Vatican City, Nov 29, 2005 (CNA) - Today, the Vatican officially released its hotly debated new document regarding the admission of homosexuals to the priesthood. An Italian Catholic news agency leaked the document last week and a Vatican source had confirmed its authenticity, making the document’s contents already known.
No major changes came in the official "Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders" released by the Congregation for Catholic Education, and dated November 4th.
As watchers had expected for months, the Instruction affirms the Church’s long-held teaching that men with “deep seeded” homosexual tendencies should not be admitted to the priesthood.
It adds that such tendencies "gravely” hinder potential priests “from relating correctly to men and women."
Some critics are still blasting the document while others think that it is a necessary clarification and a step in the right direction.
Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, head of the Congregation for Catholic Education defended the document on Vatican radio, calling it a clear, reiteration of Church teaching.
He said that "in this field, [of sexuality] in today's world, there is some confusion…Many defend the position according to which the homosexual condition is a normal condition for the human being, as if it were nearly a third gender."
He clarified that the document namely concerns seminarians and those training for the priesthood, not someone who “discovers his homosexuality after having been ordained."
These priests, the cardinal said, have to “try to live in chastity ... maybe he will need more spiritual support than others, but I think he should be a priest in the best way possible."
Rev. Leonard Walker, an Arizona priest however, sees it differently. He announced that he is resigning his post as pastor of Queen of Peace Parish in Mesa, citing “aggressive anti-gay positions” coming from the Pope and his own Bishop Thomas Olmsted.
He told the Arizona Republic that he no longer felt comfortable “wearing the uniform” of the priesthood. "I could no longer stay in that institution with any amount of integrity," he said.
Alternately, Bishop William Skylstad, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called the document necessary and “timely.”
He said that while the Church affirms "the dignity of all human beings and the respect that should be shown all people irrespective of sexual orientation," it also teaches that "God has given this gift (of sexuality) to humanity to bring about a loving relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong union of a marriage open to the creation of new life."
He added that, in the new Instruction, "the Congregation for Catholic Education is exercising a Christian realism about what is expected in candidates for the priesthood. This realism understands the challenges of our time."
At the end of August, Pope Benedict approved and ordered the publication of the document, which had been in the works for a number of years. It came into public light in 2002, at the height of the priestly abuse scandal.
Vatican City, Nov 29, 2005 (CNA) - In a decree released today, Pope Benedict has announced that the Church will grant a Plenary Indulgence for the upcoming feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th.
The decree, which was signed by Cardinal James Francis Stafford, penitentiary major of the Apostolic Penitentiary, and Fr. John Francis Girotti, O.F.M. Conv., the group’s regent, notes that the December 8th Feast Day will mark 40 years since Mary was proclaimed Mother of the Church by Pope Paul VI at the Second Vatican Council.
The text notes that the late Holy Father “dedicated great praise to the Virgin who, as Mother of Christ, is Mother of God and spiritual Mother to us all.”
For this reason, the decree continues, “the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI, when he renders public homage of praise to Mary Immaculate, has the heartfelt desire that the entire Church should join with him, so that all the faithful, united in the name of the common Mother, become ever stronger in the faith, adhere with greater devotion to Christ, and love their brothers with more fervent charity.”
From here - as Vatican Council II very wisely taught - arise works of mercy towards the needy, observance of justice, and the defense of and search for peace."
The decree states that the Indulgence may be obtained under the “usual conditions”, which, according to Church norms, include, sacramental Confession, reception of the Eucharist, and prayer united with the Pope’s intentions.
The Indulgence also requires the soul to be “completely removed from attachment to any form of sin” during the Solemnity.
The decree likewise asks faithful to “participate in a sacred function in honor of the Virgin, or at least offer open testimony of Marian devotion before an image of Mary Immaculate exposed for public veneration, adding the recitation of the Our Father and of the Creed, and some invocation to the Virgin."
The historic document concludes by noting that those who are unable to participate in a public ceremony because of illness or some other “just cause” may obtain the Indulgence in their homes or respective location with the intention of completing the aforementioned conditions as soon as they can.
