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Archive of July 13, 2004

Card. Ratzinger supports US Bishops’ document on Communion, no comment on Interim report

Washington D.C., Jul 13, 2004 (CNA) - The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)  announced yesterday that Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick has received a letter  from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of  the Faith, saying the recent U.S. Bishops' statement on “Catholics in Political Life” is “very much in harmony” with the general principles previously sent by the Congregation.

Cardinal Ratzinger's letter says:

“With your letter of June 21, 2004, transmitted via fax, you kindly sent a  copy of the Statement ‘Catholics in Political Life,’ approved by the members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops at their June meeting.”

“The Congregation is grateful for this courtesy. The statement is very much  in harmony with the general principles ‘Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion,’  sent as a fraternal service to clarify the doctrine of the Church on this  specific issue in order to assist the American Bishops in their related discussion  and determinations.

It is hoped that this dialogue can continue as the Task Force carries on its  important work.”

Cardinal McCarrick, who  is Archbishop of Washington DC and  Chairman of the  Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians, is quoted saying that “I was grateful to receive Cardinal Ratzinger’s letter, which affirms the  harmony between the principles he had provided as a service to assist us in our discussions and the statement which the U.S. bishops overwhelmingly passed during our June meeting in Denver.”

Ratzinger's letter came after several news reports claimed the U.S. bishops defied  the Vatican Cardinal on the question of witholding Communion from Catholic pro-abortion politicians.

The claims came after Sandro Magister, Vatican expert of the weekly Italian magazine L'Espresso, released a copy of Cardinal Ratzinger's memo on July 3.

L'Espresso and other news reports characterized both the U.S. bishops’ statement and the interim report presented by Cardinal McCarrick at the USCCB  meeting held in Denver last June, as conflicting with the principles outlined in the memo.

Cardinal Ratzinger's letter expresses instead his approval for the USCCB's final document, but makes no reference to the  interim report  released by the Ad  Hoc committee, headed by the Washington Cardinal.

Last week, Julian Coman,  Washington correspondent for The Daily Telegraph, a London-based broadsheet, wrote that “the leaking of Cardinal Ratzinger's memo has hugely embarrassed Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the Archbishop of Washington and head of the 'domestic policy' commission of the US Catholic Bishops Conference.”

The interim report read by Cardinal McCarrick at the Denver meeting, unlike the USCCB's final document, strongly stressed avoiding dennying Communion to pro-abortion politicians.

“Based on our consultation process –said  Cardinal McCarrick,- there is significant concern about the perception that the sacred nature of the Eucharist could be trivialized and might be turned into a partisan political battleground.”

“Expecting a minister of Holy Communion to make these judgments would create great pastoral difficulties. We do not want to encourage confrontations at the altar rail with the Sacred Body of the Lord Jesus in our hands. This could create unmanageable burdens for our priests and those who assist them and could turn the Eucharist into a perceived source of political combat,” the interim  report added.

The Washington Cardinal also said that denial of Holy Communion “could further divide our Church and that it could have serious unintended consequences. For example, it could be more difficult for faithful Catholics to serve in public life because they might be seen not as standing up for principle, but as under pressure from the hierarchy.”

“We also fear it could push many people farther away from the Church and its  teaching, rather than bringing them closer.”

“In light of these and other concerns, the task force urges for the most part renewed efforts and persuasion, not penalties,” Cardinal McCarrick's report also said.

The interim document, despite stating that “this is not a final report,” is posted in the USCCB's website (www.usccb.org) next to the USCCB’s final document.

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100 European and African bishops to meet in Rome to discuss communion between the two continents

Vatican City, Jul 13, 2004 (CNA) - The Council of European Bishops' Conferences (CCEE) and the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) are set to send over 100 bishops to Rome from November 10 to 14 to discuss the issue of  "Communion and Solidarity between Africa and Europe."

The meeting, under the patronage of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, is an initiative of Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kisangani, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

As well as the fifty bishops from each of the two continents, the meeting will be attended by representatives of Asia and the Americas. Members of support agencies and the Roman Curia are also expected to attend.

 The themes and objectives to be discussed at the meeting will be:  "to deepen the common responsibility for evangelization and pastoral care of social affairs"; "to compare the vision of humanity and social relations in Europe and Africa"; "to reflect on experiences of collaboration which already exist between Africa and Europe and to look for new ways of collaboration"; "to deepen the theme of the Church's relationship with politics and, in particular, co-responsibility in building peace and a more just society."

A working group has already met to plan this meeting, and a questionnaire has been sent to the individual bishops' conferences in Europe and Africa. The working document will be based on the answers received.

The CCEE was established in 1971 to respond to the pastoral objectives set forth in the Vatican Council II Decree "Christus Dominus." These objectives were incorporated into the Code of Canon Law in no. 459 where Para 1 states: "Mutual relationships are to be fostered between the conferences of bishops of different regions, especially those who are neighbors, for the promotion and protection of the greater good."

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Tucson Diocese prepares parishioners for bankruptcy

Tucson, Ariz., Jul 13, 2004 (CNA) - Parishioners in the Diocese of Tucson were told for the first time of the possibility of their diocese filing for bankruptcy during mass by their pastors this past weekend, reported the Tucson Citizen.

