Archive of July 7, 2004

Controversy over Communion to pro-abortion politicians continues

Rome, Italy, Jul 7, 2004 (CNA) - The controversy over the memorandum sent by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, continued this week, when Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick issued a statement saying the document is “an incomplete and partial leak” that does not accurately reflect the Vatican’s position on the Communion/abortion controversy.

The memorandum addressed to Cardinal McCarrick as head of the Ad Hoc Task Force for Catholic politicians, offered six clear points explaining the Catholic doctrine about Communion and Catholic public figures who support abortion.

The issue was discussed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) during their mid-June meeting in Denver, Colorado.

The full content of Ratzinger’s letter was disclosed on July 3 by Sandro Magister, a Vatican commentator from the Italian weekly “L’Espresso,” according to whom the Vatican memorandum was opposed to what the US bishops finally decided and especially to what Cardinal McCarrick’s task force said during the USCCB meeting.

On July 6, Cardinal McCarrick, who was “out of town on business,” reacted to the publication of Ratzinger’s memo through his communications officer, Susan Gibbs.

The brief statement, reproduced by Catholic News Service, saying he had not yet seen the report in L'Espresso, but “from what I have heard, it may represent an incomplete and partial leak of a private communication from Cardinal Ratzinger and it may not accurately reflect the full message I received.”

“Our task force's dialogue with the Holy See on these matters has been extensive, in person, by phone and in writing,” he added.

John Thavis, Vatican correspondent of Catholic News Service, said yesterday, writing about Cardinal Ratzinger's memorandum, that “a Vatican official said it was authentic,” but “it apparently was accompanied by a cover letter that has not been published.”

Thavis quotes the Vatican source saying that the Vatican was “generally pleased with the U.S. bishops' statement, and that Cardinal Ratzinger was not trying to dictate a policy to the bishops.”

“It is right to leave a margin for prudential judgment in these cases,” said Thavis, quoting his Vatican source.

Nevertheless, the source of L’Espresso, which provided Magister with the copy of the document, said yesterday that Ratzinger’s memorandum is a document in itself that “hardly requires a ‘context’ or further documents for interpretation.”

Magister’s source also acknowledges that the memorandum, in fact, came with a cover letter, but the source said “it does not modify a bit the full content of the memorandum” revealed by L’Espresso.

More over, Magister’s source said the cover letter didn’t give any indication about keeping the content of the memorandum secret, “especially from fellow bishops gathered at the Denver meeting.”

Cardinal Ratzinger’s memorandum clearly says that “regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.”

And “when these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible,” and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, ‘the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it.’”

Magister’s source said that Ratzinger’s memorandum is not opposed to the application of prudential judgment, “but clearly establishes the frameset in which such prudential judgment must take place.”

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Portland Archdiocese files for bankruptcy

, Jul 7, 2004 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Portland has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  Archbishop John G. Vlazny made the announcement yesterday, citing the great costs of clergy sex abuse lawsuits.

The bankruptcy filing halted the trial of a lawsuit – which was to have begun yesterday – against the late Fr. Maurice Grammond, who was accused of molesting more than 50 boys in the 1980s. Grammond died in 2002.

Plaintiffs in two lawsuits involving Grammond have sought a total of more than $160 million in compensation. The archdiocese and its insurers already have paid more than $53 million over 50 years to settle more than 130 claims by people who say they were abused by priests. Of these claims, more than 100 were settled in the last four years for about $21 million, paid from the archdiocese’s own funds. About 60 claims of sexual abuse are still pending.

“This is not an effort to avoid responsibility,” said the archbishop, referring to the bankruptcy filing. “It is, in fact, the only way I can assure that other claimants can be offered fair compensation,” he said in a letter he read to the faithful.

“Major insurers have abandoned us and are not paying what they should on the claims,” he added

“Attorneys for the plaintiffs claim that the assets of all the parishes and schools and of various trust funds holding charitable contributions are available to pay their clients,” the archbishop said.

