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Archive of August 23, 2005

Meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and the Lefebvrists could initiate path towards reconciliation

Vatican City, Aug 23, 2005 (CNA) - The schismatic branch created by the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre might begin path to return to the heart of the Catholic Church during next encounter that will be held by Pope Benedict XV, with the current schismatic leader, Bernard Fellay.

No precise date has been confirmed for the meeting, but it will take place at the papal residence in Caster Gandolfo before the end of this summer.

Fellay, general superior of the “Saint Pius X society”-the official name of the group of four bishops, priests and lay faithful schismatic-was scheduled to meet with the Pontiff, without any form of publicity, but the news “filtered” for the indiscretion of one the bishops ordained by Lefebvre without the Pope’s approval in 1988.

The schismatic bishop Richard Williamson send a “confidential” letter to his faithful informing them that the Pope had acceded to a demand of meeting  requested by Fellay.

The Pope will receive Fellay, along with Father Arnaud Sélégny, general secretary of the society on August 29th, although the date hasn’t been confirmed by the Holy See.

According to sources close to the Society, Fellay will present two demands to Pope Benedict in order to return to full communion with the Church: the withdrawal of the excommunication and the possibility to celebrate the Saint Pius V mass in Latin in any part of the world without having to ask for permission of local ecclesiastical authorities, as it is currently required by Church norms.

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Bishop Olmsted defends policy of speakers in Catholic churches

Phoenix, Ariz., Aug 23, 2005 (CNA) - Calling the Church’s policy one of justice, and a much-needed voice for the voiceless, Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted recently defended his decision not to allow certain speakers in Catholic Churches who oppose Church teaching on fundamental life and sexuality issues.

Bishop Olmsted’s words appeared in the Sunday “My Turn” editorial section of the Arizona Republic newspaper.

In it, he cited a 2004 statement from the U.S. Catholic bishops which said that, "The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions."

Bishop Olmsted has been put under some public fire recently for a decision not to let Arizona governor Janet Napolitano speak in a Catholic Church because of her fundamentally anti-Catholic views on issues like abortion.

In a letter issued last December, Bishop Olmsted said that Catholic churches who invite politicians who disagree with fundamental Church teachings, like abortion, could be providing a platform “which would suggest support for their actions.”

Pointing out that, “The right to life is indeed an inalienable one,” Bishop Olmsted stressed the responsibility--particularly of the Church--to stand up for and defend human life, especially in its weakest stages. 

He said that speaking out “against intrinsic evils such as abortion, euthanasia, racism and sexual acts outside of marriage is a service that God requires of us on behalf of all persons, not only members of our own faith.”

He noted that the words and actions of the Church should underline the seriousness of this commitment and said that “One such action is to prohibit the giving of honors or the provision of a platform in Catholic institutions for those who support actions contrary to these core moral principles.”

“I trust”, the bishop said, “that this position is not that difficult to understand. Why would we honor or give a platform to someone who radically disagrees with our fundamental teachings? We should instead be criticized if we allowed such things to happen.”

He quickly pointed out however, that the Church’s policy does not negate his commitment to prayer and dialogue with and for civic leaders with differing views than those of the faithful.

“There are a variety of appropriate forums for this dialogue to occur,” he said, “beyond public events at church facilities.”

Bishop Olmsted also pointed to historical precedent for the policy citing the 1962 excommunication of Judge Leander Perez by New Orleans Archbishop Joseph Rummel, when he tried to block desegregation of Catholic schools during the height of the civil rights movement.

“Was this bishop imposing his sectarian views on a public official?” Bishop Olmsted asked. “Was he meddling in politics or impeding freedom? Or was he defending the human dignity of all children, no matter the color of their skin?”

He said that more than anything else, the adopted 2004 policy of the bishops “arose out of a concern for the rights of the most vulnerable members of our society, persons who have no way to raise their own voices because of their age or physical condition.”

“It also arose”, he added, “out of a conviction about the destructive nature of intrinsic evils, for individuals, for the family, and for the whole of society.”

