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Archive of February 8, 2005

New Vatican document calls for reform and a genuine search for truth in annulment cases

Vatican City, Feb 8, 2005 (CNA) - The Vatican, this morning announced the presentation of a new instructional document to be used by Diocesan and Interdiocesan tribunals in handling cases of marriage annulment.

Dignitas Connubii, translated as Dignity of Marriage was prepared by the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, with the collaboration of other dicasteries.
 
The Council’s participants included, Cardinal Julian Herranz, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Archbishop Angelo Amato S.D.B., secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments, Bishop Velasio De Paolis C.S., secretary of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura and Bishop Antoni Stankiewicz, dean of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota.
 
Council President, Cardinal Julian Herranz explained that the Instruction Dignitas Connubii aims to offer judges in ecclesial courts "a practical document, a kind of vademecum to use as a ready guide for carrying out their duties in canonical hearings on the nullity of marriage."

A similar document, the Instruction "Provida Mater," was published in 1936, relating to the Code of Canon Law of 1917.
 
Cardinal Herranz said that Dignitas Connubii seeks to facilitate the consultation and application of the 1983 edition of the Code of Canon Law, bringing together all norms referring to the canonical process for nullity of marriage (unlike the CIC where these norms are scattered in different places through the text) and includes the juridical developments that have arisen since the publication of the Code.

Such developments include, authentic interpretations of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, answers of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, jurisprudence of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota.

He clarified that the Instruction "does not limit itself to repeating the text of the Canons, but contains interpretations, clarifications on the provisions of law, and further provisions on procedures for its implementation."
 
"This Instruction”, he said, “comes as a confirmation of the need to submit the question of the validity or nullity of the marriage of the faithful to a truly judicial process."

He also said that at times, "simpler" solutions are suggested, which would even solve the problem directly "in the heart of individuals, through the so-called 'nullity of conscience'" in which the Church "has no other role than taking note of the conviction of the spouses themselves concerning the validity or otherwise of their marriage."

At other times the hope is expressed "that the Church renounce any form of hearing, leaving these juridical problems in the hands of civil courts."
 
"On the contrary,” the Cardinal pointed out, “the Church reiterates her competency to concern herself with these causes, because on them depend the existence of the marriage" of her faithful, "above all considering that marriage is one of the seven Sacraments instituted by Christ Himself."

Ignoring this problem would essentially "be tantamount to casting a shadow over the sacramental nature of marriage itself. This would be even more incomprehensible in the current circumstances of confusion on the natural identity of marriage and of the family in certain forms of civil legislation that not only welcome and facilitate divorce but even, in some cases, cast doubt on heterosexuality as an essential aspect of marriage."
 
In closing, Cardinal Herranz confirmed that in the context of what he called a "divorcist" mentality, "even canonical nullity hearings can easily be misinterpreted, as if they were nothing more than ways to obtain a divorce with the apparent approval of the Church."

The difference between annulment and divorce then becomes "purely nominal, and by the skillful manipulation of causes of nullity, all failed marriages would be nullified." By contrast, the Roman Pontiffs "have often expressed the true sense of nullity of marriage, inseparable from the search for truth because the declaration of nullity does not mean dissolving an existing bond, but rather the recognition, in the name of the Church, of the nonexistence of a true marriage right from the beginning.”

“Moreover,” he said, “the Church favors the validation of nullified marriages when this is possible. John Paul II explained it in these words; 'The spouses themselves must be the first to realize that only in the loyal quest for the truth can they find their true good, without excluding a priori the possible validation of a union that, although it is not yet a sacramental marriage, contains elements of good, for themselves and their children, that should be carefully evaluated in conscience before reaching a different decision'." (Address to the Roman Rota, January 28, 2002).”
 
Archbishop Angelo Amato S.D.B. also spoke on the need for a search for truth in anullment cases. He highlighted the fact that article 65, para. 2 of the Instruction states that the judge must urge the parties to a sincere search for the truth.

It further notes that if he does not manage to bring the spouses to validate their marriage and re-establish conjugal life "the judge is to urge the spouses to work together sincerely, putting aside any personal desire and living the truth in charity, in order to arrive at the objective truth, as the very nature of a marriage cause demands."
 
Bishop De Paolis noted that the "Instruction concerns nearly 800 diocesan or interdiocesan tribunals of the Latin Church that almost exclusively deal with cases of marriage nullity," which "have increased enormously in recent decades, especially in countries of long Christian tradition."

