, Feb 10, 2006 (CNA) - Catholic League president Bill Donohue commended mainstream media outlets for not reprinting or broadcasting the controversial cartoons, printed initially in a Danish newspaper, which offended Muslims worldwide and sparked violent retaliation.
“The Catholic League sides with the U.S., Britain and the Vatican in denouncing the inflammatory cartoons,” he said.
However, Donohue expressed his view that the media’s decision was not motivated by professional ethics.
“Regrettably, the decision by the media not to offend Muslims is motivated by fear, not ethics,” he said. “Worse than this, by far, is the violent reaction and calls for violence, which have sprung up all over the Muslim world. This is pure barbarism.”
“Ethics, not fear, should guide the media,” he said, adding that Muslims offended by the cartoons “should learn what a civilized response entails.”
He also questioned why some European societies reprinted the cartoons and cited the Washington Post, which attributed the reprinting “not [to] their love of freedom but [to] their insensitivity—or hostility—to the growing diversity of their own societies.”
Donohue suggested that the U.S. media should treat Catholicism with the same respect that it is currently showing Muslims. “If Catholicism were treated with such sensitivity and respect, we would have to shut down the Catholic League,” he said.
South Bend, Ind., Feb 10, 2006 (CNA) - Performances of "The Vagina Monologues" has caused quite a stir at Catholic universities across the country.
The play, traditionally performed around Valentine's Day, is being put on by students at about 20 Catholic schools this year, including DePaul and Georgetown universities and Boston College, reported The Associated Press.
The play will also be performed at the University of Notre Dame. But Notre Dame president Fr. John Jenkins announced last month he was scaling back the production of the Eve Ensler play this year, limiting it to a classroom setting and barring ticket sales. The controversial play addresses different female sexual experiences, including lesbian sex and rape.
But several schools, such as Providence College, have banned it altogether, saying it sends the wrong message. “It is deeply antithetical to the way Catholics think about sex," Fr. Brian Shanley, Providence College president, told the AP.
Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, a conservative group wants the play removed from Catholic campuses. He told the AP that the situation presents the problem of limits — where does a Catholic university draw the line?
“At a Catholic institution, when it comes to moral issues, the limits are probably going to be more strict than at another institution that has no understanding of moral truths," he was quoted as saying.
According to the AP, Fr. Jenkins is also seeking input from students, faculty and alumni on whether the play, as well as a gay film festival scheduled to take place this weekend, should be allowed on campus at all.
In the meantime, in an effort to clear up a perception that the festival is organized to "celebrate and promote homosexual activity,” the priest has ordered the three-year-old Queer Film Festival renamed the Gay & Lesbian Film: Filmmakers, Narratives, Spectatorships.
A student group, called United for Free Speech, has collected more than 1,000 signatures so far in a petition drive in favor of the programs.
Washington D.C., Feb 10, 2006 (CNA) - Craig Cuccia will receive this year’s Sister Margaret Cafferty Development of People Award for his work training and employing at-risk teens and young adults in the hospitality industry in New Orleans.
The national award is given annually by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the domestic anti-poverty program of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Cuccia will receive the award Feb. 12 at the Annual Combined Social Ministry Meeting at the Capitol Hilton in Washington.
Cuccia is the co-founder and executive director of Café Reconcile, a restaurant in New Orlean’s Central City neighborhood. It provides practical, on-the-job training and life skills to local hospitality school students and other residents and helps them to develop expertise in restaurant service and management.
The Café, which began in 1997 as a modest candy shop in a renovated corner of a derelict building, is one of the city’s Top Ten soul food restaurants today, with no meal priced at more than $8.
The New Orleans native became involved in ministry in the mid-1990s through his spiritual director, the late Fr. Harry Tompson, SJ, who helped him open a center for homeless people. They bought the Central City building that is now home to Café Reconcile. They began to develop the Café as a cooperative project of the Learning for a Sustainable Future Foundation and the St. John Francis Regis Hospitality School.
The current Café operation opened in 2000. Since then, more than 250 young people have completed the training program. Many have moved on to careers in the city’s top restaurants and there are now 10 full-time neighborhood employees at the Café.
