Denver, Colo., Jun 14, 2004 (CNA) - The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will meet in Denver today to begin its semi-annual retreat, during which a task force, created to address questions about politicians and the Eucharist, is expected to present a report.
The debate about whether Catholic politicians, who support legislation that is counter to Catholic Church teaching, should receive the sacrament of the Eucharist has made headlines for several months.
Though the response has been varied, the issue has received significant attention from several bishops, who have written and spoken about the significance of receiving the Eucharist and the state in which a Catholic should be to receive it.
Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo is one such bishop. As early as April, the bishop said that Catholics, who are personally opposed to abortion, but whose public words and actions demonstrate otherwise, should refrain from receiving Holy Communion.
Catholics, who wish to receive Communion, must understand that they must be without serious sin and in agreement with the teachings of the Church, he said.
The Associated Press reported that Bishop Aquila believes there is a lack of understanding about what it means to be Catholic. He said bishops have not taught about the implications of receiving Communion clearly.
Many other bishops have urged pro-abortion Catholic politicians to abstain voluntarily from taking Communion.
In May, a Colorado bishop told parishioners not to take Communion if they vote for politicians who support legislation that is counter to Church teachings.
Other bishops have said they would not deny Communion to pro-choice politicians.
Denver, Colo., Jun 14, 2004 (CNA) - More than 250 U.S. bishops arrived during the weekend in Denver for the USCCB spring retreat at the Inverness Hotel that will run from Monday afternoon to Saturday.
Despite being billed as a retreat, during the first two days at the meeting the bishops will discuss some aspects of the 2002 "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People." In particular, they will discuss whether to authorize annual reviews of U.S. dioceses that would establish whether or not they are in compliance with the Charter.
The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) held its yearly Conference in Denver this past weekend to put pressure on the bishops. In a statement, SNAP not only demands the reviews to take place each year –with the tremendous effort in personnel and money they require for each diocese--but also that bishops appoint to the National Review Board a prosecutor with sex-crimes experience, at least one SNAP member and at least one representative from the lay group Voice of the Faithful.
“Voice of the Faithful” is an organization that demands the Catholic Church ordain women, make priestly celibacy optional, declare abortion and artificial contraception as “moral,” bless homosexual unions and allow divorced Catholics to receive communion and re-marry in the Church.
Sergio Gutierrez, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Denver, said bishops remain committed to fulfilling the promises made in Dallas two years ago. “No matter what the bishops do, SNAP is not going to be satisfied,” Gutierrez said.
After Tuesday, when a press conference could take place, the bishops will go back to the original retreat spirit, during which they will discuss on the role of Catholics in public life, as well as the possibility of holding a Plenary Council.
A Plenary Council is a meeting that allows broader discussions on the renewal of the Catholic Church and would involve the whole episcopate.
The last Plenary Council took place more than 100 years ago in Baltimore.
Denver, Colo., Jun 14, 2004 (CNA) - American Life League (ALL) announced today in Denver that the organization will hold a press conference tomorrow, June 15, at the media center in front of the site of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops spring meeting, asking the bishops to rule about Communion and pro-abortion politicians.
“At the press conference, the Crusade will unveil its latest ad encouraging the bishops to adopt a cohesive policy that would utilize the provisions of Church law (Canon 915) to withhold the Eucharist from ‘Catholic’ public figures who advocate abortion, which the Church describes as a grave evil,” an ALL statement says.
The new full-page ad is scheduled to run nationwide in the USA Today.
“As our ad makes clear, there should be no doubt that protecting the Body and Blood of Christ in the form of the Eucharist and enforcing the Church's teachings on the sanctity of all human life are paramount concerns for the bishops,” said Judie Brown, president of American Life League.
“That is why we are so hopeful that they will use their time together in Denver to implement a definitive plan of action on how to deal with recalcitrant pro-abortion 'Catholic' public figures that includes the use of Canon Law 915,” she added.
Albany, N.Y., Jun 14, 2004 (CNA) - The Episcopal Diocese of Albany has voted to join the Anglican Communion Network, which opposes the ordination of homosexual priests, reported the Times Union.
The vote was ratified June 12 by a majority of Episcopal clergy and lay people from 19 New York counties during the diocese's annual convention.
The Anglican Communion Network was established as a national organization last year, after the appointment of Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of Anglicanism.
Diocese leaders said the vote is not a break from the national Episcopal Church.
Boston, Mass., Jun 14, 2004 (CNA) - Archbishop Sean P. O’Malley confirmed 22 teenagers at a two-hour mass at St. James church in Stoughton Saturday. The event was bittersweet since St. James is one of 65 parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston, set to close by December.
In his 35-minute homily, mostly directed to the confirmands, the archbishop urged parishioners to avoid the "voices" that are calling people "away from God," reported the Boston Globe.
He referred to MTV and its content that promotes hedonism, promiscuity, and individualism.
He also made reference to the upcoming church closures, stressing the importance of parishioners to think and act selflessly and in harmony with the Church community at this time, reported the Globe.
