Archive of November 19, 2004

Society absent of God self-destructs, says Ratzinger, points to current political, legal and sexual culture

Vatican City, Nov 19, 2004 (CNA) - In an interview published in Italian newspaper "La Reppublica" today, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said that “a society in which God is completely absent self-destructs,” and talked about the political, legal and cultural consequences of the marginalization of God from public life, and those of the loss of the meaning of human sexuality and the family.

Pointing to the example of a Protestant pastor in Sweden “who had preached about homosexuality, based on a line from Scriptures,  and went to jail for one month,” the Cardinal indicated that "there is an aggressive secular ideology,” a distorted “laicism,” which no longer “opens up spaces of freedom for all,” but rather imposes itself through politics.

This ideological laicism “does not give public space to the Catholic or Christian vision, which runs the risk of becoming something purely private and thus disfigured.”

Therefore he said “we must defend religious freedom against the imposition of an ideology which is presented as if it were the only voice of rationality, when it is only the expression of a 'certain' rationalism."

Cardinal Ratzinger pointed out that a “just laicism,” on the other hand, “ is religious freedom; the State does not impose religion but it gives space to religions with a responsibility toward civil society, and therefore it allows these religions to be factors in building up society."

He said that the true essence of Christianity is "a history of love between God and men. If this is understood in the language of our times, the rest just follows."

In modern society however, God “has been put on the sidelines. In political life, it seems almost indecent to speak of God, as if it were an attack on the freedom of those who do not believe.”

He said that the sidelining of God can be seen in the worlds of politics, of business and the economy, of private life. “To me,” said the cardinal, “it seems necessary to rediscover, and the energy to do so exists, that even the political and economic spheres need moral responsibility, a responsibility that is born in man's heart and, in the end, has to do with the presence or absence of God.”

“A society in which God is completely absent self-destructs. We saw this in the great totalitarian regimes of the last century."

Sexual ethics and law

Asked about the gap that had opened up between the Magisterium and the faithful following the publication of Pope Paul VI’s  encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” which definitively affirmed the Church’s ban on artificial contraception, the prefect of the CDF said that “it is clear that we must continue to reflect,” and indicated that we must look towards the person-centered vision of the relationship between man and woman developed by Pope John Paul II.

“The pill,” said Cardinal Ratzinger “has changed the vision of sexuality, the human being and the body itself. Sexuality has been separated from fecundity and in this way it has profoundly changed the concept of the human life.

He explained that “the sexual act has lost its purpose and finality which before was clear and specific, so that all forms of sexuality have become equivalent. Above all…the equalization between homosexuality and heterosexuality.”

On the question of the Church’s position on homosexuality, Card. Ratzinger said that “above all, we must have great respect for these people who also suffer and who want to find their own way of correct living. On the other hand, to create a legal form of a kind of homosexual marriage, in reality, does not help these people."

He said that the law presented for debate by the Spanish government which would completely legalize homosexual marriage “is destructive to the family and society, because “the law creates morality or a moral form, since people habitually think that what the law affirms is morally allowed.”

“If we judge this union to be more or less equivalent to marriage,” he posited, “ we have a society that no longer recognizes either the specific nature of the family, nor its fundamental character, that is to say, the nature of man and woman which is to create continuity - not only in a biological sense - for humanity.”

The Cardinal said that “the Spanish decision does not provide a real benefit” to homosexuals, “since in this way we are destroying the fundamental elements of an order of law."

He stated further that even institutionalization and legal recognition of civil unions between two members of the same sex, “whether the lawmaker wants it or not - would necessarily appear in public opinion like another type of marriage that would inevitably assume a relative value.”

“With these choices, to which Europe tends today - shall we say - in decline, we make a break from all the great cultures of humanity that have always recognized the very meaning of sexuality,” said Cardinal Ratzinger, “that men and women were created to be jointly the guarantee of the future of humanity. Not only a physical guarantee but also a moral one."

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Seminary in Detroit wants to attract Catholics interested in New Evangelization

Washington D.C., Nov 19, 2004 (CNA) - Cardinal Adam Maida announced, during the meeting of the US Catholic bishops in Washington D.C, the opening of the Licentiate in Sacred Theology in the New Evangelization, at the Seminary of Detroit, the first of its kind in North America, and approved by Pope John Paul II himself, reports Detroit Free Press.

