Archive of May 25, 2004

Cardinal George to deny communion to gay protesters on Sunday

Chicago, Ill., May 25, 2004 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Francis George, has written a memo to all pastors in the Archdiocese of Chicago saying the Church should deny communion to gay Catholics who wear a rainbow sash at Mass on Sunday.

The wearing of the sash next Sunday is a protest sponsored by the "Rainbow Sash Movement," which plans to send members to parishes across Chicago and to Holy Name Cathedral to "denounce the Catholic Church's segregation of gay members."

In his memo, Cardinal George says wearing the sash indicates disagreement with Church teachings that gay sexual relations are sinful, and therefore communion must be denied to avoid turning it into a statement.

The Cardinal is in Rome for his Ad Limina visit.

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President of Alabama’s Christian Coalition converts to Catholicism

Montgomery, Ala., May 25, 2004 (CNA) - It was a long journey. But after six years, the president of the Christian Coalition of Alabama, John Giles, and his wife, Deborah, were confirmed and welcomed into the Roman Catholic Church at St. Peter's Parish in Montgomery this past Easter.

In an interview, Giles told The Associated Press that when he first sat in on a Catholic mass six years ago, he couldn’t really follow it, but he was reduced to tears and he didn’t know why.

He pursued this new interest and became fascinated by the Catholic Church’s history and ritual. He continued to learn about the faith, visiting Israel and Rome, and learning always more, until finally realizing that many of his past beliefs about the Catholic Church and its teachings had been wrong.

Unlike most people, Giles conversion to Catholicism has not been a private affair, but he understands the public interest given his job as president of the Christian Coalition of Alabama.

Most people seem to want to know why he converted, Giles told AP, and he has tried to answer all of these questions and explain his reasoning in an eight-page letter. Giles said he relates to their questioning since, as a Protestant he, too, had misperceptions about Catholicism.

He illustrated this point in recounting an experience that he had at a friend’s house one evening in Florida. There he met a lady, who was teaching a Sunday School class on cults. When describing her class, her list of cults included Catholicism.

Giles admits that his decision to convert from Protestantism to Catholicism is not a popular one in the majority Protestant state of Alabama, but he hopes that it will help in building bridges between Christian groups where there were none before. He hopes that his constituents will an open mind.

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Richmond’s new bishop pledges to bring Church to "traditional values"

Richmond, Va., May 25, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Francis Xavier DiLorenzo has vowed to make the revival of the Church’s traditional values his top priority.

The 61-year-old bishop was installed yesterday as the 12th bishop of the Diocese of Richmond. William Cardinal Keeler, archbishop of Baltimore, and the nuncio, Archbishop Gabrielle Montalvo, were at the installation ceremony.

The former bishop of Honolulu for 10 years said he would base his leadership upon a 2002 statement of faith, which was developed by ministries across the state, that points to a desire to return to traditional values.

At a press conference May 21, DiLorenzo said his objectives also include developing lay leadership, creating a diocesan office responsible for handling allegations of abuse and implementing prevention, and proclaiming the Church’s teachings against abortion and on other social issues.

DiLorenzo said the pro-choice position, taken by Catholics like Democratic senator and presidential candidate John Kerry, may reflect a problem in "understanding Catholic moral reasoning."

When elections offer "two pro-choice candidates, you have to get in there and decide which candidate will do the least amount of evil," said DiLorenzo, who added that dropping out of the political process would be "a mistake."

The Diocese of Richmond includes 143 parishes and an estimated 80,000 Catholic households.

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Vatican officials to attend Christian-Muslim dialogue in Qatar

Vatican City, May 25, 2004 (CNA) - Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, librarian and archivist of Holy Roman Church and Archbishops Michael Fitzgerald and Pier Luigi Celata, respectively president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, will be among the Holy See participants at the Qatar Conference on Muslim-Christian Dialogue which starts Thursday, May 27 in the capital city of Doha.

The Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims, an office of the pontifical council, and the Gulf States Center at the University of Qatar have organized the three-day event which will take place at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Doha. May 27 is a public session to which Muslim and Christian leaders from around the world have been invited. Closed sessions will he held on May 28 and 29 on the theme of religious freedom.

Among those scheduled to address the public sessions on Thursday are Cardinal Tauran, Archbishop Fitzgerald, Shayk Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, emir of Qatar, His Holiness Shenouda III, Pope of Alexandria of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Youssef al-Qaradawi of the University of Qatar, Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi of al-Azhar and Youssef El-Hage from Lebanon.

