Archive of March 2, 2006

Democrats Statement of principles seen as a "sham" and "bundle of contradictions" by Catholic leaders

Washington D.C., Mar 2, 2006 (CNA) - The Democrats’ “Statement of Principles”, signed by 55 Catholic Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, is “a sham” and nothing more than a “statement of politics,” said Catholic League president William Donohue.

A majority of Catholic Democrats in the U.S. House led by Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro (Conn.-3)  released yesterday a statement of principles, signed by 55 House Democrats, the statement documents how their faith influences them as lawmakers, and important issues such as social justice and the right to life.

The statement underlines the fact that "In all these issues, we seek the Church's guidance and assistance but believe also in the primacy of conscience. In recognizing the Church's role in providing moral leadership, we acknowledge and accept the tension that comes with being in disagreement with the Church in some areas."

According to Donohue, the statement was issued to try to convince the public, and especially Catholics, that one can be a good Catholic and differ with the Catholic Church on abortion.

“They agree with the Church about the ‘undesirability of abortion,’ adding that ‘we do not celebrate its practice.’ What gives them pause is not explained, but one thing is certain: there is not a word in the statement that commits these Catholics to work towards a change in the Democratic Party’s Platform on abortion,” said Donohue. The statement does not oppose partial-birth abortion.

“The statement is driven by fear,” Donohue said. “The fear is the Abortion Albatross that is literally strangling them from getting their message out.” 

“Perhaps the most convincing evidence that this statement is a sham is the fact that Rep. Rosa DeLauro is the point person for this effort,” said Donohue. DeLauro served as the executive director of the pro-abortion EMILY’s List. “With her at the helm, the ‘Statement of Principle’ is nothing more than a ‘Statement of Politics.’”

Frank Pavone, president of Priests for Life reacted equally to the statement, depicting as a a big mistake" and "a bundle of contradictions" introduced into the public debate on faith and public service.

"This statement tries to soften the contradiction between creating a just society and tolerating legal abortion. The voting records of these legislators are available to anyone who wants to look them up. To fail to protect the unborn, and then to say that you are 'committed to . . . protecting the most vulnerable
among us' is a blatant contradiction," followed Father Pavone.

Priests for Life will release a statement of its own this month, addressing these concerns in more detail and bringing them to the attention of each of the signers of the "Statement of Principles."

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Lent illuminates daily Christian struggle against evil, says Pope

Vatican City, Mar 2, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI marked the beginning of Lent yesterday by presiding at a penitential procession and Mass at Rome’s Santa Sabina Basilica, where he told faithful that Lent, in many ways, illuminates the Christian battle, mirroring Christ’s own battle as he prepared for his public ministry with 40 days in the wilderness.

The Holy Father began the evening ceremony with a brief moment of prayer in the church of St. Anslem on Rome's Aventine Hill at 4:30, followed by the procession, Mass and traditional imposition of ashes.

He begun his homily by explaining that "The penitential procession with which we began today's celebration helped us to enter into the atmosphere typical of Lent, which is an individual and community pilgrimage of conversion and spiritual renewal."

The Pope went on to say that many popular Lenten rites, such as the imposition of the ashes, the Stations of the Cross, and visits to churches containing relics of the martyrs, maintain their significance over the centuries.

Namely, he said, this is "because they recall the importance, even in our own times, of the uncompromising acceptance of Jesus' words," and help us to understand "that exterior gestures must always be accompanied by sincerity of spirit and coherence of works."

The Holy Father also touched on what he called a “combative" aspect of Lenten spirituality, pointing out that "every day, but especially in Lent, Christians face a battle like the one Jesus faced in the desert."

Because of this, he said that the time of Lent in particular, should prompt the faithful to recall "that Christian life is a struggle without truce using the 'arms' of prayer, fasting and penance.”

“To fight against evil, against all forms of egoism and hatred,... is the ascetic journey which all Christ's disciples are called to undertake," he added.

Duty of Christian charity

Benedict told the crowd that "Meekly following the divine Master makes Christians witnesses and apostles of peace,” adding that “Such an attitude "helps us better to identify what the Christian response must be to the violence that threatens peace in the world: certainly not vengeance, not hatred, nor an escape into false forms of spirituality."

Instead, he stressed, the response of Christ's followers must be one of "following the road chosen by Him Who, in the face of the evil of His time and of all times, embraced the Cross, following the longer but more effective path of love."

This love, he said, "must be translated into concrete gestures towards others, especially towards the poor and needy," namely because it constitutes one of the "essential elements of the life of Christians.”

They must, the Pope said, be “encouraged by Christ to be the light of the world so that men and women, seeing their good works, may render glory to God."

