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Archive of October 5, 2004

Supreme Court rejects Catholic Charities’ challenge to contraceptive benefits

Washington D.C., Oct 5, 2004 (CNA) - The Supreme Court refused yesterday to reverse a ruling, which forces California religious organizations to pay for birth control pills in the health insurance benefits they offer employees.

Catholic Charities had filed an appeal of a California Supreme Court ruling made earlier this year.

Catholic Charities challenged the Women's Contraceptive Equity Act, and argued that it should not be forced to pay for its employees’ contraceptives based on its First Amendment right to exercise its religious beliefs without government interference.

The Supreme Court had been asked to review California’s law, which exempts churches from this requirement but not religious institutions, like hospitals and charity organizations.

“If the state of California can coerce Catholic agencies to pay for contraceptives, it can force them to pay for abortions,” attorney Kevin Baine told justices in the appeal for Catholic Charities.

But Timothy Muscat, California’s deputy attorney general, said Catholic Charities could get around the requirement by not offering insurance to employees.

The California Supreme Court had ruled against Catholic Charities March 1, 2004.

The California Conference of Catholic Bishops said the March 1 decision was disappointing “because it demonstrates no respect for religious organizations that have historically partnered with the state in providing health, education and social services to the people of California.

“It appears that the high Court deems the Women's Contraceptive Equity Act a compelling state interest, which in turn should have triggered the test of ‘least restrictive means available’ for the implementation of the policy,” they had said.

“The least restrictive means possible would be for the state to provide the contraceptives to those women whose religious employer declined to offer them—not to coerce her employer into offering a prescription drug that the Church teaches is immoral,” they concluded.

The Women's Contraceptive Equity Act was passed in 1999 in an effort to stop discrimination against women who pay more for drugs than men do. There are currently about 20 U.S. states that require employers to cover the cost of birth control pills in the prescription benefits they offer employees.

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Apostolic Letter on the Year of the Eucharist to be released on Friday

Vatican City, Oct 5, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter for the Year of the Eucharist will be released on Friday October 8. There will be a press conference for it’s presentation in the Holy See Press Office at 11.30 am presided by Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

Joining Cardinal Arinze in presenting the "Apostolic Letter of the Holy Father for the Year of the Eucharist" will be Archbishops Domenico Sorrentino, secretary of the congregation and Piero Marini, master of the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, and Msgr. Mauro Parmeggiani, prelate secretary of the vicariate of Rome.

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Bishop Gracida explains why pro-abortion Catholics must be excommunicated

, Oct 5, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Rene Henry Gracida,  Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas, in an article sent to Catholic News Agency, has followed up on his recent essay "Denying Holy Communion, A Case Study" responding to criticisms that the procedure he followed to issue an interdiction against a pro-abortion Catholic politician receiving Communion is “outdated,” and he has drawn up a “12-step program” to help bishops discern a course of action.

“Now we have candidates for the Presidency and Congress publicly professing to be practicing Catholics who, although supportive of many of the Church's teachings on social issues, on the most important issue - the inalienable right to life - are diametrically opposed to our Holy Catholic Faith,” writes Bishop Gracida.

“The most important issue facing the world today is the assault on the sanctity of human life,” he says and points out that the Magisterium, especially during this pontificate, “have taught repeatedly that the right to life is the foundation of all other rights in civil society.  The denial of this basic right leads eventually to the denial of all others rights.”

“All other grave social issues,” he points out, “such as war, poverty, health, economic justice, immigration, etc. are of secondary importance and indeed pale in comparison to innocent human life under systematic annihilation.”

Bishop Gracida issued the interdiction in 1994 forbidding a politician from receiving Communion, yet he “felt that limiting Interdiction in the internal forum was important not only for the spiritual well being of the person being interdicted, but also for the spiritual good of the community.”

But, he says  “in 1995 Pope John Paul II concluded that it was urgent to promulgate the Encyclical Evangelium Vitae.  Some 12,000,000 abortions later, it has become crystal clear that the politician who actively engages his political skills to maintain abortion-on-demand and who protects the ongoing genocide by voting for legislation in favor of abortion formally cooperates in the evil of abortion itself.” 

“In reality,” says the bishop, “the distinction between the abortionist and the politician is almost nominal:  One, a murderer, is guilty of directly procuring abortions; the politician, makes it legally possible for the genocide to continue unabated.”