Chapter 11 bankruptcy is being considered by the diocese, which faces a high number of claims, alleging sexual abuse by priests and other employees.

Fr. Van A. Wagner, Tucson’s vicar general, is overseeing the diocese while Bishop Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas is out of the country.

He faxed a letter to all parish priests Friday, advising them to tell parishioners during weekend mass that bankruptcy appears likely. The diocese is currently reviewing its assets and parish records.

Chapter 11 protection would allow the diocese and parishes to keep operating while its assets are protected by the courts. Bankruptcy courts consider all the assets and claims against a corporation and decide fair compensation to creditors and claimants.

Parishioners told the Tucson Citizen Sunday of their support for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in order to deal with the situation. 

The bishop is expected to make a final decision on the issue by mid-September.

The first diocese to go bankrupt in the U.S. was the diocese of Concordia, Texas, when, after the Depression, it became incapable of paying loans acquired to finance the construction of a Catholic college.

Most recently, and as a consequence of the Church scandals, the Archdiocese of Portland is the first one to file for bankruptcy.

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Ugandan President stirs AIDS summit proposing abstinence

Bangkok, Thailand, Jul 13, 2004 (CNA) - A debate erupted at the 15th International AIDS Conference yesterday after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni told delegates that abstinence, not condoms, is the best way to prevent the spread of AIDS, reported Reuters.

The issue has set many AIDS activists at odds with health experts and the United States, which back condoms as the major defense against AIDS.

Museveni told delegates he considers condoms “an improvisation, not a solution.”

Instead, he called for “optimal relationships based on love and trust instead of institutionalized mistrust, which is what the condom is all about.”

Museveni’s remarks were based on his country’s success story with AIDS, which resulted from a national abstinence campaign. Official figures indicate that six percent of Uganda's 26.5 million people are now infected, down from 30 percent in the 1980s.

Uganda's "ABC" method (Abstinence, Being faithful and Condoms) is a model for the AIDS policies of the Bush administration.

In Asia, where infection rates are rising, some NGOs advocate the “CNN method” which stresses condoms, needles and negotiation, which has not shown any significant success.

U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee, the only member of Congress to attend the weeklong meeting, criticized the Bush administration’s approach and said “abstaining from sex is oftentimes not a choice, and therefore their only hope in preventing HIV infection is the use of condoms".

But Ted Green, a member of Bush's council on AIDS, questioned the focus on condoms and the belief that “people can't stop AIDS unless they buy a product.”

Simon Onaba, a Uganda youth delegate, who first had sex at age 15 but who has shunned it for the past three years, said condoms were not a 100-percent guarantee against infection, reported Reuters.

"I am a sexual being, but I recognize HIV/AIDS is a killer," said Onaba. "I will wait until my wedding night."

AIDS has killed about 20 million people to date; about 38 million are infected.

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Church in Austria trying to react fast to new sex scandal

Vienna, Austria, Jul 13, 2004 (CNA) - Catholic leaders in Austria have reacted quickly to the emergence of a new sex scandal, discovered at a local seminary. The Austrian Bishops Conference issued a statement yesterday, pledging a full and swift investigation.

"Anything that has to do with the practice of homosexuality or pornography has no place at a seminary for priests," it said.

A private emergency meeting among Church leaders was called yesterday after about 40,000 photos and videos were discovered on computers at the seminary in St. Poelten, allegedly depicting young priests and seminarians having sex, even with their instructors, reported the news magazine Profil. The downloads also included child pornography. St. Poelten is located about 80 kilometers west of Vienna.

Diocesan officials declined to make a public comment.

Church officials first discovered the material a year ago, Profil said.

Bishop Kurt Krenn of St. Poelten told Austrian television he had seen photos of seminary leaders in sexual situations with students, but dismissed them as “silly pranks" that "had nothing to do with homosexuality."

The 68-year-old bishop issued a statement calling the accusations groundless. He conceded, however, that he "may have made some wrong personnel decisions" at the seminary. 

Austrian state television reported that the seminary's director, the Fr. Ulrich Kuechl, and his deputy, Wolfgang Rothe, resigned.

Vatican spokesman Ciro Benedettini told the Austria Press Agency that the Holy See had no comment.

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Catholic relief organization to air TV programs raising awareness on persecuted Christians

Munich, Germany, Jul 13, 2004 (CNA) - The German branch of the international Catholic charitable organization “Aid to the Church in Need” (ACN)  will start airing its own TV programs  aimed at raising awareness about persecuted Christians around the world.

The magazine “Weitblick – die Welt von innen,” or “Farsightedness – the World from inside,” will be aired starting mid-July by the several Christian TV stations,  including the German language branch of EWTN, as well as by “RheinMain TV”, a secular TV station in the Frankfurt region.

The 30-minute magazine will be broadcast every two weeks, alternately with another Christian program, also produced by ACN Germany.

According to Michael Ragg, spokesman for the charity, the magazine aims at mobilising aid to the Church in countries where Christians are being persecuted, oppressed or in need.