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FDA’s decision to refuse over-the-counter access of morning-after pill is ‘solid’ and ‘scientific’

Washington D.C., May 25, 2004 (CNA) - A public policy analyst with the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is defending the recent decision, made by the Food and Drug Administration, refusing to make the morning-after pill available over-the-counter.

Since the FDA’s decision, pro-abortion groups have accused the government body of having mixed politics with science and of not having based their decision on sufficient scientific evidence. They have called for an investigation into the decision process and pro-abortion members of Congress have also introduced a bill, the Science Over Politics Act. The act would require the FDA commissioner to state, under penalty of perjury, that his decision was not influenced by politics.

However, Maureen Kramlich, a public policy analyst with the USCCB, has argued that the FDA’s decision is on “solid scientific ground” and that it places “the health interests of women, especially young women and girls, above a for-profit drug company’s financial interests.”

The FDA’s concern about the impact that an over-the-counter designation would have on adolescent girls’ health is well founded, she said. 

In an article she wrote, Kramlich cited the experience of a pharmacist in the United Kingdom, where the pills are available without a prescription. The pharmacist reported that a 10-year-old girl, who had requested the pills, said she had already used the morning-after pill four times.

“Other UK pharmacists have reported seeing boyfriends lurking in the back of the store, and have expressed concerns that less assertive women and young girls are being coerced to take the pills,” said Kramlich.

The FDA made its decision based on the insufficient research done on the effects of the drug on adolescents. During an FDA meeting, the manufacturer, Barr Laboratories, admitted that there were no animal studies of the drugs’ effects on adolescents, reported Kranlich.

The FDA also considered that many women are not aware of the drug’s abortifacient properties – it blocks the implantation of an embryo in the womb – and that such information should be printed on the box.

Physicians noted that an over-the-counter designation could be used to exploit young women’s fears of becoming pregnant and that many women would take the drug unnecessarily, even in their times of infertility, said Kramlich. The designation could create a tendency for this drug to be used and sold much more than is really needed.

“One financial news Web site provided estimates that over-the-counter availability of the drugs could bring $25-$100 million in annual revenues for Barr,” wrote Kramlich.

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Argentinean bishops urge society to protect and strengthen the family

Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 25, 2004 (CNA) - The Bishops Conference of Argentina meeting in plenary assembly this week published a document entitled, “The Family: Image of God’s Love,” in which the bishops reflect on the challenges facing the family and reaffirm the value of the family institution as the foundation of society.

The message, dated May 15, explains that the intention of the bishops is to express their closeness and solidarity with families “that are living in difficult situations, in the midst of suffering, injustice, deficiency and painful experiences, which have left them with a feeling of failure or brokenness that is not fully compatible with the message of the Gospel.”

The bishops warned that the institution of the family seems to be harassed “by legislation that encourages its dissolution; by ideological models that relativize the concepts of person, marriage and family; by the socio-economic situation; by the lack of communication, by superficiality and intolerance, and even by aggression and violence in the treatment of one another.” 

The “culture of death” scorns and marginalizes “the infirm and the elderly in abortion, euthanasia, murder, scorn for life-long commitments,” said the bishops, recalling that “physical life must be respected from conception to natural death, and it should be cared for and served, so that everyone can have food, clothing, housing, education, work, free time, health assistance and security.”

The basic cell of society

In their statement the bishops recall that “the family is a natural institute with precedence over any other community, including the State,” and that it cannot be treated on the same level as “other realities that do not have the same identity: cohabitating couples, same-sex unions.  To treat unequal realities equally is an injustice.” 

“The family demands the recognition of the dignity of the human person from conception to natural death,” said the bishops.  “It is self-destructive for a society to accept the crime of abortion, the freezing of embryos, the destruction of embryos, cloning, euthanasia and the manipulation of life,” they added.

Chastity in marriage

The statement also underscores that “the idea of love which is promoted today” reduces love to genital activity “and separates love from sexuality, and sexuality from procreation and all normal restraint.  It is a concept very distinct from the teaching of the Church, which seeks to safeguard the full truth about human love, “not by imposing or oppressing with strange laws, but by understanding and serving sexuality according to God’s design, under the double light of His Word and natural reason.”

Through the Sacrament of Marriage, the message goes on, “Spouses should be docile to the call of the Lord and act as faithful interpreters of His design, generously opening the family to new life, and always remaining in an attitude of service to life.”

