Washington D.C., May 20, 2004 (CNA) - Forty-eight Democrat Catholic members of the US Congress sent a letter, May 10, to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick complaining about the "threats" made by some bishops to deny communion to pro-abortion politicians, the New York Times revealed today.
The letter said the bishops are "allowing the church to be used for partisan purposes.'' They also question why these bishops made abortion a litmus test while ignoring politicians who voted counter to the church by endorsing the death penalty and the war in Iraq.
The letter was sent to Cardinal McCarrick as chairman of a bishops task force asked to devise recommendations for American bishops on relations with Catholic politicians.
Among the letter's signers are Representatives Nancy Pelosi of California, the House minority leader; Rosa L. DeLauro of Connecticut; Carolyn McCarthy and Nydia Velázquez of New York; John D. Dingell of Michigan; Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts; George Miller of California; James L. Oberstar of Minnesota; Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio, a candidate for president; and Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo of Guam.
"As Catholics, we do not believe it is our role to legislate the teachings of the Catholic Church," the letter said. "Because we represent all of our constituents, we must, at times, separate our public actions from our personal beliefs."
In the letter, legislators asked to meet with Cardinal McCarrick and other members of the bishops task force.
Colorado Springs, Colo., May 20, 2004 (CNA) - The Diocese of Colorado Springs is willing to be poor in order to preach the Gospel and it is not intimidated by threats to withdraw funding.
A diocesan spokesman made this comment yesterday after several benefactors expressed their intention to withhold or redirect large donations in protest of Bishop Michael Sheridan’s May pastoral letter. In his letter, the bishop states that Catholics will not be given Communion if they vote for politicians who are not in line with Church teachings on abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage and embryonic stem-cell research.
Led by local lawyer and businessman Ric Kethcart, these benefactors are calling on the bishop to reverse his decision. Kethcart is threatening to revoke a $100,000 pledge to his parish's building project.
However, Peter Howard, the bishop’s spokesman, has dismissed the threat of decreased giving and said the diocese is willing to sacrifice dollars to make a moral stand.
"The Church doesn't exist because of money," Howard told the Denver Post. "The Church started out poor, and if such teachings and teaching the truth results in people withholding their money, so be it. That's sometimes the price of the Gospel."
Howard pointed out that some Catholics support the bishop’s leadership and have increased their giving. He underlined that Sheridan's first annual appeal last year brought in more than $2.3 million in pledges, $1 million more than its goal.
Connie Pratt, a 57-year-old homemaker, told the Denver Post that her family will double its giving because of Sheridan's letter. She said she believes it was written out of love for politicians and lay people.
David Gibson, author of "The Coming Catholic Church: How the Faithful Are Shaping a New American Catholicism", said withholding funds is an understandable means of protest for lay people but he doesn’t think it will have much of an effect.
"There are plenty of wealthy conservative Catholics out there who can make up the difference,” he told the Denver Post, “and bishops are not going to compromise on issues they see as central."
Phoenix, Ariz., May 20, 2004 (CNA) - The Diocese of Pheonix has partnered with the county attorney’s office to host a summit today, designed for individuals who work on sexual abuse issues.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted underlined the significance of the conference, not only for the Church but also for society at large.
"Sexual abuse has not only impacted our Catholic Church and other faith communities,” he told the Arizona Republic, “it touches all parts of our society: youth sports, Scouts, schools, day-care centers, homes, any place where our children and youth gather to play, learn, live and trust.
"We need to do all that is possible to ensure that this trust will never be broken again," he added.
Organizers expect 350 participants, including clergy, victims, perpetrators, law enforcement officials and counselors.
Kathleen McChesney, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ national youth-protection office, will deliver the keynote address, called "Finding the Facts: Implications from studies of sexual abuse of minors in the Catholic Church of the United States." McChesney led the investigations that resulted in the two reports on sexual abuse in the U.S. Church, released in February.
As well, Dr. Ann Burgess of the Boston College School of Nursing, an expert on the sexual abuse of children and crisis intervention, will lead a general session about issues and trends in sexual abuse.
The summit, co-presented by the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, will complete the final requirement of the immunity agreement between former Pheonix Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien and the county attorney. In that agreement, O'Brien admitted to endangering children by quietly transferring priests, who were accused of sexual misconduct.
Bishop O'Brien resigned two weeks after signing the agreement, which was only after he was arrested and charged for leaving the scene of a fatal accident. He is serving four years' probation and 1,000 hours of community service.
