, Jan 31, 2006 (CNA) - The Catholic League is urging New Hampshire state legislators to reject a bill that would remove the priest-penitent privilege that has traditionally been granted by legislators and mandate all members of the clergy to report instances of suspected child abuse to the authorities.
House Bill 1127 is sponsored by Representative Mary Stuart Gile. A similar bill had been proposed in January 2003, but it was not passed.
"The priest-penitent privilege has been honored by the courts for over 200 years,” said Catholic League president Bill Donohue. “The Sacrament of Reconciliation is conditioned on confidentiality, much like lawyer-client, doctor-patient, reporter-source relationships.”
“Neither Rep. Gile, nor anyone else, has one scintilla of evidence suggesting that child abuse would decrease if what is heard in the confessional were made public,” he stated, adding that the bill was flawed in three ways.
“It is an unconstitutional encroachment by the state on religion; it is based on the superstition that child molesters are going free because priests are shielding them from the authorities, and; it is premised on the fatuous notion that priests would violate the seal of the confessional before ever going to prison,” he said.
, Jan 31, 2006 (CNA) - A series of car bomb explosions Sunday near four Christian churches and the Vatican mission office killed three people and injured nine.
The blasts occurred within a half-hour near two churches in Baghdad and two in Kirkuk, 180 miles to the north, reported the Associated Press. The three deaths occurred in the bombing at the Church of the Virgin in Kirkuk. A fifth bomb exploded about 50 yards from the Vatican mission in Baghdad.
The bombings have raised new concerns for the country's small Christian minority, which only make up 3 percent of Iraq's 27 million people, following the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections. At least 12 people were killed in a series of church bombings in 2004.
No group claimed responsibility for the bombings. At least 17 other people were killed in violence around the country that day.
Sydney, Australia, Jan 31, 2006 (CNA) - Christians across Australia held a National Day of Action Against RU486 on Sunday, protesting a bill that would loosen controls over importation of the abortion drug, which has been linked to at least five deaths in the United States and Canada.
Many Catholic and Protestant churches have been supporting a national campaign to defeat the bill, which would remove the health minister's authority to approve access to RU486 and give that authority to the Therapeutic Goods Administration, reported CNSNews.com.
While the drug is not officially banned in Australia, legislation passed in 1996 requires special permission from the health minister for its use.
Some churches have circulated petitions, while the letter-writing campaign, organized by the coaltion Australians Against RU486 at more than 500 churches, has generated about 75,000 letters to individual senators.
Public hearings will be held on the bill late this week and a report will be submitted to Parliament Feb. 8. The bill will be put to a vote Feb. 9.
RU486 is marketed as Mifeprex in the United States. Last July, the FDA issued a public health advisory after the drug manufacturer, Danco Laboratories, said it had received reports of five women in the U.S. and Canada dying after taking the drug.
RU486, the drug mifepristone, is legal in more than 30 countries and last year the World Health Organization controversially added it to its list of "essential medicines."
Washington D.C., Jan 31, 2006 (CNA) - The Episcopal Diocese of Washington voted to approve same-sex blessing ceremonies at its annual convention at the Washington National Cathedral Jan. 28.
The diocese has unofficially allowed same-sex ceremonies for years, and it has had a same-sex rite on the books since June 2004.
However, that rite has been put on hold until a meeting of the Episcopal General Convention in June in Ohio, when the denomination's future stance on homosexual clergy and same-sex blessings will be decided, reported the Washington Times.
In the meantime, at an annual council meeting in Richmond, held at the same time, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia passed an omnibus resolution which focuses on unity and promises to "seek the highest degree of communion possible" with Christians with whom it disagrees.
The diocese's 90,000 members and their bishop "would make every effort to cooperate as co-laborers within the [worldwide] Anglican Communion," the resolution said.
While some are praising the resolution for emphasizing unity, others are calling for more debate in the diocese and a clearer stand from Bishop Peter Lee.
A majority of the world's Anglican bishops have partially or completely broken ties with the Episcopal Church over its 2003 consecration of openly homosexual New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson.
Vatican City, Jan 31, 2006 (CNA) - Today, the Vatican released the text of Pope Benedict XVI’s message for lent 2006. In it, he focuses his attention on the scourge of global underdevelopment and exhorts faithful to give the gift of themselves in solidarity with the poor and true imitation of Christ.
The text is dated September 29th, 2005, and takes its title from the Gospel of Mark: "Jesus, at the sight of the crowds, was moved with pity."
