Archive of June 17, 2005

USCCB approves budget for new study on causes of sexual abuse

Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2005 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops decided Friday to approve a $1-million budget for new research on the "Causes and Context Study" of the sex-abuse scandal.

However, the committee warned that the total cost could only be estimated until the scope and parameters of the study are determined. The estimates to date are between $2 million and $5 million.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Francis George said, homosexual men should not be admitted into seminaries.

The archbishop of Chicago and vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said in light of the sexual abuse crisis, bishops are paying closer attention to the sexual backgrounds of men interested in entering the priesthood. Part of the commitment is that a man is celibate when he enters the seminary.

"Also, anyone who has been part of a gay subculture or who has lived promiscuously as a heterosexual would not be admitted ... no matter how many years in his background that might have occurred," the cardinal said.

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Bishops to issue document on death penalty

Chicago, Ill., Jun 17, 2005 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops have voted to draft a document stating Catholic doctrine regarding the death penalty.

During the spring meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) at the Fairmont Hotel in Chicago, the bishops voted to draft a document that will address the issue of the death penalty. The document will probably be voted on and released in November, during the fall meeting of the USCCB.

According to a bishop who spoke with the Catholic News Agency, the document "will basically state the Catholic doctrine about the death penalty as expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states that, even if a Catholic can still be in favor of the death penalty, it is very hard to humanly justify it in our country."

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in number 2267 that "the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.”

Nevertheless, it also says that if non-lethal means "are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person."

Currently, 29 states in the U.S. have a moratorium on executions or have carried out three or fewer executions in the last 30 years.

Only nine states have averaged one execution per year since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, and only four states — Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma, and Missouri — have averaged two or more executions per year during that time. Texas has averaged four or more executions per year in the past three decades.

Kansas, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and South Dakota have had no executions in the past 30 years, even though they have had the death penalty during at least part of that time.

Twelve states do not have the death penalty.

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Pregnant woman kept on life support to save baby

Arlington, Va., Jun 17, 2005 (CNA) - A Catholic man has committed to keeping his 26-year-old pregnant wife alive on life support in hopes that their baby will survive.

Susan Torres, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health, suffered a debilitating stroke May 7 due to an undiagnosed brain tumor. Doctors told her husband, Jason Torres, that Susan's brain functions have stopped, but the baby, at 21-weeks gestation, seems to be thriving.

Susan had been treated for melanoma as a teenager and had been cancer-free for nearly nine years. On May 7, Torres learned that the cancer had attacked Susan’s brain.

If Susan can live another month, and the cancer stays away from her uterus, the baby could be delivered and have a chance at life, Torres told USA Today. He says he has no doubt that this is what his wife would have wanted.

Torres told USA Today that he hopes Susan and the baby will reach the 30-week mark, when the baby can be delivered with few health risks and have a very good chance at survival. The minimal target, however, is 25 weeks gestation, when babies can survive but with a heightened risk of brain damage and other problems.

Torres, a faithful Catholic, is garnering his strength from his relationship with God, his family and his faith community, but he admits to to being angry with God during this difficult time.

The 26-year-old commercial printing salesman has quit his job so that he can be by his wife’s bedside full time. Torres told USA Today that after the baby is born, Susan will receive last rites, and she will be allowed to die.

The couple met during their studies at the University of Dallas, a Catholic liberal arts college. Susan became a Catholic during their senior year, and they were married in May 2002, one year after graduation. They have a two-year-old, Peter.

USA Today reported that since 1977, at least nine comatose women have given birth in the United States.

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Debate over gay-friendly books in public libraries rages in southern US

, Jun 17, 2005 (CNA) - Public libraries in southern U.S. states have begun stocking gay-friendly books, and this has launched intense debate in local communities.

Louisiana State Rep. A.G. Crowe (R—Slidell) recently wrote a resolution urging librarians to keep books with gay-friendly content away from kids. According to an article by Jake Tapper and Clayton Sandell, Crowe took action after one parent complained when his child brought home a copy of "King & King" from the local library.

The book for preschoolers, published by San Francisco's Ten Speed Press, is about a prince who falls in love with another prince.