Vatican City, May 20, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II sent a telegram mourning the death of Cardinal Hyacinthe Thiandoum, Archbishop of Dakar, Senegal, for more than three decades and a leading figure of the Roman Catholic Church in Africa, who died at 83.
“My profound spiritual communion and the assurance of my fervent prayer for the repose of the soul of he who was the pastor of the Archdiocese of Dakar for many years. I wish to render homage to this noble son of the Senegalese nation who gave himself generously to his brothers in service of Christ and His Church, remaining near to the Successor of Peter, an enlightened voice of Africa. Entrusting the illustrious deceased to the mercy of the Lord, I unite myself through thought and prayer with those who, in hope, accompany Cardinal Thiandoum with their prayer, and I gladly impart to them, as a token of consolation, a special apostolic blessing.”
Thiandoum died Tuesday night in a clinic near Marseilles, France. The African Cardinal was appointed to the Dakar post in 1962 and was elevated to cardinal by Pope Paul VI in 1976. He retired four years ago. He represented the African church at various bishops' meetings in Rome. In his new book, Pope John Paul II referred to the cardinal's "exceptional personality."
Geneva, Ill., May 20, 2004 (CNA) - Swiss bishops say a letter written by Swiss intellectuals and theologians, calling on the Pope to retire, “disgusting” and "tasteless.” Yesterday, the bishops dismissed the suggestion that the Pope should retire, calling it "absurd."
The letter, signed by more than 40 Catholic theologians, priests and lay people, praised John Paul's papacy for "moving the world" but suggests that the pontiff should respect the retirement age of 75 set for bishops.
The letter was intentionally released May 14 in order to coincide with the Pope’s 84th birthday, May 18, and with his visit to Switzerland in less than three weeks.
Bishop Kurt Koch said the decision to publish the letter as the Pope celebrated his birthday was "disgusting and disloyal."
Marc Aellen, spokesman for the Swiss Bishops Conference, said it was "extremely upsetting that people should use the arrival of the Pope to make such a comment.”
Aellen said the letter “is not characteristic of the greeting which Switzerland is preparing for him," reported Swissinfo.
The Pope, who has Parkinson’s disease and arthritis, will make his first visit abroad in six months when he comes to Switzerland for a youth gathering June 5-6. This will be his first visit to Switzerland in 20 years.
Madrid, Spain, May 20, 2004 (CNA) - An article in the Spanish newspaper ABC has published several excerpts from the new book written by Pope John Paul II about his life as bishop.
In “Get Up, Let’s Go!” an autobiographical work published on his 84th birthday, the Holy Father writes of the relation of his vocation with the sacrament of the Eucharist.
“I find that the source of my vocation is in the Upper Room of Jerusalem. I give thanks to God for having been able to pray there in the ‘upper room’ where the Last Supper took place, during the Jubilee year of 2000. In this moment I hearken back to that memorable Thursday, when Jesus Christ made his apostles priests of the New Covenant,” reveals the Pope.
In another passage from the six-chapter book, John Paul II offers some reflections on the relationship a bishop should have with the world of science. According to the Pope, “It is well known that some bishops show a particular interest in dialogue with scholars. However, in my opinion, it is worthwhile that priests and bishops personally enter into contact with the world of Science and its leaders.”
In the same sense, he says that both bishops and priests “should maintain a close relationship with university life: reading, going to meetings, discussing and becoming informed about what happens there.”
An especially emotional memory for the Pope is the song, “Pescador de hombres” (“Lord, When You Came to the Seashore”), which he recalled from the conclave of 1978, quoting the chorus: “Oh Lord, in my eyes you were gazing/ kindly smiling/ my name you were saying/ all I have I have left on the sands/ close to you, I will find other seas.”
“The profound meaning of this song sustained me when I had to face the decision of the Conclave. Afterwards, throughout my Pontificate, I have always remembered this song, which has been sung to me in Poland and other countries. Listening to it reminds me of my encounters with young people,” the Pope writes.
The Pope also expresses his closeness and hopefulness with respect to the new ecclesial movements which the Holy Spirit has inspired.
“I have remained close to several new initiatives in which I felt the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, as soon as I arrived in Rome I found the Neocatecumenal Way and Opus Dei, which I made into a Personal Prelature in 1982.”
