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Archive of March 15, 2005

California judge sparks reactions after rules same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional

San Francisco, Calif., Mar 15, 2005 (CNA) - A judge ruled yesterday that California's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

“The idea that marriage-like rights without marriage is adequate smacks of a concept long rejected by the courts — separate but equal," wrote Judge Richard Kramer of San Francisco County's Superior Court. He added that there appears “no rational purpose” for denying same-sex marriage.

"For a single judge to rule there is no conceivable purpose for preserving marriage as one man and one woman is mind-boggling," said Mathew Staver, president of the pro-traditional marriage Liberty Counsel. "This decision will be gasoline on the fire of the pro-marriage movement in California as well as the rest of the country.”

Randy Thomasson, Executive Director of Campaign for California Families, said "this is a crazy ruling by an arrogant San Francisco judge who apparently hates marriage and the voters. Kramer has trashed the people's vote to keep marriage for a man and a woman and violated his oath to uphold the law instead of making new laws out of his own head. This is the worst type of judge. This case will be immediately appealed."

"It's hurtful and insulting to the voters when a judge attacks the voters and destroys the sacred institution of marriage for a man and a woman. This outrageous ruling will inspire average citizens to rise up and fight to protect marriage as it naturally is - for a man and a woman, a husband and wife."

Larry Jacobs, vice president of the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society, noted the courts reflect a serious disconnect between courts and the public on the crucial matter of marriage. "Threats to family stability from divorce, promiscuity and working parents have never been more serious. This is not the time to be venturing into misguided social experiments with marriage."

"Almost every opinion poll on the subject shows the American people support traditional marriage by lopsided margins. In every state where it's gone to a vote, natural marriage has passed by landslide majorities, including such bastions of liberalism as California and Hawaii," Jacobs disclosed.

"Yet another irrational judge, like his counterparts in Massachusetts, can't find a rational reason for defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman," said Robert Knight, director of Concerned Women of America's Culture & Family Institute.

"That's because these judges are no longer acting rationally, and are imposing their own radical agenda, ignoring the law and the will of the people."

"This trial court ruling will be appealed and reversed unless the appellate courts are content to allow a rogue judge to make a mockery of the state constitution and turn rational basis into a meaningless term," said Jan LaRue, CWA's chief counsel. "Any judge who can't find one rational reason for upholding marriage needs to turn in his robe."

"Californians should remove Kramer from office because of this scandalous ruling. We also need to enact a constitutional amendment, at the state and federal levels, to protect marriage once and for all," said Knight.

The City of San Francisco and a dozen homosexual couples had filed lawsuits a year ago, after the California Supreme Court stopped Mayor Gavin Newsom from performing same-sex marriages.

Nearly 4,000 homosexual couples got married after Newsom instructed the city to issue them marriage licenses last year. The California Supreme Court later declared those marriages void, saying the mayor overstepped his authority.

The Associated Press reported that it could be months or years before the state sanctions same-sex marriage, if ever. Kramer's decision is stayed automatically for 60 days to allow time for appeal.

In fact, two bills now before the California Legislature would put a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage on the November ballot.

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Braxton appointed as Bishop of Belleville

Vatican City, Mar 15, 2005 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II today, has appointed Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Louisiana as the 8th Bishop of Belleville, Illinois.

Bishop Braxton was born on June 28, 1944 in Chicago and ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Chicago on May 13, 1970 by John Cardinal Cody.

In 1975, he was ordained a bishop in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis by Archbishop (now Cardinal) Justin Rigali on the 25 th anniversary of his First Mass. Prior to his time in St. Louis, the bishop served as Pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Oak Park, Ill. for five years.

Bishop Braxton studied for the priesthood at Quigley Preparatory Seminary, Niles College Seminary and St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelein, Ill., where he earned his BA, MA, S.T.B. and S.T. L. degrees.

From 1971-1973, he was Associate Pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Winnetka Ill., where he was deeply influenced by his Pastor, the renowned liturgist and pastoral pioneer, Msgr. Reynold Hillenbrand, one of the founders of the Christian Family Movement. The movement urged the Christian faithful to become genuinely involved in the life of the Church.

He earned his Ph.D. at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium from 1973 to 1975 in Religious Studies and an S.T.D. in Systematic Theology summa cum laude.

He has traveled extensively and done ministry in settings ranging from Africa to Harvard University.

The Bishop has said that his spirituality was greatly influenced by the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises and such spiritual giants as St. John of the Cross and St. Therese of Avila. Reportedly, he also says he has explored centering prayer and Zen relaxation techniques.

