Archive of February 1, 2006

Saint Pius X Fraternity seeks to regularize its canonical status and outlines detailed plan

Vichy, France, Feb 1, 2006 (CNA) - The Saint Pius X Fraternity and its superior general Bishop Fellay , are seeking the regularize their situation with the Holy See, in a declaration made by the same bishop on January 13th, and in comments to French newspaper La Croix.

According to the superior general, the Vatican would be willing to grant them a status of autonomy and the creation of a personal apostolic administration directly under the administration of of the Pope. The same has been done already in 2001-2002 in Campos, Brazil.

Bishop Fellay is confident this status will be granted to them, even though, he says, “we don’t want to be a catholic group aside. We don’t ask for the old mass just for us, but for all. But maybe we have to go through this transitory status.” 

An extensive comment and proposal has been made by the abbé Paul Aulignier, an expelled priest of the fraternity, on his website “la revue Item” who enthusiastically welcomed such news and devised a detailed plan in order to fulfill this status. “We can only win in this situation,” says the priest, “We should really take this opportunity from Rome.”

Under these circumstances, Fr. Paul Aulignier outlines an extensive plan for this Apostolic Administration, in order to prepare the traditionalist group to reintegrate the Church. He values the success of a first similar experience in Brazil, noting this experience is not restricted to some few parishes but has extended to over 13 dioceses in that country.

In his draft, the Vatican would first recognize the validity of the old Ordo of Saint Pius V and would create a “Ordinariat of the Good Shepherd,” for the Latin liturgy. It would be a federation of Institutes and Works. They would be allowed to celebrate mass based on the old rite of Saint Pius V.

His draft gives the details of the administration of the Ordinariat, and would be a personal prelature of the Pope who would name a Cardinal Prefect.

This is just a draft imagined by an expelled member of the fraternity, not an official document of the Vatican nor the Saint Pius X Fraternity.

The whole document is available in French at the following:

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Bishops’ President Skylstad vows concern over Budget Reconciliation Bill in a Letter to Congress.

Washington D.C., Feb 1, 2006 (CNA) - The President of the US Bishops Conference, Bishop William S. Skylstad called on the House to reject the recently proposed budget reconciliation bill, saying it fails to “meet the needs of the most vulnerable among us.”

“We urge you to reject the conference agreement and work for policies that put poor children and families first,” Bishop Skylstad said.

“I wrote to you expressing serious concerns about provisions in the budget reconciliation bill. The proposed changes in Medicaid, child support enforcement funding, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and agriculture conservation programs, in particular, could have a negative impact upon the most vulnerable in our nation,” wrote Bishop Skylstad.

"Our Bishops’ Conference is deeply disappointed that the final budget reconciliation conference agreement coming once again before the House of Representatives includes provisions in these areas which we believe could prove harmful to many low-income children, families, elderly and people with disabilities who are least able to provide for themselves. Because of these concerns, we ask you to oppose the budget reconciliation conference agreement."

Though Bishop Skylstad recognized the bill also includes positive elements, such as additional funding for victims of Hurricane Katrina and a program to promote marriage and healthy families. He believes that, overall, the impact of this bill will be to fail to meet the needs of the most vulnerable among us.

"An essential priority of government is to provide for the general welfare of its people, especially “the least among us.”, he concluded.

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Is Georgetown University Still Catholic? Will ask on Thursday president of Cardinal Newman Society

Washington D.C., Feb 1, 2006 (CNA) - This Thursday, the Lecture Fund at Georgetown University will welcome Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, to campus to ask an important question that is bound to open a broader debate within the university community: Is Georgetown still Catholic?

The Cardinal Newman Society is a national organization dedicated to the renewal of Catholic identity at Catholic colleges and universities in the United States. It is are an intercollegiate organization of more than 16,000 college leaders, educators, students, alumni, and others.

The School argues that over the past few decades Georgetown has redefined its identity as a Catholic and Jesuit university (it severed its legal ties to the Church in 1969). Over that time, it has evolved from a strong regional university to an internationally recognized research institution attracting students from all over the world. As a result, the university has embodied a strong international character along with a commitment to diversity and openness to students of all faiths.

Georgetown has shown that outside values and beliefs can co-exist with the Jesuit identity that continues to make our university distinct from other top schools.

