Archive of May 25, 2005

Pope’s Wednesday message of hope: God frees us from terror of death

Vatican City, May 25, 2005 (CNA) - This morning, Pope Benedict XVI, continuing his series of Wednesday catechesis on the Psalms, offered the 27,000 gathered pilgrims a message of hope, assuring them that God will not abandon his people to the terrors of pain and death.

The Holy Father focused his talk on Psalm 115, "Thanksgiving in the Temple," pointing out that St. Paul refers to this psalm when he tells the Corinthians: "Since we have the same spirit of faith as he had who wrote 'I believed and so I spoke,' we too believe, and so we speak."

Pope Benedict illustrated the spiritual harmony between Paul and the Psalmist "in serene faith, and sincere witness, despite human suffering and weakness."

Together with Psalm 114, he said, this Psalm constitutes "a single act of thanksgiving, addressed to the Lord, Who frees us from the terror of death."

He added that the writer describes "a tormented past.”

“The Psalmist has held high the torch of faith, even when the bitterness of desperation and sorrow rise to his lips. Around him was an icy wall of hatred and deceit, because men appeared false and unfaithful. However, the supplication becomes gratitude because the Lord has raised His faithful servant from the dark abyss of falsehood."

Briefly straying from his prepared text, the Holy Father told the crowd that, "Christ was the first martyr, and gave His own life in a context of hatred and falsehood; yet He transformed His passion into 'Eucharist' that is 'joy and salvation'."

Returning to his catechesis, Pope Benedict said that, "The Psalmist prepares, then, to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, in which he will drink at the ritual chalice, the cup of sacred libation that is a sign of recognition for having been set free."

He likewise showed that the Psalmist bears witness of his own faith in the presence of all the people and that, "having been saved from death, feels himself to be the Lord's  'servant,' and 'son of His handmaiden;' a beautiful Oriental expression indicating a person born in the same house as his master.”

“The Psalmist”, he said, “humbly and joyfully professes his association with the House of God, with the family of created beings united to him in love and faithfulness."

He concluded, saying: "The entire people of God thank the Lord of life, Who never abandons the just in the dark bosom of pain and death, but leads them to hope and to life."

Closing the weekly audience Pope Benedict invited all present to participate in the Mass for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, which he will celebrate at 7 p.m. tomorrow evening, in St. John Lateran Basilica.

A traditional procession to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, will also be celebrated tomorrow, in order "to express together faith in Christ, Who is present in the Eucharist."

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Cardinal Keeler urges support for bill on umbilical cord blood stem-cell research

Washington D.C., May 25, 2005 (CNA) - A new bill that would allow research based on the stem cells taken from umbilical cord blood immediately after births should be supported by legislators, said Cardinal William Keeler.

In a letter, the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities urged Congress to support the Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005. The House was expected to consider the legislation, introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), yesterday.

While embryonic stem-cell research raises grave moral objections, and remains speculative in terms of medical benefits, “this bill relates to an area of stem-cell research and treatment that is indisputably acceptable on moral grounds and remarkably promising in terms of clinical benefits: the use of umbilical cord blood retrieved immediately after live births,” noted the cardinal.

The Catholic Church opposes embryonic stem-cell research because it requires the destruction of the embryo, that is, human life at its initial stages. A majority of Americans support this view. A recent poll indicated that 77 percent of Americans surveyed, in particular, opposed the cloning of human embryos for research purposes.

The cardinal cited reports in the New England Journal of Medicine on successful use of umbilical cord blood to treat two devastating neurological diseases in children: Hurler’s syndrome (May 6, 2004) and infantile Krabbe’s Disease (May 19, 2005).

“What is preventing far broader use of umbilical cord blood is not an ethical concern, or any lack of evidence of clinical benefits, but simply a lack of funding and access,” Cardinal Keeler stated. “By helping to establish a nationwide public cord blood bank, this legislation will begin saving more lives almost immediately.”

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Senate moves to confirm Owen, a Sunday school teacher, as federal judge

, May 25, 2005 (CNA) - The Senate started voting Wednesday to confirm Judge Priscilla Owen to the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A day earlier, the Senate voted 81-18 to break the filibuster and move to confirmation of Owen as a federal judge.

