Nov 13, 2003 (CNA) - A U.S. bishop spoke out on behalf of Terri Schindler Schiavo, a brain-damaged Florida woman, who has been in a semi-conscious state for more than 10 years, saying that her life has great worth and that her treatment is not a case of extreme measures.

Bishop Robert F. Vasa of the Diocese of Baker, Oregon, spoke of Terri’s situation in light of Church teachings on medical care and end-of-life treatment.

“The Catholic Church teaches that hydration and nutrition are simply water and food.  These must always be provided as long as the food or water itself or the method of delivery is not unduly burdensome to the patient,” he said. “There does not appear to be any indication from Terri that the provision or the method of provision of food and water is burdensome to her.  

“To treat her as if she were already dead is cruel and inhumane. To treat her as if she is dying is likewise ludicrous,” said the bishop in a message to Terri’s parents, Mary and Bob Schindler. Bishop Vasa said her parents’ love and battle to keep her alive tell “the world that Terri has great worth.”

“Terri is alive. She is kept alive by the same things that keep me alive – food, water, air. Her disability deprives her of the ability to ingest these things; it does not deprive her of the ability to digest them,” he continued. “She may well die in the future from an inability to digest food but it would be murder to cause her death by denying her the food she still has the ability to digest and which continues to provide for her a definite benefit – life itself.”

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Thomas More Law Center defends Christmas in U.S. federal courts

, Nov 13, 2003 (CNA) - The Thomas More Law Centre is taking the City of New York and some of its public school officials to court after the City imposed a total ban on Christmas Nativity displays in its public schools. The hearing on the Law Center's motion to temporarily restrain the City from enforcing this ban will take place today in a federal court in Brooklyn.

In its brief, New York argues that the Nativity scene does not depict the historical event of the birth of Jesus and that this event is not the basis for the celebration of Christmas.

The Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, filed the federal civil lawsuit last year on behalf of Roman Catholic Andrea Skoros and her two children, who are both elementary school students in New York.

The Law Centre has pointed out that while New York's policy prohibits public school displays of Christmas Nativity scenes, it encourages the display of the Jewish Menorah and the Islamic star and crescent during their respective holidays.

The Law Centre cites the example of a public school principal, who issued a memo encouraging teachers to bring to school "religious symbols" that represent the Islamic and Jewish religions but made no mention of Christianity.

At times, teachers have had students make the Jewish Menorahs that would often adorn the halls of the schools as part of the "authorized" displays. However, the students were not allowed to make and similarly display Nativity scenes, said the Law Centre. When a parent wrote to her son's teacher to complain about this, the teacher responded by sending the parent a copy of the school's "Holiday Displays" policy.

In December 2001 and 2002, Catholic League president William Donohue attempted to get school officials to change their discriminatory policy. However, they decided only to allow Christmas trees, claiming that Supreme Court precedent prohibited them from including the Nativity scene as part of their holiday displays.

"This case will decide whether public school officials can enforce a policy that shows preference for Judaism and Islam, but disfavors Christianity,” said Robert Muise, the Law Centre attorney handling the case. “Can Christianity be erased from a public school? Can ‘Christ’ be removed from Christmas? We will soon find out."

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