Fr. John Kelly, who oversaw the confirmation ceremony, said an appeal is under way to ask the archbishop to reconsider his decision to close St. James, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary and has about 300 active families.
Fr. Kelly told the Globe that parishioners are very upset and that the appeal would highlight some facts, which the archbishop may not have known when he made the decision to close the parish.
Vatican City, Jun 14, 2004 (CNA) - The Holy Father entrusted the Year of the Eucharist to Mary at the Sunday Angelus during his reflections on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, "the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. This is the feast day of the Eucharist, the sacrament in which Jesus left us the living memorial of his Easter, the central event in the history of mankind."
"It is so beautiful," he said, "that on this occasion the faithful gather around the Most Holy Sacrament to worship it, they accompany it in processions through the streets and express with so many signs of devotion their faith in the living Christ and joy for His presence."
He underscored his announcement at the Corpus Christi procession last Thursday in Rome that from October 2004 to October 2005 there will be a Year of the Eucharist, culminating in a Synod of Bishops on the theme of the Eucharist. He noted that this special year "is within the framework of the pastoral project that I laid out in the Apostolic Letter 'Novo millennio inuente' where I asked the faithful 'to start out from Christ'."
Stating that "the Eucharist is at the heart of the life of the Church," the Holy Father said he would entrust the Year of the Eucharist "to Our Lady, 'the Eucharistic woman, ...she who, in the Year of the Rosary, helped us to contemplate Christ with her glance and her heart."
After the Angelus, the Pope pointed out that "tomorrow is the World Day of Blood Donors. Giving one's blood in a voluntary and free fashion is a gesture with a high moral and civic value. It is 'a gift for life' as the motto of this world day states. May donors, whom everyone greatly appreciates, increase in every part of the world."
Albuquerque, N.M., Jun 14, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II told 15 United States bishops at a recent meeting at the beginning of June that they should not to get discouraged in the work of preaching the Gospel, reported The Associated Press.
The Pope met individually with the bishops, including Archbishop Michael Sheehan, of Alberquerque, Bishop Donald Pelotte of Gallup, and Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces.
Archbishop Sheehan, who returned from Rome June 10, said the Pope inquired about the work of the Church in New Mexico and how it was supporting family life and marriage.
The archbishop said the pope seemed please to learn that thousands of U.S. Catholics attend marriage enrichment programs every year.
Rome, Italy, Jun 14, 2004 (CNA) - The Vatican news agency Fides is reporting the concern of the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka for a new effort by nine Buddhist monks who are members of the national Parliament and are seeking to pass an “anti-conversion” law that would punish those who leave Buddhism to embrace other faiths such as Christianity.
Fides reported that “the fears expressed in the past by the Catholic Church of Sri Lanka have been confirmed: the Buddhist clergy—which formed a political party during general elections in April—has presented a bill to the legislative Assembly that would impose severe punishment and imprisonment on those who commit the crime of ‘unethical conversions’.”
The text of the measure “has provoked surprise and worry in Catholic circles, because in recent days the bishops, through personal contacts and meetings, have tried to explain the reasons for the opposition of the Church to such a measure.”
According to Fides, the nine Buddhist monks “are an expression of the most extreme groups that are motivated by a fundamentalist nationalism which seeks to preserve the Buddhist identity of the country.”
Fides warned that the draft of the bill “openly declares the will to defend Buddhism as the dominant religion in Sri Lanka and to resist conversions obtained by fraudulent means (persuasion with money, social assistance, benefits of all type).”
A Catholic source quoted by Fides, denounced that “the Buddhist monks have reacted against the proselytizing actions carried out by some Protestant sects, but the Catholic community as well would suffer the consequences if this law were approved. Many charitable or missionary works could be in serious danger.”
The law foresees penalties of up to seven years of imprisonment for those who promote conversions.
According to the bishops of Sri Lanka, “this law will do nothing more than polarize society in a religious sense” and “will increase hatred among different religious groups.”
The bishops have called for the establishing of a joint commission, with representatives from the government and different religions, to address the problem of sects case by case.
The Sri Lanka constitution currently grants Buddhism—which represents 65% of the population—a preeminent position among the religions of the country, but guarantees the members of other confessions the right to freely practice their faith. Hindus represent 15% of the population, while Christians and Muslims represent about 9%.
Vatican City, Jun 14, 2004 (CNA) - The media must not be used to communicate narrow interests but rather serve truth and peace, said Archbishop John P. Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, in Rome this morning to a gathering of representatives of the religious communities involved in the Peace Communications Network at the Christian Brothers Generalate.
"Last year," he said, "on the fortieth anniversary of the famous encyclical of Pope John XXIII, 'Pacem in Terris', the Holy Father chose as the theme for world communications Day: The Communications Media at the Service of Authentic Peace in the Light of 'Pacem in Terris'. He recalled that Pope John XXIII had identified as the four pillars of authentic peace:
truth, justice, freedom and love. We have to guarantee that our own communications and those of the media are truthful. In that way, they can render a wonderful service; otherwise, they can sometimes be used 'in the service of narrow interests, national, ethnic, racial or religious prejudices'."