"I've been working on bringing this new program to Detroit for several years," said Maida of the program which is open to graduate level clergy and laypeople. "I had to take it all the way to Rome to get it done."

"We see the challenges,” said Cardinal Maida. “We know that the world is becoming more secularized all the time. So, when we talk about evangelization, we're talking about going out and teaching more, living out our faith and trying to call people back into the Church."

The Cardinal had already begun a pilot class of the program in September consisting of ten students, and the Vatican’s approval came midway through that month.

Even though he cannot say how many students will be drawn to the program, the Cardinal’s staff are ready to provide additional housing if it is needed.

According to the seminary spokeswoman Kate Bua, the program could grow to about 50 very soon, and will grow to be much larger, thus adding significantly to the 450 or so students presently studying at the seminary

The cardinal suggested that the prestige the program would give to the Archdiocese of Detroit and its seminary would be considerable:

"Just listen to what the bishops have been saying this week at our meeting here: They're saying that evangelization is one of our highest priorities. Well, we've got the one program in this country that focuses on this.”

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States with highest number of Catholics voted for Kerry

, Nov 19, 2004 (CNA) - The nine states with the highest percentage of Catholics voted for Senator John Kerry, says data from the newly issued 2005 Catholic Almanac.

These states include: Rhode Island (63.5 percent Catholic), Massachusetts (47.7 percent), New Jersey (43.5 percent), New York (40.6 percent), Connecticut (38.7 percent), Illinois (31 percent), Wisconsin (30.5 percent), Pennsylvania (30 percent) and California (29.8 percent).

Louisiana, which comes in tenth, at 29.4 percent Catholic, voted heavily for President George Bush.

The almanac is published by the Catholic national newspaper Our Sunday Visitor. There are 67,259,768 Catholics in the United States. They represent 23.2 percent of the population, up from 22.8 percent the previous year.

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ALL: Bishops’ task force needs to remind abortion and Catholicism are opposed

Washington D.C., Nov 19, 2004 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops need to face “the real problem” that one cannot be Catholic and pro-abortion, said Judie Brown, president of American Life League.

This past week, at their national convention, “the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops had an opportunity to provide strong leadership on the question of Catholic public figures who favor legal abortion,” Brown said.

Brown said the bishops’ task force  report on Catholic bishops and Catholic politicians, displayed “unwillingness to enforce Church teaching on this grave matter.” The task force is headed by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

She said the bishops’ report attempted to “shift the focus away from the bishops' responsibility to teach, preach and act in accord with Church law and Church teaching” by attacking “those groups and individuals who are exposing the scandal of pro-abortion Catholic public figures,” such as the media and partisan groups.

"Had the conference united in its commitment to enforce Canon 915, the bishops could not only have prevented this ongoing scandal but they could have taken the first steps toward providing wayward Catholic public figures with the guidance they need," she said.

Canon 915 states those who “obstinately persist in manifest grave sin” are not to be admitted to Eucharistic communion.

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President expected to approve funding for restoration of 21 Spanish missions

, Nov 19, 2004 (CNA) - A bill passed by the House of Representatives authorizing $10 million for the restoration of 21 Spanish missions in California has been submitted to President George W. Bush for approval.

Of the 21 missions, 19 are owned by the Catholic Church and two are owned by the state; seven have been declared national landmarks.

Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, a supporter of the legislation, notes that all of the funds will be channeled to and overseen by a nonprofit group, the California Mission Foundation.

Nonetheless, Americans United for Separation of Church and State has threatened to sue. 

Catholic League president William Donohue says the threat of a lawsuit is misplaced since excising religion from history simply cannot be done.

“The fact is that the history of California is unintelligible without noting the magnificent and lasting contributions of Spanish missionaries,” he said. “The government has a strong interest in preserving the nation’s heritage, and that is why it was appropriate for the House to provide the necessary resources for the restoration of the Spanish missions.” 

The Catholic Leagues expects Bush to sign the bill.

