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Archive of January 8, 2004

John Paul II: None of the current ideologies will interrupt faith and reason dialogue

Vatican City, Jan 8, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II hopes that “the lively dialogue” between faith and reason will last and “none of the current ideologies will be able to interrupt it.” 

The Pope made this statement while accepting the Academic Golden Laurel from the academic communities of Wroclaw and Opole, Poland, for the 50th anniversary of the defense of his thesis in order to become a professor in the Department of Theology at Jagiellonian University.

The Pope thanked the representatives, who were accompanied by Cardinal Henryk Roman Gulbinowicz, Archbishop of Wroclaw, and recalled that he was the last professor to join the Department of Theology before the communist authorities shut it down. 

"It was an act," he said, "meant to divide the institutions, as well as to pit reason and faith against each other.  I am not speaking about that distinction that was born in the late medieval age on the basis of the autonomy of the sciences, but of the separation that was imposed with violence on the spiritual heritage of the nation."

John Paul II said that he never abandoned “the conviction that those efforts would not achieve their goal.  This conviction grew strong in me thanks to personal interaction with men of science, professors from different disciplines who bore witness to the profound desire for dialogue and the common search for truth." 

Referring to his encyclical, "Faith and reason," he added that "faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth."

"Your presence here," he concluded, "inspires in me the hope that this lively dialogue will last and that none of the current ideologies will be able to interrupt it.  With this hope, I direct my gaze toward all universities, academies and high schools."

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Holy Father defends right to love of mentally handicapped

Vatican City, Jan 8, 2004 (CNA) - In a message to the participants in an international symposium on the "Dignity and Rights of the Mentally Handicapped", Pope John Paul II defends right of the mentally handicapped to love and be loved.

The Holy Father writes that "care for the affective and sexual dimensions of handicapped people is also worthy of attention. They also need to love and be loved, they need affection, closeness and intimacy.”

Unfortunately, the Pope adds, “handicapped people must live these legitimate and natural needs in a disadvantaged situation which becomes ever-more evident with the passage from childhood to adulthood.  They seek authentic relationships in which they can be appreciated and recognized as persons."

"Handicapped people, even when they have mental limitations or sensorial and intellectual handicaps, are completely human subjects with the sacred and inalienable rights due to every human creature. Only when the rights of the weakest members of a society are recognized can a society say that it is founded on law and justice," the Pope states.

The Holy Father also emphasizes that "a society that only gives space to its fully functioning members who are totally autonomous and independent, is not a society worthy of man.  Discrimination based on efficiency is no less condemnable than discrimination based on race, sex or religion."

"In addition to any other consideration or specific interest or group," he continues, "it is necessary to try to promote the integral good of these people, without denying them the help and protection necessary even when it may mean a greater social and economic burden.  Perhaps even more than other sick people, the mentally retarded need attention, affection, understanding and love: we cannot leave them alone, unarmed and defenseless, in the difficult duty of confronting life."

"Without a doubt," he adds, "handicapped people, revealing the radical fragility of the human condition, are an expression of the drama of sorrow and in this world of ours, so eager for hedonism and fascinated by ephemeral and false beauty, and their difficulties are frequently perceived as a scandal and a provocation, their problems as a weight that must be gotten rid off or resolved as soon as possible."

These persons "can teach everyone what is love and how to be promoters of a new world, not dominated by force, violence and aggressiveness any more, but by love, solidarity, acceptance, a new world transformed by the light of Christ, the Son of God incarnate, who was crucified and rose from the dead,” he concludes.

The meeting, which is taking place January 7-9 in the Vatican and is organized by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, coincides with the end of the Year of Handicapped People in Europe.

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Court to decide fate of anti-Catholic sculpture on university campus

Ann Arbor, Mich., Jan 8, 2004 (CNA) - A federal court is expected to decide next week whether a state-run university must remove an anti-Catholic sculpture from campus grounds.

The sculpture of a Catholic bishop with a grotesque facial expression and wearing a miter in the shape of a phallus is the focus of the federal civil rights lawsuit against Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas.

The suit was filed by the Thomas More Law Center on behalf of two Catholic members of the university community – Thomas O'Connor, a professor for the last 29 years, and Andrew Strobl, a student and president of the Catholic Campus Center.