In this light, Benedict concluded by saying that "at the beginning of Lent,” Christians must “gain an ever clearer understanding that 'for the Church, charity is not a kind of welfare activity. ... but is a part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being'."

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Catholics seek ‘just model’ in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Konigstein, Germany, Mar 2, 2006 (CNA) - Bosnia-Herzegovina’s new High Representative of the International community must seek “a just model” of rule for the country, where currently there is a “clash between radical movements, including nationalist ideologies and Islamic fundamentalism,” says the country’s Franciscan provincial superior.

In a recent interview with Aid to the Church in Need, Fr. Mijo Dzolan, OFM, expressed his community’s hope that Christian Schwarz-Schilling, who took over as high representative Jan. 31, “will honestly try to find a just model for the country” that respects fundamental human rights and religious pluralism. This is the “most important thing” for Catholics in Bosnia, said the priest.

Fr. Dzolan noted that different ethnic and religious groups have been present in the country for centuries.

“Bosnia-Herzegovina must turn into a state in which all ethnic and religious groups can find a home, including Catholic Croats,” the Franciscan said.

According to Fr. Dzolan, Muslim extremists “want to create a sharia state,” which “is the fear of all Christians in Bosnia-Herzegovina, because of our centuries-long experience with Muslim rule.”

 “We, therefore, welcome all efforts to integrate Bosnia-Herzegovina into Europe, even though we are well aware that also in Europe there is an ideology – that of secularism and idolatry of profit,” he stated.

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North Korea ranked top persecutor of Christians

Santa Ana, Calif., Mar 2, 2006 (CNA) - For the fourth straight year, North Korea has made the top spot on the 2006 Open Doors “World Watch List” of 50 countries where Christians are persecuted.

The annual list ranks countries according to the intensity of persecution Christians face for actively pursuing their faith.

It is believed that the communist country has detained more political and religious prisoners than any other country in the world and that tens of thousands of Christians are currently suffering in North Korean prison camps where they face cruel abuses, according to the 2006 World Watch List report. Though no exact figures can be given, Open Doors’ staff estimates that hundreds of Christians were killed by the regime in 2005.

Open Doors USA is partnering with the North Korea Freedom Coalition for North Korea Freedom Week, April 24-30, in the U.S.

Saudi Arabia holds the second spot on the list. Rounding out the top 10 are Iran, Somalia, Maldives, Bhutan, Yemen, Vietnam, Laos and China. In addition to North Korea, countries with communist governments include Vietnam, Laos and China. Islamic-dominated countries are Saudi Arabia, Iran, Somalia, Maldives and Yemen. Buddhism is the state religion of Bhutan.

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Massachusetts governor would support abortion ban, and would respect Catholic Charties regarding adoption by Homosexuals

Boston, Mass., Mar 2, 2006 (CNA) - Gov. Mitt Romney said he would sign a bill banning abortion if one were passed and would meet with the state’s Catholic bishops to discuss their request to exempt Catholic Charities from providing adoptions to same-sex couples.

“I had a good discussion with Archbishop O'Malley about the important role the Catholic Church plays as one of the largest social service providers in Massachusetts, and the vital service they perform in the placement for adoption of children with severe emotional and physical needs,” said Gov. Romney. 

He followed by stating that he  “would like to see the Church continue to provide this service. I believe religious institutions should be able to carry out their mission of helping people without violating their faith. However, as I've said in the past, I cannot by executive order waive the state's anti-discrimination laws.”

Romney spokeswoman Julie Teer told the Boston Herald that the governor would back a state ban on abortion if lawmakers passed such a measure as they did in South Dakota because he believes “states should have the right to be pro-life if that is the will of the people.”
Regarding adoptions by same-sex couples, Romney reportedly said he respects and honors the free practice of religion but suggested he could not give church groups a waiver from a law requiring that all adoption agencies work with same-sex couples.

The state’s four Catholic bishops have said requiring Catholic Charities to arrange adoptions for same-sex couples violates Church teachings and the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion.
In December, Catholic Charities’ 42-member board of trustees voted to continue to allow same-sex couples to adopt but said they recognized the need for more discussion with the archbishop.

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Holy Father drops traditional papal title in effort to show universality of papacy

Vatican City, Mar 2, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has chosen to drop the traditional papal title, “Patriarch of the West” reportedly, in hopes of furthering ecumenical conversations with Christian Orthodox Churches of the east.

The Vatican recently released its official yearbook, the “Annuario Pontificio” which will be available to the public later this month. The volume contains 8 traditional titles held by the Pope but leaves out, “Patriarch of the West” which always appeared in previous editions.

Reportedly, the Holy Father chose to remove the title, which was introduced into papal nomenclature in 1870, at the time of the first Vatican Council, because many of his discussions with Orthodox leaders have centered on the primacy of the Pope.