Hanoi, Vietnam, Nov 29, 2005 (CNA) - 57 priests were ordained today in Viet Nam, in a move towards more religious freedom, in strongly secularized and officialy atheist country.
The ceremony was presided over by Cardinal Crescienzio Sepe, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, urging the newly ordained priests to "convert more people in the southeast."
"They will be like Jesus here," Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, head of the Vatican's missionary arm, told a cheering crowd of several thousand at a ceremony in Hanoi Cathedral, a Gothic edifice built by Vietnam's French colonial rulers in the heart of the capital.
"Those who have not heard about Jesus should listen to these priests," he said. "Of the 80 million Vietnamese, only 6 million are Catholics."
Sepe was the first ranking Vatican official to be allowed to ordain priests in Vietnam, a reflection of the steadily improving ties between Hanoi's communist government and the Roman Catholic Church.
Leaders of Vietnam's Catholic Church, which dates back to French colonial days, were given blanket approval to travel to Rome for the funeral of Pope John Paul II. They also received messages of sympathy from top Communist party leaders.
Before the ceremony, Sepe went on a procession through the narrow streets of Hanoi, packed with thousands of well-wishers, some of whom had traveled from 150 km away to witness the ordination.
Sepe met government leaders on Monday to express the Vatican's wish to improve ties with Vietnam and request for permission to build Catholic schools and publish Catholic magazines.
While the status of Catholics has steadily improved since the 1975 communist unification of the country at the end of the Vietnam War, lingering suspicion remains about the activities of Catholics and other religious leaders.
Amid concerns raised both by the US Government and the Europeans about religious freedom in Viet Nam, Hanoi says it respects freedom of religion, and there are now no restrictions on individual worship. Churches are filled on Sunday and other Christian holy days.
, Nov 29, 2005 (CNA) - Baltimore’s Cardinal William Keeler turned heads yesterday when he visited convicted murderer, Wesley Eugene Baker, and called on Maryland’s governor to stop his execution scheduled for next week.
The Cardinal’s appeal comes just weeks after the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a document calling for an end to the use of the death penalty in the U.S., saying that it is not necessary as defense against criminals.
Denver’s Archbishop Charles Chaput recently called it not only unnecessary, but an excess.
According to the Baltimore Sun, Cardinal Keeler called his first-ever visit to death row and meeting with Baker "very prayerful and spiritual."
Keeler, who head of the U.S. Bishop‘s Committee for Pro-life activities, who helped to draft the recent document, added that "This is an opportunity when we can and should speak out on behalf of human life."
The Sun noted that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., signed Baker's death warrant this month, but said that he "fully respects Cardinal Keeler and his beliefs," and is "committed to giving this case a thorough and objective review based on its own individual merits."
Cardinal Keeler, along with Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, and Bishop Michael A. Saltarelli of Wilmington, Del., sent a joint letter to the governor asking him to commute Baker's sentence to life without parole.
They wrote, "We write as believers, who know that God's justice is seasoned by His mercy…Mercy is what we ask of you in the case of Mr. Baker."
They added that Church teaching "acknowledges the right of legitimate government to resort to the death penalty, but it challenges the appropriateness of doing so in a society now capable of defending the public order and ensuring the public's safety."
Baker, 47, is scheduled to be put to death on December 5th for the killing of Jane Tyson, a teacher’s aide who he robbed and shot in front of her grandchildren in 1991.
Cardinal Keeler’s is the first known visit by a U.S. bishop to death row.
Belleville, Ill., Nov 29, 2005 (CNA) - Because of a growing priest shortage in his diocese, Bishop Edward Braxton of Belleville Illinois has announced that lay ministers may preside at Sunday liturgical celebrations in certain cases of emergency, where there is no priest.
The ‘celebrations’, which are not Mass, constitute norms established by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1994 based on a Vatican document entitled, "Directory for Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest."
Bishop Braxton stressed that laity could only perform the celebrations in cases of absolute last resort and only with a written mandate from him.
Special instruction will be offered to those who wish to hold the responsibility, which includes a prayer service and distribution of communion.
