Vatican City, Aug 4, 2005 (CNA) - Pope Benedict’s brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, was admitted to Gemelli Hospital in Rome last night with irregularities in his heartbeat. Doctors assessed his health and decided to implant a pacemaker, announced Joaquín Navarro-Valls, director of the Holy See Press Office.
He said doctors were satisfied with the procedure, and the Pope’s older brother is expected to be released from hospital soon.
Santiago, Chile, Aug 4, 2005 (CNA) - In an interview with a popular music website in Chile, the Christian rock band from Argentina, Rescate, which boasts of being “the only Hispanic artists that will participate in the closing concert for the XX World Youth Day,” criticized Pope Benedict XVI, who will be the central figure at the celebrations in Cologne, Germany.
The 8-member rock band told the Chilean website “Musica123” that the group seeks “to spread the message of Jesus in a language that is understandable to every person.”
In the interview granted during their first visit to Chile, the band said, “Personally, we don’t think the Pope is God’s representative on earth. Jesus came to do away with any intermediary between God and man, and therefore we have a direct relationship with Him.”
“To me the Pope’s strength is more political than spiritual,” said vocalist and band leader Ulises Eyherabide. “This Pope, who is so orthodox, so rigid and not very ecumenical in eyes of some, could turn out to be a surprise because of how he might be forced to change due to political situations from which he cannot escape.” “Replacing John Paul II obviously has more of a political than a spiritual significance,” he added.
Asked about their own religious identity, the band members said, “We are followers of Christ beyond any specific identity. You can define yourself as a Catholic and be…I don’t know… Today we have a Pope who in theory represents the entire Church. Nevertheless, there are those who say this is not the case. Therefore, why divide Jesus even more when in reality He came for all of mankind? Religion is responsible for creating these differences.”
Not only will Rescate represent the majority Catholic Spanish-speaking peoples of the world at the closing concert for World Youth Day on August 21, the band’s song “Quitamancha” will be included on the official WYD CD entitled “Building One World,” which will remind young people for years to come of the largest Catholic event in the world, with Pope Benedict XVI being the central figure in attendance.
Doug Archer, co-founder of the Catholic music website CatholicMusicNetwork.com (Reddemusicacatolica.com), said he knew little about the Argentinean band. “In any case, I am aware of many excellent artists from the Spanish-speaking world who are very well-known and completely Catholic, and who could have a great impact at World Youth Day.”
Washington D.C., Aug 4, 2005 (CNA) - The 60th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki provides an opportunity to reflect on the lessons of the Second World War and to recommit to efforts for a lasting peace built on justice, said the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
“Hiroshima and Nagasaki are permanent reminders to the entire human family of the grave consequences of total war,” said USCCB president Bishop William Skylstad yesterday in a letter to Bishop Augustinus Jun-ichi Nomura, president of the bishops’ conference of Japan.
The bishop of Spokane expressed the U.S. bishops’ solidarity with the Church in Japan and offered prayers for peace and justice.
He also warned that while the threat of global nuclear war has diminished, the threat of terrorism has increased. Terrorist attacks, like the “total war” exemplified by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, result in “indiscriminate destruction and death to civilians and soldiers alike,” he said.
Both crimes are against God and humanity “and merit the same unequivocal condemnation,” Bishop Skylstad wrote, citing Gaudium et Spes.
The memories of World War II and the atomic bombings “compel our Conference and the entire Church to continue working for nuclear non-proliferation and the elimination of nuclear weapons,” he added.
Bishop Skylstad stated that the USCCB will continue to urge the U.S. government to “move away from its reliance on nuclear weapons for security and to commit itself to international non-proliferation and the successful control of nuclear materials in this age of terrorism.”
Cleveland, Ohio, Aug 4, 2005 (CNA) - An Ohio woman filed an appeal this week with a local divorce court in the latest phase of what she sees as a crusade to reform civil and church divorce laws in the U.S.