However, Archbishop Vlazny explained that, under canon law, parish assets belong to the parish, not to the archdiocese. Despite this, he assured parishioners that he would not seize parish property to settle claims, nor would he use other assets, held in charitable trust.

The archbishop announced his regret at the decision, but he said seeking bankruptcy protection “is a just and prudent course of action.

“This action offers the best possibility for the archdiocese: to resolve fairly all pending claims, to manage a difficult financial situation and to preserve the ability of the archdiocese to fulfill its mission,” he explained. “It will also allow us to continue our good works without fear of an impending large verdict. The operation of our parishes and schools will continue as usual.”

Archbishop Vlazny's full letter can be read at:

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Catholic Charities mobilizes to save low-income housing program

, Jul 7, 2004 (CNA) - Catholic Charities agencies across the United States are mobilizing to defeat the Bush Administration's proposal that would restructure and gut funding for a successful housing program, which serves more than two million low-income families, seniors, and disabled people each year.

Catholic Charities has pointed out that these low-income households could lose their homes if Congress adopts proposed changes to the federal Housing Choice (Section 8) Voucher Program.

For 30 years, the Section 8 voucher program has enabled low- income families to afford modest apartments on the private market. For seniors and disabled persons on very low fixed incomes, Section 8 allows them to live with dignity in decent housing. Because of the Section 8 program, local property owners can continue to maintain their buildings, and neighborhoods can maintain stability.

In February, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposed major changes to Section 8, including a $1-billion cut in funding for 2005. The proposal also would restructure the program as a block grant, which would mean that assistance would no longer keep pace with rising housing costs. If the proposals are accepted by Congress, as many as 250,000 families could lose their voucher assistance in the first year alone.

"Not so long ago, the Bush administration called on local officials, charities, and faith-based organizations to band together to end homelessness in their communities,” said Douglas Rice, director of housing and community development for Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA).

“This is a bold and noble goal, yet it is a goal that can be met only by strengthening, not weakening, successful affordable housing programs like Section 8," he said.

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National Right to Life regrets strong pro-abortion record of Kerry's running mate

Washington D.C., Jul 7, 2004 (CNA) - The National Right to Life Committee released yesterday a statement lamenting that "with John Edwards, Kerry has selected a running mate whose position is as extreme as his own, even opposing the ban on partial-birth abortions."

NRLC recalled in its statement that in 1999 Edwards voted against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, and in 2003 he attacked President Bush for signing the bill, which would ban partial-birth abortions unless necessary to save a mother's life.

Edwards also voted in favor of tax subsidies for abortion on demand for federal employees.

NRLC's Political Director Carol Tobias said that "'Laci and Conner's Law' would recognize unborn children as murder victims when they are killed by criminals in violent federal crimes.  This bill, also known as the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, was enacted this year despite Edwards' votes against it."

"During his nearly six years in the U.S. Senate, John Edwards  has consistently voted according to the dictates of hard-line pro-abortion advocacy groups, and contrary to the policies favored by most Americans," added Douglas Johnson, NRLC legislative director.

Whenever Edwards has been present to vote, he has supported the ongoing filibusters against President Bush's judicial nominees.  He voted six times in favor of the filibuster that blocked the confirmation of Miguel Estrada, who would have been the first Hispanic ever to sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. 

Edwards also has voted in favor of the filibusters of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen and former Alabama Attorney General William Pryor, who were nominated to federal courts of appeals.

NRLC offers more specific information on Edwards' voting record on life issues in its U.S. Senate scorecards at:

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Meeting on how to promote development to be held at the Vatican

Vatican City, Jul 7, 2004 (CNA) - On July 9 in the office of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in the Vatican, an international study seminar will take place on poverty and globalization during which the topic of funds for development in light of the Millennium Development Goals will be examined.

Representatives from the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund as well as from governments, Catholic Non-governmental Organizations and local churches will participate in the meeting.

According to a statement published today, the themes that will be studied during the meeting are: the situation of international debt today, innovative proposals for financing, especially the English initiative "International  Finance Facility (IFF) whose objective is to collect funds totaling an additional $50 billion per year in order to achieve the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals from now to 2015, by issuing bonds in international markets.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, archbishop of Westminster, England, will introduce the morning session which will be presided by Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, who also headed the Holy See Delegation to the United Nations International Conference in Monterrey, Mexico in 2002.

In the afternoon session, presided over by Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, proposals will be made in order to form a "coalition of aid and promotion for financing development."

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Why does UNICEF support Muslim, not Christian schools? Sudanese bishop asks

Konigstein, Germany, Jul 7, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Daniel Adwok, Auxiliary of Khartoum (Sudan), has questioned the decision taken by UNICEF not to give funds to the Church-run “Save the saveable” educational program in his archdiocese.

“Why does UNICEF not do this, while they are giving support to government-run schools in Sudan?” the Prelate told the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) on July 5, during a visit to its headquarters in Germany.

The “Save the Saveable” educational program aims at ensuring primary school education for displaced children who fled from southern Sudan, where the majority of Christians live,  and where for more than 20 years a cruel war has been going on between forces loyal to the country's Islamic fundamentalist government and the SPLA/M (Sudanese People's Liberation Army/Movement).

The “Save the Saveable” program, in the current school year 2004/2005, comprises 22 schools with about 45,000  mostly Christian students. It is co-sponsored by ACN, who have supported it with a contribution of 180,000 Euros (around $210,000).

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American Life League speaks out against Senate’s opposition to Catholic judge nomination

Washington D.C., Jul 7, 2004 (CNA) - The nation's largest pro-life grassroots organization is outraged by members of the United States Senate in their attempts to block the nomination of Catholic, pro-life judge J. Leon Holmes to the federal district court.

"Once again, we are witnessing an outright attack on a judicial nominee because he is openly pro-life and lives by the tenets of his professed Catholic faith," said Joseph M. Starrs, director of American Life League's Crusade for the Defense of Our Catholic Church, in a press release issued yesterday.

According to a recent newspaper article in the Washington Times, opposition to Holmes' nomination is bi-partisan, with Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) trying to convince other senators to vote against the nomination.

Joseph R. Giganti, American Life League's director of media and government relations, said Specter’s actions are not surprising.

"Sen. Specter is the same senator who told C-SPAN in 2001 that he would 'withhold confirmation' from any nominees who refused fidelity to the Roe v. Wade decision," Giganti pointed out in the press release.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10-9 May 1 to send Holmes' nomination to the full Senate without a recommendation of approval, even though Holmes has the full backing of both of his home-state, pro-abortion senators – Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.).

"Senators should reign in their colleagues' pro-abortion zealotry, ending this blatant form of bigotry and apologizing to all Catholics for this disgraceful behavior," said Starrs.

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Canadian Catholic organization sends $170,000 to Sudan and Chad in emergency aid

Montreal, Canada, Jul 7, 2004 (CNA) - The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace has sent $170,000 to assist refugees in eastern Chad and the Darfur province of Sudan. The latest $100,000 aid package is in addition to $70,000 sent in June.

The response of the Canadian bishops development agency is part of an international effort by Caritas Internationalis — the Vatican’s international Catholic development and aid organization — which has launched a $24-million appeal for the people of Sudan.

Since the fighting began in 2003 between rebel groups – the Janjaweed militia and Sudanese government forces – more than two million people have been directly affected. One million people have been displaced.

The violence in Sudan has been described as one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, and the situation has been condemned as one of ethnic cleansing through the use of mass rape, summary killings, and a "scorched earth" policy, which includes killing livestock and destroying crops.

Caritas is working jointly with Action by Churches Together International for the first time to provide shelter, clean water, sanitation, and basic sleeping and kitchen materials to the 500,000 displaced Sudanese now living in camps near their burned-out villages, or in other host communities. To help in the massive distribution effort, Sudanese partners Sudo and the Sudan Council of Churches have found 60 volunteers from churches and the local communities.

All the camps are in desert areas in which water is scarce and roads are poor. During four days, the Touloum camp in Northern Chad welcomed almost 6,000 refugees, doubling the size of the camp.