The sculpture, called “Holier than Thou”, was put on display Sept. 20 in front of the student union, one of the most prominent sites on campus.

The suit alleges that the display is hostile toward Catholics, mocks Catholic religious beliefs and is in violation of the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution. The Law Center is asking the court to order university officials to remove the sculpture.

"For years atheists, with the help of the ACLU, have used the federal courts to remove the Ten Commandments and Nativity scenes from the public square, claiming that these passive symbols, which have significant historical and cultural importance for our nation, somehow create an establishment of religion,” said Robert Muise, the Law Center attorney handling the case.

“Here, in contrast, we have government officials prominently displaying an overtly hostile and offensive symbol of anti-Catholicism,” he continued. “How will our federal courts respond to this situation? Does our Constitution protect Catholics as much as it protects atheists? We will soon find out."

Several Catholic leaders have objected to the sculpture, including William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, and Archbishop James Keleher of Kansas City.

The archbishop wrote an open letter to Washburn University president Jerry Farley Oct. 3, expressing his disappointment and concern for the “many Catholic students who see their faith ridiculed and they themselves embarrassed.” He strongly urged the university to remove the sculpture.

The Kansas State Knights of Columbus, the Archdiocesan Conference of Catholic Women, and the university’s Catholic Campus Center joined the archbishop in urging university officials to remove the sculpture but the university voted Oct. 18 to keep the display.

According to Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Law Center, this situation “is another example of universities across the country enforcing a double standard. They censor as ‘hate speech’ any religious expressions on campus they consider politically incorrect. Yet, they sponsor and support the most offensive expression toward Christians."

The court has scheduled a hearing on the Law Center's motion for a restraining order for Jan. 13.

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Kid starts legal battle after being forbidden to hand out gifts with Christian message at school

Trenton, N.J., Jan 8, 2004 (CNA) - A civil liberties organization has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of an elementary school student and his mother, after school authorities prohibited the young boy from giving his classmates holiday gifts that included a Christian message.

The suit, filed by the Rutherford Institute, is challenging a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit that upholds the school policy, which the institute argues is religious discrimination.

"To prohibit a student from handing out gifts of his choosing to his classmates simply because the school is afraid that a parent will mistakenly assume school participation is ludicrous," said John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, according to CNSNews.com.

"We are hopeful the U.S. Supreme Court will see through the school officials' justifications and recognize their actions for what they are – religious discrimination," Whitehead said.

CNSNews.com. reported that, in April 1998, Daniel Walz’s pre-kindergarten class held a holiday party during the Easter-Passover season. Some children brought small gifts to the party. Daniel’s gifts to his classmates were pencils with the message: "Jesus loves the little children."

His teacher confiscated the pencils because of their religious message. Daniel's mother, Dana Walz, was in the classroom and immediately reported the event to the school principal. But the principal, assistant superintendent and superintendent supported the teacher’s actions.

Before a class Christmas-Hanukkah party that same year, Daniel’s mother contacted the school's attorney to get permission for her son to hand out candy canes with the story "The Candy Maker's Witness" attached to them.

She was told Daniel could distribute his gifts only outside the classroom and that only non-religious gifts could be handed out in class.

According to a CNSNews.com. report, dated Jan. 6, the Rutherford Institute’s arguments state that the school district's actions and policies discriminate against Daniel on the basis of religion and are in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as New Jersey state law against discrimination.

Attorneys have asked the court to determine whether students' religious speech can be censored and to what extent the Supreme Court's First Amendment jurisprudence applies in the context of a public elementary school.

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Foreign priests on the rise in U.S.

Richmond, Va., Jan 8, 2004 (CNA) - With the number of U.S.-born clergy dwindling, the United States has become mission territory again for an increasing number of foreign-born priests.

The drop in priestly vocations is staggering at more than 50 percent. Where there once were 994 diocesan priests ordained in the U.S. in 1965, there were only 427 in 2000.

According to Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, foreign-based priests currently represent about 16 percent of the 27,000 active priests in the U.S., reported the Associated Press.

"We were one of the countries sending surplus, mission priests to places like Africa and Central America and the Philippines," Fr. Michael Renninger of the Richmond diocese told AP. Now, those former mission territories are experiencing their own vocational boom and, in some cases, sending priests to the U.S.