Recognizing the complexity of the situation in the Church and in our society at the present time I should like to help my brother bishops find their way through the thicket of conflicting opinions and proposals for action.  After substantial reflection, I propose a twelve-step program for my brother bishops to help them decisively deal with the grave crisis facing our Church and our Nation.

He recommends twelve steps to help bishops to deal with the complex and grave crisis facing the Church and Nation and to “effectively remedy the crisis in all transparency yet resolute firmness.

The program outlines a specific course of action to be taken by bishops in dealing with publicly pro-abortion Catholics and includes recourse to fraternal and canonical correction and ultimately, if the individual obstinately refuses to recant, excommunication. 

Read Bishop Rene Gracida’s complete article and 12 step program at http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/document.php?n=46

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Expert warn of radical Islam filling spiritual vacuum in the West

London, England, Oct 5, 2004 (CNA) - During Aid to the Church in Need’s annual Mass and Conference in Westminister Cathedral Hall in London on Saturday October 2, Fr. Paul Stenhouse, ACN’s chairman of the board in Australia, explained that Western society’s current religious and moral vacuum is in grave danger of being filled by an intolerant and militant Islamic fundamentalism.

In his address, entitled “ Islam: A Wake-up Call to Slipshod Catholics and to the West,” Fr, Stenhouse summoned Catholics to respond to the threat by witnessing strongly to their faith in an effort to rebuild Christian culture in the West.

“Islamist ideology…left uncontrolled, will cause harm not just to religious freedom but to the civic life of our community,” Fr Paul, editor of the Australian Catholic magazine Annals.

He claimed that the media – especially TV and the Internet – had played into the hands of extremist Muslims by spreading their mission to kill and spread violence in the name of their religion and intimidating people into submission.

“If Islamists do take over, it will be by default – even by democratic means – made possible by liberalism in the West, which does not permit us to take pride in our national and religious identity.”

However, he said, “ I do not think that Catholics have anything to fear from fundamentalist Islam – by Catholics I mean those who practice their faith and take an interest in the world around us.”

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Washington cardinal receives top honor from Catholic educators

Washington D.C., Oct 5, 2004 (CNA) - Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, received the 2004 Elizabeth Ann Seton award yesterday for being a proponent of parental choice in education and an advocate of the Center City Consortium, designed to strengthen inner-city Catholic schools in Washington.

The Seton award is presented by the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA). It is the highest honor given by Catholic educators and recognizes significant philanthropic or leadership contributions to Catholic education.

Due to Cardinal McCarrick's influence on Washington's inner-city schools, says a press release, the city will inaugurate a new federally funded school voucher program for inner-city schools.

A scholarship is presented in the name of each Seton recipient to a student from a Catholic school. The Seton Scholar for Cardinal McCarrick is Patrick Phillips, an eighth-grade student at St. Catherine Laboure School, Wheaton, Md.

NCEA is the largest, nonprofit educational association in the world. It represents 200,000 members, who in turn serve 7.6 million students. The organization was founded in 1904 and is celebrating its centennial year.

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Three anti-nuke nuns will try to argue they did not intend to threaten national security

Denver, Colo., Oct 5, 2004 (CNA) - The lawyers of three Dominican nuns who entered a Weld County nuclear missile site in 2002 and were convicted of two felonies will argue that they intended to “send a message to the world,” but not to threaten national security.

Their attorneys started their argument Friday before a three-judge panel at the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. They asked that the nuns' sabotage convictions be reversed or their cases retried.

Nearly two years ago, Jackie Hudson, Carol Gilbert and Ardeth Platte slipped into the missile compound and used bottles of their own blood to draw a cross on the silo lid.

An hour later, military personnel arrived with weapons drawn and found the nuns singing and praying.

The three nuns of the Dominican order, originally from Michigan, were tried and convicted of two felonies - obstructing national defense and damaging government property. They received from 30 to 41-month prison terms.

"In this case, the only thing the sisters had the intent to do was to cut the fence and send a message to the world," argued Clifford J. Barnard, a Boulder lawyer representing one of the nuns to the Denver Post. "Intending to harm the fence is not the same thing as harming national defense," he added.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney James Murphy said the sisters carefully planned their 2002 trip to Colorado, and that their intrusion into the site, which houses a Minuteman III nuclear warhead, caused significant disruption as military personnel converged on the area.

"I cannot agree with you that it did not impair the national defense," Murphy said. "They (personnel) were diverted from their duties of guarding the other missile silos."

The judges who heard the appeal will issue a decision at a later date.