At the outset of the message, the Holy Father affirmed that "Lent is a privileged time of interior pilgrimage towards Him Who is the fount of mercy. It is a pilgrimage in which He Himself accompanies us through the desert of our poverty, sustaining us on our way towards the intense joy of Easter.”
The Pope assured that, in a world which in some ways grows darker every day and “even in the desolation of misery, loneliness, violence and hunger that indiscriminately afflict children, adults, and the elderly, God does not allow darkness to prevail.”
“Even today”, he said, “the Lord hears the cry of the multitudes longing for joy, peace, and love. As in every age, they feel abandoned.”
He cited his predecessor, the late John Paul II, who said that “there is a 'divine limit imposed upon evil,' namely, mercy,” saying that this idea helped prompt his chosen theme.
Benedict then turned to his major theme: the much-debated question of development. He said that the Church, enlightened by the Paschal truth, “knows that if we are to promote development in its fullness, our own 'gaze' upon mankind has to be measured against that of Christ.”
“…It is quite impossible”, he stressed, “to separate the response to people's material and social needs from the fulfillment of the profound desires of their hearts.”
“This”, he said, “has to be emphasized all the more in today's rapidly changing world, in which our responsibility towards the poor emerges with ever greater clarity and urgency.”
Here, he cited Pope Paul VI, who called the “scandal of underdevelopment…an outrage against humanity.”
"As the antidote to such evil,” he said, “Paul VI suggested not only 'increased esteem for the dignity of others, the turning towards the spirit of poverty, cooperation for the common good, the will and desire for peace,' but also 'the acknowledgement by man of supreme values, and of God, their source and their finality.'“
"In the face of the terrible challenge of poverty afflicting so much of the world's population, indifference and self-centered isolation stand in stark contrast to the 'gaze' of Christ.
In what was perhaps the heart of his message, Pope Benedict said that “the primary contribution that the Church offers to the development of mankind and peoples does not consist merely in material means or technical solutions. Rather, it involves the proclamation of the truth of Christ, Who educates consciences and teaches the authentic dignity of the person and of work; it means the promotion of a culture that truly responds to all the questions of humanity.”
Through fasting, almsgiving and prayer, he said that “the Church proposes in a special way during the Lenten Season…suitable means for us to become conformed to this 'gaze.'“
The Pope likewise pointed to the “examples of the saints and the long history of the Church's missionary activity provide invaluable indications of the most effective ways to support development.”
Pope Benedict exhorted faithful to live in solidarity with the poor and oppressed, pointing out that there is a potential for disintegration of charity in the current culture.
He said that charitable, social actions, “have to include a recognition of the central role of authentic religious values in responding to man's deepest concerns, and in supplying the ethical motivation for his personal and social responsibilities.”
“These are the criteria”, he said, “by which Christians should assess the political programs of their leaders.”
“Very often,” the Pope pointed out, “when having to address grave problems, they have thought that they should first improve this world and only afterwards turn their minds to the next. The temptation was to believe that, in the face of urgent needs, the first imperative was to change external structures. The consequence, for some, was that Christianity became a kind of moralism, 'believing' was replaced with 'doing.'“
He again turned to the words of John Paul II, who said that “The temptation today is to reduce Christianity to merely human wisdom, a pseudo-science of well-being. In our heavily secularized world, a gradual secularization of salvation has taken place, so that people strive for the good of man, but man who is truncated...We know, however, that Jesus came to bring integral salvation.”
"It is this integral salvation”, Benedict wrote, “that Lent puts before us, pointing towards
the victory of Christ over every evil that oppresses us.”
Ultimately, the Pope told faithful that in an era of widespread poverty as well as unprecedented global interdependence, “it is clear that no economic, social, or political project can replace that gift of self to another through which charity is expressed.”
Chicago, Ill., Jan 31, 2006 (CNA) - Recently released from Loyola University Hospital after a bout with dizzy spells, Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George met Monday night with members of a Chicago area parish whose pastor was removed because of molestation charges involving two boys between 2001 and 2005.
The Cardinal took the opportunity to apologize about the way the scandal was handled by the Archdiocese and seek reconciliation with parishioners.
Chicago police charged Fr. Daniel McCormack on January 21st with two counts of child molestation and said that they were looking into more. The priest was removed from active ministry before the charges were filed.
200 people crowded into the church for the two-hour meeting in which the major concern voiced was that parishioners did not know about the charges earlier.
The Cardinal said that the Archdiocese had not received an allegation in August, when the incident originally surfaced, only a notification from police that the priest was being questioned.
"I'm sorry to be with you”, a forlorn Cardinal George said, “because this occasion is one that shames me certainly."
On Saturday afternoon, the prelate made himself available for reporter’s questions in a press conference that surprised even his own staff.