We also must guarantee, continued Archbishop Foley, "that our own communications and those of the media contribute to justice." In addition, if "the media are to serve freedom, they themselves must be free and correctly use that freedom Their privileged status obliges the media to rise above purely commercial concerns and serve society's true needs and interests."
In conclusion, the archbishop quoted Pope John Paul's words two years ago at the Shrine of Divine Mercy near Krakow: "Where hatred and the thirst for revenge dominate, where war brings suffering and death to the innocent, there the grace of mercy is needed in order to settle human minds and hearts and to bring about peace. Therefore, communication for peace should involve not the advocacy of a balance or preponderance of power but of a superabundance of love."
Washington D.C., Jun 14, 2004 (CNA) - A constitutional challenge to the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance that is recited every day by U.S. schoolchildren, has been dismissed by the Supreme Court on the grounds that the challenger, atheist Michael Newdow, “lacks standing” to speak on behalf of his daughter.
Newdow’s challenge argued that the wording of the pledge violates his right to raise his daughter according to his own beliefs.
The broader question of whether the Pledge of Allegiance violates the separation of church and state was effectively sidestepped by the ruling which stated that Newdow, who is engaged in a custody battle with his daughter’s mother, does not have sufficient authority, and thus the legal right, to speak for his child.
"When hard questions of domestic relations are sure to affect the outcome, the prudent course is for the federal court to stay its hand rather than reach out to resolve a weighty question of federal constitutional law," said Justice John Paul Stevens.
The Supreme Court’s 8-0 ruling came on the 50th anniversary of the addition of the words "under God" to the pledge in an effort, during the cold war, to distinguish American patriotism, which has religious roots, from that of communism, which is overtly atheistic. Congress adopted the new wording on June 14, 1954.
The court’s opinion overturns a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals two years ago which stated that recitation of the pledge, was unconstitutional in tax-supported schools.
The Bush administration, however, argued that the reference to God is an “official acknowledgment of our nation’s religious heritage,” and it is far fetched to argue that they go any way towards “establishing” religion in the classroom and thus violating the First Amendment.
While five of the Justices did not comment beyond the ruling that there was no grounds for the case, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and Justice Clarence Thomas voted to uphold the phrase “under God” in the pledge as a consititutional matter.
Justice Antonin Scalia did not participate in the case.
Madrid, Spain, Jun 14, 2004 (CNA) - Addressing the thousands of faithful gathered for the Corpus Christi procession, Archbishop Antonio Cañizares Lovera of Toledo, Spain, called for the presence of Christianity on the European continent and emphasized that Christians cannot be absent from the rebuilding of a new Europe.
With European parliament elections just days away, the Primate of the Church in Spain said the rebuilding of Europe requires wisdom and spiritual uprightness and that therefore “we Christians cannot be absent as Christians and as the Church from this rebuilding.”
Addressing the thousands of faithful participating in the traditional procession, the Archbishop underscored that the Church and Christians can offer their service to the new Europe, “a service called the Gospel and Jesus Christ.”
Archbishop Cañizares said Christianity is not something that is imposed but rather demonstrated and offered as an invitation to freedom, made evident by one’s own personal testimony through love and mercy, seeking in all circumstances the integral well being of the person and the common good.
The Archbishop also said that the Church does not belong to the past but rather is something that must be handed on to future generations, since it is central to the lives of the individuals and the peoples that have together forged the European continent.
Lastly, he declared that Christians can bring about a transformation of the political, cultural and economic spheres, so that Europeans can feel at home and form a nation which can be a source of inspiration for other regions of the world.
Madrid, Spain, Jun 14, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Ramon Echarren of the Canary Islands is denouncing the marginalization of Christian professionals in some communications media “for the fact of being Christians,” while he also expressed dismay that their influence in the media is unfortunately still insignificant.
In a pastoral letter, Bishop Echarren said that the presence of the Church in the mass media is minimal, although he recognized the presence in the media of excellent Christian professionals. “But it must be said, however, that despite their extraordinary, sometimes heroic, commitment, their influence is insignificant.”
“And although this will bother some people, it must be said that very often these professionals are marginalized because they are Christians. We could cite many examples and name journalists, companies and specific networks, as well as a multitude of demonstrated facts,” said the bishop.
Bishop Echarren also said, “We cannot fall into the temptation of thinking that everything is the result of hatred for religion and for the Church. But we should also avoid the opposite temptation: the anti-Christian ‘sectarianism’ of not a few media outlets and not a few journalists and commentators is plainly demonstrable; it is also obvious that certain information about the Church and Christianity is presented with bias and with statements that are in fact false, hurtful, calumnious, and even made up!”
Lastly, Bishop Echarren underscored the positive value of the communications media and he called for the adoption of an attitude of healthy criticism regarding the content they offer, thus learning what to accept and what to reject.