“A middle ground compatible with other belief systems,” would allow The university to attract a variety of students because of its non-imposing Catholic teachings.

The university values the On-campus Catholic organizations like the Knights of Columbus and the Catholic Daughters of America  which continue to enjoy thriving memberships, and there is still a sizeable Catholic presence among students — approximately half of the student body is Catholic.

Patrick Reilly and the Cardinal Newman Society is continuing its action to remind Catholic universities of their fundamental identity and how to be both Catholic and places of debate. This follows a remark made by Patrick Reilly on the newly taken position by Notre Dame president on whether Catholic Universities should allow events contrary to the Catholic Faith on their campuses.

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Roman Catholic Bishops Bill Deals With Child Sexual Abuse

Denver, Colo., Feb 1, 2006 (CNA) - In this week’s Denver Catholic Register (February 1), Colorado’s bishops urge Catholics across the state to demand an end to the unequal treatment of sexual abuse violations under Colorado law. “For the sake of justice and common sense – and for the sake of their own children – Catholics need to demand from Colorado lawmakers an end to our state’s legal inequities in dealing with childhood sexual abuse,” they write.

"On a matter as ugly and grave as the sexual abuse of minors, exactly the same civil and criminal penalties, financial damages, time frames for litigation and statutes of limitations should apply against both public and private institutions and their agents," the statement said issued Monday said.

It was signed by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs and Bishop Arthur Tafoya of Pueblo.

Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald and House Majority Leader Alice Madden introduced their measure Friday making it easier for victims to sue the church and other private groups by extending the statute of limitations in cases in which an institution or another person could be held "vicariously liable" for a perpetrator's acts.

The bill would not affect sex-abuse complaints against employees of public schools or government entities -- which is unfair, the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver argues.

More than two dozen lawsuits have been filed alleging sexual abuse by a priest whom the victims claim the the church knew had molested other children.

"We now have a lot of victims coming forward who have no way to seek any justice," said Fitz-Gerald, D-Coal Creek Canyon, who is Catholic. "I'm trying to give people who have been abused their day in court and let juries sort it out."

Hundreds of cases were filed against the Catholic church in California after lawmakers recently opened a one-year window suspending statutes of limitations for child sexual abuse lawsuits.

With some exceptions, child sex-abuse victims in Colorado must file by the time they're 24.

Under the proposal, some damage limits would be lifted and lawsuits could be filed even if the alleged abused has died.

Other bills in the House would abolish the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse in criminal cases and in some civil cases, including those involving any future incidents of abuse.

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Democrats striving to regain the “Catholic Vote.”

Richmond, Va., Feb 1, 2006 (CNA) - The Democratic Party is intensifying efforts to reach out to Catholic voters, according to the Boston Globe. There was evidence yesterday when Virginia's newly installed governor  delivered the response to President Bush's State of the Union address.

Governor Timothy M. Kaine, a  Catholic who spoke openly about his faith during his election campaign last year. Yesterday,  He first mentioned his experience of Service working as a missionary in Honduras, and underlining the value of Service  and the responsibility of the Governement in fiscal matters.

''Faith is a good guidepost for how you evaluate the world, but it also should be a good guidepost for how you act," Skinner said. ''That's really what his faith teaches -- that the real focus should be doing the work of faith that helps others."

Kaine's address from the governor's mansion in Richmond, was  a departure from the usual practice of Democratic congressional leaders responding to the president's speech from Capitol Hill, is part of the party's strategy to bring a once-reliable constituency back to their side.

There is a better way,” he said for the management of issues such as health care or national security

After Democratic Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts -- the party's first Catholic nominee since John F. Kennedy in 1960 -- lost the Catholic vote to Bush, a Methodist, in the last presidential election, national Democrats want to recast the party's image.

Until recently, most Catholic voters were loyal Democrats, dating back to President Franklin Roosevelt. Many defected to vote for Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, but Bill Clinton won them back in 1992 and 1996.

But Republicans aggressively courted the largely Catholic Hispanic vote, and stood against abortion and gay marriage, which the Vatican also opposes. The move paid dividends: Bush's 2004 reelection campaign won 52 percent of all Catholic voters, according to exit polls.

While it is obvious the Democrats' deep commitment to abortion rights has eroded its support among Catholics, and the party still maintains its firm support of a right ot abortion.

The Democratic National Committee is working with newly formed Catholic political groups in 10 states. On Capitol Hill, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Catholic, has formed a group to identify ways Democrats can speak about social issues and faith.

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Experts ponder Catholic-majority U.S. Supreme Court

Washington D.C., Feb 1, 2006 (CNA) - Yesterday, recently appointed Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed Judge Samuel Alito to take the reigns of outgoing Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, thus creating the first Catholic-majority Supreme Court in U.S. history.

Judge Alito now joins fellow Catholics, John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy.

The final vote was unprecedented split along party lines with many observers criticizing the 58-42 vote as being overly partisan.

That fact notwithstanding, the 55 year old New Jersey native was sworn in just hours before President Bush’s regular State of the Union address.

Many Christian and religious groups are praising the confirmation and hoping that a Catholic majority could hold substantial clout in the possible overturning of the Roe vs. Wade decision which legalized abortion in the U.S. in 1973.

The Economist Magazine remarked recently that the possibility of a Catholic majority court “is a remarkable historical turnaround.” It cites Arthur Schlesinger senior, who “once remarked that prejudice against the Catholic Church was ‘the deepest bias in the history of the American people‘”.

Fr. Frank Pavone, head of the group Priests for Life, for his part praised “voters who, in the elections of 2004, were motivated by the desire to change the Supreme Court, particularly on the way it rules regarding abortion.”

“No issue”, he said, “is of greater moral consequence. We expect that the changes on the Court will move us closer to an end to legal abortion in America.”

“We renew”, he added, “our call to voters to make the elections of 2006 and 2008 even greater advances for the protection of the unborn.”

Joseph Cella, president of the group Fidelis, said yesterday that "With his even temperament and respect for the rule of law will, we believe Justice Alito will serve on the Supreme Court with distinction. We congratulate him on his confirmation and wish him well in his continued service to our country.”

He opined that "The state of the union is stronger with Justice Alito on the Supreme Court, and ushers a new era of respect for the rule of law. Without a doubt, Justice Alito’s confirmation is the single biggest domestic victory to date for President Bush.”

Rev. Rob Schenck echoed the sentiments of many other religious leaders in pointing out that "Millions of Americans have prayed for a change on the Court, and this vote is an answer to those prayers.”

“We are hopeful”, he said, that “the confirmation of Justice Alito is the beginning of the end for Roe, that it signifies the preservation of marriage and strengthens our public acknowledgement of God. Now we turn our prayers and work towards the next open seat."

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Colorado bishops, others, blast proposed legislation, cite unequal treatment for sexual abuse cases

Denver, Colo., Feb 1, 2006 (CNA) - Yesterday, all three of Colorado’s Catholic Bishops blasted proposed state legislation which would lift the statutes of limitation on sexual abuse cases. Because of state sovereignty laws, they pointed out that this would unequally punish the Catholic Church while public school teachers and coaches accused of abuse would be all but exempt.

A joint statement was released yesterday by Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, Colorado Springs Bishop Michael Sheridan, and Pueblo Bishop Arthur Tafoya.

Recently, a number of Colorado State Representatives, led largely by State Senator Joan Fitz-Gerald offered related bills to the Colorado General Assembly which seek to eliminate or modify statutes of limitation allowing sexual abuse victims to wait up to 40 years before filing suits against Catholic and other private institutions in the state.

In their statement, the bishops explained that they agree “that the sexual abuse of a minor is a serious crime and a grave sin” and conceded that “The proposed pieces of legislation, whatever their final form, and whether they’re pulled from consideration or move forward, have sparked an important discussion.”

They asked however, “What should Colorado’s public policy be on civil lawsuits arising from such sexual abuse? And should two unequal kinds of justice apply — a soft version when the sexual offender works for a public entity, and another, much harder version when the offender works for a Catholic or private institution?”

“Nationally,” they pointed out, “the evidence is…irrefutable that sexual abuse and misconduct against minors in public schools is a serious problem — in fact, more serious than anywhere outside the home, including churches.”

“Since most Catholic children in Colorado attend public schools,” they added, “this should seriously concern the whole Catholic community.”

Citing what they called the unfairly balanced tilt to Colorado state law, the Bishops asked “why can a victim of teacher or clergy abuse in a Catholic school or parish wait a lifetime before initiating such litigation, while the victim of exactly the same and even more frequent abuse in a public school setting loses his or her claim by waiting 181 days?”