There, he said that “The sins of priests and bishops destroy the church…That is what we’re seeing.”
With regard to why the Archdiocese didn’t act in August, when charges began to surface, the Cardinal said that “You can’t just snap your fingers and remove a pastor. There is a canonical process…Had I known then what I know now, I think I would have found some way to take him out.”
According to norms drafted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002, a priest with a “credible allegation of abuse” must be removed from ministry.
However, Cardinal George pointed out, for the allegation to be credible, it needs to be brought to the archdiocese by the victim or the victim’s parent or guardian. “Otherwise”, he said, “it’s hearsay . . . To investigate it, we have to get the information from the victim himself.”
Apparently, even more problems surfaced when the Archdiocese was not able to gain information on the charges from the state or local police department without a subpoena.
“When we tried to get the information from the state,” the Cardinal said, “we couldn’t get it. In a sense, it’s the opposite of what you usually think of as a cover-up. . . . In this case, we didn’t have the information and the state did have it. We asked the state for it and we couldn’t get it for their own reasons.”
Cardinal George has promised to bring up this difficult technicality at the next meeting of the U.S. Bishops in a sincere effort to prevent situations like this from occurring in other parishes and dioceses.
Vatican City, Jan 31, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has named Msgr. Jean Laffitte as vice president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, replacing outgoing Msgr. Elio Sgreccia.
Msgr. Laffitte was born in Oloron-Sainte-Marie, France in 1952 and up to now was undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family.
The Pontifical Academy for Life was founded by John Paul II in 1994 to study the principal issues related to biomedicine and to the promotion and defense of life. Its first president was the famous French geneticist Jeròme Lejeune, who was a close personal friend of Pope John Paul II.
Raleigh, N.C., Jan 31, 2006 (CNA) - The One Bread Lay Apostolate, a Catholic group in North Carolina, has decided to use its participation in the traditional St. Patrick’s Day parade to promote the authentic meaning of the Irish saint’s commemoration.
Members of the group say they plan to wear t-shirts with prayers to the saint and interesting information about his life. Some t-shirts will also have a message inviting people to attend Mass at one of the local parishes. They will also pass out flyers and cards with the web address of their diocese as well as that of the One Bread Apostolate (http://1bread.catholic.org), which provides information about the Catholic faith.
In order to encourage young people to participate in the event, the group will hold the first “Catholic Youth Evangelization Awards” during the parade, in order to single out the best costumes and floats. Trophies, St. Patrick medals and other prizes will be awarded.
After the parade, the group plans to sell baked goods, refreshments, and religious items such as books, rosaries, jewelry and other Irish products.
Madrid, Spain, Jan 31, 2006 (CNA) - A new documentary showing the truth behind “what happens in the dark world of abortion” and produced by a group of Spanish specialists in the defense of women and human life has gone on sale in Spain.
The DVD documentary, produced by Prodigium Comunicación, addresses the issue of abortion “from the biological, psychological, social and political point of view.”
According to the publishers, “The Battle of Life” shows what happens behind the social evil of abortion: “the loneliness of the woman with an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy, post-abortion syndrome, when life begins, the international interests behind the promotion of abortion, etc.”
A number of influential individuals participated in the documentary, including Dr. Victoria Uroz, secretary of the Association of Victims of Abortion, Dr. Jesus Poveda, professor of Medical Psychology at the University of Madrid and president of Pro-Life Spain, Maria Echanove, “probably the greatest abortion ‘rescuer’ in Spain,” Javier Paredes, professor of Contemporary History at the University of Alcala de Henares, and Javier Lozano, president of the Thomas More Association of Lawyers.
The documentary’s producers said the work “could significantly contribute to the fight against this problem that has plagued Spain for twenty years and is now especially threatening Latin America.” More information can be found at www.florecilla.com
Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 31, 2006 (CNA) - At the conclusion of the World Forum on Ethics, which was held simultaneously in five cities in Mexico from January 27-29, participants issued an “Ethical Decalogue” with the conclusions of the working sessions. One of the most important points of the statement is the call to declare the family a patrimony of humanity.
The president of the Institute for Family Policy of Spain, Eduardo Hertfelder, told Europa Press about other issues discussed at the Forum. “The Forum has been incredible because it has taken place in five cities in which there has been ample room for the public, as we estimate some 1,500 people have participated at each one of the locals,” he noted.
He said participants also called for more equal access to the media, in order to prevent a monopoly on information. “A new forum based on ethics and on the person has emerged,” Hertfelder said.
Information on participating organizations as well as the subjects addressed during the Forum can be found at: