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Archive of September 14, 2004

Pope, Vatican Secretary of State, meet with Israeli Interior Minister

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II received Israeli Interior Minister Avraham Poraz, this morning at Castelgandolfo, after the minister’s meeting with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano to discuss matters of the his jurisdiction, particularly the issuing of visas to Israel for religious personnel of the Catholic Church and the fiscal status of ecclesiastical institutions in the country.

Joaquin Navarro-Valls, director of the Holy See Press Office, stated that Cardinal Sodano "having recalled that the positions of the Holy See on peace, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and, in general, on the situation in the Middle East were well-known to the Israeli government, and that he personally had the possibility to illustrate these positions over the course of visits to the Vatican by the Head of the State of Israel and the Minister of Foreign Affairs - suggested that today's meeting focus on the questions of the minister's jurisdiction.”

"In the course of the meeting, they talked about the Fundamental Agreement of 1993 and the Legal Personality Agreement of 1997.  In particular, they spoke about the issue of entrance visas to Israel for religious personnel of the Catholic Church, a question about which the minister gave assurances of having given the necessary instructions for a satisfactory solution. They also discussed the progress of negotiations underway in Jerusalem for the realization of an agreement that defines the fiscal questions of ecclesiastical institutions in Israel,” Navarro-Valls added.

The Interior Minister was accompanied by Israeli Ambassador Oded Ben-Hur, by an advisor, Paltiel Varon, and by the director of the Department for Relations with Christians, Cesar Marjeh.  Joining the cardinal were Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, secretary of Relations with States, and Msgrs. Franco Coppola and Joseph Murphy, officials of the Secretariat of State.

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Cardinal Castrillon encourages bishops to give a reason for Church’s hope

Rome, Italy, Sep 14, 2004 (CNA) - Speaking to a group of bishops gathered in Rome this week, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, said “in the midst of the dramatic divisions and injuries in the world” the Church is called to give a reason for the hope which she bears.

“In the midst of the dramatic and persistent divisions and wounds in the world, the Church is called, through her pastors, the Successors to the Apostles, to give a reason for the hope which she bears, announcing and giving witness to the saving Word of God, the Word of life, that gives peace and unity to men of every race and condition,” he said.

During the seminar promoted by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Colombian cardinal explained the sacramental roots of the Munus docendi, the evangelical and missionary purpose of episcopal ministry, inculturation and interreligious dialogue.

“Christ is made present in us, the pastors visible to the eyes of the faithful, such that ‘in an eminent and visible way’ we carry on the role of Christ as teacher, shepherd and pontiff, and we act in his person,” Cardinal Castrillon said.

Regarding the teaching ministry of the bishop, the cardinal underscored that “in the development of our ministry and in the planning of pastoral activities in our dioceses, we must always remember that the word of the bishop is never just a message or the broadcasting of information:  it has a salvific content, because through it Christ works.”

The episcopal ministry of announcing the Word of God should always be, he pointed out, in complete union with Christ and with his Church:  “It is a mission which consists of piously safeguarding and announcing the faith with courage and of defending the Christian people from the errors which threaten it.”

Referring to inculturation, the Cardinal explained that the teaching mission which bishops carry out in mission territories “is a true inculturation of the Gospel:  you announce and give witness to the mystery of Christ, knowing that it is the fundamental criteria for judging all authentic inculturation.”

The first rule of all inculturation is “to make the Gospel inhabit a determined culture”: it is profound process which requires a just amount of time, for sometimes “we think we are being slow or taking too long because we are caught up in the idolatry of our day of being efficient and of obtaining immediate results, and of the culture of seeing results at all costs,” he pointed out.

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Man criticizes bishop for stance on Communion for pro-abortion politicians

Augusta, Maine, Sep 14, 2004 (CNA) - A university professor assailed Bishop Richard Joseph Malone of Maine with words of criticism at an anti-abortion luncheon Saturday, for not refusing Communion to pro-abortion politicians.

Terence J. Hughes told the bishop before a crowd of 100 at the 30th annual Pro-Life Education Association awards luncheon, that priests should not give Communion to politicians who support abortion, reported The Associated Press.

The University of Maine professor criticized the bishop for telling the audience that opposition to abortion was one of the most important issues for Catholics, but for saying earlier this year that he would continue to give Communion to politicians who support abortion.

"The action you took is in direct contrast to the words you share with us today," Hughes said, yelling at the bishop from one end of the convention room. "I am not going to dishonor my Lord, Jesus Christ, by giving Communion to politicians whose policies cater to (those in favor of) killing babies."

Bishop Malone said he would rather try to convince Catholic politicians to change their opinions than push them away from the Church by denying them Communion.

The bishop also said anti-abortion Catholics first have to win over parishioners who support the procedure before they take a hard-line approach with public officials. The bishop added that the Vatican supports his opinion.

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Boston diocese faces 140 new claims of sexual abuse

Boston, Mass., Sep 14, 2004 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Boston is facing another 140 claims of sexual abuse less than one year after paying out $85 million to settle 541 sexual-abuse claims.  The new claims span the 1950s to the 1980s, reported The Boston Globe.

But church spokesman Fr. Christopher J. Coyne told the Globe the archdiocese cannot afford to settle the new cases now because it has been unable to recoup money from its insurance policies to cover last year's settlement. The archdiocese's lawyer, Thomas H. Hannigan Jr., gave the same reasoning.

If the new suits were settled for the $20,000 maximum allowed under the charitable immunity standard, the archdiocese could be facing claims worth nearly $3 million. If the archdiocese followed the standard it set in settling the 541 cases last year, the bill would be around $20 million.

The archdiocese borrowed the money used to settle the cases last December, and since then has sold the cardinal's residence and surrounding land to Boston College for $107 million to pay down its debts. It has also slated 82 parishes for closure.

Fr. Coyne insisted that none of the funds raised by the property sale or by closing parishes would be used to settle claims. The money to pay the settlements should come from insurance sources, he told the Globe. It is unclear how long it will take to recoup these insurance funds, though the archdiocese has already begun the legal process.

Fr. Coyne said there was no intention by the archdiocese to play "hard ball" in the face of these new claims and most of the lawyers representing alleged victims have been understanding of the archdiocese's financial situation.

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Bishop seeks reconciliation with sex-abuse victims, pastor

East Longmeadow, Mass., Sep 14, 2004 (CNA) - A mass on Sunday, celebrated by Bishop Timothy McDonnell of Springfield at St. Michael’s Parish, was a moment of reconciliation for more than one reason.

The intention of the mass was for the victims of sexual abuse committed by priests. The bishop apologized on behalf of the Church to the victims, saying: "For those of you here today, who by the action of evil in the Church, have been made to feel hurt, isolated and abandoned ... for those of you who have been made to feel victimized, I am sorry.”

The event was also significant in that the bishop concelebrated the mass with the pastor, Fr. James Scahill, with whom the bishop had a falling-out in recent months.

Fr. Scahill had been very vocal about his criticisms of the diocese’s handling of the sex-abuse crisis. He even withheld a portion of the parish collections from the diocese for two years to protest the diocese’s continued financial support for a priest convicted of child abuse.

During a heated exchange in May, the bishop dismissed Fr. Scahill from a diocesan advisory council. The bishop had suggested the priest's criticisms had done as much damage to the Church's reputation as convicted pedophile priest Richard Lavigne.

The bishop publicly apologized to Fr. Scahill at the mass for his past comments.

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Bishop granted right of oversight in sexual-abuse allegations

Phoenix, Ariz., Sep 14, 2004 (CNA) - Maricopa County’s top prosecutor said he has confidence in the current bishop of the Diocese of Pheonix and in the changes that were made in the diocese’s policy and practice that it is no longer necessary to bar the bishop from involvement with sexual-abuse allegations.

County Attorney Rick Romley said yesterday that the diocese has made the appropriate changes in its handling of sexual-abuse allegations since the installation of Bishop Thomas Olmsted as the current bishop of Pheonix and it no longer needs oversight by prosecutors, reported The Associated Press.

Last year, retired Bishop Thomas O'Brien had signed an agreement with the county’s prosecutor giving up his duty of oversight in the sexual-abuse allegations. His successor, Bishop Olmsted, viewed the provision as a violation of Church law, which calls for the bishop to have ultimate responsibility.

In the signed agreement, the Bishop O’Brien also acknowledged that priests accused of sexual misconduct had been allowed to work with children and were sometimes transferred to other parishes, without the knowledge of supervisors or parishioners. It also spared Bishop O'Brien prosecution for any criminal cover-up.

Bishop O’Brien resigned a few months after the agreement was signed. He was later arrested and convicted of leaving the scene of a fatal accident in Phoenix.

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Canadian Church funds are still getting through to Iraqi people

Ottawa, Canada, Sep 14, 2004 (CNA) - The Canadian bishops’ aid and emergency-relief agency says its partner-agencies in Iraq are still operating in the war-torn country, despite the pullout of many western non-governmental organizations.

Funds that were sent to the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace are being used to help support Al Amal, a Bagdad-based NGO that is working throughout Iraq, said the aid organization in a press release Sept. 9.

Funds are also supporting Caritas Iraq, the local arm of Caritas Internationalis, the Amman-based Middle East Council of Churches, and the Mennonite Central Committee.

All four organizations continue to be fully operational, providing aid to children suffering from malnutrition and disease, peace-building training to national NGOs, and advice to Iraq’s NGO Coordination Committee. 

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Doctors denounce Spanish film that presents “sentimental apology for euthanasia”

Madrid, Spain, Sep 14, 2004 (CNA) - The President of the Association of Christian Doctors of Catalonia, Josep Maria Simon, said the movie “Mar adentro,” which was honored at the Venice Film Festival, is a “sentimental apology for euthanasia.”  The controversial film by Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar won two Silver Lion awards, while the pro-abortion film “Vera Drake” was given the top award, the Golden Lion.

“Mar Adentro” tells the story of Ramon Sampedro, a quadriplegic who committed suicide with the help of his friends in one of the most infamous dramas of recent Spanish history.

Speaking to Europa Press, Simon criticized the “lack of accuracy” in the Amenabar’s account of some aspects of the life of Sampedro and said the film makes a mockery of a paraplegic priest who befriended Sampedro.

In addition, Simon wondered “why, if euthanasia is outlawed in Spain and was applied to Sampedro, has nobody been condemned for it” and that in his judgment, “this leads one to believe that things can happen and the law will not do anything.”

He also he considered it “suspicious” that the film’s director, Alejandro Amenabar, recently revealed that he is a homosexual.  According to Simon, “this is a propaganda effort by the film and the gay lobby that surrounds it.”

Simon recalled that Sampedro’s case “has always been used in favor of euthanasia.”   “It is an extreme case and therefore you cannot draw conclusions to make universal laws,” he added.

More reactions

The spokeswoman for the Association of the Study of Bioethics in Spain, Isabel Viladomiu, also criticized the film, saying it made Ramon Sampedro into a “euthanasia martyr.”

Speaking with Europa Press as well, she said “Mar Adentro” is an account of a real story that “has been manipulated” by those who want to promote euthanasia.

Viladomiu said “Mar Adentro” is again stirring up the debate on euthanasia, which her association says “is not a solution to suffering.”

She also warned that the legalization of euthanasia would lead to what she called “a slippery slope, just as was the case with abortion, which went from 7 cases in 1985 to more than 70,000 in 2004.”

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Protests against award for pro-abortion British film

Madrid, Spain, Sep 14, 2004 (CNA) - The Associations of Victims of Abortion in Spain lamented this week that the Venice Film Festival gave its top award to a film that does not tell the whole truth about abortion.

The film which won this year’s Golden Lion is “Vera Drake,” a story about a midwife who performed clandestine abortions in London in the 1950s.  Last Saturday during the awards ceremony, the films director, Mike Leigh, said he was in favor “of a woman’s right to choose if she wants to have a child or not anywhere on the planet.”

The Association said the film does not show the truth about abortion nor all of its implications, and that therefore it is a misleading promotion of the procedure.

“When there is no true information about what happens after an abortion and about other real alternatives, there is no freedom, but instead pressure from society and the State towards that one way out,” the group said in a statement. 

According to the Association’s president, Carmina Garcia-Valdes, “by presenting Vera Drake in this film as a good person, a gentle mother and a helpful neighbor, one can get the wrong message that abortion is something good for women, when we know today that it has grave physical and physiological consequences that have been scientifically proven.”

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Salvadoran Archbishop denounced distribution of condoms and contraceptives in schools

San Salvador, El Salvador, Sep 14, 2004 (CNA) - Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle denounced this week the plans by various associations as well as by the Ministry of Health to distribute condoms and contraceptives to students as part of a sexual orientation campaign.

The archbishop slammed the Fundasida and Among Friends associations for expanding their sexual orientation campaigns to include the distribution of condoms, contraceptives and pamphlets that “are too explicit about the issue” to adolescents.