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Christian churches ask IRS if praying for Bush’s reelection is legal

Washington D.C., Oct 5, 2004 (CNA) - The American Center for Law and Justice has sent a letter to the Internal Revenue Service on behalf of the Christian Defense Coalition asking if it is legal for churches to pray for the re-election of President George Bush during their services.

The letter was sent as the Christian ministry, led by Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, prepares for a two-week prayer tour in cities throughout the key swing states of Pennsylvania and Ohio.

It states that Rev. Mahoney plans to "offer prayer during the evening services in the churches he visits that God grants President Bush four more years as president and that Senator Kerry does not become president."

Rev. Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, states: "As Christians, we are praying that God grant President Bush four more years because of his support for the sanctity of human life, his strong commitment to the protection of traditional marriage and his stance on religious freedom and liberty in the public square.

“It is clear that the public policies of the President are more in line with historic Christianity then those of Senator Kerry,” he continued. “It is our hope that the IRS will not crush religious freedom by attempting to censor and control how churches feel compelled to pray."

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Fr. Benedict Groeschel to host new live show on EWTN

, Oct 5, 2004 (CNA) - Only 10 months after a serious accident, Fr. Benedict Groeschel is back in fine form and ready to begin a new program on EWTN called, Sunday Night: Live with Father Benedict Groeschel.

The weekly call-in show will debut Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. ET. The format will be similar to the popular Mother Angelica Live "Family Night" program. Fr. Groeschel will teach and preach, take phone calls from viewers and address their concerns.

This is not the first television appearance for the well-respected spiritual teacher. He has been associated with EWTN for more than 20 years, and has hosted numerous teaching series and specials.

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Urban monks set up first mission in North America

Montreal, Canada, Oct 5, 2004 (CNA) - A thousand voices echoed through the large Montreal cathedral for sung vespers Sept. 25 during the welcoming ceremony for a new religious community that is also new to the city and the continent.

Seven monks and 10 nuns of the Monastic Jerusalem Communities arrived in the archdiocese Sept. 17 to run the Sanctuary of the Blessed Sacrament (Saint-Sacrement). Following an invitation from Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte, who presided at the vespers at Mary Queen of the World Cathedral, the Paris-based religious community decided to open its first North American monastery here.

Thirty-five-year-old Sr. Cecile has been a member of the community for the last 12 years. She said she had prayed for her community to come to Montreal for the last 10.

It became possible when the Blessed Sacrament Fathers decided that they could no longer run their sanctuary, located in the heart of Montreal in a trendy, artsy section called the Plateau Mont-Royal, because they did not have enough new vocations.

A lack of vocations has not been a problem for the Monastic Jerusalem Communities, which has only kept growing since its founding in Paris in 1975.

Contrary to most monastic communities, the fraternity chooses to live in the heart of a city instead of in a secluded, peaceful area. The fraternity consists of monks (brothers and priests) and nuns, who dedicate their life to prayer, contemplation and action. Most members work outside the monastery. Some have professional careers, such as computer programming and teaching; others work at whatever jobs they find.

The fraternity differs from many religious communities in North America in that it has relatively young members; the average age is below 35. And unlike most local religious communities, the monks and sisters wear a habit – blue robes and veils. In their first week in Montreal, it was not uncommon to see passers-by approach the monks and nuns to exchange a few words.

Founding a new community

The fraternity was established by Br. Pierre-Marie Delfieux. The diocesan priest had worked as a university chaplain at the Sorbonne in the late 1960s before he left to live in the desert with the Little Brothers of Jesus, a monastic community inspired by Charles de Foucauld.

Realizing that the desert wasn’t in the sand but at the core of the city itself, returned to Paris and founded the Monastic Jerusalem Communities.

Currently, the community has urban monasteries in France, Belgium, Italy and now Canada. Its members represent 30 nationalities.

“If young people are joining this movement, it’s because they realize the city can be inhumane in its spiritual, human and even material poverty,” said Sr. Cecile. “Those who discover Christ want to share their faith and show the happiness it can bring to people while living in the city.”

The monks and nuns welcome the public to join them in lauds, matins, vespers and Holy Eucharist nearly every day. The Sanctuary of the Blessed Sacrament is located at 500 Mont-Royal Ave. East.

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Chilean ambassador to unveil statue of St. Teresa of the Andes at the Vatican

Rome, Italy, Oct 5, 2004 (CNA) - Chilean ambassador Ignacio Walker will unveil a statue of the first saint from Chile, St. Teresa of the Andes, at the Vatican this Wednesday.

