Washington D.C., Jun 29, 2005 (CNA) - U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops president, Bishop William Skylstad, urged President George Bush and world leaders in a letter yesterday, to tackle key social issues at next week’s G8 Summit.
The letter, written on behalf of the USCCB asked the president to “take bold action on global poverty, international trade, climate change and the arms trade.”
The Summit, which will gather the leaders of the 8 most powerful nations in the world, is scheduled to be held July 6-8 in Gleneagles, Scotland.
Among the specific issues mentioned by Bishop Skylstad was that of the impoverished and violent state of much of Africa.
He wrote that the U.S. Bishops “would encourage the G8 to strengthen peacekeeping efforts in countries affected by conflict as well as support peace building and reconstruction efforts in countries emerging from conflict.”
“Also,” he said, “a substantial number of African countries have been working to introduce reforms in basic education. A G8 commitment to intensify efforts to bring a quality basic education within the reach of all African children would make an enormous difference to the future of the people of Africa.”
The letter called for debt relief for severely impoverished nations, serious attention to climate change and concrete steps towards weapons proliferation.
“The G8 Summit”, the bishop wrote, “will explore many issues of critical importance to human life and dignity. We pray that your meeting will be blessed by a spirit of collaboration that enables the G8 leaders to advance the universal common good by adopting concrete measures of global poverty, trade, climate change and the arms trade.”
Ottawa, Canada, Jun 29, 2005 (CNA) - After more than two years of debate, Canada’s controversial same-sex marriage legislation was passed last night by a 25-vote margin in the House of Commons.
The bill redefines marriage as “the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others” to “the union of two persons to the exclusion of all others.”
The bill also includes protection to churches and other religious groups, stating that they have the right “to refuse to perform a marriage that is not in accordance with their religious beliefs.”
But some legal experts and the Canadian bishops have already expressed their belief that such amendments are not sufficient to protect religious groups.
Most of the Liberals, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP voted for the bill. The Conservatives and some Liberal backbenchers voted against it.
Hours before the vote, Minister of State Joe Comuzzi, responsible for Northern Ontario, surprised the House by resigning from cabinet so he could vote against the bill. While the bill was put to a free vote, Prime Minister Paul Martin’s cabinet was obliged to support it.
”In 2004, during the election, I promised faithfully to the people of Thunder Bay-Superior North, that I would defend the definition of marriage," Comuzzi explained.
After the vote, Prime Minister Paul Martin told reporters: "We're a nation of minorities and in a nation of minorities you don't cherry-pick rights. A right is a right."
The bill is not law yet. It will now go to the Senate for more debate. But it is expected to pass the Senate and receive the Governor General’s royal assent by mid-July. Once it officially becomes legislation, Canada will be the third country, after the Netherlands and Belgium, to give same-sex marriage legal status.
But the passage of the bill in no way means that Canadians agree with same-sex marriage or have stopped the debate, say Conservatives.
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper says his party will revisit the law if the Conservatives win the next election. He told reporters that same-sex marriage would be a definite issue in the next election.
In related news, four homosexual couples were married yesterday at Toronto City Hall. City Hall officials say a good number of homosexual couples who have already been legally married there in the last year are American.
Washington D.C., Jun 29, 2005 (CNA) - The United States bishops have called upon the international community to pressure the government of Zimbabwe to cease brutal treatment of its people.
They have also called upon Zimbabwean authorities to provide the people with urgently needed shelter and food, to facilitate the efforts of humanitarian organizations in these endeavors, and to fully restore the people’s property.
In a statement, dated June 24, the bishops expressed concern over the wholesale destruction of homes and businesses of ordinary people by Zimbabwean authorities in the recent so-called “Operation Restore Order.”
The statement was written by Bishop John Ricard, SSJ, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Policy.
In his statement of solidarity with the bishops of Zimbabwe, Bishop Ricard noted with approval the reported decision of the United Nations to send a special envoy to investigate the situation arising from “Operation Restore Order.”
“We stand in solidarity with the bishops of Zimbabwe in their emphasis of the dignity of the human person that was so crassly violated by the violent conduct of ‘Operation Restore Order,’” he wrote.
“The violence that resulted in the denial of food and shelter is a perversion of governmental authority, since the common good is the reason that political authority exists,” the statement read.
For the full statement, go to the USCCB Web site. www.usccb.org
Edmonton, Canada, Jun 29, 2005 (CNA) - Canadian Parliament may have voted to pass the controversial same-sex marriage bill, but the debate is far from over in many parts of Canada where people do not agree with the redefinition of marriage.
Alberta Premier Ralph Klein said Tuesday evening that his province might just get out of the marriage business and get rid of the provincial Marriage Act, leaving marriage to the churches. He spoke with reporters after the federal government passed bill C-38. He said his government would discuss the idea today.
During the last two years of debate on marriage, the Western province has consistently stated its opposition to the bill. It is one of only two provinces that do not recognize same-sex unions.
Washington D.C., Jun 29, 2005 (CNA) - Issues surrounding marriage and family life have elicited passionate dialogue and public debate recently, and the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Marriage and Family Life is hoping dioceses nationwide will take up the dialogue as well and hold focus groups on these issues this year. It’s all part of a multi-year initiative, whose goal is “to strengthen marriage as a human institution and as a sacramental reality.”
The U.S. bishops undertook the National Pastoral Initiative on Marriage last fall. Bishop Kevin Boland of Savannah said the marriage and family-life committee will sponsor these focus groups around the country in order to solicit input from persons concerned about marriage issues.
The committee chairperson issued a special invitation to married couples to participate. The focus groups would gather six to 10 people to discuss a number of questions, such as: what are one or two things that are most positive about your marriage at this stage? What is the biggest challenge that you are now facing? How has Church teaching on marriage been a support for you? If you have encountered difficulties with certain aspects of Church teaching on marriage, how have you dealt with them? What can your diocese or parish do to support married couples?
In a survey conducted earlier this year, more than 100 bishops identified their highest pastoral priorities regarding marriage. They included: sacramentality of marriage, commitment within marriage, marriage preparation and education, marital spirituality, and marriage as a vocation.
The centerpiece of the national initiative will be a pastoral letter on marriage, emphasizing the bishops’ teaching and their responsibilities as pastors. Dioceses that would like to conduct focus groups should communicate this to the committee by mid-July.
The deadline to submit a report on the focus groups is Dec. 31.
Madrid, Spain, Jun 29, 2005 (CNA) - During the celebration of the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, the Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco, noted the importance the Successor to St Peter’s service has meant to the international community in recent history.
“The symbol of the Pope,” he said, “in the 19th and 20th centuries resulted in the Church becoming missionary, bringing the Gospel to the far corners of the world.”
Thus, “the history of the international community in the 20th century cannot be understood without the service of the Successor to St. Peter,” the cardinal said during the vigil Mass for the solemnity.
"We must keep in mind the historical memory of the last two centuries,” the cardinal continued, “of how the memory of Peter has grown in significance both inside and outside the Church."
Recalling himself some of this history, Cardinal Rouco noted that “on the eve of the election of Pope Pius VIII, certain radical and secular publications announced the end of the papacy; the conclave did not take place in Rome, but rather clandestinely in Venice, at a time in which the Church was isolated and persecuted.”
Nevertheless, the cardinal explained, “the Pope was never more venerated in the history of the Church than starting from that time. The love of the faithful began to grow.”
John Paul II and Benedict XVI
“The funeral of John Paul II and the first steps in the Petrine ministry of Benedict XVI make it clear: [the papacy] is a moral point of reference and of unity for all Christians,” Cardinal Rouco maintained.
“In this context, we remember the Pope today,” he said, underscoring that today “more than ever” the Pope needs our prayers, “so that he will be an excellent witness to the truth, that it may be lived and shared by all Christians, that we may not forget that we are consecrated by our baptism and filled with light.”
Washington D.C., Jun 29, 2005 (CNA) - In light of yesterday’s decision by the Canadian government to legalize same-sex marriage throughout the country, a prominent Catholic analyst is warning that similar laws being debated in the U.S. and the so-called “hate crime” laws which preceded them threaten to undermine the family and the Church.
Deal Hudson, former editor of ‘Crisis’ magazine, wrote in the on-line magazine, ‘The Window’ Monday, that the situation was becoming so volatile in Canada that “Catholic priests…are on the verge of being arrested for not marrying homosexuals.”
Citing numerous examples of Christians under fire for their stance against homosexuality, he wrote that, “You don't have to commit an act of violence in Canada to be guilty of a hate crime. You only have to be guilty of publicly inciting hatred (Section 319). The law states further that if you make statements in a public place which incite hatred against an identifiable group in such a way that there will likely be a breach of the peace, you can be arrested.”
Hudson warns that the U.S. may not be far behind, and explores possible ramifications of new hate crimes legislation introduced into the House and Senate this year.
Seeking to alter the 1968 U.S. hate crimes laws, which cover only acts of violence, he says that “the new bill, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Act of 2005 (H.R. 2662), introduced by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) in the Senate and Rep John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) in the House, adds sexual orientation, gender and disability to the categories covered under the existing law.
“Thus far,” Hudson wrote, “religious groups have succeeded in rallying Congress to defeat these potential threats to expressions of religious faith. But this new bill claims to have solved the problem.”
He notes that the bill “has even received the good housekeeping seal of approval from the ACLU,” citing ACLU legislative counsel, Christopher E. Anders, who said recently; "This carefully crafted measure shows that you can prosecute hate crimes without attacking freedom of expression.”
Quoting a subsection of the new bill however, Hudson notes that while it basically states: “whatever a defendant has said, or whatever groups he has belonged to, cannot be presented as evidence in a trial,” it contains a built-in qualification which could prove destructive.
This qualification applies, he says, “Unless the evidence specifically relates to that offense then both expression and association can be brought to bear on the case of a hate crime. Judges will decide what evidence is relevant.”
Hudson doesn’t think it will take much to convince the public that this bill is a bad idea. “All it would take”, he says, “is a judge deciding that Catholic teaching on homosexuality is necessarily relevant as evidence in the trial of any practicing Catholic who commits a hate crime. The precedent would be set until overturned or confirmed on appeal.”
For those who don’t think the kind of religious hostility that Canada is facing could happen here, Hudson points to this weeks confusing Supreme Court Ten Commandments ruling.
He quotes Justice Antonin Scalia on this point who, “in his dissent said the ruling was not grounded in a "consistently applied principle," and challenged the majority to consider "what distinguishes the rule of law from the dictatorship of a shifting Supreme Court majority.…”
“This kind of decision”, Hudson wrote, “could provide a federal precedent for the kind of actions now being prosecuted in Canada's Human Rights Tribunals and its hate crimes units.”
, Jun 29, 2005 (CNA) - In a letter written last week to members of the House Armed Forces Military Personnel Subcommittee, which met yesterday to discuss the controversy over religious climate at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Catholic League President Bill Donahue called charges of Christian favoritism unfounded and biased.
A report released on June 22nd, concluded an investigation into the religious climate of the Academy following numerous reports of discrimination against non-Christians.
The investigation found that while their were no signs of malicious intent on the whole, an atmosphere of Christian favoritism did exist.
Donahue wrote that, “What I found most disturbing is what the media are not reporting: the fact that the most-often cited examples of bias against non-Christians do not constitute bias at all; the fact that the Academy now risks becoming a place that is inhospitable to religious expression; and the fact that many Christian cadets and officers believe that an anti-Christian environment now exists.“
Among other examples, he noted that “the [investigators] objected to a Protestant minister at a Protestant service asking Protestant cadets to chant, ‘This is our chapel and the Lord is our God,’ proves beyond a doubt the rank bigotry of this group.”
“To make such a charge”, he said, “fully discredits anything these individuals have to say about any alleged religious bias.”
Donahue, who was honorably discharged from the Air Force in 1970, asked the members of the subcommittee not to be “bullied by those who would have you believe that the Air Force Academy is in need of drastic reform.”
Madrid, Spain, Jun 29, 2005 (CNA) - The bishops of Spain have expressed their satisfaction at the publication of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, presented by Pope Benedict XVI this Tuesday at the Vatican, and they encouraged its use, not isolated from but in conjunction with the full Catechism approved by John Paul II in 1992.
In a statement issued by the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, the director of the Secretariat of the bishops’ Subcommittee on Catechesis, Juan Ignacio Rodriguez, said, “The text will fulfill its purpose if it is not used independently of the Catechism itself. This is not something isolated; rather it acquires meaning based on the very structure of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and in complete relation to its contents.”
The statement reiterates the responsibility of all believers in the catechetical mission of the Church, but it makes particular mention of the importance that catechists “have a deep knowledge of the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” and that this Compendium will provide them with another instrument to accomplish this goal.
The Holy Father presented the new Compendium during a ceremony in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican. “It is not a new Catechism, but rather a Compendium that faithfully reflects the Catechism of the Catholic Church” and “maintains all of its authority and importance intact,” he said.
Likewise during the ceremony, Archbishop Angelo Amato, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, clarified that the Compendium “is not an autonomous work and is not intended in any way to be a substitute for the Catechism of the Catholic Church.” He noted the Compendium contains detailed references to the Catechism and follows its same structure and layout.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jun 29, 2005 (CNA) - In a statement released this week, Bishop Jorge Luis Lona of San Luis, Argentina, denounced a local proposal that would allow for the use of public resources to promote surgical sterilizations.
Bishop Lona noted in his statement that sterilization is a form of contraception that is “practically irreversible” and is a form of mutilation. Reversal is successful in only a small number of cases, he maintained.
He warned that “real experience” indicate that those who would undergo such a procedure would be mostly young, poor women who have few children, and not those who have many, as promoters wish people to believe.
The bishop also called the plan part of “an injustice called ‘eugenics,’ in which the supposedly ‘least apt’ lose the possibility of procreating.” He added that women would suffer more under the plan because men are more resistant to the idea of getting sterilized.
Bishop Lona noted that the measure would violate Argentina’s penal code, which punishes any action that “deprives the capacity to engender or conceive.” Nor would the measure allow for conscientious objection, thus forcing doctors “to commit a crime.”
Pope John Paul II’s prophetic encyclical Evangelium Vitae, the bishop continued, warned about “what is occurring today in our country and in our province,” where people’s lives are being threatened “by the influx of vast world powers” that are promoting and imposing anti-life family planning methods because of a supposed threat to their own countries by the growing populations of poor nations.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 29, 2005 (CNA) - The weekly newspaper of the Archdiocese of Mexico City, Desde la Fe (“From The Faith”), published an editorial this week calling on presidential candidates not to play with the hopes of the people by making unrealistic campaign promises that will only foster a growing despair that “could drag the country into unwanted and destructive violence.”
The editorial denounced the poverty, insecurity and corruption that permeate Mexican society “like a cancer” and have left people with a sense of hopelessness in their leaders, especially because of the “immoral display of impossible promises” that candidates know, “more than anybody else, cannot be kept.”
The paper also pointed out how common it is for politicians to engage in deception and lies in order to attain power, and once elected, they do nothing for the common good and development of society.
Likewise it said the amount of money spent by political parties on campaigning is “excessive and offensive,” as the health and education of the people is sacrificed for political interests.
The editorial called on leaders to be “sensitive to the pressing needs of poorest and those most vulnerable,” and it exhorted the faithful to be “critical and active” during the coming elections.
Vatican City, Jun 29, 2005 (CNA) - Earlier today, Pope Benedict XVI bestowed the sacred pallium to the Vatican Secretary of State, Card. Angelo Sodano, and other 32 catholic archbishops urging them to work with him for the growth of the Body of Christ, avoiding false autonomies.
After a profound reflection on the catholicity and the unity of the Church, the Holy Father raised the issue of the apostolicity, reminding the honored Archbishops that the pallium, which was placed beside the tomb of Peter, is an expression of their common responsibility and apostolic mission.
The pallium is the symbol of a metropolitan archbishop. It is a circular band about two inches wide made of white lamb’s wool, worn by all metropolitan archbishops and the Pope. It is commonly decorated with five black crosses and worn over the bishop’s vestments about the neck and shoulders. It has two pendants, one hangs down in front, the other down the back.
Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, Pope John Paul II's longtime private secretary who was named archbishop of Krakow, Poland, earlier this month, was among the group of newly appointed archbishops. Applause rang out when he went up to receive the pallium from the pope.
Archbishops José Gomez of San Antonio, and Joseph Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston, were also among the group of prelates receiving the pallium.
Archbishop Fiorenza was named the first archbishop of the newly formed Galveston-Houston archdiocese in December, having already served as bishop since 1985. Pope John Paul II established the ecclesiastical province of Galveston-Houston Dec. 29, 2004 and raised it to the status of a metropolitan archdiocese simultaneously.
In concluding, Pope Benedict reminded the prelates that the aim of all their functions and ministries is for all to reach unity in Faith and true knowledge of the Son of God, so that the Body of Christ may build itself in the charity.
Ottawa, Canada, Jun 29, 2005 (CNA) - The passage of Canada’s same-sex marriage bill in the House of Commons yesterday is an indication “that Canadians are witnessing a dangerous deterioration of their communal values,” said the president of the Canadian bishops’ conference.
In a statement released last night, Archbishop Brendan O’Brien said with the passage of the bill “Canadians take another unfortunate step toward eliminating civil and social recognition and appreciation for the unique importance of the committed relationship of a man and a woman in marriage.”
The passage of the bill, he said, puts the future of marriage and the irreplaceable role of a husband and wife in conceiving and raising children at risk.
Bill C-38 was passed by a vote of 158-133 Tuesday evening. The Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc Québécois largely supported the bill, leaving only the Conservatives and some Liberal backbenchers voting against it.
Archbishop O’Brien commented on the “political manoeuvering” that took place in order to ram the legislation through quickly. He said it was “particularly troubling to note the continued refusal by certain political parties and their leaders to recognize and respect freedom of conscience and religion.”
Bill C-38 was put to a free vote. However, this did not apply to Prime Minister Paul Martin’s cabinet ministers, who were required to vote in favor of the bill. Unable to vote for the bill, Minister of State Joe Comuzzi resigned from cabinet earlier yesterday.
NDP Leader Jack Layton also instructed all members of his party to vote according to the party line.
“Members of Parliament were forced to follow a political deadline and to vote along party lines on an issue which deeply divides and troubles Canadians,” said Archbishop O’Brien. The archbishop called this political hardball “an ominous sign” of what can be expected in future debates on the application of bill C-38 with regard to human rights legislation, the solemnization of marriage, and school policies on moral and social questions.
He also said the amendments to bill C-38 are not enough to “diminish significant concerns about protecting freedom of conscience and religion.”
While the House passed the bill, it is not yet law. It will now move to the Senate. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is urging the Senate to give the proposed legislation “prudent consideration” and to order public hearings on the matter.
For the full statement, go to www.cccb.ca