Likewise, the questioned, “why should a Catholic institution that is sued for such conduct be liable for massive, community-crippling damages, while guilty public institutions — even if sovereign immunity were waived — would face a mere $150,000 damages?”

Mere Coincidence?

The Bishops are not alone in their sentiments. Vincent Carroll, a columnist for the Denver Rocky Mountain News wrote today that “Colorado Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald says her bill temporarily lifting the statute of limitations on sexual abuse lawsuits isn't aimed at any one group - you know, such as the Catholic Church.”

He sarcastically quipped, “Of course not. Such special legislation would be entirely out of line and Senate presidents never toy with anything so improper.”

Carroll noted that the “only allegations Fitz-Gerald or anyone else seems to mention in relation to her legislation involve the church. And that the only organization already targeted by a smoothly functioning coalition of high-powered plaintiffs' attorneys and victim groups is the church.”

But, he pointed out, Fitz-Gerald seems determined to pass off an act seemingly aimed squarely at the Catholic Church as merely coincidence.

Lamenting that Catholics have “learned about the national scope and human impact of sexual abuse the hard way” the bishops wrote that they “are wholeheartedly committed to helping victims heal and doing everything we can to protect our families in any Church-related environment.”

“Every victim of sexual abuse suffers deeply and deserves our compassion,” they said, “But the facts clearly show that the sexual abuse of minors is in no way a uniquely — or even disproportionately — ‘Catholic’ problem.”
They highlighted the fact that “too many public authorities have had too little accountability on the issues of sexual misconduct and abuse for too long.

“As a society,” they said, “if Coloradans are really serious about ending the sexual abuse of minors, that needs to change.”

In strong final words, the bishops said that “For the sake of justice and common sense — and for the sake of their own children — Catholics need to demand from Colorado lawmakers an end to our state’s legal inequities in dealing with childhood sexual abuse.”

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Kingdom of God not founded on dominion, oppression, but mercy, tenderness and justice

Vatican City, Feb 1, 2006 (CNA) - During today’s general audience held at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI told a crowd of 8,000 that contrary to earthly kingdoms established by man, the Kingdom of God is one based on mercy, not false power, dominion and oppression for the weak.

The Pope continued his ongoing catechesis on the Psalms, this week discussing Psalm 144, which he called, "praise of divine majesty."

He began by calling the Psalm "an intense and impassioned celebration of divine regality. ... It is an expression of God's plan of salvation.”

God, the Holy Father went on, “is not indifferent to human history, rather He desires to bring it into conformity with His design of harmony and peace.”

“All humanity”, he said, “is called to put this plan into effect, that it might adhere to the divine salvific will, a will that extends to 'all men,' to 'all generations' and to 'all time.'“

He called this “A universal action that takes evil from the world and places there the 'glory' of the Lord, in other words, His effective and transcendent personal presence."

Moving on, Pope Benedict explained that in the psalm, "the Lord is exalted as a loving and tender sovereign, concerned for all His creatures. ... We are not at the mercy of dark forces, nor are we alone with our freedom; rather we are entrusted to the action of the powerful and loving Lord Who has a plan for us, a 'kingdom' to establish.”

“This 'kingdom'“, he said, “is not founded on power and domination, on triumph and oppression as is often the case of earthly kingdoms." It is a place of "piety, tenderness, goodness, grace and justice." As the psalm says, the Lord is "gracious and merciful, slow to anger."

Here, the Pope cited St. Peter Chrysologus, who said that "even greater than the Lord's works is the Lord's mercy."

Not coincidentally, following today’s audience, Benedict addressed a special greeting to heads of the Italian Prison Administration, telling them that "Your presence gives me an opportunity to remind individuals and the whole of society of respect for civil and ethical norms, which lie at the foundation of human coexistence."

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Pope’s February prayer intentions call for end to human trafficking, increased social involvement for lay Catholics

Vatican City, Feb 1, 2006 (CNA) - The Vatican today announced Pope Benedict XVI’s prayer and mission intentions for the month of February. They include justice for, and an end to the growing scourge of human trafficking as well as encouragement to social and political participation on the part of lay faithful.