The vote comes four years after President George W. Bush nominated Owen to fill the vacancy in the New Orleans-based federal court Bush has said he regards her as "a woman of integrity ... known to be a fair and impartial judge who strives to interpret the law fairly."

For the last four years, the Sunday school teacher and pro-life judge has been the center of attack by pro-abortion Democrats, even though she easily won two elections to Texas' highest civil appeals court in 1994 and 2000. In the 2000 Texas Supreme Court case regarding the state's parental notification law, Owen ruled to make it more difficult for minors to win judicial approval for an abortion without notifying their parents.

According to a report in the Associated Press, Owen was born in 1954 in Palacios, Texas, a small fishing and agriculture community on the Gulf of Mexico between Houston and Corpus Christi. Her father died of polio when she was 10 months old. Her mother remarried when she was 5, and they relocated to Waco, where her mother, two sisters and a brother still live. Her stepfather died in 1983.

She graduated at the top of her law school class at Baylor University in 1977. She had the highest score among those taking the bar exam, and began at the Houston law firm Andrews Kurth in 1978. She became partner in 1985. Her expertise was in oil and gas litigation.

According to the the Associated Press, court associates describe Owen as hardworking and analytical. Her opinions are personally written, and she heavily edits the drafts her staff writes.

Owen lives alone in Austin, where her life revolves around her job, caring for her mother and her dog. She serves on the board of Texas Hearing & Service Dogs, a group that rescues dogs and trains them to help people with hearing and mobility impairments.

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Church teaching on homosexuality causes hope for some, derision for others

Detroit, Mich., May 25, 2005 (CNA) - Two very different groups, which offer support for homosexuals in the Church are planning their first conferences since the election of Pope Benedict XVI.

On July 7th through 10th, the group, Dignity, will hold their 17th annual convention in Philadelphia, PA.

The group, which is highly frowned upon by the Catholic Church, believes that those with same-sex attractions should be permitted to physically express those attractions while remaining in the full sacramental life of the Church.

Church teaching holds however, that while the disposition toward homosexuality is not in itself sinful, that acting upon it is.

Pope Benedict now, and in his former position as Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which helps to safeguard authentic Church teaching, has been a staunch critic of groups like Dignity, who ignore the Church’s long-held teaching.

Sam Sinnett, Detroit’s president of Dignity, said recently that the Church’s opposition to the practice of homosexuality has been "incredibly damaging."

"That damage to people”, he said, “is what motivates so many of us in Dignity to be an alternative voice. I know I needed people who were comfortable putting the two words together -- 'gay' and 'Catholic.’”

Dignity also makes clear that it stands against the Church’s teaching on married priests, women priests and remarriage without annulment.

Worlds apart

Alternately, another nationwide group, Courage, is gearing up for their own conference to be held August 11th-14th in Douglaston, New York.

Fully endorsed by the Holy See, Courage is a group dedicated to helping those with same-sex attractions, to live lives in what they describe as “fellowship, truth and love.”

Cardinal Terrance Cooke, former Archbishop of New York, who founded the group, believed “that the individual dealing with same-sex attractions truly needed to experience the freedom of living chastely and in that freedom find the desire and growth steps necessary to live fully Christian lives in communion with God and others.”

The group says, “He was concerned that many would not find this path and would be constantly trying to get their needs met in ways that ultimately do not satisfy the desires of the heart.”

According to their website, Courage says that, “In helping individuals gain a greater understanding and appreciation for the Church's teachings, Courage extends the Church's invitation to experience the freedom of chaste living.  In chaste living, one finds greater freedom, peace and grace to grow in Christian maturity.”

As states across the country currently debate the legality and constitutionality of same-sex marriages, and as Pope Benedict recently spoke out against new laws in Spain permitting the unions—even going so far as to urge Catholic clerks to disobey them, lines have clearly been drawn in the sand.

While seemingly similar and perhaps confusing to those who don’t know Dignity and Courage well, one thing is clear—convention halls in Philadelphia and Douglaston will be two very different places come this summer.

More information on the Courage conference may be found at:

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Los Angeles Times writer spews hate toward the Church, says Catholic League president

, May 25, 2005 (CNA) - Los Angeles Times op-ed writer Robert Scheer has distorted the truth about the Catholic Church and homosexuals, says Catholic League president William Donohue.