Bishop Braxton is noted for his ecumenical work and in the wake of the 9-11 tragedy, wrote an article entitled, “Is God on Our Side?” “We All Worship Allah”, “An Introduction to Islam.”

He expressed today his “profound gratefulness to His Holiness for the confidence he has placed in me by calling me to serve a second time as a Diocesan Bishop.”

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National leader plants seeds for new pro-life community of priests

, Mar 15, 2005 (CNA) - A national pro-life leader is calling for the creation of a new religious community for men, whose charism would be the defense and promotion of life.

The director of Priests for Life, Fr. Frank Pavone, said he is “convinced that the time has come” for such a community.

“I have met numerous young men across the country ready to devote their lives to their unborn brothers and sisters,” he said.

The purpose of the community would not be to take over pro-life work in the country and take away every Christian’s basic call to defend the sanctity of life, but to “raise a trumpet call to the whole Church to give the defense of life the priority it deserves, at every level of Church life and ministry,” he said.

With a shortage of priests in North America, Fr. Pavone admitted that some people might fear that a new community would divert priests away from parishes and toward this specialized work.

But Fr. Pavone believes that the pro-life movement is the source of many new vocations. “Many will be led to the priesthood precisely because such a pro-life community exists. And this community would serve parishes nationwide,” he said.

Fr. Pavone recalled how the late John Cardinal O'Connor’s call to set up a community of religious women dedicated to pro-life work received hundreds of responses. The first eight women entered the newly formed Sisters of Life on June 1, 1991. There are now more than 45 members and several convents in the New York City area.

In the meantime, Priests for Life will continue to help priests become stronger in their pro-life work within their assignments as diocesan priests and within other communities, he said.

Men who are interested can contact Fr. Pavone at [email protected]

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CU critics; Christian community up in arms over termination of history professor

Boulder, Colo., Mar 15, 2005 (CNA) - University of Colorado professor Phil Mitchell has been eating lunch with students in the campus’ Sewell Hall dining room almost every day for the last 10 years. Last Friday however, the conversation was a little different.

Mitchell learned almost four weeks ago from his superior, William Wei that after nearly 21 years of teaching history at CU, the award-winning professor was being terminated.

The announcement came last week amid charges of sub-standard teaching and accusations of preaching to his students, but Mitchell gathered with the lunchtime crowd just the same to discuss the latest move of a University who keeps making headlines.

Critics of CU’s administration are crying rat in light of the recent Ward Churchill scandal. Churchill, an Ethnic Studies professor at the university, compared some victims of the 9-11 tragedy to Nazi architect, Adolf Eichman.

Supporters of Churchill are fighting for his rights of academic free speech, but critics are wondering why the same freedom doesn’t seem to extend to Mitchell.

Mitchell said that the proselytizing charges surround his use of a book about 19th century Christianity called “In His Steps”, written by Charles Sheldon-a Christian minister.

Mitchell has noted that the book was the best-selling novel in history.

"Quite frankly, the person who confronted me is a specialist in Eastern Europe [studies] and knows nothing about American Protestantism, and really didn't know what he was talking about.” 

“But”, Mitchell noted, “he was in a position of authority in the department and he criticized my use of that book. I took it quietly, but I filed away in my own mind that he did not know what he was talking about.”

Reportedly, the book upset a student because of its reference to Jesus, although many of Mitchell’s students contend that they’ve never heard him push his politics or religion in class.

One student told, “The Colorado Daily” that, “before I saw it in the media, I didn’t even know he was an evangelical Christian.”

Steve Van Diest, director of FUEL, CU’s chapter of Campus Crusade for Christ, an interdenominational Christian ministry, told CNA that he’s not particularly surprised at the news.

“Nothing that happens at CU shocks me anymore”, he said.

Van Diest noted one student who cited an economics class in which the professor taught Hinduism for the first ten minutes of class. But the student, he said, “was too afraid to go to the administration.”

Van Diest expressed regret at Mitchell’s termination and noted that he’d always heard “great reviews” from students who have taken his classes over the years. He also noted the irony of Mitchell’s departure surrounding the Churchill controversy.

“It’s just the case that if you’re Christian or have a little bit of a conservative bend,” he said, “you’re going to get looked upon with a little closer scrutiny there.”

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Catholic radio station hits Montana airwaves

Bozeman, Mont., Mar 15, 2005 (CNA) - Catholics around Montana’s Gallatin Valley now have a new radio alternative. Fr. Bob Hall, pastor of Bozeman’s Resurrection University Parish, recently established KOFK, which stands for King of Kings, at 98.3 FM.

The station is affiliated with the Wisconsin-based Relevant Radio network which provides much of its programming.