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Holy See encourages spread of Social Christian thought in Cuba

Havana, Cuba, Nov 19, 2004 (CNA) - In a message sent to Bishop Juan Garcia Rodriguez, President of the National Committee for Justice and Peace of the Church in Cuba, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, in the name of Pope John Paul II, sent an extensive encouraging greeting to the 9th Catholic Social Week in Cuba which is taking place in the country this week under the theme, “Truth, Justice, Love, Liberty, Fundamentals of Peace According to Pacem in Terris.”

The letter signed by Cardinal Sodano states that in the unceasing mission of announcing the Reign of God in diverse cultures, nations and surroundings, “the teaching and application of the Catholic social doctrine is a magnificent instrument of evangelization for the Church.”

The letter underscores also that “these teachings from the so-called ‘social Gospel’ should be inculturated in a continuous and persistent fashion, in the concrete circumstances in which the Christian faithful are called to transform society with the force and light of the Gospel.”

The message encourages “the presentation of Christian social thought in accord with the fundamental qualities of the identity of the Cuban people, and that it be communicated in a comprehensible language” and thus “enlighten human existence and social realities.”

“This will promote, without a doubt, a conversion and a style of social relationships based on respect, the defense and promotion of the dignity and the inherent rights of all human persons,” the statement adds.

The Cuban drama
“The 9th Catholic Social Week in Cuba,” Cardinal Sodano went on, “should keep in mind the peculiar circumstances affecting this noble and beloved people.”

”It is a duty and right of each citizen to make the effort to find among all a peaceful outcome to crises.  But it is equally a duty especially of lay Christians, who are called by their vocation and mission inside the Church to be light, salt, and yeast in the transformation of the society in which they work and which they serve in the truth and freedom of the children of God,” wrote the Cardinal.

“It is our hope,” he concluded, “that the 9th Catholic Social Week will be for Catholics of this beloved country an opportunity to provide the appropriate Christian contribution to the future of Cuba.”

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Evangelize Asia with faith that penetrates every aspect of life, says Pope

Vatican City, Nov 19, 2004 (CNA) - Receiving members of the post-synodal council of the Special Assembly for Asia, held in April and May, 1998, Pope John Paul II said that  "to announce the Gospel in depth in Asia, it is necessary for all believers to penetrate every aspect of life with their faith…especially where they suffer and are not free to profess their faith, waiting patiently for the day there will be full religious freedom."

He said that until the advent of religious freedom “the Kingdom of God must be proclaimed with 'a silent witness of life,' carrying the cross and following in the footsteps of the suffering and crucified Christ.”

The Pope said that "in the multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural situation of Asia, where Christianity is still too often seen as foreign," the Apostolic exhortation, “Ecclesia in Asia,” has yielded fruiful dialogue.

He said that the high number of young people from Asia is "reason for optimism because the new generations, filled with promise, are available to dedicate themselves totally to a cause, and a challenge because unfulfilled dreams can only generate disillusionment."

"In addition," stated John Paul II, "the Church intends to contribute to the cause for peace in Asia, where various conflicts and terrorism cause the loss of many human lives. During the Synod, the Synod Fathers looked with apprehension at the Holy Land, 'the heart of Christianity'" where "the hot spots of war have only grown larger and it is therefore urgent to build peace."

He noted that the synod for Asia emphasized  that dialogue "is a characteristic mode of the Church's life in Asia," and indicated that this extends to dialogue within the Church, with other Christian communities and with "the cultural and religious values of different peoples."

"Do not be discouraged," he exhorted, "because the flock in Asia is small. The efficacy of evangelization does not depend on numbers. ... Christ taught us that what is small and hidden to the eyes of men, can obtain unhoped-for results thanks to the omnipotent intervention of God."

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Pope sends telegram of condolence on the death of Cardinal Aramburu

Vatican City, Nov 19, 2004 (CNA) - In a telegram sent this morning to Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, on the death of his predecessor, Cardinal Juan Carlos Aramburu, Pope John Paul II recalled “his deep love for the Church and his zeal for saving souls,” noting also that he participated in Vatican II.

"Deeply saddened upon learning the news of the death of our beloved Cardinal Juan Carlos Aramburu, archbishop emeritus of Buenos Aires, after a long life of total dedication to God and in service to the Church, living with sobriety and distinguishing himself by prudence and integrity,” read the Pope’s telegram, “I wish to express my condolences to you, the auxiliary bishops, clergy, religious communities and the lay people of this archdiocese. I join you in commending to the mercy of the heavenly Father this zealous pastor who with such pastoral charity served his people and the Church.”

"His generous and intense work,” continued the Pope’s words, “first as a priest and then as the bishop of Tucuman and then for 23 years as the archbishop of this particular Church, extending his ministerial work after his retirement in the shrine of St. Cajetan as a witness to the cause of the Gospel, all are proof of his deep love for the Church and his zeal for saving souls.”

"In these moments of pain when the ecclesial community of Buenos Aires and so many Argentinean faithful mourn their beloved pastor, and recalling his participation in Vatican Council II, his service to the universal Church and the welcome he showed me during my pastoral trip to Argentina in 1987, I am happy to impart with affection the comforting apostolic blessing as a sign of hope in the victory of the Risen Lord," wrote the Holy Father. 

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Catholic pro-abortion politician rejects request to step down as cantor

Andover, Mass., Nov 19, 2004 (CNA) - Developments at a Boston parish over whether a lifelong parishioner and pro-abortion politician should continue leading the congregation in song during mass demonstrates how confused Catholics are on the issue and the need for clear guidelines.

Since her Nov. 2 re-election, State Rep. Barbara L'Italien was asked by her pastor, Fr. William M. Cleary, at two meetings to step down as a cantor because of her pro-abortion stance. The St. Augustine parishioner declined the request and said she would only consider it if she receives the request in writing.

Fr. Cleary told the Eagle-Tribune that he would send the lifetime parishioner the request in writing.

While L’Italian cannot hold a leadership position while maintaining a political stance on abortion that is opposite that of the Church, she would not be denied Communion or participation in other church activities, Fr. Cleary told the Eagle-Tribune.

"I'm not trying to change her vote or her opinion because she has the right to those," he told the newspaper. "But she doesn't have a right to the pulpit. I am defending the Church's position against abortion.”

While L'Italien was not faced with abortion legislation during her first term, she was listed as "pro-choice" in the Planned Parenthood guide and voted for same-sex marriage.

"My personal views and my personal faith is something that guides me," she told the newspaper. "But it's not something that can rule me in terms of the decisions I make as a legislator. My job is to represent people of many different faiths and many different ideologies."

L'Italien said as a legislator, she is bound to serve her constituency and work by the laws of the land, which currently protect abortion rights.

Fr. Cleary told the newspaper that he waited until after the election to act and he did not know if he would have asked L'Italien to step down if she had lost to fellow parishioner and Republican, Maria Marasco.

Parishioner Collette Crowley defended Fr. Cleary's decision, saying that he is “doing his job.”

"Anybody who voices their opposition to Church teachings should not be in a leadership position, as far as I'm concerned,” Crowley told the newspaper.

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New Zealand jury acquits man who admitted to killing brain-damaged baby daughter

Richmond, Va., Nov 19, 2004 (CNA) - A jury in the Nelson Court of Richmond New Zealand has given a not guilty verdict to a man who admitted to killing his brain-damaged baby daughter by smothering her to death, saying that he was innocent of any wrongdoing.

Family Life International, New Zealand has released a statement saying that the jury’s verdict “negates the value of the dead girl’s life and her right to live.”

Saying that “compassion and understanding must be extended to the man involved and his family,” the press release states that “the baby girl involved has had her life taken from her yet it seems that her life was not important enough to warrant a guilty conviction for the minimum sentence of her manslaughter.”

To suggest that this “unlawful act of smothering…is not an act of manslaughter is a travesty of justice,” continued the statement.

“If the child had not been diagnosed with brain damage then it is hard to believe that her father would have been found not guilty of her death.”

Referring to the notion that the ending the baby’s life is acceptable because she would have had a very low ‘quality of life,’ Family Life stated that “although doctors can diagnose illness they cannot do anything other then predict possible outcomes or quality of life for the patient involved.”

“To allow someone to end the life of a child based on these possible outcomes or what someone else deems to be their quality of life is unjust and inhumane.” The baby girl’s right to live “was taken from her by her father.”

In conclusion Family Life stated that “the Nelson verdict proclaims to society that her life was not as important as the life of a child without disability,” and warned that  “it has set a dangerous precedent that will jeopardise the lives of many disabled and special needs children in this country.”

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Church calls for respect for culture of Argentineans in controversial sex-ed program

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 19, 2004 (CNA) - The Vicar of Education for the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, Father Juan Alberto Torrella, took part in a meeting at the legislative offices of the city of Buenos Aires, during which he called for the government’s controversial sex-ed program “to include the beliefs and values of parents,” because “there is no such thing as neutral sex-ed, with neither beliefs nor values.”

“To educate and to be educated is to travel on a road to perfection, it is a process of humanization, and I would say in a Christian sense, of divinization,” said Father Torrella. 

“Behind all educational processes is a vision of what the human being is: it is not the same to conceive of him as pure matter, as a collection of feelings or as a biological-psychological-spiritual being.  These concepts all give way to educational styles, goals, different expectations and diverse ideals,” he added.

 “We cannot address sex-ed without knowing what I want to do with my life and who I am and what I am called to be.  All education,” he continued, “is governed by these criterions: What kind of human being do I wish to be? Why do I do what I do?”

Fr. Torrella pointed out that “it is absurd, counterproductive and anti-educational” to identify sex-ed with other technical and scientific aspects of sex.  “An authentic ‘formation’ is not limited to informing the intelligence, but rather it gives special attention to educating the will, the sentiments and the emotions towards love,” he added.

“We believe in integral sexual education that begins at home and continues throughout life, and we do not believe in magical solutions that you use and throw away and that only cover up our incapabalities and contradictions as a society.”

“We do not believe in the imposition of the State or of one sector over another imposing restrictions on freedom of conscience, whether that of parents in relation to their minor children or of any person.”

“We believe that parents have the right to not have their children forced to be in classes that are not in agreement with their moral and religious convictions.”

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Professionals opposing homosexual adoption send letter to Spanish president

Madrid, Spain, Nov 19, 2004 (CNA) - The association Professionals for Ethics will send a letter on Saturday to Spanish President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero signed by 1000 professionals who are calling on the government to turn back from its plans to authorize adoption by homosexual couples.

Fabian Fernandez, president of the group that brings together teachers, lawyers, psychiatrists and psychologists, said the signatures will be sent on the worldwide Day of the Rights of the Child.

The group says adoption by homosexuals is harmful to minors and is an attempt to substitute the biological father and mother of a child.  Children “have the right to have masculine and feminine role models.” “When the father or the mother is absent, the child should be given an explanation of the circumstances, without confusing him by allowing persons of different sexes to assume roles that are not theirs,” the statement says.

Likewise, the group says “children have the right to be part of a family similar to the traditional family, to grow up in an atmosphere that allows them to develop their physical, intellectual and moral personality” and “to not be discriminated against or subjected to traumatic experiences.”

Lastly, members of the group call on the government “to withdraw the proposal which, based on our professional experience, we consider to be harmful to the physical and psychological development of children.”

Ana Martín Ancel, one of the signers of the letter and member of the Spanish Association of Pediatrics, referred to a 1997 study by “Developmental Psychology,” which reported the existence of “a significantly greater incidence of homosexual relationships among those who had been raised by lesbian mothers (24%) compared to those who were raised by heterosexual mothers.”

Antonio del Moral, a Supreme Court lawyer, asked “why two fathers or two mothers can adopt and not a group of individuals or two brothers.”

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Proposed legislation threatens defense of life in Venezuela

Caracas, Venezuela, Nov 19, 2004 (CNA) - The Venezuelan organization Volunteers for Life is launching a major effort to challenge two proposed laws that promote the decriminalization of abortion and euthanasia in that country.

Currently the National Assembly is debating a bill called Rights of Women for Fairness and Equality of Gender, which would allow the legalization of abortion in cases of incest and risk to the mental health of the mother.

The other bill, not yet being debated, was drafted by Judge Alejandro Angulo Fontiveros, who proposes a reform of the Penal Code to decriminalize assisted suicide and abortion up to three months in cases of extreme poverty, artificial insemination or transfer of a fertilized ovum without the consent of the woman.

According to Human Life International, of which Volunteers for Life is an affiliate, if approved, both bills “would deal a heavy blow to the right to life of unborn children and of incurable or terminal illnesses.”

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