Hurricane Katrina did not devastate the Central City neighborhood to the same extent as some other neighborhoods, and Café Reconcile reopened less than two months later.
Interestingly, the damage has provided both challenges and opportunities for the café. Central City has become a newly desirable location, and Cuccia is working with a church group to develop affordable housing so that the low-income residents will be able to stay as the area gentrifies. He has also expanded the focus of his program to train young adults for the many construction jobs now available throughout the city.
In addition, Cuccia is increasing Café Reconcile’s catering operation, developing a family learning center and working on the model for a “business incubator” to bring new jobs to the area.
Perth, Australia, Feb 10, 2006 (CNA) - The Australian Senate has voted in favor of the bill that would deny the Federal Health Minister a veto on the controversial RU-486 abortion drug.
The vote earlier this week was a setback for pro-life groups, who are hoping next week's vote in the House of Representatives will reject the bill.
Clare Pike, executive director of the Respect Life Office of the Archdiocese of Perth, said she believes that many of the men and women in the Senate “do not realize what they are doing because they are suffering from the trauma of abortion themselves.”
She said Senator Allison’s testimony about her own abortion was a good example of this
Pike warned the lower house: "The House of Representatives should note that men and women, such as Senator Allison, need compassion as people, not sympathy for an ideology that is empty and damaging for women."
Meanwhile, the Australian Catholic Students Association, the Muslim Students Association and the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students have vowed to fight on despite the Senate vote.
The students associations reissued a joint statement against the bill to all members of the House of Representatives.
Vatican City, Feb 10, 2006 (CNA) - Earlier today, Pope Benedict XVI met with members of the Holy See’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who are currently meeting in their plenary assembly. He encouraged the group to teach and safeguard the entirety of the Catholic faith, saying that love of the truth of Christ is central to real human existence.
Pope Benedict himself, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, headed the Vatican’s teaching and faith-safeguarding office from 1981 until his election as Pope last year.
The Holy Father began his address by encouraging the group to teach “the centrality of the Catholic faith, in its authentic expression,” particularly in their service to individual bishops and the greater world Church.
He highlighted that "when the perception of this centrality diminishes, the fabric of ecclesial life also loses its original vivacity and is damaged, decaying into a form of sterile activism or deteriorating into mere worldly political cunning."
Yet, he pointed out, if the truth of faith holds a central position the life of the Christian, then human existence "is revived by a love that knows neither rest nor limit."
Calling Jesus Christ, "the Truth made Flesh, Who draws the world to Him,” the Pope said that “The light radiated by Christ is splendor of truth. All other truths are fragments of the Truth that He is and that leads back to Him.”
He stressed that “Jesus is the pole star of human freedom, and without Him [that freedom] loses direction, because without knowledge of the truth freedom is distorted and isolated, and is reduced to sterile will."
Pope Benedict stressed the important point that Jesus Christ "attracts to Himself all men's hearts, opening them and filling them with joy.”
“In fact,” he said, “only the truth is capable of occupying the mind and making it fully happy," adding that this happiness frees the soul from "the shackles of egoism, making it capable of authentic love."
The Pope told the delegation that "Love for truth also inspires and guides the Christian approach to the modern world, and the Church's evangelizing commitment."
Faith and Reason
Pointing out that recent advances in the field of scientific knowledge, "have helped us better to understand the mystery of the creation,” he said that this progress "has sometimes been so rapid as to make it very difficult to recognize how it can be compatible with the truths concerning mankind and the world revealed by God.”
“At times,” he noted, “certain scientific assertions have even been opposed to such truths."
On this point, Benedict reaffirmed the need for "deeper knowledge of the truths discovered by reason, in the certainty that there is no cause for competition of any kind between reason and faith."
He stressed that "dialogue between faith and reason, religion and science, offers not only the possibility of demonstrating to modern man, in a more effective and convincing manner, the reasonableness of faith in God, but also that of showing that in Jesus Christ lies the definitive fulfillment of all authentic human aspirations.”
“Thus,” he said, “serious evangelizing efforts cannot overlook the questions arising from modern scientific discoveries and philosophical debate."
Given recent debates over matters such as Intelligent Design, stem cell research and human cloning, many Christians have become deeply entrenched in public scientific wrangling, seeking to build what the late John Paul II called, an authentic Christian humanism.