Marie ‘Bai’ Macfarlane, wife of a prominent Catholic author, who left her and her 4 children in 2003 and began no-fault divorce proceedings, thinks that civil divorce laws fail to take into account the agreement that Catholic parties make before God and the Church in marriage.
She also argues that many diocesan policies seem to favor marital abandonment and easy annulments. These, she says hurt spouses who may not want the divorce and help to tear apart families.
Macfarlane said in a recent interview for GodSpy.com that, “No-fault divorce makes people think that a marriage just ‘breaks.’ It makes people think they have no responsibility for repairing or working on their marriage. It's the idea that if you decide that your marriage isn't working, or if it's not giving you the satisfaction you expected, it's the normal thing—it's almost the brave or heroic thing—to move along. You can just try again with somebody else.”
Ave Maria School of Law professor Stephen Safranek, who submitted Macfarlane’s appeal, argued that, “The courts need to take into account the religious faith and practices that the couple agreed upon when they married. In this case, the court has allowed the father to place one child in daycare and is preventing the mother from caring for her children even though she is willing to do so. This failure is due to the court taking complete control of the children's lives through the father.”
“Instead,” he continued, “the court should recognize that the nature of this marriage was such that the mother's role in the raising of her children was paramount. The court could avoid these problems by acknowledging the role the Catholic Church should play in Catholic marriages. The failure of the courts to recognize the agreement the parties made in a Catholic Church in front of God and a priest in this case not only violates the understanding Marie had when she entered upon this marriage, it necessarily entangles the court in issues relating to Catholic law, teaching, faith and belief.”
Mrs. Macfarlane has likewise taken her case before the highest ecclesial court in the Catholic Church, the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota, where it is currently pending.
“My husband and I didn’t agree to the minimal government marriage,” she added. “We agreed to be under the authority of a third party, the ecclesiastic authority of the Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law.”
“We are obligated”, she said, “to follow the Church’s separation procedures, not the state’s minimum procedures.”
, Aug 4, 2005 (CNA) - The grand jury investigation into charges of sexual abuse by priests in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia over the last few decades concluded that there were no instances where archdiocesan officials transferred a known abuser to another parish.
The 500-page document on the investigation was released this week and reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Philadelphia District Attorney Lynn Abraham launched the investigation in early 2002. The investigation ended with only one arrest.
But not everyone believed the investigation was legitimate. Catholic League president William Donohue said yesterday that Abraham “managed to abuse her office in two ways” by launching “a witch-hunt against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia” and by “ripp[ing] off the taxpayers in Philadelphia by having them pay for her wild-goose chase.”
No criminal charges were recommended by Abraham’s office. “That’s because the statute of limitations has run out on any alleged cases of abuse, something Abraham knew from the very beginning,” Donohue claims.
Donohue says the charge that Abraham launched a witch-hunt is not hard to sustain. “She had absolutely no evidence in 2002 that the molestation rate for priests in Philadelphia was any higher than the rate found among ministers, rabbis, public school teachers, camp counselors, et al,” Donohue stated. “But she went after priests alone, and gave everyone else a free pass.
“The Catholic Church has justifiably been given a black eye for the way some bishops and priests have behaved, but nothing justifies the wholesale abuse of a D.A.’s office to waste the taxpayers’ dollars in a losing effort to target suspected priests who cannot be prosecuted, many of whom are dead.”
Largo, Fla., Aug 4, 2005 (CNA) - Msgr. Jacques Suaudeau of the Pontifical Academy for the Family has clarified the content in the recent Vatican statement on vaccines, putting to rest any misunderstandings that may have followed after a news agency misrepresented the statement and the monsignor’s comments.
Msgr. Suaudeau had spoken with a journalist from the news agency but, according to Children of God for Life, the news agency had “grossly misquoted” the monsignor’s intentions, and he “responded in his own defense.”
The Vatican’s eight-page document states that Catholics can refuse vaccines that were prepared from cells derived from aborted fetuses and must lobby at the corporate and government level for alternative vaccines that do not contain aborted fetal cell lines.
