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Archive of September 2, 2005

US Bishops issue call to help poorest dioceses affected by Katrina

Washington D.C., Sep 2, 2005 (CNA) - On Thursday, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a special call for Catholic faithful to help the poorest dioceses in the path of Hurricane Katrina--especially those in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana.

Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane, WA, and president of the USCCB said that “All the bishops of the United States are concerned for the number of church personnel who are isolated, working under great adversity, and perhaps not even aware that the whole rest of the country is praying for them…We don’t even know if all of them are safe.”

The USCCB reported that Bishop Thomas J. Rodi of Biloxi, Mississippi was able to reach their Alexandria, VA offices by cell phone to say that some 20 percent of the diocese’s parishes are wiped out and a third of his schools have been destroyed.

Likewise, he said that every rectory, convent, school, and diocesan building sustained at least moderate if not severe damage in the storm.

“Most of the dioceses” in the effected area Bishop Skylstad pointed out, “are Home Mission dioceses, which struggle to survive under the best of conditions…They are the least able to cope with this adversity.”

Home Mission dioceses rely on the support of other dioceses to operate basic parish life. Most of the time, they are in areas which are too poor, or sparsely populated to be run on local donations.

The USCCB, in conjunction with Catholic Charities USA is currently staging what is said to be one of the largest aid efforts ever to help rescue the crippled U.S. Gulf coast.

Those wishing to help can go to www.catholiccharitiesusa.org for more information.

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Catholic Church responds massively to Katrina refugees

Washington D.C., Sep 2, 2005 (CNA) - The response from Catholic dioceses, communities and organizations to the devastation left behind by Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast has been immediate and far-reaching.

Catholic Church facilities nationwide, and especially in Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and East Texas, have kicked into high gear and are responding to emergency and long-term needs by providing shelters, food, medicine and schooling for storm refugees.

Dioceses nationwide have planned parish collections for the first weekends of September. However, dioceses immediately surrounding the disaster zone have been actively helping the people in this desperate situation for days.

Help has come through diocesan organizations, Catholic Charities agencies, St. Vincent DePaul Societies, Catholic schools, Catholic hospitals, parishes, retreat centers and Catholic families. As well, individual parishioners have personally stepped up to the plate and opened their homes to storm refugees and provided room and board.

In many dioceses, churches and retreat centers have been opened as shelters and Catholic schools have offered to educate displaced students at no cost. This is the case in the Diocese of Shreveport, Louisiana, where a number of refugees have been resettled. The schools said they would keep a transcript of grades to send back to the schools in southern Louisiana when they reopen.

Some dioceses are assisting very large numbers of storm refugees. About 30,000 arrived in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Texas. There, the local Catholic hospital, Christus St. Joseph, mobilized its mobile health unit to assist at shelters.

Thousands of refugees were evacuated to the Diocese of Beaumont, Texas, where parishes are preparing meals, collecting gift cards to Wall-mart, and hosting people. A diocesan retreat center has been housing 35 people since before the hurricane hit. The Hospitality Center, a diocesan soup kitchen, has been preparing to provide meals for people as their money runs out.

The Diocese of St. Petersburg, Florida, was accepting patients into its Catholic hospital system and Catholic Charities was working to provide temporary housing. The diocese also plans to send a team of people to the ravaged area to assess what kind of physical, as well as financial, assistance it can provide.

In addition to gathering non-perishables and helping to settle storm refugees, staff at Catholic Charities in Orlando has been helping families locate missing relatives.

Dioceses as far away as the Diocese of Albany, New York, were prepared to send volunteers to assist in the Gulf Coast; it would also help in relocating people if necessary.

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Vatican radio given legal rights to Pope Benedict's voice

Vatican City, Sep 2, 2005 (CNA) - The Vatican announced today that Pope Benedict XVI has legally entrusted Vatican Radio with the copyright and intellectual property rights to all of his voice recordings--even those made prior to his election to the papacy.

Vatican radio will now hold exclusive rights to the broadcasting and protection of these and future recordings, with the exception however, of those already legitimately in possession of other organizations and groups.

As official radio station of the Holy See, Vatican radio, according to article 15 of its own statute, will have the duty to compile, store and administer the audio archive of the Holy Father's voice.

Vatican radio, which can be heard in some 40 languages around the world today, was founded under the oversight of Pope Pius XI in 1931 in an effort to help the Church evangelize with modern means to the contemporary world.

In June of this year, Pope Benedict made a similar arrangement with the Vatican publishing house, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, to be given legal rights over all of his written works before and after his election as pontiff.

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Family groups horrified as California senate seeks to redefine ‘marriage’

Sacramento, Calif., Sep 2, 2005 (CNA) - Pro-family groups are expressing horror and outrage today after the California State Senate passed 21-15, a measure which could redefine marriage in the state from constituting a “man and woman” to simply “two persons.”

Thursday’s vote makes the California senate the first legislative body in the country to approve a same-sex marriage bill.

Observers now say that the stage is set for a battle over AB 849 in the state assembly, which had narrowly shot down the bill in June.

Randy Thomasson, president of the California-based Campaign for Children and Families, said Thursday that, "Every Californian who believes marriage is for a man and a woman must rise up today and demand that their state assembly member oppose AB 849."

The group says they have been actively opposing the so-called “gay marriage license” bill for nearly nine months now.

Thomasson is hopeful however, that "This corrupt deed by state legislators will energize voters to sign the VoteYesMarriage.com petition a month from now, to protect marriage rights for one man and one woman once and for all."

The Campaign for Children and Families pointed out that the bill’s passage effectively negates Proposition 22, which passed with 61% of the statewide vote in 2000. That proposition said that “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

This fact shocked pro-family groups who point to the California State Constitution which prohibits lawmakers from repealing or amending voter-approved initiatives.

Added Thomasson: “They're violating the state constitution, which specifically prohibits the Legislature from repealing voter-approved initiatives!…How can God bless California when our lawmakers do this?"

Senator Dennis Hollingsworth ( R), who voted in opposition was gravely disappointed in the passage of the bill, which he said, was not the right thing to do. He added: "We should protect traditional marriage."

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Back to school: Magisterium-friendly Catholic Colleges see largest enrollment ever

Steubenville, Ohio, Sep 2, 2005 (CNA) - Most people have never heard of Front Royal, Virginia or Steubenville, Ohio, but for throngs of faithful Catholics, these places are like small icons.

Both towns are home to colleges who boast both faithfulness to the teaching Magisterium of the Catholic Church and record enrollments for this year’s incoming freshman classes.

Speaking to Franciscan University of Steubenville’s 390-member freshman class--the largest in the school’s 59 year history, Steubenville Bishop Daniel Conlon told the group that, “Mom and Dad have their faith. They have shared it with you. Praise God. But it now must become your faith. This is your chance to come face-to-face with Jesus Christ who wants to have a loving relationship with you.”

Likewise, he called Franciscan University “a particularly holy place that can help you discern the call to religious life, to married life,” an important component, he said, of the university experience.

The bishop encouraged students to use their time in college “to grow intellectually to understand the mysteries of God. Use theology and philosophy to enter into the mystery of God’s truth.”

At the same time, down in Front Royal, VA, Christendom College announced last week that it too, recently welcomed its largest freshman class--379 students--to its rural campus near the Shenandoah National Park.

Tom McFadden, Director of Admissions for the school also added that they still have a large waiting list of students wanting to get in.

Schools like Franciscan, Christendom, and others like Florida’s Ave Maria University and Kansas’s Benedictine College are all bursting at the seams with students wanting to study in the light of the 2,000 year old Catholic faith.

Professors of Theology and religious studies at these institutions, along with only a handful of others across the country, all pledge fidelity to the Magisterium and teaching authority of the Catholic Church--and students and parents love it.

Joel Recznik, Franciscan University’s dean of Enrollment Management said that he attributes the enrollment boom, in part, to the university’s vibrant teen summer conference series, but also to  the fact that “the word is getting out about Franciscan University’s commitment to integrate the Catholic faith into the daily university experience; classroom, residence hall life, campus ministry.”

He added that today’s parents are more closely involved in their son or daughter’s college picks than in past generations.

“It’s not unusual”, he said, “for parents to tour 3 to 4 schools along with their son or daughter…For Catholic parents, these tours become an opportunity to observe the faith environment and spiritual and moral values their child will be exposed to and to examine to what degree it is infused into the total university experience.”