He added that, among the causes, are: "widespread secularization which has an erroneous concept of marriage compared to the ideal proposed by the Church; a more precise knowledge of human psychology allowing for a better determination that matrimonial consent was not sufficient, and the fact that "many faithful, having obtained a civil divorce and the possibility to remarry according to civil law, ask for a declaration of nullity because they know that for a Catholic a valid marriage can only be that celebrated according to Church laws."
 
Bishop De Paolis also gave some statistics for the year 2002. He said that of the 56,236 ordinary hearings for a declaration of nullity, 46,092 received an affirmative sentence.

Of these, 343 were handed out in Africa, 676 in Oceania, 1,562 in Asia, 8,855 in Europe and 36,656 in America, of which 30,968 in North America and 5,688 in Central and South America.
 
Bishop Antoni Stankiewicz explained that "the just-presented Instruction disciplines in 61 articles, the instruments, that is, the means of proof in the search for objective truth in matrimonial hearings, placed at the disposition of the parties and of the judge, to allow for the ascertainment of facts alleged by the spouses-parties to the cause, and relevant for the nullity of the contested marriage.”

Only on the basis of the effectiveness of the results of the means of proof, admitted in the marriage causes, such as the declarations of the parties (art. 177-182), the documents (art. 183-192), the witnesses (art. 193-202), the experts (art. 203-213), and the presumptions (art. 214-216) can the judge reach moral certainty on the cause to decide with a confirmatory sentence or decree."
 
"It is not a question," he said, "of absolute certainty, ... or purely subjective certainty, ... but of moral objective certainty, based objectively on the acts and the results of the proofs. In fact, according to the new norm, 'In order to declare the nullity of marriage there is required in the mind of the judge moral certainty of its nullity (art 247, para 1)'."
 
The Vatican noted thatDignitas Connubii is available in the official Latin text with English translation and also in Latin/Italian. It consists of a "Proemium" or Introduction, Preliminary Articles and 15 Titles, most of which are subdivided into Chapters.

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U.S. Secretary of State discusses Middle East, religious freedom with Vatican officials

Vatican City, Feb 8, 2005 (CNA) - During her first official diplomatic trip, new United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited yesterday with Vatican Secretary of State Angelo Sodano.

Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the Holy See’s Press Office Director, published a communiqué about the visit early this afternoon, Rome time.
 
It stated that on Tuesday, “Condoleezza Rice, U.S. secretary of State, accompanied by an official delegation, visited Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano who was accompanied by Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, secretary for Relations with States, Msgr. Pietro Parolin, under-secretary, and other officials from the Secretariat of State.”
 
The document called the meeting, which lasted for almost an hour, “cordial”, and said that, “Cardinal Sodano presented the Holy Father's greetings to his guest, asking her to pass them on to U.S. President Bush.”

In turn, Condoleezza Rice, in the name of President Bush, of the American people, and in her own name, expressed best wishes for a speedy recovery of His Holiness.”

An exchange of opinions followed on various international problems, with particular reference to the Holy Land, to the Middle East, and to the situation in other Asian countries. Attention was also given to the theme of religious freedom in various parts of the world.”

“Finally,” the document stated, “certain questions concerning bilateral relations were considered, reaffirming the will to collaborate in safeguarding and promoting spiritual values."

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Priests' group calls on Democratic Party to be more inclusive of pro-lifers

Washington D.C., Feb 8, 2005 (CNA) - Priests for Life is calling on the Democratic Party to be more representative of grassroots Democrats and inclusive of pro-lifers. It issued this statement after former congressman Tim Roemer dropped out of the race for chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

The Catholic and former Indiana Representative had joined the race at the beginning of January hoping to expand the party both geographically to the south and ideologically to include pro-lifers.

"Mr. Roemer's opposition to abortion rights, and his call for his party to be more inclusive of pro-life Democrats, is far more representative of grassroots Democrats than the extreme position that marks the party's official stance,” said Priests’ for Life.

The national pro-life priests’ organization is now calling on Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont, a favorite in the race for DNC chairman, to be inclusive of pro-lifers.

“We now call upon Mr. Dean to show grassroots Democrats how serious he is regarding making more room in the party for pro-life Democrats," said the statement.

DNC members will pick a successor to outgoing Chairman Terry McAuliffe at a meeting Feb. 12 in Washington, D.C.

The other candidates include: former Rep. Martin Frost of Texas; Simon Rosenberg, head of the centrist New Democratic Network; former Ohio state party chairman David Leland; and Donnie Fowler, a veteran party activist and campaign manager for retired Gen. Wesley Clark's presidential bid.