"When a book of a very bizarre nature, a very offensive nature, is found in a library in an area that would be considered very conservative, this tends to raise some eyebrows," Crowe told ABC News. "It certainly goes against our family values that we so treasure here in Louisiana."

Many parents have voiced their disapproval about these books being made publicly available to children.

The states of Arkansas, Alabama and Oklahoma are experiencing similar issues and have debated laws restricting access to gay-friendly books in libraries and other public venues.

Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern, a Republican from Oklahoma City, proposed a bill earlier this year that calls on Oklahoma libraries to "confine homosexually themed books and other age-inappropriate material to areas exclusively for adult access and distribution."

"It is a book written for children, but it deals with what I consider to be an adult theme," she said. Kern's bill was passed in May.

The debate has now reached the national level. Last month, Rep. Walter Jones (R—N.C.) proposed federal legislation that would require states to form local parental advisory boards to weigh in on all new library books and non-textbook school books or risk losing federal funding.

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Vatican to tackle growing problem of trafficking, sex trade

Vatican City, Jun 17, 2005 (CNA) - The Vatican will host its first international meeting to discuss the growing worldwide problem of the sex trade, namely human trafficking, sex tourism and prostitution.

Fides reported that the two-day International Meeting for the Pastoral Care of Women on the Streets will gather about 50 representatives of religious congregations, Church associations and bishops conferences, June 20-21. The delegates are from 24 countries in Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa.

The goal of the meeting, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants, is to foster co-operation and co-ordination among those working on the front line.

According to the International Organization for Migration, about 500,000 women from Eastern Europe are forced live in situations of slavery and prostitution in Western Europe. 

Migration, family and social deficiencies, economic difficulties and prevailing pan-sexuality are at the root of the international phenomenon, which every year involves one million women and children from developing countries.

In Thailand, an estimated 150,000-200,000 women are on the streets; of these 35,000 are under 18. In Italy, there are about 40,000 women in the sex trade, including 4,000 minors.

Council president Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao will open the two day meeting in Rome. The conference will feature a presentation by Mariette Grange of the International Catholic Commission on human trafficking of women and children for the sex trade. As well, Fr. Oreste Benzi, head of the Pope John XXIII Community Association will speak on “Pastoral care for redemption and liberation.”

Delegates will report on their various experiences in different countries. They will draft recommendations and proposals for pastoral care for women and children in the sex trade.

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International bishops show support, solidarity for pro-family march in Spain

Madrid, Spain, Jun 17, 2005 (CNA) - Bishops’ conferences around the world have voiced their support for the national pro-family demonstration scheduled to take place June 18 in Madrid and for the efforts of the Spanish bishops to protect marriage and the family.

Thousands of Catholics from across Spain are expected to gather for tomorrow’s demonstration, which is organized by the Spanish Family Forum and backed by the bishops.

The Spanish government has already stated its intention to legalize same-sex marriage and allow same-sex couples to adopt.

In an interview with Fides, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of the Mother of God archdiocese in Moscow described the situation in Spain, a country with an age-old Christian tradition, as “tragic.”

“What is at stake here is the family as God created it,” he said. “We must ask ourselves what sort of upbringing can be guaranteed to children who are denied the right to have a mother and a father? What will be the future of society ?

“We can never overestimate the important and determinant role of the mother in the education of children and, not least, in the handing on of the faith,” he continued.

The archbishop underlined the importance of collaborating with people of other faiths and Christian traditions to protect the family.

The Catholic bishops of Korea, Pakistan and Mongolia also voiced their full support for the bishops and the demonstration.

“I can assure the Church in Spain our prayers and our support,” said Bishop Wenceslao Padilla, Apostolic Prefect of Ulan Bator, Mongolia.

“We are in full spiritual communion with the Church in Spain in this most important campaign to protect the fundamental values of life and the family” said Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha, president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Pakistan.

The message issued by the Korean bishops read: “We, the Church in Korea, are with you as you strive to defend moral and social values in your country.”

The Korean bishops also welcomed the outcome of the recent referendum in Italy, saying it gave Catholics new courage to protect human life from conception to natural end.