Chastity “is not limited to sexual continence, but rather means the capacity to love without possessing and to have authentic relationships.  Chastity, a common value for diverse situations, is the correct development of sexuality, the premise necessary to live marriage, consecrated virginity, the single life or widowhood worthily,” the bishops said.

The Eucharist

Later in the document the bishops express the necessity to “rediscover the Eucharist as the foundation and soul of family mission and communion.”  “We invite the faithful to rediscover the Eucharist as the very fountain of Christian marriage,” the message adds. 

On the other hand, with the reality that “many people are living in irregular situations,” the bishops state their desire to “renew the invitation of John Paul II, which we make our own, that they not see themselves as separated from the Church…We exhort them to listen to the Word of God, to attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and to persevere in prayer, in works of charity and the promotion of justice, and to educate their children in the Christian faith.”

Lastly, the bishops call on lawmakers and leaders to “avoid passing laws that, ignoring the dignity of the person, undermine the roots of society,” and they pray that God will grant “the families of our country the grace to be strong and joyful in the midst of the trials of each day, and to be generous in bringing about, with a renewed commitment to life and love, the new evangelization and the moral renewal which we need.”

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Silent holocaust of abortion is not progress, says Spanish bishop

Madrid, Spain, May 25, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Antonio Reig of Segorbe-Castellón, Spain, says abortion is a “silent holocaust,” and that it cannot be considered “progress,” adding that the state which promotes it is “totalitarian.”

In the diocesan newsletter, Bishop Reig denounced the 77,000 abortions that take place in Spain each year, warning that “the most serious crisis which could happen in Spanish society is to accept this silent holocaust and to affirm it as progress.”

In the newsletter, the bishop mentioned “post-abortion stress syndrome,” which afflicts “the majority of those who have had an abortion” and which leads to “disorders that require psychiatric and spiritual help.”

“To destroy a child in the womb of his mother can be relatively simple, but it is not so easy to get it out of her mind and her heart.  Sometimes, post-abortion stress syndrome is incurable.  There are many cases in which only the Sacrament of Penance and religious therapy can cure the mother,” the bishop said.

Bishop Reig added that if a mother suffers with an abortion, the State actually comes out worse from this “cultural crisis.”  “When a State is accomplice to this despotic freedom, it automatically becomes a totalitarian State,” because abortion “is unjustifiable in every sense.”

On the other hand, Bishop Reig underscored the relationship between chastity and marital fidelity.  He attributed divorce to the lack of “something as forgotten as chastity.” In his judgment, “when there is no chastity, which protects faithful love, the conjugal relationship is resented, and the doors to infidelity and all types of perversion are opened.”

Moreover, the bishop stated that another cause of marital breakups is selfishness, because “with any difficulty separation and divorce are thought to mean more progress and freedom than forgiveness and reconciliation.”  

Lastly, Bishop Reig expressed his disapproval of granting homosexual unions the status of marriage.  “It is not licit to call to diverse realities the same name,” he explained.

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Spanish socialists propose granting Muslims equal legal status with the Church

Madrid, Spain, May 25, 2004 (CNA) - The ruling party in Spain, the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), announced it will support an effort that would put Muslims on the same legal footing as the Catholic Church through public financing.

Party secretary Trinidad Jimenez announced the decision after meeting with the president of the Union of Islamic Communities in Spain, Riay Tatary.

”We believe in the establishing of public financing so that Islamic communities can freely carry out their activities, as is the case with other religious confessions,” said Jimenez, referring to the system which currently allows the Catholic Church to raise funds through a taxation program.

However, the socialist leader acknowledged the difficulty of keeping track of the dissimilar Islamic entities in Spain.  But she said it was something that should be resolved “in the context of negotiations between the new Director of Religious Affairs and the Islamic community of Spain.”

Tatary has been pressuring for financial status for Muslims equal to that of Catholic Church, arguing that this way “the recourse to other sources of financing which are not in favor of coexistence can be avoided.”  He was referring to the suspicion that some Islamic organizations in Spain receive economic assistance from groups tied to Al Qaeda.

Nevertheless, Jimenez expressed her support for prosecuting those Muslim clerics who make public statements which are against Spanish constitutional order and legislation.  “There will be continuous vigilance, not only by Spanish authorities, but also by those who responsible in their own mosques for ensuring that there is no type of statements that would encourage violence of any kind,” she concluded.

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