The ambassador from Santiago to the Holy See confirmed that Pope John Paul II will bless the statue of the young Carmelite, which was hewed from marble by Chilean sculptor Juan Eduardo Fernandez Cox.

The block of marble was extracted from the “Michaelangelo Cavern,” where Buonarotti obtained the marble for “The Pietá,” as well as for three other statutes that decorate the left side of the colonnade, facing the façade of St. Peter’s Basilica. 

The ambassador and his delegation will attend the ceremony at which the Pope will preside and will bless the statue, and later they will have an audience with the Holy Father on Thursday.

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Salesians condemn killing of street boys in the Congo

Rome, Italy, Oct 5, 2004 (CNA) - The news agency of the Salesians published a strong condemnation by the Salesian Province in Central Africa of the brutal killing of two street children who had been receiving shelter at one of the Salesian centers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The killings took place on September 25, when a group of men armed with clubs and knives came to the “Don Bosco” Shelter and Formation Center in Mbuji-Mayi in search of street kids.

Despite the efforts by the Salesians to dissuade the armed group, two children ended up being stoned to death and burned in the field in front of the Salesian House.  According to the Salesians, “the armed groups were made up of diamond prospectors who accuse the street children of theft and witchcraft.”

“We have been shocked by the news of the atrocities committed against street children and we wish to express our profound indignation in the face of this outbreak of violence,” the Salesians said in a statement.

In their statement, the Salesians also demanded an inquiry be opened to identify and punish those responsible.  They also called on local authorities to open free primary schools and to take measures to educate adults against the superstition of accusing children and young people of “witchcraft.”

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Spain’s Archbishop questions concept of “quality” of life that excludes suffering

Madrid, Spain, Oct 5, 2004 (CNA) - Referring to the ongoing debate in Spain regarding euthanasia, Archbishop Antonio Cañizares Llovera of Toledo, Spain, criticized today’s false prophets who promote a quality of life that excludes suffering.

In a pastoral letter to be published in the coming days, the Archbishop denounced euthanasia and divorce, saying he was motivated solely by his Episcopal duty and not by any political reaction.

Referring to the movie, “Mar Adentro” (“Out to Sea,”) which helped trigger the debate on euthanasia, and which will compete for the Oscar to the best foreign movie,  Archbishop Cañizares stated that “the way in which the news was reported at the time…was confusing, enticing, and even sometimes harmful to people’s conscience and liberty.  For example, it is presented as if it were something ordinary, normal and heroic, when in reality it is a rare case and, with all due respect to Ramon Sampedro, not exactly an model of human heroism.”

After recalling that the National Federation of Associations for Persons with Spinal Cord Injuries and the Severely Handicapped has declared that the vast majority of the handicapped are opposed to euthanasia, the Archbishop said, “There are many false prophets of a ‘painless’ life who tell us not to put up with anything and to rebel against the smallest of setbacks.”

 “According to them,” he continued, suffering, endurance and sacrifice are things of the past, out-of-date customs that modern life has completely done away with.  Today a life of ‘quality’ would be a life without any suffering.”

“It is necessary for Christians, especially in these times, to announce and defend the joyful news of the value and dignity of the life of each individual,” he went on.  “From here I invite all the people of the Diocese of Toledo to be joyful witnesses and courageous defenders of life, and untiring and brave fighters for inalienable human rights, such as those of the dignity and life of each human being.”

Lastly, Archbishop Cañizares mentioned the “pressure that is being exerted upon public opinion.”  “There is no doubt that there is a large effort by powerful individuals who are determined to make this legal.  We must fight against it.  This is a setback for humanity.  This is an attack on man and his dignity, and no one should cooperate with it or give any consent to it whatsoever.  We are facing one the most alarming symptoms of the ‘culture of death’.”

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Colombia bishop says peace process with militias should not become political propaganda

, Oct 5, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Julio Cesar Vidal Ortiz of Monteria, Colombia, is calling on opposition leaders not to obstruct the peace process which the government has begun with militia groups, as a part of their campaign against the reelection of President Alvaro Uribe.

Speaking on Radio Caracol, Bishop Videal said the peace process with illegal militia groups should not be used as a campaign issue in order to attack the reelection bid of Uribe.

“Just because one is against the president’s reelection doesn't mean the peace process should be torpedoed,” said the bishop, recalling that the negotiations are not with the Constitution Court nor with the Bishops Conference, but with an illegally armed group.

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