Canon Law number 812 reads: "It is necessary that those who teach theological disciplines in any institute of higher studies have a mandatum from the competent ecclesiastical authority."

While this controversial requirement has been a source of contention for numerous Catholic institutions who fear a loss of academic freedom, many of the colleges whose professors have the mandatum (recognition from the local bishop of the instructor’s pledge to teach in line with the Church) have seen dramatic increases in their enrollments since implementation.

New Vision

At this year’s convocation and opening of the school year Mass at Franciscan University last Monday, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Max Bonilla told students that because only a small fraction of Americans hold degrees from Catholic institutions, that the students have a rare privilege to be given “a vision of the world that is drastically different from what the world offers.”

Noting the plight of the human condition today, Bonilla said that “The mandate of a Catholic university is to instill in its students an entire vision of the world and of humanity that is grounded on a Christian anthropology that is able to respond to humanity’s darkest hour with hope and truth.”

Franciscan University was the first Catholic university in the country to support a 1989 decree by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, asking all theology professors to pledge fidelity to the Church. The faculty voted unanimously that same year to pledge their commitment.

Tom Sofio, associate director of public relations for the university told CNA that “For over 30 years the trend at Catholic colleges and universities was to relegate the Catholicity of a University to a few corners of the campus, usually campus ministry which sponsors liturgies, retreats and mission work.”

“Good as those are,” he said, “they are not enough to inculcate Catholic values into the total academic experience—from the classroom to residence halls, to sports, clubs and other activities. By the grace of God we are seeing a reversal of that trend among a handful of Catholic colleges and universities.”

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Pro-life group criticizes Planned Parenthood for hurricane ‘publicity stunt’

Stafford, Va., Sep 2, 2005 (CNA) - Jim Sedlak, president of American Life League’s STOPP International group, heavily criticized Planned Parenthood this week for what he sees as a marketing stunt aimed at victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Planned Parenthood of Houston and Southeast Texas has offered free so-called “emergency contraceptives” and birth control pills to hurricane refugees who can show a valid Mississippi or Louisiana state driver’s license.

The Catholic Church, echoed by numerous pro-life groups, believes that many of these contraceptives act as an abortifacient--killing human life. Even those that don’t however, are seen by the Church as an affront and violation of human and sexual dignity.

Thousands of evacuees have fled the flood ravaged city of New Orleans for nearby Texas and the Louisiana state government is moving more by bus to be temporarily housed in Houston’s Astrodome.

"It is absolutely unconscionable”, said Sedlak, “that Planned Parenthood would use the tragedy of hurricane Katrina to push its shameless agenda on the American public."

"I'm sure Planned Parenthood would claim it is not a publicity stunt," he said, "but how else do you explain the fact that Planned Parenthood lists its clinics in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana that are closed because of the storm, along with a listing of the clinics' phone numbers? If the clinics are closed, you don't need the phone numbers - unless you are trying to drum up future business. If Planned Parenthood really wants to help, it should donate a portion of the millions of dollars in profits it makes every year to aid in the victims' plights.”

"While Planned Parenthood's latest stunt is disgusting and utterly inappropriate, it is not surprising," said Sedlak. "The bottom line is that Planned Parenthood is out to promote its own agenda and will stop at nothing to take advantage of an opportunity to do so."

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US Bishop’s conference says document on gays in priesthood coming soon

Vatican City, Sep 2, 2005 (CNA) - The Congregation for Catholic Education was mandated to draw up guidelines for accepting candidates for the priesthood. These guidelines were expected to address the question of whether homosexuals would be barred. The chairman of the U.S. bishops' committee on priestly formation, Bishop John Nienstedt, said the Congregation told him that he could expect the guidelines soon.

This document  is about to be issued as Vatican officials are expected to begin their visit of the 229 seminaries, theology schools and institutes in the United States this month. It is another response that had been set up by Pope John Paul II to address the sex-abuse scandal that erupted in the U.S. about four years ago.

Teams of U.S. bishops and seminary personnel, chosen by the Vatican, will interview seminarians and faculty members and review, among other things, the schools' admissions criteria, reported the Associated Press.

The teams will report to the Congregation for Catholic Education, which will then draft an "overall evaluation" on the details of the visit.

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USCCB to publish Compendium of the Catechism

Washington D.C., Sep 2, 2005 (CNA) - The publishing office of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is set to publish the English-language version of the new Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The 200-page synthesis of the 1992 Catechism, which has been two years in the making, will be published later this year. A commission headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, prepared the Compendium.

The Pope presented it at the Vatican in late June. Containing 598 questions and answers, it makes the essentials of the faith accessible to a broad audience.

The Pope expressed the hope that abbreviated text “might favor the assimilation and possible memorization of the contents” and “reopen an ideal dialogue between the teacher and the disciple.”

The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church originated in 2002 at the International Catechetical Congress, held to mark the 10th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

A suggestion was made that a more concise version of the Catechism would be helpful for youth. Pope John Paul II accepted the suggestion and appointed the special commission headed by Cardinal Ratzinger.

The Compendium will be available in paperback ($14.95) and hardcover ($24.95). A Spanish version is also expected. It is possible to pre-order copies by calling USCCB Publishing at 800-235-8722.

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Four priests seek canonical trials in sex abuse cases

Albany, N.Y., Sep 2, 2005 (CNA) - Four priests from the Diocese of Albany are denying allegations that they molested minors and have requested canonical trials to challenge their removal from ministry, reported the Associated Press.

The diocesan review panel found the claims against Frs. John Connolly, Joseph Romano, James Kelly and James McNerney to be credible.

However, Vatican officials have taken up the cause and are reviewing the cases, a spokesman for Bishop Howard Hubbard told the Times Union of Albany.

The four priests are among 20 in the diocese removed from ministry since 1950 after being accused of abusing minors.

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Death threat made against Argentine archbishop

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sep 2, 2005 (CNA) - On August 29 Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata, Argentina, revealed he had received a death threat from an anonymous source “recommending” him to cease expressing his opinions publicly about the Argentine government.

According to the Infobae.com website, the archbishop reported the threat to local law enforcement, and when informed of the incident, federal officials contacted the archbishop to assure him of their concern and that the necessary measures to protect his security would be taken.

Archdiocesan officials said the archbishop received a phone call from a man who said the prelate would “not be coming back to the chancery because we will kill you first, and if it is not today and you keep talking, we will do it at any moment.”

Archbishop Aguer said he was “surprised, concerned and disgusted” because it was the first such threat he has received.  He continued his activities as normal traveling to a parish on the outskirts of  La Plata, where he had scheduled a week-long visit.

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Costa Rican archbishop denounces schismatic group

San José, Costa Rica, Sep 2, 2005 (CNA) - Archbishop Hugo Barrantes Ureña of San Jose, Costa Rica, said this week the self-named “Reformed Catholic Church,” which has been operating in the country since 2000 and claims to be in communion with the Holy See, is “a schismatic group.  A group that is separated from the Catholic Church.”

Reacting to news of the group’s recent “ordination” of a woman to the deaconate, Archbishop Barrantes noted that the group accepts “among their ranks priests in irregular situations and Catholics who do not want to submit to ecclesiastic discipline.”

“The Reformed Catholic Church is not in communion with the Holy Father. In fact, its bishops are not listed in the Annuario Pontificio (The Pontifical Yearbook), they do not hold ad limina visits with the Holy Father.  Therefore, these bishops are not in communion with the Pope or with any bishop that is in communion with Peter,” the archbishop stated.

Addressing the charge that the Church has marginalized women, the archbishop noted, “The presence and role of women in the life and mission of the Church, while not connected to the ministerial priesthood, are nonetheless totally necessary and irreplaceable.  In this sense the Church encourages women to become fully conscious of the grandeur of their mission: their role is vital today, both for the renewal and humanization of society and for the rediscovery by believers of the true face of the Church,” he recalled.

The archbishop also quoted John Paul II, who said that “it is not possible for the Church to confer priestly ordination on women, and this teaching should be considered definitive by all the faithful of the Church.”

The Reformed Catholic Church embraces optional celibacy for priests, the ordination of women, communion for the divorced and remarried, the abolition of excommunication and democratic election of bishops by the laity and the clergy.  It was founded in Miami, Florida, in 1998.

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