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Federal Court declares Atheism a religion

Chicago, Ill., Aug 23, 2005 (CNA) - Last week, a Chicago federal court of appeals ruled in favor of a Wisconsin inmate who claimed that the prison violated his first amendment right to practice religion. The problem? He’s an atheist.

According to the American Family Association, The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals “ruled that prison officials erred because they ‘did not treat atheism as a ‘religion.’”

Citing the 1961 case of Torcaso v. Watkins, in which a Court called “secular humanism” a religion, the Chicago court said that even though he denies belief in a supreme being, the inmate must be allowed to follow through with his plans for an “atheist study group.”

Brian Fahling, the American Family Association’s senior trial attorney for its Center for Law & Policy, called the ruling “a sort of Alice in Wonderland jurisprudence.” “Up is down, and atheism, the antithesis of religion, is religion.”

“It is difficult”, continued Fahling, “not to be somewhat jaundiced about our courts when they take clauses especially designed to protect religion from the state and turn them on their head by giving protective cover to a belief system, that, by every known definition other than the courts’ is not a religion, while simultaneously declaring public expressions of true religious faith to be prohibited.”

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AIDS charity fights U.S. government to keep prostitution legal

Washington D.C., Aug 23, 2005 (CNA) - The Washington-based charity group, DTK International has filed a lawsuit with the U.S. government over a policy that non-government run, international aid organizations who seek governments funds for HIV prevention and family planning services must oppose prostitution, calling the policy “unconstitutional.”

The claim was filed with the U.S. Agency for International Development on August 11th, saying that the anti-prostitution policy prohibits freedom of speech.

Originally enacted in 2003, the law which requires groups to oppose prostitution and sex trafficking, has only begun to be enforced recently, and has been strongly supported by the Bush administration.

DKT, a non-profit, teaches family planning--most of which involves artificial contraception and abortion--and HIV/AIDS prevention in 11 countries, mainly in the Third World.

The group utilizes commercial marketing techniques to further their aims and strives to make contraceptives more widely available through the private sector. They claim on their website that 5.16 million so-called “unwanted pregnancies” have been avoided with their help.

In its lawsuit, the group argued that, "DKT has no policy on prostitution and does not wish to adopt one…It believes it has a first amendment right not to do so."

DKT stressed that it wants to achieve its goals "by maintaining neutrality on the controversial question of how to handle the complex problems that arise at the intersection of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and prostitution."

DKT's president, Philip Harvey, was quoted saying, "The government can tell us what to do with their money—that is not in question…But it is reprehensible and, we believe, unconstitutional to tell us what to do with private money."

Not only does the Catholic Church fundamentally oppose the group’s promotion of artificial contraceptives and abortions to deal with “unwanted pregnancies”, but they believe prostitution to be a frontal assault on the dignity of the human person.

Even those groups who oppose the Catholic Church’s views on contraception to fight the scourge of AIDS, largely agree that prostitution and sex trafficking should be illegal and in fact, greatly contribute to the spread of the disease.

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In Prequel to Father Elijah, author takes readers deep into heart of human struggle and grace of small choices

Denver, Colo., Aug 23, 2005 (CNA) - Canadian artist and Catholic author Michael O’Brien enamored readers in 1999 with his best-selling novel, ‘Father Elijah’, about a Carmelite priest called upon to convert the antichrist. Now, in his long awaited prequel to that apocalyptic thriller, O’Brien takes readers on a journey into the heart of a man and the small choices which, as he says, “change the world.”

Set in Warsaw during the height of the Nazi occupation, Sophia House follows the struggles of bookshop owner Pawel Tarnowski, whom readers will recognize as the oft-referenced protector of Father Elijah’s protagonist David Schaffer.

The book, which takes a considerably slower pace than its heart-pounding sequel, forces its reader to face the realities of sin and the broken images of mother, father, male and female.

O’Brien demonstrates, through these broken images, the nature of original sin, which binds mankind in fear--and the freedom, often surprising, which comes from accepting God’s grace and forgiveness.

