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Archive of August 2, 2005

Cardinal Keeler criticizes Frist’s support of embryonic stem-cell research

Washington D.C., Aug 2, 2005 (CNA) - Cardinal William Keeler, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee for Pro-life Activities, criticized Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s announcement July 29 that he will support federally funded embryonic stem-cell research.

The senator’s insistence that human embryos unwanted by their parents are owed ‘the same dignity and respect’ as children and adults, but may nevertheless be killed for research is “especially disturbing,” the cardinal said.

“Such destruction of innocent human life, even out of a desire to help others, rests on a utilitarian view that undermines human dignity and human respect,” he continued.

Cardinal Keeler said the analogy the senator offered with organ transplants “fails “because it would be gravely immoral as well as illegal to harvest any patient’s vital organs when he or she is still alive.”

He said the senator repeated misleading claims about the promise of embryonic stem cells. “No one even knows whether [embryonic stem cells] will ever provide a safe and reliable treatment for the conditions already being successfully treated using adult stem cells,” the cardinal stated.

“Neither sound ethics nor good government can rest on the principle that ‘the end justifies the means,’” the cardinal concluded.

He commended President George Bush for his laudable pledge to veto the legislation.

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Judge certifies all Catholics in Portland as defendants in bankruptcy case

, Aug 2, 2005 (CNA) - A bankruptcy judge decided last week that the 389,000 Catholics of the Archdiocese of Portland are officially part of the class of defendants in the archdiocese's bankruptcy case, reported the Associated Press.

Originally, only the archdiocese was named as a defendant in the case. Parishioners will receive a letter in mid-August informing them of Judge Elizabeth Perris’ decision. A two-month ad campaign in local newspapers will also alert parishioners of the decision.

In July 2004, the archdiocese filed for bankruptcy after victims of sexual abuse asked for hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation. Currently, there are 249 claims filed against the archdiocese, and plaintiffs are seeking more than $400 million in damages.

However, parishioners intend to argue in court that they own the $600 million in assets and property of the parishes, not the archdiocese, reported the AP.

If they lose the argument, then the assets of the 124 parishes and three Catholic high schools in Western Oregon could be sold or mortgaged to pay the alleged victims' claims. Individual parishioners will not be named, and would not be held liable.

But if they win, the plaintiffs may have to settle for less. The archdiocese has said it has only about $19 million to itself.

Three parishioners and three priests have volunteered to represent the class. All class members will be invited to attend a hearing Oct. 12 in front of Judge Perris in Portland, at which they can object to or ask questions about their class status.

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Barriers lifting between Catholics and Evangelicals, say researchers

Washington D.C., Aug 2, 2005 (CNA) - The relationship between Evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics has improved dramatically in the United States in recent decades, and increasingly these two groups have ever more in common both politically and spiritually.

A number of Evangelical and Catholic researchers and scholars have observed this phenomenon and written about it.

Richard Ostling of the Associated Press recently reported on these improved relations. Ostling presents a recent book by Wheaton College historian Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom, called “Is the Reformation Over? An Evangelical Assessment of Contemporary Roman Catholicism.”

While there are “quite serious differences” between these two groups, Noll told Ostling in an interview, these differences are not “life and death as they were regarded for at least four centuries.”

Noll reportedly said relations have improved due to the outcome of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), the 1973 pro-abortion ruling in Roe v Wade, and the papacy of John Paul II (1978-2005).

William Shea of the College of the Holy Cross told Ostling that the Evangelicals’ admiration for John Paul was “astounding” give their historical hatred for the papacy.

However, Shea, who authored “The Lion and the Lamb: Evangelicals and Catholics in America”, thinks most ongoing disagreements between the two groups stem from their radically different views of the church.

Whereas Evangelicals emphasize Scripture as the source of religious authority, Catholicism includes both Scripture and tradition as interpreted through the Church.

Ostling also cited Evangelical Michael Horton of Westminster Seminary California who said: “The perceived cultural collapse of the West has become such an overwhelming preoccupation of conservative Catholics and Protestants that just about anything and everything else is on the back burner.”

He also cited religious right activist Gary Bauer, who said last year: “When John F. Kennedy made his famous speech that the Vatican would not tell him what to do, evangelicals and Southern Baptists breathed a sign of relief. But today evangelicals and Southern Baptists are hoping that the Vatican will tell Catholic politicians what to do.”

This comment, argues Ostling, shows how far relations between these two groups—which combined make up more than half of all churchgoers in the U.S.—have come.

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Episcopal bishops file lawsuit in continuing battle over openly gay bishop

Boston, Mass., Aug 2, 2005 (CNA) - As debate continues to rage in the Episcopal church over the ordination of openly gay clergy and now same sex unions, nine U.S. Episcopal bishops plan to sue the bishop of Connecticut in a church court over his support of the practice and his attempted silencing of some who are against it.