The specific text of the Holy Father’s general prayer intention is: "That the international community may be ever more aware of the urgent duty to bring an end to the trafficking in human beings."

Likewise, his mission intention is: "That in the missions the lay faithful may recognize the need to serve their own country with greater commitment, also in its political and social life."

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Shrine of Aparecida in Brazil preparing for 2007 CELAM conference

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Feb 1, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Raymundo Damasceno Assis of Aparecida, Brazil, said this week the Shrine of Aparecida is beginning preparations to host the V General Conference of the Latin American Bishops’ Council (CELAM) and to welcome Pope Benedict XVI.

During a press conference, the archbishop pointed out that preparations to welcome bishops from across the continent and to facilitate media coverage are ahead of schedule.

The director of CELAM’s press office, Father David Gutierrez, said the media strategy that would be employed during the meeting and the visit of the Holy Father would depend on the decisions of the Pope and the Holy See regarding how much time he will spend in Aparecida and if his visit will be extended to other cities in Brazil or America.  The V General Conference of the Latin American Bishops’ Council will take place in May of 2007.

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Chilean senator says homosexual unions and abortion part of new government’s agenda

Santiago, Chile, Feb 1, 2006 (CNA) - A Socialist party senator in Chile said this week the country’s newly elected government led by President Michelle Bachelet plans to include the legalization of civil unions for heterosexuals and homosexuals, as well as the possibility of decriminalizing abortion, in its agenda.

During an interview with the Chilean daily La Segunda, Senator Carlos Ominami said, “Before January 15 we had to make a big effort to retrain ourselves, but now I can say things that I was not able to before.” 

According to Ominami, “Now that the results of the election have been made known, a breath of fresh air is blowing through the country.  And this is related to a key word mentioned by the President-elect: freedom.  Freedom to make her own decisions, but that freedom should also belong to everyone to express their feelings, grievances and aspirations.”
A former Minister of Economy, Senator Ominami continued: “Now I can say things I wasn’t able to before, for example, that there is a need for homosexuals to have way to resolve their future problems, such as questions of inheritance or civil unions.  Or that to me it is a monstrosity that, and I speak only for myself, in Chile we don’t allow therapeutic abortion.  But all of this could have been addressed during the campaign,” he added.

Although Ominami acknowledged that his party is “part of a coalition” and that the socialists cannot impose their point of view on the country, he insisted that they would “seek to create a sort of civil union, similar to the French approach, where the problems of inheritance and social security are resolved under that approach and you don’t have to get married.  But it must be an approach for both heterosexuals and homosexuals.”

The senator said his intention was to ensure “that one can speak through the media and not be the subject of finger-pointing when one says he is for therapeutic abortion or for homosexual marriage. This is the great cultural transformation that this government ought to bring about.”

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Cardinal says Pope could visit US in 2007

, Feb 1, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore said last week Pope Benedict XVI is interested in visiting the United States in 2007, perhaps adding the stopover to a proposed trip to Brazil for the V General Conference of the Latin American Bishops’ Council.

The cardinal told WBAL radio in Baltimore that during his recent visit to the Vatican, the Pope told him of his desire to come to the United States, but that it would not be in 2006, as some media outlets were speculating.

Cardinal Keeler said that he had invited the Pope to visit for the rededication of the city's Assumption basilica in November of this year, but the Holy See responded that it would not be possible as the Pontiff has other trips scheduled for this year.

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Church in Costa Rica extends pre-marital preparation to help prevent failed marriages

, Feb 1, 2006 (CNA) - In response to an increase in failed marriages in Costa Rica, the Church in that country has decided to extend the length of pre-marital instruction and to require that priests celebrate marriage ceremonies exclusively in churches.

The Archdiocese of San Jose announced it would release the  “Decree on Catechetical Preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage” this Thursday and that it would be implemented throughout the entire country.

According to Father Sixto Varela, the main changes to premarital instructions would primarily be in the structure of the meetings, which he said would be better-planned and last around 30 hours.

Father Varela said priests would continuing interviewing couples to determine if they are ready for the sacrament of Matrimony, as often a deficient “pre-marital instructions is what results in couples not taking marriage seriously.” 

Father Alvaro Saenz, Director of Communications for the archdiocese, underscored that “the Church desires couples better prepare themselves and grow deeper in the areas of faithfulness and communication.”

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