The first editions of “Weitblick” will be dedicated to the situation of the Catholic Church in Russia, Cuba, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan.

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Murder of priest will not stop the work of the Church on the Mexican border, says bishop

Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 13, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Renato Ascencio León of Juarez, Mexico, together with the clergy of his diocese, has published a statement lamenting the murder of a priest in the area, but adding that violence will not stop the work of the Church in the region.

In the statement, Bishop Leon expressed his profound grief at “the devious murder of our brother, Fr. Ramon Navarrete Islas, another dramatic manifestation of the insecurity, violence and culture of death that marks our daily life.”

At the same time, he reaffirmed “our faith and our hope in the Lord of life and of history, and we confirm our decision to continue struggling to bring about a new heaven and a new earth where justice abides, uniting ourselves with those praised in Scripture for loving life so much that they did not fear their own deaths.”

The bishop expressed his solidarity with the family of the victim and with “all families in our diocese that have suffered the loss of a loved one because of violence and the lack of security.”

Likewise, he thanked the parishes for “the affection, understanding and support which they have continuously shown us.  May they know that despite our failings and human weaknesses, a sincere desire of brotherly service towards all of you spurs us on, as a sign of our faithfulness to the Lord, who has called us to work with Him in the building of the Kingdom of God, in the here and now of our Diocese of Juarez.”

Bishop Leon called on authorities for a “full investigation into this case and all those that are unresolved, quick and expedited justice and a definitive halt to impunity.”

Lastly, he prayed that “the peace of Christ reign in the hearts of each and every man and woman of good will that seeks to build a more just, fraternal and unified society in our diocese.”

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UNICEF leaves unborn out of abortion debate in Nicaragua

Managua, Nicaragua, Jul 13, 2004 (CNA) - An official from the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), Gary Stahl, has gotten involved in the debate on the legalization of abortion in Nicaragua, with a call to defend young girls who do not want to be mothers, even though this implies the death of the unborn.

During debate in parliament on the reform of the Penal Code, which is focused on abortion to “save the life of the mother,” Stahl emphasized that “issues such as those related to the rights of children and the effects of sexual abuse are not being taken into account.”

Although he sad that UNICEF has not taken a position regarding the debate in parliament, his statements indicated the contrary.

“I think that in this debate the victims are being somewhat overlooked, we are talking about a problem which is abortion and I think the national debate would be improved if we concentrated more on the fact that this is a flagrant violation of the rights of children,” he said.

Stahl’s definition of “victims” appears to exclude the unborn.

“We need to look at the issue of their mental health, their physical health in general.  Instead of seeing it as a debate, a controversy between the left and the right, between one party and another, we should see it from the perspective of the rights of children, because the perspective of the children themselves is being somewhat lost,” he added.

Pro-life sources told CNA that the statements by Stahl only reinforce the long-held belief that the UNICEF is one of the most pro-abortion international organizations.  For UNICEF, to defend children is to give them the right to abort, but it forgets that the unborn are also children that deserve protection.

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Spanish Archbishop says homosexual acts cannot be morally justified

Madrid, Spain, Jul 13, 2004 (CNA) - Archbishop Elias Yanes of Zaragoza, Spain, said this week the existence of homosexual tendencies does not nullify one’s freedom and responsibility and that therefore homosexual acts could not be morally justified.

“The existence of persons who experience a sexual attraction exclusively or predominantly towards other persons of the same sex is a fact, the causes of which are not always well know,” but “the existence of these tendencies does not nullify one’s freedom and responsibility and does not morally justify homosexual conduct,” wrote the Archbishop in his weekly column for the diocesan newspaper.

The inclination of a homosexual person “is not ethically reprehensible” and for many constitutes “an authentic trial,” but “homosexual conduct, on the other hand, cannot be accepted from an ethical point of view,” he said.

Christian tradition “has always unequivocally held” that homosexual behavior “contradicts the truth about man as revealed by natural reason and by the revelation of God.”

Nevertheless, “independently of one’s sexual orientation or conduct, everyone has dignity as a person created in the image and likeness of God, and homosexual persons, as human persons, have the same rights as others” and they should “be treated with respect,” he added.

Marriage: only between man and woman 

Bishop Yanes also underscored in his column that “marriage is not just another union between human persons.”  Marriage and homosexual unions are “two essentially different realities from an anthropological and ethical point of view.”

“No ideology or legislation can erase from the human spirit the certainty that marriage in reality exists solely between two persons of the opposite sex who, through mutual personal donation, proper and exclusive to them, tend in a stable way towards the communion of persons and the procreation and education of children,” he said.

Therefore, he went on, “It is in no way admissible for the Church to make homosexual unions equivalent with marriage,” and furthermore, “any juridical equating of homosexual unions with marriage means granting them the status of a social institution, which in no way corresponds to their anthropological reality.”

The transcendence of conjugal love between a man and a woman is what gives marriage a social, institutional and juridical dimension, and at the same time, “by begetting and raising children, it contributes to the growth and stability of society in a way that cannot be substituted.”  Therefore, “it must have the legal recognition and support of the state,” he said.

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