Likewise, John Paul II also is said to have considered dropping the title in favor of a more universal view of the papacy.

Watchers say that Pope Benedict wants to eliminate any implication that the Catholic Church is Church “of the west” and thus separate from other cultures and traditions—particularly in the east.

The other 8 titles contained in the Annuario include; "Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman province, Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City, and Servant of the Servants of God."

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Cardinal Levada explains reasons for not admitting homosexuals to the priesthood

Rome, Italy, Mar 2, 2006 (CNA) - During an installation ceremony of the new rector of the North American Pontifical College in Rome, Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said, “The public recognition of homosexuality places the priest at odds with the spousal character of love.”

“A priest with open manifestations of homosexuality makes it difficult for the faithful to see him as a representative of Christ.  Likewise, the public recognition of homosexuality places the priest at odds with the spousal character of love as revealed by God and imaged in humanity,” the cardinal-designate told some 170 seminarians.

Cardinal Levada highlighted some of the new challenges facing seminaries, including implementation of the Vatican instruction on homosexuality, which says that men with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies" should not be admitted to the seminary or ordained to the priesthood.

Regarding the issue of psychosexual maturity, Cardinal-designate Levada said, "the question also needs to be viewed from its theological perspective," particularly in light of the biblical images of God's spousal relationship with his people and Gospel passages in which Jesus refers to himself as the bridegroom.

“I think we must ask, ‘Does [a priest who makes his homosexuality public] recognize how this act places an obstacle to his ability to represent Christ the bridegroom to his bride, the people of God?” said the cardinal-designate.

Does he not see how his declaration places him at odds with the spousal character of love as revealed by God and imaged in humanity?” he emphasized.

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Archbishop Cordes decries lack of apostolic spirit in certain ecclesial institutions

Düsseldorf, Germany, Mar 2, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Paul Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, said this week certain ecclesial institutions north of the Alps need to rid themselves of institutionalism and adopt a greater apostolic spirit and joy in the faith.

According to the news agency, the German archbishop told the Rheinischen Post that “probably in our time, the people of the Church north of the Alps show little willingness to change or to learn, and they are too attached to maintaining institutions.”

“Structures are certainly necessary,” said Archbishop Cordes, “but they need a greater apostolic spirit and joy in the faith that other ecclesial associations in Germany possess, and therefore they should be more well known.”  He cited the examples of ecclesial movements such as Schönstatt, Communion and Liberation, and others.  These movements, he said, “attract thousands of people to the faith each year, despite the reigning secularism.”

The archbishop also invited German Catholics to be open to new pastoral models and ways of evangelizing from other parts of the world.  “Globalization can be a positive occasion for the faith,” he said.

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Colombian bishops organize campaign for International Women’s Day

, Mar 2, 2006 (CNA) - The National Secretariat for Social Ministry of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia will celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8 with a campaign designed to inform Colombians about the inequality many women experience in the workplace.

The campaign, which is being promoted by parishes, pastoral workers and diocesan teams, has as its theme, “The right to work and the conditions in which women work.”  It will emphasize the contribution of both stay-at-home moms and women who work outside the home.  Women in the workplace should receive a just wage for their contribution

The campaign will also emphasize that work should never enslave or impoverish women, but rather help build them up.  According to data from the Bishops’ Conference, most of the poor in Colombia are women and children, and female unemployment is twice that of men.

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Commission to investigate persecution and collaboration of clergy during Communist Poland

Krakow, Poland, Mar 2, 2006 (CNA) - A group of historians and experts has established a commission in Krakow at the request of the city’s archbishop, Cardinal-designate Stanislao Dziwisz, to investigate the role of the clergy during the Communist regime.

According to Father Robert Necek, spokesman for the archdiocese, the commission will investigate cases of collaboration by the clergy with the police agents and seek to prevent erroneous accusations against the Church.

In his decree ordering the creation of the commission, Archbishop Dziwisz said he feels “responsible for the position of religious who were faithful to their vows and to the Church, but also for the position of those who betrayed the Church for material gain or out of weakness.”  He recalled that “the entire time of the Popular Republic of Poland was one of persecution for the Church, sometimes even to the point of violence and bloodshed.  One of the most twisted methods was the effort by the Security Services to implicate religious in collaborating with the Communist system.”

The archbishop said the era was a time of struggle for freedom for the Church, and he noted that historians would have to investigate the events “taking into account their context.”

The Church in Poland carried out an important work in the area of spiritual guidance during the Communist regime, which considered the Church an enemy and used different, sometimes violent, methods to eliminate ecclesiastical authority and its influence over citizens.  One of the most renowned cases was the assassination in 1984 of Father Jerzy Popieluszko, who was tortured by security agents before he was killed.

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