Washington D.C., Jul 14, 2004 (CNA) - The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops joined other religious leaders yesterday in voicing their support for the Federal Marriage Amendment.
The amendment, which would preserve the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, is currently being debated in the Senate. Senators are expected to vote on the bill by the end of the week.
The press conference was conducted by Senator Sam Brownback; leaders from about six religious groups attended.
USCCB general secretary Msgr. William Fay represented the U.S. bishops at the press conference, stating "safeguarding the nature of marriage has always been one of the Catholic Church's constant concerns.
"The Church believes and teaches that marriage is created by God,” he said. “It is a faithful, exclusive, lifelong and loving union of a man and a woman, which is the foundation of the family unit, which itself is the bedrock of society and culture.
“Marriage is not an arbitrary social arrangement that can be altered by either the Church or the State,” he continued. “It is God's will for humanity and the keystone of every human community."
In his statement, the monsignor said the bishops are aware of “the growing efforts of a small but vocal minority…to redefine marriage as something that it is not."
"The protection of marriage is essential to the health and well-being of our nation, and the vast majority of Americans know this," Msgr. Fay said. He pointed out that more than two-thirds of the state legislatures have enacted measures to protect marriage, yet it remains insecure at the national level.
"The failure to protect marriage at this important moment in our history will have devastating consequences for our society and our nation," he warned.
Msgr. Fay also recalled that Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, president of the USCCB, wrote to the Senate July 6, urging them to vote in favor of the Federal Marriage Amendment.
Vatican City, Jul 14, 2004 (CNA) - On July 12 a book entitled "John Paul II Among the Mountains," by Nadia Millery Ognibene and Raffaella Poletti, was presented by Bishop Giuseppe Anfossi of Aosta and Osvaldo Naudin, the mayor of Introd, in the Maison Bruil of Introd, near Les Combes in Valle d'Aosta where the Holy Father is vacationing.
The recently renovated Maison Bruil is an extensive rural complex dating to the 17th century which has undergone enlargements and improvements since it was first built. The various farm structures that were built around a courtyard were linked by a vast roof. Today, some of the buildings are used for presentations, for art and photo exhibits and other events.
The 120-page book contains photos from John Paul's various mountain sojourns in Italy in his years as Pope, as well as all the texts in which he has spoken of the value and beauty of mountains, of ecology and conservation. The book speaks of the Pope's "love for mountains and the value they have had in his life as a man and as Pope, a kind of 'mountain fever' which has never left him."
The authors write that, in the life of Karol Wojtyla, "mountains assume different values: a stimulus for his reflections, an aid in spreading the Word of God and praises for the beauty of creation." They add that "never, as in this pontificate, has the world seen a Pope-man …who has never hidden his difficulties, feelings or needs."
The book, which opens with the Pope's Angelus remarks at Mont Chetif in Valle d'Aosta on the occasion of his pastoral visit to the city and diocese of Aosta in 1986, shows how John Paul II "has, in a Christian way, looked at the value of vacations as a real need in life, not a superfluous one, and as an important time of the year for the body and spirit to rest."
Mountains were part of the Pope's youth and life in his native Poland, say the writers. "He loves the world that is genuine and rich in traditions, the world found in mountain localities because these remind him of his native land and the places of his childhood. ... He loves this milieu because he feels part of it."
The volume concludes with the texts of all the Angelus reflections the Pope has made while on vacation in the mountains of northern Italy.
St. Louis, Mo., Jul 14, 2004 (CNA) - The St. Louis Review, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, revealed this week that Archbishop Raymond L. Burke will issue a pastoral letter addressing Church teachings on voting.
James Rygelski, the Review Editor, said that Burke's letter will address "more fully questions raised by his reported statements last week that Catholics commit a mortal sin by knowingly voting for a candidate who advocates abortion."
Archbishop Burke stated that Catholics sin by voting for candidates who favor abortion during an interview June 24 on local radio station KMOX (AM-1120). It was in response to one of many questions he was asked about a variety of subjects.
He said later that his answer to the question on voting for candidates who favor abortion merely reiterated what the Church teaches.
"I didn’t say anything novel or extraordinary," the Archbishop said. He added that Pope John Paul II has touched on such matters in writings such as his 2003 encyclical "Eccelesia de Eucharistia" ("On the Eucharist in Its Relationship to the Church")."
"It is a serious sin," Archbishop Burke told the Review, adding that a person who voted that way could receive Communion only after a "true repentance" and obtaining absolution through the Sacrament of Confession. "It’s not right to support candidates who are for abortion," he added.
"It is not a matter — as in the case of politicians whose positions are public — of denying Communion to voters who support pro-abortion candidates," the Archbishop said. "But Catholics who support such pro-abortion candidates participate in a grave evil. They must show a change of heart and be sacramentally reconciled or refrain from receiving Holy Communion," he said.
The Archbishop recently wrote in an article for America magazine that Church law supports a bishop’s right to refuse Communion to a Catholic politician who gives "serious scandal" by supporting abortion. He also said that Church law "imposes a responsibility on the local bishop to address this grave error."
He said that his recent statements were not so much influenced by the recent pastoral letter by Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs, which warned that Catholics who vote for pro-abortion politicians commit a mortal sin. The Archbishop said, however, that he agreed, in substance, with Bishop Sheridan’s statement.
"To support such candidates is clearly to participate in their support of abortion," the Archbishop said. "We must never do that."
Archbishop Burke said that in the KMOX interview he avoided commenting on specific candidates and political races. "I am not a Democrat or a Republican," he said. He added that people who charge that bishops favor the Republican Party or are trying to influence the election by their pro-life pronouncements "are trying to silence the bishops."
