Archive of August 9, 2005

Cardinal Meisner: JMJ is for young people, not ‘the elderly like Küng’

Cologne, Germany, Aug 9, 2005 (CNA) - In an in interview on the preparations for World Youth Day, the hosting archbishop, Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne, said the event is a gathering for young people, not for “the people of yesterday” such as dissident theologians Eugen Drewermann or Hans Küng.

In an interview granted to the Bonn newspaper General-Anzeiger, Cardinal Meisner noted that Hans Küng and Eugen Drewermann are not welcome at the event.  “The entire event is oriented to be an encounter for young people and not for ‘seniors’,” he said.

“There is nothing for them (Küng and Drewermann) here, as young people are not interested in the silliness they fostered for so long.  We don’t need any Drewermann or Küng or anything else stale at WYD,” Cardinal Meisner added.

Both Drewermann and Küng have criticized WYD, calling it “triumphalism,” and a dissident group has hinted it might bring both theologians to a parallel event.

Cardinal Meisner also noted that the gathering in Cologne “will be the first to have the special presence of two Popes, one from above, and the other from here below in the world.” “I desire that all those who arrive here return home happier than when they came, and that we here are all happier and more satisfied afterwards than when we welcomed them in,” he said.

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Catholic League blasts Cuomo for calling Roberts a “Vatican Robot”

, Aug 9, 2005 (CNA) - In a statement released yesterday, William Donahue of the New York-based Catholic League for religious and civil rights, slammed New York governor Mario Cuomo for, as Donahue says, accusing Supreme Court nominee John Roberts of being a “Vatican robot.”

Cuomo, who appeared Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, said that he wanted to ask Roberts-- a Catholic--if he was “going to impose a religious test on the Constitution? Are you going to say that because the pope says this or the Church says that, you will do it no matter what?”

Donahue commented that, “if a non-Catholic had suggested such questions, he would quickly be branded a Catholic basher. But it should be no more excusable for a Catholic to raise such questions.”

“For Cuomo to float the idea that John Roberts might be a Vatican robot”, he said, “is as shameless as it is anti-Catholic. By doing so, he not only provides fodder to the enemies of the Catholic Church, he further discredits his credentials as a Catholic spokesman.”

Since the announcement of his nomination, Roberts has been under considerable Senate scrutiny because of his Catholic faith, an act which many call an unconstitutional “religious litmus test.”

Father Frank Pavone, president of Priests for Life has said that, "Anyone familiar with American history and the United States Constitution should be embarrassed by the suggestion that a nominee for the Supreme Court has to run a religious gauntlet on his way to confirmation. Religious convictions are not excess baggage or obstacles on the road to public service."

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Archbishop warns of hostility against Christianity; calls Catholics to play role in American life

Denver, Colo., Aug 9, 2005 (CNA) - Denver’s Archbishop Charles Chaput, who made headlines during last fall’s presidential election for speaking out on the role that U.S. Catholics should play in government and public life, warned in his recent column about a “growing hostility to the Christian faith” which he says is right in the U.S.’s backyard.

In the column, which appeared in this week’s Denver Catholic Register, the archbishop discusses the fall of Christian culture in Europe, which, he wrote, inspired much of the great European art, music, philosophy and architecture of the last 15 centuries.

He notes that this profound cultural impact happened because the faith of Catholic believers translated into “habits of thought and action, which became culture.”

Sadly, the archbishop observes that “As the faith of European Christians has dwindled over the last 70 years…so has the soul of their culture. So has their idea of human dignity. So has their culture’s sense of hope and purpose.”

“Europe”, he says, “now faces its biggest population decline since the Black Death. All across the continent, Christians who practice their faith must deal with a growing, unfriendly secularism that has resulted in legal infanticide in the Netherlands, the redefinition of marriage in Spain and a complete exclusion of Christianity from any mention in the recently proposed European Constitution.”

He notes however, that this cultural crisis is not limited to Europe.