Bishops from Kansas, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, Florida, Texas and South Carolina plan to sue Bishop Andrew Smith for what they call “conduct unbecoming a bishop” and for suspending one priest and threatening five others who opposed the recent ordination of Gene Robinson, the church’s first openly gay bishop.

The priests asked to be transferred to another diocese, which the church says it cannot do.

Robinson was ordained bishop of New Hampshire in 2003--an act which caused the Episcopal church, which is the American branch of the Anglican church, considerable criticism.

Smith was one of those who voted for Robinson during his election and now openly supports same-sex unions--yet another issue currently tearing apart the 77 million member worldwide Anglican church.

In a letter to Smith, the nine bishops said that, "We would prefer to find some way other than this deepening battle, but we refuse to allow this recent aggression to go unchecked or unchallenged."

Likewise, a spokesman for Pittsburgh’s Bishop Robert Duncan told the Reuters news agency that "We are all praying for a peaceful resolution to this.”

The bishops have also pledged to raise financial and legal support for the six priests at the center of the debate.

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Pennsylvania Senator accuses Kennedy, Kerry of ‘doing nothing’ about priestly sexual abuse scandal

Washington D.C., Aug 2, 2005 (CNA) - Pennsylvania’s Senator Rick Santorum blasted Massachusetts Senators Edward Kennedy and John Kerry Sunday for “doing nothing” about the priestly sexual abuse scandal which centered around Boston in 2002.

In an interview on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopolous Sunday, Santorum said that during the scandal, the height of which seemed to hit Boston around 2002, ''The senators from Massachusetts did nothing. They spoke nothing. They sat by and let this happen."

A front page headline from the May 6th, 2002 issue of the Boston Globe read, The Boston Globe on May 6, 2002, said that ''the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church has generated a startlingly unusual reaction: dead silence."

Santorum’s comments come in the wake of a recent article he wrote decrying the senators--both professed Catholics--and the negative political and cultural atmosphere which he says pervades Boston.

Following the article, observers say that Kennedy, Kerry and many of their supporters tried to twist Santorum’s words to make him sound like a “religious extremist.”

Deal Hudson, a Catholic analyst and former editor of Crisis magazine said recently that, “If Senator Kennedy is trying to say that Boston’s liberal environment does not influence culture and values, he’s ignoring the evidence of the many Catholic members of the Massachusetts legislature who spoke publicly in support of gay marriage and legalized the creation of human clones for scientific experimentation.”

A spokeswoman for Kerry responded to the remarks saying that, ''Senator Santorum's partisan, hate-filled comments do a disservice to the victims of abuse…He's never failed to inject politics into these deeply personal and trying issues for Catholics everywhere. He owes an apology to the families of abuse victims and to the faithful who fill the pews of Massachusetts churches every Sunday."

Hudson however, said that, “Santorum’s point is neither extreme nor fanatical: Culture affects values and influences action. His mention of Boston, almost in passing, could have been replaced by any number of cities, and perhaps American culture as a whole.”

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Catholic radio station launched in Ohio

Columbus, Ohio, Aug 2, 2005 (CNA) - Catholics in the Diocese of Columbus finally have Catholic radio. St. Gabriel Radio Inc., launched the region's first Catholic radio station Monday.

Marysville's WUCO-AM (1270) was formerly a country music station.

Its mission is to “to evangelize, to educate fellow Catholics about their faith and to teach people the truth," said St. Gabriel Radio president Chris Gabrelcik in a press release.

St. Gabriel Radio is based in Mt. Gilead and was established as a nonprofit corporation. It plans to build a studio in Lexington and is negotiating to lease a station in Columbus.

Organizers are working to raise $2 million in startup funding this year and intend to rely on listener donations in the second year.

Presently, the station relies on programming from Eternal World Television Network (EWTN). In the long term, it plans to expand its programming to include other sources and Spanish-language programs.

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Priest must be reflection of Christ, says bishop at international meeting

Mexico City, Mexico, Aug 2, 2005 (CNA) - Bishop Ramon Calderon Batres of Linares, Mexico, told reporters covering the V International Retreat for Priests in Monterrey that “the role of the priest is to make Christ manifest.”

Bishop Calderon said 1,300 priests from 27 countries participated in the gathering, which “offers the opportunity for us to reflect on our identity.”

“The role of the priest is make Christ manifest, such that we may be like a window which is unseen.  You can see the window only when it is dirty, but as long as it is clean you can see right through it, and what we want is for people to see Christ,” he said.