The Archbishop repeated his earlier statements that the abortion issue takes priority over other issues in a candidate’s campaign. "The Holy Father has written in ‘Evangelium Vitae’ (‘On the Gospel of Life’) that abortion has characteristics making it particularly serious and deplorable," the Archbishop said.
Archbishop Burke said in closing that those who have voted for a pro-abortion candidate would have to "confess the sin with sincere contrition."
Washington D.C., Jul 14, 2004 (CNA) - Catholic League president William Donohue said the Federal Marriage Amendment is necessary “because those who support homosexual marriage have already proven to be ruthless in the pursuit of their goal”, including judges who have appropriated the power to change marriage, a power they are not ascribed in the law.
The Catholic League issued the statement yesterday as the Senate debated the amendment, which would preserve the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. A decision is expected this week.
“To be explicit, more than a few judges have shown nothing but contempt for the democratic process by sanctioning gay marriages,” said Donohue. “Because these judges have arrogated to themselves powers, nowhere found in law, they must be stopped.
“Unfortunately, there are so many of these despotic judges in the states that nothing less than a constitutional amendment will work,” he continued. “That is why we urge every senator to affirm the traditional understanding of marriage by supporting this amendment.”
Donohue said the question for the majority of Americans, who support the traditional definition of marriage, is not whether same-sex marriage should be sanctioned, but “whether a constitutional amendment is the right remedy.”
Donohue noted that marriage, as the union of a man and a woman, has been universally embraced in all cultures throughout history.
“No society in all of human history, up until very recently, has ever given a second thought to the propriety of two men getting married,” he said. “Indeed, it was considered so taboo that only the deranged would voice such nonsense. Sadly, things have changed.”
Caracas, Venezuela, Jul 14, 2004 (CNA) - Wrapping up their general assembly, which took place July 7-12, the bishops of Venezuela issued a document calling participation in the coming referendum on August 15 an inescapable duty of “conscience and responsibility.”
Entitled “Referendum, Conscience and Responsibility,” the bishops’ message exhorted Venezuelans to exercise their right to vote and “to explicitly make known their wishes regarding the conduct of the president of the Republic and his manner of governing.”
The bishops said the purpose of the statement is “to share the concerns of the moment” and to offer a vision of reality “free from all commitment to political parties” but inspired in the civic, moral and Christian obligation to reflect upon this event.
“The referendum is a right, not a gift. It should not be seen as a war to eliminate one’s adversary, but rather as an opportunity to evaluate the conduct of the government,” the bishops said.
Likewise, they called on the National Electoral Council to facilitate the organization of the recall referendum “without demanding excessive regulatory requirements that may impede or delay its advancement,” since the referendum will only be totally accepted “if the Council contributes to dispelling suspicions and doubts” about its results.
The Council “should also reject any temptation to coercion or fraud, which would mean a violation of the dignity of citizens and could provoke challenges, rejections and even violence.”
The bishops also addressed the media, reminding them of their mission “to broadcast information with objectivity, truthfulness and fairness,” and they called on international observers “to continue giving their support.”
Archbishop Diego Padron of Cumana said, “The Church is not campaigning,” adding that “beyond an electoral solution to the present crisis, it is absolutely necessary to establish an agreement of governing among all Venezuelans, without excluding anyone because of ideology or political opinion.”
He recalled that regardless of the response of the Government to the bishops’ message, the intention of the Church is “to contribute to a solution to the crisis” and to call all to participate.
Havana, Cuba, Jul 14, 2004 (CNA) - In a press release issued on Monday in Havana, Cuban dissident and leader of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, Elizardo Sanchez, criticized the rigidity of the government on issues of civil, political and economic rights, and he denounced the “unfair” prison system in the country.
Sanchez explained that the total number of political prisoners and the prison population in general in Cuba—estimated to be between 80,000 and 100,000—has not diminished and that it reflects the “rigidity” of the Castro government.
At the end of the first quarter in 2004, Sanchez added, 317 people were imprisoned for so-called “crimes against the State” and other similar charges. His group says last year at this time the figure was 315.
Sanchez slammed the government for its radical rejection of calls by the international community to improve the civil rights situation in the country, and he denounced the refusal to allow delegates from the UN, the Red Cross and other organizations access to the prisons.
In his statement, Sanchez included a partial list of those sanctioned for political motives, including 84 prisoners adopted by Amnesty International, 75 of which are dissidents who were condemned last year to sentences of up to 28 years. Seven of these 75 were released recently for reasons of health, but Sanchez said the government is ignoring calls to release all prisoners of conscience. He also expressed his group’s concern for three political prisoners condemned to death.
St. Louis, Mo., Jul 14, 2004 (CNA) - Archbishop Raymond Burke and Democratic Congressman William Lacy Clay offered no comment after their private meeting yesterday, during which they were said to have discussed the issue of denying Communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion.
Spokesmen said the meeting was pastoral and private, reported The Associated Press.
In January, the archbishop of St. Louis sparked an international debate when said he would deny Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians, mentioning, in particular, Democratic Senator John Kerry.
He has also stated that anyone who votes for a pro-abortion candidate has committed a sin and needs to go to confession.
Clay, a Catholic politician who supports abortion rights, said last week that he thinks Archbishop Burke "has gone too far" in his statements.
He is on record for saying that the archbishop was getting too involved in politics and for suggesting that the Catholic Church surrender its tax status as a non-profit organization.