The non-profit KOFK has been operating for about a month now, from a small trailer located behind the parish on the campus of Montana State University.

Fr. Hall said that, “A good Lutheran man helped us to get it started," referring to the engineering and broadcasting support the group received from Bill Reier of Reier Broadcasting.

The stations local programming plans include interviews with Helena Bishop George Thomas, discussions with young men discerning a call to the priesthood, and other local and national concerns.

Fr. Hall told the “Bozeman Daily Chronicle” that, "The station is geared toward a Catholic audience, but should be generally interesting to all Christians."

One of Resurrection’s parishioners told the “Chronicle” that the station “seems to be catching on like wildfire.”

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Archbishop Foley discusses religion and communications with Ukranian leaders

Vatican City, Mar 15, 2005 (CNA) - The Vatican announced today that Archbishop John P. Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, is in Kiev, Ukraine this week, where he has delivered a series of talks to influential political and religious leaders.
 
Last Thursday and Friday, the Archbishop attended and spoke at the Seventh European Ministerial Conference on Mass Media Policy.

Yesterday he spoke on "Communication as a Way of Life" at the Kievan Mohyla Academy and today he addressed the Institute of Journalists on the topic of the Ukrainian translation of Church documents on communication. In attendance was Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, major archbishop of Lviv of the Ukrainians.
 
On Thursday, Archbishop Foley will speak on "Religion and Church in the Information Society" at the conference of religious and government leaders in the Round Hall of the President Hotel in Moscow, Russia.

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Support for abortion could spell trouble for reelection for Brazil’s president

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 15, 2005 (CNA) - The Catholic vote in Brazil could be a decisive factor in President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s chances for reelection if he decides to authorize the national heath system to widen access to abortion, said a member of the Brazilian Bishops Conference this week.

Bishop Rafael Llano Cifuentes, president of the Bishops Committee on Life and the Family, expressed his grave concern that President Lula might make abortion more accessible in country.  After meeting with the President, Bishop Llano Cifuentes said the leader assured him of his opposition to abortion.  However, the bishop said Lula was at least incoherent since last week the Heath Ministry said it would be more flexible with women who are seeking abortion.

Until just last week, abortions could only be obtained in Brazil in cases of grave health risk to the mother or police-verified rape.  In practice, however, police verification is no longer necessary to obtain abortion in cases of rape.

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British library to digitalize 15th century Bible manuscript

London, England, Mar 15, 2005 (CNA) - The British Library in London has announced it has signed an agreement to digitalize and reunite the Codex Sinaiticus, the oldest Greek copy of the Bible, whose different sections are currently in libraries in Egypt, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom.

The manuscript dates from the time of the expansion of Christianity in the territories controlled by the emperor Constantine.

During centuries it was kept at the Monastery of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai, until in the 19th century it was divided and the Old and New Testaments were distributed between the University of Leipzig Library in Germany, the National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg, the British Library and the same Monastery of St. Catherine. 

Now the manuscripts will be reunited in digital form.

The agreement was signed by Archbishop Damianos, representing the Monastery of St. Catherine of Sinai, Ekkehard Henschke, Alexander Bukreyev and Lynne Brindley, directors of the respective libraries.  Archbishop Damianos said the monks were anxious to reunite the different fragments of the manuscript.

The project will take around four years and will cost over $1,300,000 dollars.

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Canadian Bishops to study impact of free trade on Mexico

Ottawa, Canada, Mar 15, 2005 (CNA) - The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) is part of a delegation in Mexico this week, studying the impact of free trade children, women and indigenous peoples.

Bishop Daniel Bohan, auxiliary bishop of Toronto, and a member of the CCCB Commission for Social Affairs are among the nine delegates on this mission, organized by KAIROS, a Canadian ecumenical organization that brings churches together around social justice issues, and partner organizations in Mexico.

The mission will consider alternatives and develop concrete recommendations that will be made to the Canadian government.

The delegates have meetings scheduled from March 11 to March 19, with human rights organizations, churches, labor unions, indigenous groups and women’s organizations.

Half of the delegation will go to Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, a city along the U.S. border that is built around maquiladoras, factories that employ cheap local workers.

The others will go to Chiapas to learn about the impact of free trade on indigenous and rural communities and the ongoing issue of militarization. Delegates will meet with national human rights and economic justice groups in Mexico City and representatives of the Canadian embassy.

The delegates are expected to submit their recommendations to the Canadian government during the Global Week of Action on Trade, April 10-16.

The Global Week of Action on Trade is part of the yearlong, international Make Poverty History campaign, which was launched at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Jan. 27.

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