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Pro-lifers affirm Chicago court's ruling declaring IVF embryo a ‘human being’

Chicago, Ill., Feb 8, 2005 (CNA) - A Chicago court ruled Feb. 4 that an embryo, which was killed in a fertility clinic, was a "human being" and the parents are entitled to sue for wrongful death for the loss of their child, reported LifeSiteNews.

Alison Miller and Todd Parrish sued the Center for Human Reproduction for the loss of their child.

In the ruling, Judge Jeffrey Lawrence II of the Cook County court said: "A pre-embryo is a 'human being' ... whether or not it is implanted in its mother's womb."

Lawrence wrote: "Philosophers and theologians may debate, but there is no doubt in the mind of the Illinois Legislature when life begins. It begins at conception.”

Northwestern University law professor Victor Rosenblum told LifeSiteNews this was the first court decision he had ever heard in favor of the humanity of the embryo.

According to LifeSiteNews, the American Civil Liberties Union said the decision would likely be overturned on appeal.

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Defrocked Boston priest convicted on all charges of child rape

Cambridge, Mass., Feb 8, 2005 (CNA) - One of the most high-profile clergy sex-abuse cases finally came to a close yesterday with the conviction of defrocked priest Paul Shanley.

Shanley, who was defrocked by the Vatican last year, was convicted on two counts of child rape and two counts of indecent assault and battery on a child.

The main plaintiff in the case was a 27-year-old firefighter who said Shanley raped and molested him at a Boston-area church in the 1980s. Reuters reported that the firefighter said he had forgotten about the abuse, but that the memories came back in 2002 as the sex-abuse scandal erupted in the Archdiocese of Boston. He received $500,000 last year as a settlement of his civil lawsuit against the archdiocese.

After the verdict, Judge Stephen Neel revoked Shanley's bail and he was taken into custody. Sentencing of the 74-year-old is scheduled for Feb. 15.

John Harris, who said Shanley raped him in 1979 when he was 21 and went to the priest for counseling about his homosexuality, said it was a "release of emotion" to hear the verdict, reported Reuters.

Shanley's lawyer said he would appeal.

Reuters reported that internal church documents released in 2002 showed that archdiocesan officials knew in 1979 that Shanley had attended a meeting of men involved in sexual relationships with boys. That meeting led to the creation of NAMBLA, the North American Man Boy Love Association.

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Catholic group warns British priests about pro-condom policy of Catholic charity

London, England, Feb 8, 2005 (CNA) - The British organization Catholic Action Group has launched a boycott of the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) Feb. 1.

The British development organization has suggested that condoms may be an acceptable way of combating the spread of AIDS in the developing world where the Church’s values of abstinence and fidelity may not be realistic.

Catholic Action Group sent an e-mail to 700 Catholic priests throughout England, informing them of the campaign. It said that it would “quite happy to stop this current campaign when and if CAFOD issues a clear and unambiguous statement … that they do not condone the use of condoms in any circumstances or (only) if the Magisterium officially rules on this issue with a clear statement.” 

The e-mail stated that a number of parishes in the country support the campaign, but some bishops are divided on the issue.

CAFOD told the British newspaper the Guardian that it does not distribute condoms and maintains the Church's policy that abstinence is the only way to prevent the spread of the disease.

The boycott could seriously undermine CAFOD’s relief efforts in the 64 countries where it is currently working. Of the £28.2 million it raised last years, nearly £20 million worth were individual donations from Catholics.

The Guardian reported that due to the boycott, about 10 parishes have so far withdrawn their funding.

Catholic Action Group is an independent nonprofit Catholic organization funded by members’ donations and subscriptions. It was established to defend Catholic truth both within the Church and in general society. Membership is open to all mainstream Catholics. 

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Cardinal Rivera says Holy Father will give himself to the very end

Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 8, 2005 (CNA) - At the conclusion of Sunday Mass at the Archdiocesan Cathedral, Cardinal Norberto Rivera of Mexico City, said, “We know (the Holy Father) will give of himself until the very end of his life.”

Cardinal Rivera expressed satisfaction that the Pope appeared in public on Sunday to bestow his blessing upon the world and he denied that the John Paul II would resign, saying the Pope is conscious of the work God has entrusted to him.

He expressed his assurance that the Pope “will continue to recover and the Church will continue with her pace, because the Vicar of Christ has many collaborators that take care of outstanding matters.” 

Cardinal Rivera offered Mass this Sunday for the sick, on the occasion of the 13th World Day of the Sick, which was celebrated at the Shrine of Holy Mary Queen of the Apostles in Yaounde, Cameroon.

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Global Catholic network to air installation of Archbishop Gomez

, Feb 8, 2005 (CNA) - The global Catholic television network, EWTN has announced that it will air Archbishop Jose Gomez’s installation as the new Archbishop of San Antonio, Texas.

Doug Keck, EWTN’s Senior Vice President of Programming said that the ceremony will be broadcast in its entirety from San Antonio’s San Fernando Cathedral on February 15th at 11:00pm and again on February 16th at 12:00am. The installation can be seen on TV, the internet and heard on EWTN’s radio station.

Archbishop-designate Gomez, who will become the nation’s first Mexican-born archbishop, comes to San Antonio from the Archdiocese of Denver where he has served as auxiliary Bishop since 2001.

Of Gomez’ tenure in the Archdiocese of Denver, Archbishop Charles Chaput said that, “I don’t think anyone could have foreseen the impact he had on all of us”, and cited a Denver paper which said that Gomez’ “fundamental decency, gentle character and utter commitment to his job in the Denver Archdiocese were evident to those who encountered him even in brief conversation.”

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Archbishop denounces campaign to discredit Church in Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Feb 8, 2005 (CNA) - In his weekly Sunday message, Archbishop Domingo Castagna of Corrientes, Argentina, expressed regret at the political and ideological spin that is being attributed to his statements, and he stated that a campaign to discredit the Church in Argentina is taking place.

The archbishop denounced the efforts to discredit the Church by calling her a cruel supporter of out-dated theories that are contrary to man’s progress.  “The truth does not attack,” he said.

“I regret, for example, that people want to exclusively interpret my statements in a political and ideological way.  I trust that the common sense and good will of many of my fellow countrymen will be the basis for a correct reading of them,” the archbishop added.

“As a shepherd,” he continued, “I want to remain neutral on political questions, as long as they are morally legitimate, and respect the decisions agreed to through the democratic process we have adopted.”

Likewise the archbishop maintained that “history reminds us that the Gospel must also be preached to the people that make up the Church, in a healthy questioning of their own errors and sins.”

On the other hand, Archbishop Castagna also mentioned the controversy surrounding the misunderstanding of statements by the Church in Spain on condom use, and he clarified that, “The Church which vigorously defends life promotes the recovery of health when its deterioration would place the survival of others in jeopardy.”

“The basis of the controversy is not the issue of condoms but rather the concept of the responsible and morally appropriate exercise of sexuality,” the archbishop said.  He also reiterated that the Church collaborates in the prevention of AIDS by educating people to be faithful and open to life and to avoid promiscuity and other improper behaviors that lead to life-threatening situations.

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Chilean archbishop says Pope is example of faithfulness in suffering

Santiago, Chile, Feb 8, 2005 (CNA) - Archbishop Cristian Caro of Puerto Montt, Chile, expressed his admiration for the witness of strength of Pope John Paul II in the face of illness, and he said the Pope is “an extraordinary example of faithfulness to the mission God entrusted to him.”

The archbishop said the Holy Father is an amazing model of offering up one’s suffering to Christ, adding that, “Recently I have been participating in Confirmations and we have prayed for the Pope.  We have prayed for him, because you can see that he is suffering.  We can see that he wants to carry out his mission in the Church until the end.”

“He wants to be faithful to the end, with much personal sacrifice,” Archbishop Caro stated.  “You can see how he gets weaker every day.  Some days he has difficulty breathing and speaking, but on other days he is better,” he added.

“He is an amazing example, especially today when Euthanasia has been approved in some European countries,” the archbishop continued.  The Pope shows us that suffering is difficult but has meaning, “because with those sufferings he is united to Christ, and that helps bring salvation to the world, and that is the meaning of the Cross.”

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Sects provoking division in Mexican dioceses, says bishop

Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 8, 2005 (CNA) - Bishop Jose Luis Amezcua Melgoza of Campeche, Mexico, said this week the large presence of sects in his diocese is leading to division among the local communities.

The bishop said in his dioceses there are currently three or four Protestant churches for every Catholic church.  He said it was due in part to the priest shortage, which Protestant sects take advantage of in order to gain recruits.

Bishop Amezcua said that to counter this, a small group of priests and lay Catholics are helping to foster vocations among young people.  But he said the effort would take time and that results would not be seen “overnight.” 

“You have to chose, begin to provide formation, watch over and accompany them during formation to see if there are authentic signs of a vocation,” the bishop explained.

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