In his recent column, Scheer says the Catholic Church is “one of the most sexually repressed institutions in human history” that is responsible for a “horrific drumbeat of child molestation revelations” led by a new Pope who is “a longtime leader of vicious church attacks on ‘evil’ gays.” Scheer also accuses Pope Benedict XVI of scapegoating the media.

“Scheer is wrong on all counts,” says Donohue.

“It is not the Catholic Church’s emphasis on sexual reticence that gave us the scandal, it was morally delinquent priests who jettisoned the Church’s teachings on sexuality,” he says.

Regarding child molestation, Donohue points out that 81 percent of the victims were male, and the majority was postpubescent. He also said 100 percent of the abusers were male, “thus making this a homosexual scandal, not a pedophilia scandal.”

Donohue also corrects Scheer’s statement that the Pope had said that homosexuals are evil. “What the Pope said when he was a cardinal is that homosexual behavior is ‘intrinsically evil,’ thus reiterating Church teaching,” states Donohue.

Donohue adds that the Church’s position on homosexuality is shared by the world’s major religions, such as Judaism and Islam.

“Not only has the Pope not scapegoated the media, but as recently as Good Friday he drew attention to the ‘filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely’ to God,” Donohue says.

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Pittsburgh honors volunteer catechists

Pittsburgh, Pa., May 25, 2005 (CNA) - The Diocese of Pittsburgh will honor 2,100 volunteer religious educators at a convocation Thursday at the David Lawrence Convention Center. They complete a two-year certification program, based on The Catechism of the Catholic Church. About 6,000 volunteers teach 53,000 students in grades K-12 throughout the diocese.

Diane Kirk, diocesan director for religious education, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that if there weren’t volunteer catechists, spreading the faith would be very difficult.

About 75 percent of all dioceses have an adequate training program for catechists, but Pittsburgh is one of the best, Fr. Daniel Kutys, deputy secretary for catechetics at the U.S. bishops' conference, told the newspaper.

He said the U.S. bishops see Bishop Wuerl “as one of the real leaders of catechesis in this country.”

Pittsburgh is the first diocese in the nation to conduct and complete on-site evaluations of religious education programs at all 215 parishes. The diocese also developed take-home guides for parents and other initiatives to help the teachers.

The program is also successful in that is provides ongoing faith formation for catechists as well.

"I'm 65, but I'm still learning about my faith," volunteer catechist Tony Fonseca told the Post-Gazette.

The retired research scientist teaches seventh and eighth graders during at St. John Capistran School, which holds the catechism class at 7:40 a.m. weekdays. The class begins with bagels and orange juice.

"The world is not a very virtuous place. These students are going to have a hard time dealing with how to integrate their religious beliefs with their daily life. They need to know what their religious beliefs are, and why they are there," he said.

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3,000 attend Eucharistic procession in Connecticut

Danbury, Conn., May 25, 2005 (CNA) - Over 3,000 faithful braved a steady downpour of rain on Sunday to process with the Blessed Sacrament through the streets of Danbury Connecticut.

Led by Bishop William E. Lori of the Diocese of Bridgeport, parishioners from seven local churches gathered to celebrate the Year of the Eucharist, declared by the late John Paul II before his death.

Bishop Lori, speaking briefly because of the foul weather, challenged attendees to be “missionaries of the Eucharist” and to carry the Word of God back to their families and workplaces.

The Danbury News Times quoted Mayor Mark Boughton, who called the event "a wonderful testament to the faith of our community.''

Father Tomi Thomas of St. Peter’s parish organized the procession and said that despite the rain, he was very pleased with the turnout—more than three times what was expected.

Parishioner Robert Arconti told the News-Times, "It's an exciting event for us. Since we believe that the Eucharist is the body of Christ, this is our celebration.''

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Archbishop Foley to speak to U.S. groups on the Church and mass communication

Orlando, Fla., May 25, 2005 (CNA) - Earlier today, Archbishop John Foley, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Social Communications spoke at a joint meeting of the Catholic Press Association of the U.S. and Canada and the Catholic Academy of Communications Arts Professionals, where he spoke on the role of the Church in mass communication.