Several days ago, the archbishop also denounced similar actions by the government’s Ministry of Health.  On that occasion, Archbishop Saenz Lacalle said that in many cases, school principals and teachers have approved the sexual material

“This is very disgusting.  Condoms and contraceptives were included with the pamphlets,” said Archbishop Saenz Lacalle.

“Such is the case with the San Jose Las Flores School, where officials from the Ministry of Health, I suppose with the consent of the principal and teachers, distributed not only condoms, but also contraceptive pills that are potentially abortifacient,” he denounced.

The archbishop called for respect for children and adolescents, saying healthy sexual education which teaches young people moral values and about the negative consequences of contraceptives should be promoted instead.

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Ratzinger letter misinterpreted by Kerry supporters as OK’ing votes for pro-abortion candidates

Washington D.C., Sep 14, 2004 (CNA) - Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry have misused the letter of Cardinal Ratzinger to the U.S. Bishops Conference - in which he affirms clearly that a persistently pro-abortion politician should be denied Communion – to argue that Catholics may vote for pro-abortion politicians.

According to an article published today by the Culture of Life Foundation, the chancellor of the Archdiocese of Detroit and a prominent moral theologian have stated that the document’s “precise language is being distorted.”

The source of the controversy, says the article, is the note at the very end of the document in which Cardinal Ratzinger states that any vote for a pro-abortion politician is cooperation in evil, and therefore anyone who has thus voted may only receive communion if they have done so for “proportionate reasons.”

According to Father Stephen Torraco, chairman of the theology department at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusettes the interpretation of the phrase “proportionate reasons” to mean that one can vote for a candidate based on any “serious issue that the voter cares about” such as the war in Iraq or the death penalty, regardless of whether or not they are pro-abortion, is mistaken.

Father Torraco explains that in order for a vote for a pro-abortion candidate to be based on “proportionate reasons,” it must be done so in order to prevent an intrinsic moral evil of the scale of abortion. Therefore issues such as war or the death penalty do not qualify as “proportionate reasons” because they are not intriniscally immoral according to Catholic teaching.

The article quoted Father Robert J. McClory, the chancellor of the Archdiocese of Detroit, who wrote that the issue was "much more nuanced than was reported” and that Ratzinger’s letter “did not clear the way to vote for pro-abortion candidates.”

"The distribution of this text has led to much debate over what might be 'proportionate reasons' in the context of the moral evil of abortion, including how this might apply when all the candidates for a given office support abortion to varying degrees. Suffice it to say that 'proportionate reasons' go far beyond simply 'agreeing with the candidate's other stands,'" said the chancellor.

According to Culture of Life Foundation, prominent bishops are planning to address the issue in the coming days.

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Pro-Kerry Catholic activists denounce politicking in Catholic Churches

Boston, Mass., Sep 14, 2004 (CNA) - In a press release issued today two Pro-Kerry Catholics who head Catholics for Kerry groups in Columbus, Ohio, and Boston, Massachusetts, denounce the politicking taking place with increasing frequency in Catholic parishes across America saying that it will damage the Church in the U.S.

In the press release, entitled “Politicking in Catholic Churches”, Patrick Whelan and Eric McFadden accuse both Republicans and Democrats of exploiting religious congregations and violating Church rules by registering voters in Churches after Mass.

These initiatives go against the U.S. Bishops’ guidelines, say Whelan and McFadden. They point out that the Bishops’ “Office of General Counsel states that Catholic organization voter registration or get-out-the-vote efforts should not be conducted in cooperation with any political campaign.”

They point to the Republican National Committee's Catholic Team Leader Outreach program which recruits coordinators for a $25,000 a year to idenitfy Catholic voters around the country, and to the “Catholic Citizenship” organization of Democrat Raymond Flynn, former mayor of Boston and President Clinton’s Vatican Ambassador,  whose aim is to “sponsor voter registration drives and weekly updates on political issues in every parish, among other things,” as examples of Catholic politicking that will divide congregations down party lines.

The result will be a politicized Catholic identity, in which congregations and individuals identify themselves as Democrat Catholics or Republican Catholics, thus damaging the identity and unity of the Catholic Church in the U.S.

“How long can it be before all parishes are hostilely divided between Democratic and Republican congregations, both convinced that each is more Catholic than the other?” they ask.

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Lk 9:51-56

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First Reading:: Job 3: 1-3, 11-17, 20-23
Gospel:: Lk 9: 51-56

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Lk 9:51-56

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