"The United States has become a mission territory," Fr. Thomas J. Caroluzza of the Diocese of Richmond was quoted as saying by AP.

Priests belonging to dioceses overseas have become the largest source of new clergy for Richmond, where there were no priestly ordinations in 2002, and only one ordination in 2003, reported AP. During the same period, the number of priests in the diocese dropped from 116 to 111 because of retirements, death and transfers.

The number of international priests in Richmond continues to rise. The number jumped from 21 in 1998 to 31 in 2002.  This month, another five priests from Poland, Kenya and the Philippines will join more than two dozen clergy from South Korea, Vietnam and other countries in Richmond on long-term assignments.

Many Filipino priests serve in Virginia because of a deal Bishop-emeritus Walter F. Sullivan struck years ago with Bishop-emeritus Jesus Y. Varela of the Diocese of Sosorgon in the Philippines.

Under the agreement, Richmond could borrow priests of the Sosorgon diocese and, in return, provide financial support to needy seminarians in the Philippines.

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Argentinean Archbishop praying that “President Kirchner be who he is supposed to be”

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jan 8, 2004 (CNA) - Archbishop Carmelo Juan Giaquinta of Resistencia, Argentina, said he is praying “fervently” that the country’s president, Néstor Kirchner, “be who is supposed to be.”

In a recent letter entitled, “Only a Heroic Spirit Can Rebuild a Nation,” the Archbishop said he also prays “that we may be a wise people unafraid to heed the sensible words of those who call us to renew public morality and to rebuild the country.”

He cited Germany as an example, a country which rose out of the ashes of World War II, and he asked what the difference was with Argentina.  “Some will say our history is not the same.  They are a people who go back thousands of years and have suffered much and finally learned.  This is partially true.  Because after three wars with France (two of them World Wars), they learned that the road to victory was in the completely opposite direction:  no longer war with France, but peace;  no longer taking iron and coal from others, but rather sharing their own resources.”  He also mentioned the possibility that one important difference might be that “the Germany had leaders willing to make their people face the truth of what happened and the situation that they must face, and therefore they inspired a heroic spirit that the nation needed to rebuild itself.   Our leaders have been too concerned with re-election and thus incapable of taking the risk to speak the truth to the people.”

“In these last 50 years,” said Archbishop Giaquinta, “Argentina seems to be like Germany in reverse.  They rebuilt themselves out of the greatest destruction ever seen in Europe, with persistent effort, savings, and humility, which is a sign of intelligence, assuming moral responsibility for Nazism and the world war.”

“We, however, have become accustomed to squander and sloth.  It has been easy for us to be bullies, even in international politics.  And we never accept historical responsibility for the problems we have caused,” he concluded.

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Costa Rican bishops ask government to teach children to be builders of peace

San José, Costa Rica, Jan 8, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop José Francisco Ulloa of Limón and President of the Costa Rica Bishops Conference asked the government this week to expand the country’s education curriculum to include material that will instruct students on how to help build world peace.

During the Mass for World Peace which was celebrated in the Cathedral of San José, Bishop Ulloa said that only a people conscious of human rights and responsibilities can help consolidate systems of peace, since “rights are an indispensable tool for peace and without them peace cannot exist.”

Bishop Ulloa explained that Costa Ricans who are educated in peace will be able to help in the just distribution of resources so that everyone can enjoy a higher quality of life and not give in to corrupt behavior, which erodes democratic institutions.

The bishop made his comments in the presence of various government officials and accompanied by other Costa Rican bishops who gathered together in the Cathedral to pray for world peace.

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Campaign underway in Argentina to establish penalties for abortifacients

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jan 8, 2004 (CNA) - An Argentinean congressman has introduced a bill that would establish penalties for the production and distribution of abortifacients—medicines whose purpose is to produce a chemical abortion during the first days of pregnancy.

The bill seeks penalties for “those who manufacture, distribute, commercialize, prescribe, and sell, drugs that cause an abortion or prevent implantation, as well as those who cooperate in these actions.”

The bill aims to resolve a legal contradiction between local and provincial norms that legalize so-called “emergency contraceptives,” which prevents the implantation of a newly-conceived human person, and the Argentinean Constitution, which defends life from the moment of conception.

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