According to the Pope, “they are two ecclesial phenomenon which have inspired great determination among the laity. Both were born in Spain, a country which throughout history has given providential impulse to spiritual renewal. In October of 2002 I had the joy of canonizing Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, founder of Opus Dei, an exemplary priest and apostle of the laity for our times.”
The Pope also dedicates a few lines to the martyrs of the 20th century. “In 1999 I beatified 108 martyrs, victims of Nazism, including three bishops. A well-known example of sacrifice in martyrdom is that of the Polish Franciscan Maximilian Kolbe, who give his life in Auschwitz to save another prisoner, a father, who he did not know. But there are other martyrs closer to our times. I remember with emotion my meetings with Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, a witness to the Cross in his years of imprisonment in Vietnam.”
Lastly, in the epilogue to the book the Pope addresses his brother bishops saying, “Echoing the words of our Teacher and Lord, I repeat to each one of you, beloved brothers in the Episcopate: ‘Get up! Let’s Go! Let us forge ahead, trusting in Christ. He will be with us on the way until the final goal which only He knows.”
Lima, Peru, May 20, 2004 (CNA) - Adolescent mothers are the focus of the Peruvian Bishops Conference Outreach program for this year, which will begin on Saturday, May 22.
According to the bishops, “2 out of every 10 women who give birth in Peru’s hospitals are adolescent mothers between the ages of 10 and 19” and therefore the focus of this year’s “Share 2004” outreach is “Adolescent Mothers: a worrisome and common reality.”
“The goal of the Share outreach is to invite all Peruvians to open their eyes and hearts to all adolescent mothers, as well as to reflect, deepen and improve their commitment to the poor and the excluded in our country,” the bishops said.
The Conference said the 2004 Share Outreach seeks to confront the reality of adolescent mothers through a reevaluation of the family and integral development of minors. “Therefore it is necessary to welcome, inform and listen to adolescents, in addition to stimulating support for them (young mothers) and for families.”
Quito, Ecuador, May 20, 2004 (CNA) - The Bishops Conference of Ecuador is calling on the country’s president, Lucio Gutierrez, to increase assistance for refugees who are fleeing to Ecuador to escape the violence in Colombia.
Speaking to the Spanish news agency EFE, Sister Janette Ferreira, a representative of the Bishops Conference, said the various suggestions of the bishops have been presented in the form of a book entitled, “Towards a Shared Vision Among the Neighboring Countries of the Colombian Conflict,” elaborated by the Catholic Church and the UN High Commission for Refugees.
According to Sister Janette, the book is “a wake-up call to people, the government and the Church herself so that together we can search for solutions to the problems” which result from the refugee situation.
Statistics indicate that more than 300,000 Colombians are residing in Ecuador, 7,000 of whom are refugees. In the last five years Ecuadorian authorities have received more than 27,000 requests for refugee status.
Sister Janette said the number of refugees and those applying for refugee status are low compared to the number of Colombian residents in Ecuador, many of whom are illegals.
“The most important thing is for the Colombians to gain legal status, and if we can help them gain legal status in Ecuador, they could be contribute to the development and general production of the country,” she explained.
Sister Janette also called on Ecuadorians to not fall into certain prejudices against the Colombians, who are often unjustly associated with violence. “This is a mentality we should change,” she said.
Madrid, Spain, May 20, 2004 (CNA) - Cardinal Carlos Amigo Vallejo, Archbishop of Seville, Spain, said this week that the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the Immaculate Conception of Mary provides an excellent opportunity to refocus on the Incarnation of Christ, in the midst of increasing secularization which seeks to exclude religion.
Cardinal Vallejo underscored the importance of this dogma “when a radical, and sometimes exasperated, secularism seeks to erase all signs of religion in the life of a society and a culture.”
In this context, he added, “it is very important to show what the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word has meant for history. In this mystery the person of Mary Immaculate is essential.”
The Cardinal made his comments during the inauguration of the 15th Symposium on the History of the Church in Spain and America, which this year is focusing on the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. The meeting is being organized by the Academy for Ecclesiastical History of Seville.
The inaugural event was attended by the Apostolic Nuncio to Spain, Archbishop Manuel Monteiro de Castro.
In his comments, the Cardinal emphasized the “singular importance” of the dogmatic definition of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, and he thanked the organizers of the Symposium for “not letting this anniversary go by without stopping to consider what the truth of the Immaculate Conception of Mary has meant for the history of Seville, and in turn, what that meant for the spreading and developing of devotion to Mary Immaculate in the evangelization of America.”