At the meeting, held in Orlando, Florida, the Archbishop spoke on the topic, "Keeping 5,000 Communicators Happy"

The Vatican announced today that Archbishop Foley would address the Catholic Press Association in Orlando on two more occasions during his visit.

He will speak tomorrow at a breakfast for Catholic News Service, and on Friday, will deliver the homily at the press association’s memorial Mass.

The archbishop is also scheduled to travel to Philadelphia, and then to nearby Camden, New Jersey, where he will deliver addresses on June 1st, 2nd and 3rd.

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Pope's death inspires would-be priests in England

London, England, May 25, 2005 (CNA) - The death of Pope John Paul II sparked inquiries about the priesthood among young Catholics in the United Kingdom, and the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales plan to ride this wave of interest and launch a national ad campaign for the priesthood.

Web site inquiries about the priesthood and other religious orders more than doubled to 846 last month, reported the London Telegraph.

This is the first such large-scale advertising campaign for the British bishops’ conference.

The advertising campaign, "Get collared for the challenge of a lifetime", will run on the London Underground during the summer, and could extend across the country.

The ad campaign will also go to the 18-to-30s festival in Birmingham next year. The festival is organized by Catholic Youth Services. Its director, Helen Bardy, said: "We want to reach out to young people in the fantastic way that Pope John Paul II did, at a time when feeling about his teaching is strong."

"Previously we have only advertised within the Church,” said Fr Paul Embery, director of the bishops’ National Office for Vocation. “By taking the campaign into other areas of young people's lives, we are hoping it will give them something to think about and keep the interest high."

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Bishop mobilizing Paraguayans to defend life and family from proposed law

Asunción, Paraguay, May 25, 2005 (CNA) - As debate looms in the Paraguayan Congress over a new law that would open the door to abortion and homosexual “marriages,” Archbishop Pastor Cuquejo of Asuncion is calling on the faithful to gather outside the Cathedral on Wednesday to protest in defense of life and the family.

The proposed bill, which is set to be debated on Thursday, would allow for abortion in cases of rape.

The bill passed unnoticed last December in the Paraguayan Senate but was uncovered recently by Focus on the Family.

Experts warn passage of the bill would be dangerous, as an alleged rape would not have to be confirmed before the female victim could obtain an abortion.  In addition, minors would not be required to notify their parents before getting an abortion.

On the other hand, pro-family leaders point out that the bill’s ambiguous language, including such terms as “gender discrimination and violence” and “sexual choice,” would allow for future approval of homosexual “marriage.” 

The bill would also authorize the State to sign agreements with feminist and pro-abortion NGO’s that would monitor implementation of the measure.

Conscientious objection on the part of government officials and health care workers would be prohibited, with sanctions against those who refuse to carry out abortions.

Archbishop Cuquejo called on all Paraguayans to publicly protest the proposed law, which he said constituted an attack on life and marriage.

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Church will never approve the deliberate taking of human life, says Mexican cardinal

Mexico City, Mexico, May 25, 2005 (CNA) - Commenting on a bill sponsored by Mexico’s Democratic Revolution Party which would legalize euthanasia in the country, the Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, said the Church will always oppose the killing of human life.

“Homicide and suicide will always be against God’s will, because we are not the absolute owners of our lives and nobody is allowed to deliberately act to the take the life of another person,” the cardinal maintained.

“All human beings have the right to live from the time they are in the maternal womb until their very last days,” he added, underscoring that, “The Church is not opposed to debate nor to opinions, but she will always make known her principles and what the will of God is regarding human life.”

The cardinal’s comments were published by the Archdiocesan newspaper, Desde la fe.

The paper points out that despite the right to life guaranteed by the Mexican Constitution, “aberrant proposals that openly contradict this right to decriminalize or supposedly guarantee ‘the right’ to commit homicide, as in the case of abortion and euthanasia, are popping up today.”

The attempt to legalize these attacks against life, the paper warns, is being done with the support of “fierce ideological campaigns for public opinion” and under the guise of scientific and human rights advancement.

“Freedom that is not accompanied by the truth and by the good,” states the paper, “perishes and becomes self-destructive.  This is reflected in the most recent case in Mexico of representatives of a certain political party seeking to legalize euthanasia.”

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