In an e-mail response to Children of God for Life's spiritual adviser, Fr. Anthony Zimmerman, Msgr. Suaudeau noted that the Vatican document “denounces the use of ‘tainted’ vaccines; it asks for alternative vaccines; it invites ... parents (and others) to put pressure on government and companies to offer alternative vaccines.
“The document speaks clearly about ‘conscientious objection’,” the monsignor continued. “This was the main point of the document.”
The monsignor said he thinks that, with the Vatican document, Children of God for Life have “a useful instrument to put pressure on local authorities in order to get exemption of vaccination for their children, in schools.
“But more important,” he added, “is the lobbying to get the alternative vaccines free entrance in the U.S."
"The restriction formula about the possible use of tainted vaccines in conditions ‘of considerable dangers’ was needed,” he said.
According to Children of God for Life, the news agency had also misquoted its executive director, Debi Vinnedge.
The Vatican document, titled “Moral Reflections on Vaccines Prepared from Cells Derived from Aborted Human Fetuses”can be read at www.cogforlife.org
Los Angeles, Calif., Aug 4, 2005 (CNA) - Two separate Los Angeles Superior Court judges have ruled that the Pro-Family Law Center of Southern California may proceed with lawsuits against Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles. The non-profit organization announced the rulings Tuesday.
In Jones v. Planned Parenthood, a former PPLA employee claims PPLA was and continues to be engaged in unfair business practices, including overcharging the State of California for services and goods, and for violating various labor laws.
If Jones wins, PPLA could have an injunction issued against its continued practices, be put into receivership under California's unfair business practices laws, and be forced to pay restitution to the plaintiff.
In the second case, a former vice-president of PPLA claims PPLA terminated him for bringing up issues related to grossly overcharging the government for prescription drugs, using PPLA grants/donations for employee purchases at Victoria's Secret, and complaining about racism, anti-religious comments, and other discriminatory behavior.
Internal documents allegedly showing that PPLA independent audit findings were sought to be suppressed and concealed from California officials were attached to the complaint. They include comments, such as: "We do not want too many copies of the audit out" and "[w]e want to be as vague [...] because these applications become a matter of public record should any persistent anti-choicer be on the lookout."
Another internal e-mail exhibit reads: "... a very serious matter has reared its ugly head. As you are probably aware, PPLA has been marking up the OCs and the pills dispensed by a hefty markup over cost. This is proscribed by DHS regulations where the prevailing rule is that medicines should be dispensed at cost with a recovery of the dispensing fee (which of course if minimal as compared to normal retail markup). Please let me be clear about this issue we purchase meds at $1 or $2 and sell them for $12 $18 $48. [...] The impact is over $2million bottom line, and approximately $4million in revenues over the course of a typical 12 months."
PPLA filed a motion to strike these exhibits from the court record, but the motion was denied.
Lead Pro-Family Law Center attorney Richard Ackerman says his organization is pleased that they have been allowed to proceed with the cases, which will likely go to trial in Los Angeles in early 2006.
“If we are successful, we may be able to bring justice to the taxpayers who have lost millions of dollars to overcharging and have an opportunity to force Planned Parenthood to live up to the same financial standards applicable to any other entity that feeds itself on tax dollars,” said Ackerman.
San Diego, Calif., Aug 4, 2005 (CNA) - A massive cross overlooking the city of San Diego is at the center of heated debate which covers issues ranging from property ownership to separation of church and state.
The cross, which is part of the Mount Soledad National War Monument, has stood for sixteen years, but last November, residents were asked to vote on Proposition K, an initiative aimed at correcting violations of the state constitution that prohibit the display of religious symbols on state land.
Voters rejected the proposition but the battle continues to rage--fueled by those who are determined to see the cross removed.