In a letter to the diocese, the bishop cited John Paul II who wrote that, “the Church draws her life from the Eucharist”, and so pointed out that the Church “has a special pastoral concern for those who cannot attend Sunday Mass because a priest is not available.”
He wrote that “the Norms that I am promulgating today are intended to do all we can to make it possible for Christ to come sacramentally to the Catholic People of God on Sunday, even if participating in the celebration of the Eucharist is not possible.”
The bishop closed his letter by strongly calling on the faithful to pray for vocations to the priesthood in order to solve the problem.
St. Louis, Mo., Nov 29, 2005 (CNA) - The issue of embryonic stem cell research has reached Missouri's Catholic churches. Sunday, parishioners were told not to support this kind of medical research.
Rev. Thomas Keller of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis said, "The destruction of human life, even in it's embryonic form, is something that is evil that we don't want to participate in. We want to educate our folks that there's more to the story than simply saying this is a type of research on human cells."
The message is in response to a proposed constitutional amendment to prevent any stem cell research from getting banned in Missouri.
Donn Rubin is chairman of Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures which is proposing the amendment.
Rubin said, "The legislation that was proposed in the Missouri legislature would have made criminals not only of researchers but of patients and physicians who participated in delivering therapies and cures."
Rubin said a constitutional amendment is the only way to protect stem cell research in Missouri.
"If the FDA approves a cure that's developed as being safe and effective we want to make sure Missouri patients will have access and Missouri patients and their families won't have to travel to other parts of the country to get treatments or be condemned here in Missouri to second class healthcare."
The Catholic church supports adult stem research, but not embryonic stem cell research.
"We shouldn't participate in the discarding of that (stem cells). Catholics or even society at large really should take a look at the way in which we so very easily can discard human life based on the fact it's not useful to someone anymore. " said Rev. Thomas Keeler.
The Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures will need about 150,000 signatures statewide to put the initiative on next November's ballot. It would then need a simple majority of the votes to pass.
The coalition will start collecting signatures within the next two weeks.
This campaign follows a previous campaign, launched in April by the Missouri Catholic Bishops Conference to support a ban against human cloning, and many other documents released by the Missouri Bishops on the sanctity of human life.
Madrid, Spain, Nov 29, 2005 (CNA) - During the II International Symposium on Education and Film, held in Valencia, Spain, the former director of the Interdisciplinary Group for Women’s Issues in Mexico, Valeria Guerra Soler, emphasized the need for women to have a more dynamic presence in the film industry and that movies should promote “a greater social presence for women.”
Guerra Soler said movies ought to bear witness to “the characteristics proper to women, such as their fulfillment in love, their strength, their feminine genius, their mission of protecting life and their intuition,” which helps them understand others and “contribute to the richness of interpersonal relationships.”
As examples of a “correct and appropriate treatment of women,” she mentioned the characters of Mary of Nazareth in “The Passion of the Christ” and Mae Braddock in “Cinderella Man.”
Film should be a tool, she continued, that shows that women, with their particular characteristics, help “to configure the civilization of love” by affirming “the value of life and love,” and that, “having an intimate relationship with the mystery of the transmission of life, they are especially endowed to transmit and protect life and love.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 29, 2005 (CNA) - During a veneration ceremony of the martyrs of Leon, who were beatified last week in Mexico, Bishop Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago said, “There is no authentic Christian who does not have the vocation to martyrdom,” and this is “inseparable from authentic Christianity.”
The new blessed are Fathers Andres Sola and Jose Trinidad Rangel, and a lay Catholic Leonardo Perez.
While presiding at the ceremony at the Church of Mary the Queen, located at the foot of Christ the King Mountain, Bishop Martin Rabago said the martyrs of San Joaquin “were called to a vocation of martyrdom, and we can tend to think that we don’t have that same vocation. I would be so bold as to say that every authentic Christian has the vocation to martyrdom; we could say that it is inseparable from authentic Christianity.”
“This is testimony that the different vocations to which God calls us are all vocations that culminate and in the end lead to the encounter of holiness with the Lord,” he added.
The bishop also emphasized that holiness is not just for priests, but rather it is “the vocation of all those who have received the sacrament of Baptism.”