The two church groups have already flown in a planeload of urgently needed relief supplies, containing food, emergency shelters and vehicles, which arrived June 20. From there, the load was transported to the nearby camps.

The Chadian Catholic agency, Secours Catholique et Développement, is delivering tents, blankets, mats and soap to the refugees. To discourage people from cutting trees for firewood, gas-fueled portable stoves will be distributed.

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Socialists “want to take us back to the time of the Muslim invasion,” says Spanish Cardinal

Madrid, Spain, Jul 7, 2004 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops Conference of Spain, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, criticized this week the presence of a “complex of religious anachronism” in certain sectors that seeks to take the Catholic Church back to the time of the Muslim invasion of the Iberian Peninsula.

The Archbishop of Madrid made his statements during a seminar entitled “The Church, society and politics in 21st century society,” which was organized by the King Juan Carlos University and was attended as well by Archbishop Antonio Cañizares of Toledo, Juan Jose Lucas, Vice President of the Senate, and Pedro Gonzalez Trevijano, Rector of the university.

During his remarks, Cardinal Rouco defended the “express presence of the Catholic Church in the Constitution,” which protects the right to religious freedom, recognizing the specific relevance of the Church as a means of assuring such a right in Spain.

“Not to recognize it would be to have one’s head in the clouds,” he said, adding that “sometimes one wonders if we are not suffering from a complex of religious anachronism, which we cannot seem to leave behind.  Some people want to go back to the year 711, but this is 2004 and we must see problems with the realism of today.”

The Cardinal recalled that Spain “continues to be” a predominantly Catholic country and that “there is a limit to the right of religious freedom, which must be in harmony with the exercise of other rights.”  “If a particular religious confession attacks human rights, it must be restricted.” 

On the other hand, the Cardinal complained that “the State must recognize its own limits” in this area, since “if it goes beyond them, it runs the risk of ceasing to be a democratic state.”  “The State is cannot impose” a certain type of conscience on its citizens, he said.  “To recognize the state as secular and non-sectarian does not mean the state is above the ethics and beliefs of its citizens, but rather it should be nourished by them,” he added.

During his remarks the Archbishop of Madrid underscored the validity and legitimacy of the Church-State accords of 1979.  “To question them, deny them or limit them is not wise and would not bring good,” he warned, although he recognized that “there are issues of a technical or juridical nature, such as education and subsidies, that are open to debate and have not been sufficiently considered.”

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Debate over nomination of pro-abortion justice causes Argentinean government to take pro-life stand

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jul 7, 2004 (CNA) - As tension mounts concerning the possible nomination of Carmen Argibay, an open pro-abortion justice, to the Argentinean Supreme Court, President Nestor Kirchner has sent an informal message to the Vatican to give assurances that abortion will remain illegal during his term.

According to reports, last week Kirchner took the opportunity of a visit by Juan Carlos Blumberg to express his convictions about abortion.  Blumberg is an engineer who has become very popular in the country for his campaign “Axel Blumberg”--in honor of his son who was kidnapped and murdered--which seeks to bring the plague of kidnappings in the country to an end.

The Catholic Church in Argentina recently arranged for Blumberg to visit the Vatican and personally greet Pope John Paul II.

“President Kirchner and his wife, Cristina Fernandez, are decidedly against abortion,” Blumberg told Argentinean Archbishop Leonardo Sandri of the Vatican’s Secretary of State Office.

Blumberg also supposedly said that “the President asked me to let you know that Argentinean law punishes the practice of abortion and that while he is president, this law will not be changed.”

According to reports in the Argentinean press, Kirchner met with Blumberg a day before his trip to Europe.  During that meeting, Blumberg expressed to him the concern of various religious leaders over Justice Argibay’s nomination to the Supreme Court because she is militantly pro-abortion.  Kirchner supposedly decided at that point to send a message to the Vatican with Blumberg.

Nevertheless, Pro-life groups in Argentina consider Kirchner’s assurances insufficient, because if her nomination is confirmed this Wednesday, she will remain on the Supreme Court long after Kirchner’s term as president has ended.

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