Right in the U.S.’s backyard he says, “Canada has gone from a religiously active culture to a mirror of Europe’s problems. Some of this can be blamed on scandals in the Church. But the roots go deeper than that.”

“Canada, like the United States,” he points out, “is locked in a struggle of national identity and values. The rapid push for legalization of homosexual ‘marriage’ in Canada offers a useful lesson to Americans.

Archbishop Chaput points out that while “here in the United States, Catholics and other religious believers still have the freedom, energy and skills to protect the soul — and to help shape the future — of the American experiment…We can’t do that by separating our religious and moral convictions from public discourse about the issues facing our country.”

The Archbishop received staunch criticism over the past year for his strong beliefs that Catholic citizens and politicians should not separate their faith from their public life.

“What’s unnatural and unhealthy”, Archbishop Chaput said at this year‘s National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, “is the kind of public square where religious faith is seen as unwelcome and dangerous. But that seems to be exactly what some people want: a public square stripped of God and stripped of religious faith.”

He added in this week’s column that the U.S. needn’t “look very far for a glimpse of the future” if Catholics don’t live out this faith in the public square.

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Arizona governor not allowed to speak in Catholic Church; Bishop Olmsted will not allow a platform for anti-life

Phoenix, Ariz., Aug 9, 2005 (CNA) - Arizona governor Janet Napolitano is one of the latest to be directly affected by a ban put in place by Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted which disallows politicians who support issues like abortion and gay marriage from speaking in Catholic churches.

The conflict arose last year when Napolitano was scheduled to speak against Proposition 200, an Arizona ballot measure restricting the rights of undocumented immigrant workers--an issue the Church has spoken out against itself.

The issue however, according to a letter issued by Bishop Olmsted last December, is that Catholic churches who invite politicians that disagree with fundamental Church teachings, like abortion, could be providing a platform “which would suggest support for their actions.”

According to the Arizona Republic, Napolitano, who is a Methodist, said that she was unaware of the ban but had heard about the bishop’s letter.

Bishop Olmsted’s decision came in response to a statement of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s entitled: Catholics in Political Life, which points out the moral weight of disagreement with the Church on fundamental life and sexuality teaching, but allows individual bishops to make decisions regarding distribution of Communion and speakers in their parishes.

Bishop Gerald Kincanas, of the nearby Diocese of Tucson has taken a different approach to the matter. He opted to establish no such ban on political speakers and in fact, according to diocesan spokesman Fred Allison, as quoted in the Republic, allowed Napolitano herself to speak at an interfaith gathering this past April.

Napolitano has publicly expressed her support on numerous issues which the Catholic Church expressly condemns.

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Retreats, prayer groups, Theology on Tap: USCCB says Catholic Church has growing offerings for post-college young adults

Washington D.C., Aug 9, 2005 (CNA) - A recent survey by the U.S. Bishop’s Subcommittee on Youth and Young Adults found that a growing number of activities exist for post-college aged young adults--an age group reported to often see themselves as particularly disconnected from church activities.

The survey showed that some of the Church’s offerings include the popular Chicago-based Theology on Tap series, which feature engaging Catholic speakers and theologians who gather in local brew pubs to speak on different topics of interest to young adults--currently active in some 73 dioceses around the country.

Other popular activities, according to the survey, include leadership training programs, retreats and service opportunities.

“Young adults have a lot of energy and will accept their responsibility for spreading the faith if we provide opportunities for them,” said Bishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Duluth, Minnesota, chairman of the youth and young adult subcommittee.

“We need to capitalize on the interest in the church shown by young people who by nature are idealistic and on a spiritual search. Recent experiences, including the turnout of young adults to pay their respects when Pope John Paul II died in April and their interest in the forthcoming World Youth Day, August 16 to 21 in Cologne, Germany, testify to this.”

Historically, the unmarried, post-college age group has been one of the hardest for the Church to minister to, mainly due to the awkward social situation of no longer being in college, but also not yet having a family of their own. Many young people see this period as a sort of limbo--making the Church’s role in drawing them in all the more pressing.