Several talks during the retreat were given by the Archbishop Emeritus of Loreto, Italy, Angelo Comastri, who spoke first on the need for priests to increase their awareness of being called.  Secondly, he spoke on the condition of priests in the service of the Church for building up the community.  Thirdly he spoke on how priests “should always reflect Christ, and Christ has a series of teachings regarding one’s neighbor, such as not rejecting anybody, and always having an open heart.” 

With regard to prayer in the life of a priest, Bishop Calderon noted, “The priest must be a man of prayer, full of the Holy Spirit.  Prayer opens the way for the spirit.  Every Christian must have a docility of spirit, the docility of spirit that you get through prayer.”

Bishop Calderon also shared a story about when Archbishop Comastri met Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.  “The first time he saw Mother Teresa of Calcutta, being a recently ordained priest, Mother asked him, ‘How many hours do you spend in prayer?’, and he said, ‘I thought you were going to ask me how many works of charity I do,’ and Mother responded, ‘No, because what you do depends on prayer’.”

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Number of Christians surges in China

Beijing, China, Aug 2, 2005 (CNA) - A report in The Age says that Chinese Christians currently outnumber members of the Communist Party. The Gospel message is being spread everywhere, in the countryside and in the cities, and even in uncommon places, like beauty salons.

Among the state-approved religions are Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Taoism and Islam.

Buddhism and Taoism claim most worshippers but the state-sanctioned churches count up to 35 million members. Then, there are the underground churches, which are believed to have up to 100 million members.

According to the report, many people, especially in the countryside, have converted to Christianity after someone they know or love was healed from a sickness as a result of prayer.

In rural villages or urban churches alike, the people gather any day of the week to proclaim and practice their faith. Back at the beauty salon, owner Xun Jinzhen told The Age he introduced 40 of his patrons to the church last year alone.

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Bishops of Brazil seek voice in debate over legalization of abortion

, Aug 2, 2005 (CNA) - The National Conference of Bishops of Brazil has issued a statement asking to be included in the debate over the revision of the country’s abortion laws and reaffirming that the Conference “will continue defending the inalienable right to life of the unborn.”

The statement, which was signed by Conference president Cardinal Geraldo Majella Agnelo of Salvador, and Auxiliary Bishop Odilio Scherer of Sao Paulo, secretary general of the Conference, states that the de-criminalization of abortion would lead to “serious problems regarding life and human dignity.”

The bishops note that the rights of women should be respected, defended and promoted, but that “the rights of the unborn child” must be defended and supported with the same conviction.  “We know from qualified scientific testimony that from the moment of conception, the human being possesses his own genetic traits and immune system.  We’re dealing here with another human being, such that mother and embryo constitute distinct human beings.”

In their statement, the bishops point to the country’s Constitution and Civil Code, both of which establish legal protection for the unborn.  While they recognize that the country is dealing with a growing health problem with respect to unwanted pregnancies and clandestine abortions, the bishops emphasize that “nonetheless, one evil cannot be healed with a worse evil.”

“While the Catholic Church recognizes and respects the laicity of the State,” the statement continues, “she wishes to participate in the discussions and decisions.”  The National Conference of Bishops of Brazil had been excluded from a commission studying the issue of abortion because of objections by the National Council for Policies on Women.

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CELAM bishops says socialist governments imposing anti-life policies on Latin America

Mexico City, Mexico, Aug 2, 2005 (CNA) - The vice president of the Latin American Bishops’ Council (CELAM), Bishop Carlos Aguiar Retes of Texcoco, Mexico, is denouncing the efforts by some socialist governments to impose anti-life and anti-family policies on Latin America.  In an interview with the Mexican daily La Jornada, the bishop said the CELAM leadership recently met in Bogota, Colombia to analyze this and other issues common to the region.

“We spoke about common concerns.  The first was the policies which appear to be coming from Spain, in particular from socialist governments, seeking to influence the entire continent, not only Mexico, in order to impose laws such as homosexual marriage, when what we should be doing is simply avoiding homophobia and not granting equivalence to something that is unnatural,” he said.

Bishop Aguiar noted there are many individuals, groups and organizations interested in carrying out the “orders” of the United Nations against human life, and that such groups need to be exposed “because many of them operate without revealing who they are.”

The bishop pointed to Mexico’s Health Secretary, Julio Frenk, and to feminist organizations seeking to legalize abortion in the country, as members of this network.  Frenk “carried out his work at the UN, and I think he wants to go back there and be able to say, ‘I was able to impose on a country with a Catholic majority everything we agreed upon’,” Bishop Aguiar said.

At the meeting in Bogota the bishops also discussed their concern about the legalization of euthanasia as well.  “Man does not own his life.  His life is on loan from God,” Bishop Aguiar stated.  He said the bishops were concerned about a domino effect of the same arguments and pressures spreading from one country to the next.  “We tried to analyze where they are coming from, why there is this pressure, who the groups are that are behind it and how they are getting into leadership positions,” he said.

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