In a recent interview, published on the Catholic Exchange website, O’Brien said that “In Sophia House I’m concerned with how symbols function in the mind and emotions…Part of the plot puts flesh on the concept of the power of ‘language’, and the language of symbols is absolutely central to how we perceive and integrate truth and love. If we lose symbolism, we lose our way of knowing things. If we destroy symbols, we destroy concepts. If we corrupt symbols, concepts are corrupted, and then we lose the ability to understand things as they are, rendering us vulnerable to deformation of our perceptions and our actions.”

An icon painter by trade, O’Brien describes Sophia House as something of an icon itself, weaving together situations and personalities--some of which may seem insignificant at first glance--into a beautiful tapestry, only fully understood when looking at the piece as a whole.

Beneath it’s surface as a war novel, O’Brien avoids the somewhat cliché practice of spouting off facts and historical details about the war, and instead plunges the reader headlong into the center of it--through the eyes of an ordinary man trying to avoid, but inescapably caught up in the drama.

Part of the beauty of Sophia House is that, although entrenched within World War II, it transcends it. It’s themes can be translated into any number of events in any number of time periods. Essentially, it is an exploration of the war between good and evil, and the struggle of a good man within an evil world--a classic theme of the great writers.

Perhaps purposely, perhaps not, the book is also something of a testimony to the late Pope John Paul II, (who died some time after the book’s writing) in its Polish setting and emphasis on the arts--particularly theater, which was one of the Holy Father’s forte’s.

Few books or writers, after all, would be so courageous as to include a full, original play within the text of the story.

Many have called Michael O’Brien one of the finest Catholic authors around and have insisted that he be elevated to the likes of Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, and even C.S. Lewis. With the publication of Sophia House, and thus, the completion of O’Brien’s Children of the Last Days series, perhaps he is one step closer to that prized fraternity.

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Fr. Pavone commends Kansas attorney general in abortion lawsuit against governor

Washington D.C., Aug 23, 2005 (CNA) - Fr. Frank Pavone, head of the group Priests for Life praised Kansas attorney general Phill Kline yesterday for his bold efforts to keep the state from funding what he sees as unconstitutional abortions.

Kline filed a lawsuit in the Shawnee County district court which names Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius, a proclaimed Catholic, along with other state officials, in an effort to put the brakes on state funded abortions for Medicaid recipients.

Kline contends that the state is violating the section of the Kansas State Constitution which bans the destruction of the lives of men without due process. In this case, he says, “men” should be interpreted as all humans in any life stage.

Fr. Pavone commented that, "The Attorney General is doing the right thing. We don't help the poor by helping them kill their children. Moreover, there is no known disease that abortion has ever cured."

The AP reported State Medicaid Director Scott Brunner as saying that from October of last year until last week, the state has paid some 19 hundred dollars for seven Medicaid-related abortions.

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Catholic teachers rally to kick off school year

Grand Rapids, Mich., Aug 23, 2005 (CNA) - As students get ready to head back to the classroom, Catholic school teachers in Grand Rapids, Michigan are getting their own pep rally to kick off the year.

Some 600 Catholic educators and clergy joined Bishop Walter Hurley at Grand Rapid’s Blessed Sacrament church yesterday for a special Mass and celebration aimed at firing up educators in the diocese’ 45 schools.

The annual event brings together Catholic teachers from around western Michigan for a chance to network and get energized for the new school year.

James O’Donnell, superintendent of the diocese’ Catholic schools said that because of the size of the diocese, teachers don’t get to gather like this very often. He told the Grand Rapids Press that he sees it “as a good opportunity for them to be around each other, and for some professional development as well."

He and the diocese are also serious about promoting Catholic schools. With the growth of charter schools and the cost of tuition at diocesan schools, enrollment rates have substantially dropped in recent years.  

Noting the high quality of Catholic education, Nelson said that, "Perhaps the approach to marketing it is to really stress the character development that's part of a Catholic education…That's not to denigrate what public schools do. It's to celebrate what we are about."

Nelson, who is a product of Catholic schools all the way through college, told the Press that "It was a marvelous balance of the intellectual, physical, emotional and spiritual,” and thinks that stressing these virtues could help fight a recent trend of closures at some Catholic schools.