The Pontiff concluded his address telling members of the Congregation that "your service to the fullness of the faith is a service to truth and, hence, to joy, a joy that comes from the depths of the heart.”
“From this viewpoint,” he said, “your doctrinal ministry can well be defined as 'pastoral.' Your service is, in fact, a service to the full diffusion of the light of God in the world!"
Vatican City, Feb 10, 2006 (CNA) - Speaking to a special United Nations commission on world economic and social development, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the U.N. told the group that redoubled efforts are needed to seriously reduce poverty levels worldwide and meet the U.N.’s own self-instated goals.
Archbishop Migliore took part yesterday in the 44th session of the Commission for Social Development of the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The commission is meeting in New York to review the results of the first "Decade for the Eradication of Poverty," a U.N. initiative which spans the years 1997 to 2006.
The Vatican observer opened his address by pointing out that although between 1981 and 2001 the proportion of the world population living in extreme poverty declined from 40 to 21 percent, "that still leaves far too many countries and peoples living with high levels of poverty."
He likewise said that despite "encouraging progress being made in poverty reduction in several Asian countries, the global picture is mixed, with sub-Saharan Africa having made little or no progress in reducing the incidence of poverty in the 1990s.”
“If these trends continue,” the Archbishop said, “only eight African countries will halve extreme poverty by 2015."
He also soberly pointed out however, that "the number of Africans now living on less than 1 U.S. dollar a day has nearly doubled since 1980, from 165 million to 315 million."
In light of this, Archbishop Migliore appealed the world body for renewed poverty reduction efforts, adding that "A three-pronged agenda is needed for developing countries: to improve the terms of trade; to double aid assistance; and to provide further debt relief.
He said that "Lessons from the experience of some developing countries, particularly in Asia, make it clear that rapid poverty reduction cannot take place without sustainable economic growth in which the poor share equitably in the benefits.”
“Consequently,” he added leaders of “developing countries'…need to be encouraged and assisted in the pursuit of policies that will enable their countries to attain much higher economic growth rates than so far achieved since 2000."
The Archbishop concluded his English-language address by stressing that the Holy See "continues to see a key role for ECOSOC in monitoring progress towards achieving MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) in the world's poorest countries.”
“Such monitoring needs to be done now,” he said, “on an annual basis, given the close proximity of 2015," the date by which, the U.N. group wants to see levels of world poverty cut in half.
Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 10, 2006 (CNA) - The bishops of Mexico have expressed satisfaction over their meeting with the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, who visited the country this week, and said they hoped the encounter would lead to greater unity among Christians in Mexico.
Bartholomew I met for almost an hour with some 20 bishops, led by the president of the Bishops’ Conference of Mexico, Bishop Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago, and the Apostolic Nuncio in Mexico, Archbishop Giuseppe Bertello.
After the meeting, Bishop Carlos Aguiar Retes, secretary general of the Bishops’ Conference, said it was emotional and historical “because it helps the bishops of Mexico to be more conscious of the efforts for unity that have been taking place and the difficulties that have been encountered along the way.”
He called the “very positive attitude” of the Patriarch an indication of the Orthodox Church’s desire to take concrete steps toward unity and said he was impressed by the Patriarch’s clear and direct comments regarding the need for unity in the Church.
Sydney, Australia, Feb 10, 2006 (CNA) - Final preparations are underway in Adelaide, Australia for the commemoration of the 14th World Day of the Sick, which will take place on February 11 under the theme, “Mental Health and Human Dignity.”
Pope Benedict XVI chose the city to host World Day of the Sick and said that the occasion is a chance for the Church to express her “particular concern for those who suffer, bringing to the attention of public opinion the problems linked with mental illness, which affects one-fifth of humanity and constitutes a real and true social and health emergency.”
Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide sent a pastoral letter to Catholics reminding them that the theme of the event “expresses our profound conviction of the supreme value of human life and the respect due to each person, regardless of their state of health. It is a chance to reflect on the presence of god in each one of us. It also represents an occasion for all those who work in the field of health care to reflect upon their own work, which can be lived out as a continuation of the healing mission of Jesus.”
Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care, is the Holy See’s special envoy to the event. After his arrival in Adelaide, he visited patients at the Calvary Health Care Catholic hospital. He is scheduled to participate in a symposium on the theme of this year’s World Day of the Sick and will preside at the closing Mass at the Cathedral of St. Francis Xavier.
According to the Decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary on Special Indulgences granted to the members of faithful on the occasion of the Fourteenth World Day of the Sick,
Pope Benedict XVI has granted a “plenary indulgence to the members of faithful who, under the usual conditions (sacramental Confession, Eucharistic Communion and prayer for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff), and with a spirit that is detached from any sin, on next February 11, take part devoutly, in the cathedral of Adelaide or any other place established by the ecclesiastical Authority, in some holy ceremony celebrated to implore from God the achievement of the aims of the ‘World Day of the Sick’.”
The indulgence can also be obtained by “Members of the faithful who in public hospitals or in any private home charitably assist as ‘good Samaritans’ the sick, especially those who because of some mental disability require greater patience, diligence and attention, and, because of their service cannot take part in a ceremony indicated above, will obtain the same gift of the plenary indulgence if on that day they will at least for an hour generously give their assistance to the sick. Likewise, those who “who because of illness, advanced age or a similar reason, are impeded from taking part in a ceremony indicated above,” will also be able to obtain the indulgence.
The Holy Father has also granted “a partial indulgence to all the members of the faithful who, from next February 9 to 11, at any time, with contrite heart, address to merciful God devout prayers to implore the achievement of the above aims to help the sick.”
Caracas, Venezuela, Feb 10, 2006 (CNA) - In response to a proposal in the National Assembly to speed up passage of homosexual unions, the president of the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Ubaldo Santana, called for respect for the “moral patrimony” of marriage as the exclusive union between a man and a woman.
In comments to the newspaper La Verdad, Archbishop Santana emphasized that marriage itself “is a moral patrimony. We’re not dealing with a fancy or crazy idea. This must be considered with all of the attention and respect it deserves.” “We are willing to defend our position in due time,” he continued. “It’s the position not only of the Catholic Church, but also of other religious such as Judaism and Islam,” the archbishop noted.
“Whether or not a law is passed in Venezuela, we are going to pay attention,” Archbishop Santana underscored. “And not only do the bishops need to be heard on this; the voice of the people needs to be heard. We don’t think this is something that should be thrown overboard just because a few lawmakers decide to approve this type of law.”
The proposal to legalize homosexual unions has been on the government’s agenda since 2002 and is included in a measure entitled, “Law on Sexual Minorities.”
Rome, Italy, Feb 10, 2006 (CNA) - In an interview to Italian newspaper “Il Giornale,” Cardinal Sergio Sebastiani reviewed the current situation in the Muslim world, the reaction to the caricatures and the assassination of Fr. Santoro last Sunday.
“These are worrying facts” he said, “but we shouldn’t fall in the trap of those who manipulate fundamentalism.” Cardinal Sergio Sebastiani is the president of the Prefecture for Economical affairs at the Holy See, and a person familiar with the Turkish world. For more than ten years, from 1985 to 1994, he was the apostolic nuncio in Turkey.
“There is concern with the situation, and it is getting worse. There are nationalistic groups who are fanning the flame of Muslim discontent are hoping to bring about a "clash of civilizations."
“I fear that there are terrorists, who are using fanatic fundamentalism. I hope that Islamic countries are realizing that and I believe as this happens this will make the honest and pacific muslims react.”
Speaking on his experience in Turkey, he believes the climate is shifting, and these events prove it, “but we shouldn’t fall into the trap of those who wield protests and violence, who exploit religious feelings and fanaticism for political ends who don’t have anything to do with religion," he added.
On Fr. Santoro, assassinated last Sunday, he commented that the “mission that he lived his priesthood, in Trebizonda is a sign of hope. The Pope’s words were comforting when he recalled that the sacrifice of his life contributes to the cause for dialogue between religions and peace among peoples.”
Those who organize fanaticism want this, they want confrontation. But we do believe in a God who died on the cross saying : “Father, forgive them for they don’t what they are doing.” We shouldn’t cede to those who want to impose hate. We should be able to live, respecting us mutually,” Cardinal Sebastiani concluded.