In May, a signature-gathering effort led the San Diego City Council to allow a measure called Proposition A, which could allow the land which the cross sits on to be handed over to the U.S. Department of the Interior, making it Federal land, and thereby much less restrictive on land use.
Last Tuesday, residents spoke out, voting 76% in favor of transferring the land ownership and thereby keeping the cross. Reports stated that 100% of the precinct voted.
Charles Limandri of the Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center, which was integral in the battle, said that, “California’s state constitution is a little broader in terms of scrutinizing religious symbols on public property. They'll look at not only whether it is establishing religion but if it’s showing aid to religion; so it could be considered a tougher test. So we think having it under the federal constitution, under the federal national parks makes more sense,”
He added that, “These 10 Commandment displays or crosses on public property — insignias and logos that have literally been there for decades — are truly reflective of an important part of our religious and cultural heritage.”
Although supporters are elated by the win and satisfied that the voting public has spoken their minds in favor of the cross, a number of lawsuits are still pending over whether or not the November vote was legal. If a judge agrees, it could be back to square one for the whole debate.
Two more court dates are scheduled for August 15th and August 12th.
Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center said, “This is a tremendous victory in an important battle, but the war is not over. The other side has not surrendered; court battles over the cross continue.”
Sydney, Australia, Aug 4, 2005 (CNA) - This week, some 2,200 Australian youth--the largest pilgrimage group in Australian history--will leave to join Pope Benedict XVI in Cologne, Germany for the 20th World Youth Day.
The youth will join Cardinal George Pell, three archbishops, 19 bishops and some 90 priests who are also traveling to Cologne.
The Australians will have a particular vested interest in the closing Mass, presided at by Pope Benedict during which he will announce whether Sydney will win its bid to host the 2008 World Youth Day celebration.
Well-known Australian Test Cricketer and World Youth Day Ambassador, Matthew Hayden has been encouraging the youth of his country to make the trip to Germany.
“For thousands of young people,” he said recently, “World Youth Day has been a life changing experience. It is not just a religious event, but the World Youth Day is an opportunity for youth to grow and be challenged on every level, morally, spiritually and culturally.
He added that he has “great optimism that the Cologne World Youth Day experience will have a positive bearing on many young Australians, our future leaders.”
Konigstein, Germany, Aug 4, 2005 (CNA) - Archbishop Celso Jose Pinto da Silva of Teresina, Brazil, said this week the greatest problem facing the Church in the northeastern part of the country is “the lack of resources for sustaining priests and seminarians.”
During a meeting at the international headquarters of Aid to the Church in Need, Ulrich Kny, who heads up the organization’s II Latin American Section, echoed the bishop’s observation that believers in the remote region of Brazil are extremely poor and therefore unable to support the Church. Thus, “the majority of priests are forced to take on other jobs in order to survive.”
Kny added that sects pose “another challenge for the Church in the region, and therefore traditional piety, including Marian devotion, which is so rooted in the hearts of the people, could help in resisting that temptation.”
According to a study carried out recently by Aid to the Church in Need, in the northeastern region of Piaui, Brazil, 90% of the populace is Catholic, yet the activities of sects continue to advance and spread confusion among believers.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug 4, 2005 (CNA) - The archdiocesan chancery of Buenos Aires will host a ceremony next Monday, August 8, in which Catholic, Jewish and Muslim leaders will sign a statement rejecting all forms of fundamentalism and terrorism.
The historic statement will be signed by Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Jose Adaszko of the Israeli Mutual Association of Argentina, and Omar Helal Massud of the Islamic Center of Argentina.
The ceremony was scheduled to take place on August 1 but was postponed due to the death on July 31 of Adel Muhammad Made, president of the Islamic Center.
The declaration against all forms of terrorism and fundamentalism is an expression of commitment by believers of the three monotheistic religious to foster dialogue and respect. Argentina’s history has been characterized by the peaceful coexistence of believers of different faiths.
The statement will also be signed its drafters--Father Guillermo Marco, Rabbi Daniel Goldman, and Omar Abboud.