Currently, the diocese of Grand Rapids serves some 8,800 students and their parents within its district.

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Church in Spain ordains first married priest under pastoral provision

Madrid, Spain, Aug 23, 2005 (CNA) - In what he called “a very unique exception,” Bishop Emeritus Felipe Fernandez, who is currently acting as the Apostolic administrator for Tenerife, Spain, bestowed the sacrament of the Holy Orders on Evans David Gliwitzki, an Anglican convert who is married and has two daughters and a granddaughter, thus becoming the first such case to occur in Spain under the Holy See’s pastoral provision.

Gliwitzki, 64, who is from Zimbabwe, where he was pastor and vicar general of the Anglican diocese there, was ordained to the priesthood at the Parish of Our Lady of Conception in La Laguna (Tenerife), with his family members in attendance.

After his ordination, Gliwitzki “will of course remain married to his wife, Patricia,” Bishop Fernandez said.  He clarified, however, that this was not a move towards the abolition of celibacy, “but rather a very unique exception in consideration of his situation” and “his very peculiar circumstances of coming from the Anglican Church, a community that does allow its ministers to marry.”

Bishop Fernandez said he was pleased with the ordination and that from the beginning he accepted the request by the Bishops’ Conference of Spain to supervise Gliwitzki’s period of formation.  He also noted that the pertinent authorization from the Holy See was requested and granted.

Conversions to the Catholic Church by Anglican ministers “is somewhat more common” in the United Kingdom and each case is studied individually to see if the candidate fulfills the requirements, a diocesan official said.

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Marxist group claims responsibility, apologizes for murder of two priests

, Aug 23, 2005 (CNA) - A Marxist rebel group in Colombia, the Army of National Liberation (ELN), issued a statement this week claiming responsibility for the murder of two priests, Father Vicente Rozo and Father Jesus Emilio Mora, who were both killed last week in the Diocese of Ocaña.

The priests’ drivers, Jose Carrascal and Edgar Vergel, were also killed during the attacks.

Authorities at first blamed the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) for the killings.  In its statement the ELN asks for forgiveness from the family members  and claims the deaths of the priests were “accidental.”

The group says the attacks were due to “intelligence and tactical errors.”  It also said the Church is not one of its targets and that it continues to consider the Church a bridge to facilitate a political solution to the country’s civil conflict.

Although the statement does not reveal any names of the perpetrators nor whether they will be handed over to authorities, the statement says that the “act will not go unpunished” and that the group would take the necessary measures in accord with its own “wartime rules of conduct and humane ethics.”

In a gesture of good will, the President of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro, expressed the bishops’ forgiveness of the ELN for the murder of the priests.

He said he would maintain his contacts with the ELN.  “As far as the Church is concerned, we forgive the ELN for what has happened.  Evidently we will continue to dialogue with them and with all of the illegally armed groups in order to search for peace,” the archbishop said.

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Argentine bishops call for forgiveness and conversion in wake of sexual scandal involving bishop.

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug 23, 2005 (CNA) - The Executive Committee of the Bishops’ Conference of Argentina issued a statement this week in response to the unexpected resignation of Bishop Juan Carlos Maccarone of Santiago del Estero, who stepped down after reports he engaged in sexual misconduct with an adult man.

In the brief statement the bishops said, “The Church, in the weakness of her children, is a sign in the world of the mercy of God the Father in Jesus Christ.  This demands of us a constant, day-by-day conversion and penance without fear of the truth or attempts to hide it.”

“At this time we feel the suffering and confusion of our people.  It’s time to renew our trust in the power of God’s grace,” the statement adds.  The bishops also expressed their solidarity “with the presbyterate and the people of Santiago del Estero.”

In the face of persistent reports of sexual misconduct with an adult man, Bishop Maccarone, 64, decided to present his resignation, which Pope Benedict XVI immediately accepted.

The bishop will retire to an undetermined place.  “We accompany our brother with affection, understanding and prayer,” the bishops said.

“May Mary, Queen of the Apostles, protect and comfort us in this moment of trial,” the statement concludes.

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