117--sixty percent--of the nation’s 195 dioceses responded to the survey, which reported that 91.5 percent of dioceses employ a person specifically designated to work with young adults.

The Vatican estimates that nearly 1 million young adults plan to travel to Cologne, Germany this month for the World Youth Day celebration. Some 24,000 of them are expected to be from the U.S.

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Pro-life groups: Planned Parenthood has gone too far with violent cartoon

San Francisco, Calif., Aug 9, 2005 (CNA) - Christians and pro-life advocates are expressing shock and outrage today over an eight minute promotional movie, produced by the San Francisco area Planned Parenthood organization, which depicts violence against pro-lifers and abstinence educators.

The new animated feature, which appears on the website of Planned Parenthood Golden Gate, shows, among other scenes, a stuffy abstinence educator being drowned in a trash can, pro-life demonstrators outside of an abortion clinic being blown up, and one protestor being decapitated in the closing credits.

The promotional feature stars Dianisis, an animated, “superhero for choice”, who often repeats the catchphrase, “safe is sexy,” dispensing condoms and eliminating her enemies.

In a statement released yesterday, Jim Sedlak, director of STOPP, an anti-Planned Parenthood division of the American Life League said that, "In this post-9/11 era of terrorism, Planned Parenthood has recklessly crossed the line by promoting violence against people who do not share the organization's radical beliefs." 

He likewise called the organization’s actions, “reprehensible, because there is no guarantee that someone viewing this video might not act on its suggestions and instigate violence against people of faith."

"This appalling animation,” he continued, “posted on an official Planned Parenthood web site, demonstrates the organization's complete disrespect for human life. American Life League demands that Planned Parenthood publicly reveal the names of all persons involved in the development and posting of this outrageous material and immediately dismiss all individuals involved from their positions as employees or volunteers.’

Sedlak said the group is demanding “that Planned Parenthood issue a public apology without delay to pro-life Christians everywhere for inciting violence against them."

Douglas R. Scott, president of Washington-based Life Decisions International, added that, "This video is absolutely outrageous," pointing out that “Pro-life men and women are depicted as evil and stupid. It sends a message to teenagers that it is acceptable to eliminate those who disagree. It is also riddled with misinformation about birth control, abortion, and sexual activity."

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WYD announces cancellation of controversial rock band’s performance

Lima, Peru, Aug 9, 2005 (CNA) - In an email message sent to hundreds of people who expressed their concern over the participation in World Youth Day of the controversial rock band from Argentina, RESCATE, organizers of the event announced the band has been eliminated from the WYD program.

The concern over RESCATE’s performance was not due to the band’s Protestant identity—the closing concert at WYD is billed as an ecumenical event—but rather because of the disparaging remarks against Pope Benedict XVI made by some of the band’s members.

In a press release, RESCATE expressed “surprise” at the story published by CNA and claimed the statements against the Pope were “taken out of context.”

CNA sent a questionnaire to RESCATE requesting clarification on their beliefs about the Pope and the Catholic Church and accepting the band’s offer to open a dialogue, but the CNA never received a response.

Catholics who wrote to WYD organizers received an email response this week announcing the decision to cancel the band’s appearance:
“Thanks for your interest in WYD.  RESCATE’s performance at WYD has been cancelled, so there should be no problem, and in a few days the band’s name will be removed from the official program.”
The official online program in German still lists RESCATE as one the bands performing, although organizers say it should be removed shortly.

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An insider’s view: Susan Torres’ family ‘overcame enormous adversity and odds’

, Aug 9, 2005 (CNA) - When 26-year old Susan Torres--brain damaged and kept alive by life support--gave birth to 1 pound, 13 ounce, Susan Anne Catherine Torres last Wednesday, throngs of people were fighting and praying for her.

So says Justin Torres, brother-in-law of the elder Susan, who had become the spokesman for family ever since his sister-in-law was overtaken by previously unknown Cancer on Mother’s Day of this year.

"I'm going to tell [baby Susan], her mother was one of the toughest women I've ever met, that she was absolutely determined in what she did.," he added just after his sister-in-law’s death.

An article published yesterday by Cybercast News Service, for which Justin formerly worked, offered an inside view into a family which Editor in Chief David Thibault said, epitomized “wisdom and determination.”

According to the article, Justin, who was a senior staff writer and CNS from 1999-2001, wrote hundreds of stories dealing with issues including “discrimination against religious broadcasters, the ongoing slave trade and genocide in Sudan, the presidential election recount controversy of late 2000 and the debate over abortion.”

Thibault noted that “While his personal views did not enter his news copy, Justin's colleagues knew how he stood on the issue of abortion. Yet, no story he ever covered for could have exposed the virtues of the pro-life argument as capably as Justin's own personal experience helping his younger brother Jason cope with the impending death of his wife and the hoped for miraculous birth of his daughter.”

“All previous arguments for the need of partial birth abortion”, he wrote, “were demolished. The options available to the Torres family, including the premature delivery of Susan Anne Catherine as soon as her little body could survive outside the womb, have been and currently are available to couples coping with difficult pregnancies.”

“After Susan Torres, in her near death condition, gave birth to a healthy child,” the editor mused, “I wonder whether any of the pro-abortion organizations will even dare to advocate for the availability of the late term procedure that calls for a baby to be partially delivered before the attending physician (and I use that term loosely) stabs scissors into the skull of the infant and sucks out the child's brain.”

Thibault went on to describe Susan Torres and her family as one who “overcame adversity and odds” through “strength, tenacity and prayer.”

With thousands of dollars in donations still rolling in to help husband Jason Torres and the family with ongoing medical expenses and countless prayers being offered worldwide, Justin told reporters Wednesday that he looked forward to someday telling his niece that, “You cannot believe how many people fought for you."

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Venezuelan bishops refrain from making official statements on Chavez regime

Caracas, Venezuela, Aug 9, 2005 (CNA) - The President of the Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela, Archbishop Baltazar Porras, told reporters this weekend the Conference will not make any statements about the legitimacy of President Hugo Chavez but that it does support the right of Cardinal Rosalio Castillo Lara to express his opinions about the national situation. (Cardinal Castillo recently blasted the Chavez government and said democracy was practically non-existent in Venezuela.)

Archbishop Porras said it was within the purview of the Conference “to make pronouncements of this type,” and he reiterated that it “had not made any official declaration” regarding whether or not Chavez should remain in power.

“We are not the ones who should decide whether this crisis can be resolved with Chavez in or out of power,” he added, noting the recent statements by Cardinal Castillo--who defended the right of Venezuelans to oust the current president based on a specific article in the country’s Constitution--were “just another episode” in the tense relations between the Church and the government.

Article 350 states the people of Venezuela “shall ignore any legislation, regime or authority that goes against the values, principles, and democratic guarantees or limits human rights.” 

Archbishop Porras said Cardinal Castillo’s reference to that section of the Constitution cannot be considered “illegitimate or subversive,” and he called on all Venezuelans to work to establish a climate that would lead to an end of the polarization and confrontation affecting the country.

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Mel Gibson invited to reenact Stations of the Cross for WYD 2008

Sydney, Australia, Aug 9, 2005 (CNA) - Although the location of the next World Youth Day has not yet been made public, Cardinal George Pell of Sydney has asked Mel Gibson to recreate the Passion of the Christ there for a World Youth Day in 2008.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the actor and director has been approached to recreate the movie that narrates the last hours of the life of Christ in the streets of the Australian capital if it is chosen to host the event in ’08.

The newspaper reports that the portrayal would begin with a staging of the Last Supper at the famous Opera House, and conclude with the Crucifixion in the city's cathedral.

The Morning Herald indicated that Gibson has not yet responded to the invitation, but Cardinal Pell said, "He might well be attracted."

Pope Benedict XVI will announce the location of the newt WYD on August 21 during the closing Mass for WYD 2005 in Cologne.

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