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Kiev patriarch says Orthodox Church and Vatican should work together

Kiev, Ukraine, Jun 17, 2005 (CNA) - The Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches much in common and should cooperate more in teaching about the importance of the family and moral values, said Patriarch Filaret, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church's Kiev Patriarchate.

"We don't need to be afraid of Rome, or the Greek Catholics," he told the Associated Press in an interview Wednesday.

"Today the task and mission of Christian churches – Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant – is to support moral values and support spirituality and morality in European civilization," he reportedly said.

The patriarch had welcomed John Paul II in 2001, despite protest from the Russian Orthodox Church.

The patriarch does not believe unification of the two churches is realistic today, but it is “desirable” and greater cooperation is possible.

The Kiev patriarchate is independence from the Orthodox Church of Moscow. It has more than 2,700 congregations throughout Ukraine.

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Terminally ill patient thankful for cell phone call from Pope

Rome, Italy, Jun 17, 2005 (CNA) - A nun identified as Sister Maria Cristina became the first person to have a cell phone conversation with a Pope.  During Wednesday’s General Audience, Pope Benedict XVI granted a spontaneous request by a wheelchair-bound pilgrim to speak via cell phone with the nun who is suffering from cancer.

Sister Maria Cristina, 44, told reporters her illness requires her to remain at home and that therefore she had not been able to meet the new Pope.  “I have not been able to go to the Lord and the Lord has come to me.  To know that through His ministers God is close to me has been wonderful,” she said.

She added that hearing the voice of the Pope “was like a dream come true.  He asked me how I was and he told me to be at peace and that he would pray for me.  What surprised me was that he remembered my name and he called me Sister Maria Cristina as if we already knew each other.”

The cell phone conversation was engineered by Emilio Testa, who was in the first row at the Wednesday audience.  Testa explained that he knew Sister Maria Cristina had dreamed about being able to greet the Pope, and to the surprise of the Pontiff’s aides, he asked the Pope to pray for her and if he could talk to her over the phone. 

“The Pope immediately smiled and said yes, and he began to speak with Sister Maria,” Testa recalled.

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Cardinal Poupard calls for a faith-based response to culture issues of the day

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jun 17, 2005 (CNA) - The President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Cardinal Paul Poupard, exhorted participants of the II Meeting of Directors of Catholic Cultural Centers this week to come up with rational proposals under the light of the faith that respond to the questions which the world of culture presents to the men and women of today.

“The terrain of culture is decisive, thus the need to strengthen the capacity to rationally elaborate proposals under the light of the faith in response to the multiple questions that the different areas of knowledge and the important decisions of life present,” he said.

The cardinal said the men and women of today need to be shown the beauty of being a disciple of Christ.  He also called for the strengthening of campus ministries in order to “cultivate a healthy and critical rationality built upon the faith,” which will bring forth leaders willing to evangelize the political, economic and artistic life of nations, as well as scientific research and technological development.

Cardinal Poupard also called for giving priority to “the strengthening of Christian initiation of the baptized, especially among young people.”  The “exuberant popular devotion” that exists in Latin America should be tapped in order to achieve this, he said.

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Mexican bishops condemn drug-related violence affecting the country

Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 17, 2005 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Mexico is denouncing the wave of drug trafficking violence that has spread across the northeastern region of the country in recent weeks.

During a press conference, the Permanent Council of the Bishops’ Conference said that the security operations launched by the government are a response to the urgency of the situation, but that long-term solutions that address the roots of the problem are needed.  The bishops said the problem would continue to grow “unless the complicity between authorities and traffickers is not stopped.” 

Bishop Alonso Gerardo Garza Treviño of Piedras Negras noted the dangers of allowing Mexican society to be overrun by drug trafficking.  “Each one of us should take our place in society and be mature, because on this way can we Mexicans help to save our country,” he said.

The bishop acknowledged that in financial matters the country has already been overrun if one looks at the government proposals to combat this evil and at the methods of drug trafficking assassins.

The bishops of the Permanent Council pleaded forcefully with those involved in the drug business to repent and change their lives.  They also asked families and teachers to redouble their efforts to educate young people and business leaders, bank officials and society in general to denounce and reject drug trafficking and drug-related violence.

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