Boston, Mass., Mar 3, 2006 (CNA) - Bishops of the Archdiocese of Boston, who for years have been all but powerless in controlling of the local branch of Catholic Charities, may finally regain their practical authority over the controversial Massachusetts organization. Earlier today, seven board members opted to resign their posts.
The dissenting board members decided to resign due to disagreement with the Massachusetts Roman Catholic bishops' request that Catholic social service agencies be exempted from a law requiring them to place adoptive children with homosexual couples.
The seven board members issued a statement saying that they were "deeply troubled" by the bishops' request, adding that it "undermines our moral priority of helping vulnerable children find loving homes.”
The statement also said that the members could not “participate in an effort to pursue legal permission to discriminate against Massachusetts citizens who want to play a part in building strong families."
"The course the Bishops have charted”, they added, “threatens the very essence of our Christian mission. For the sake of the poor we serve, we pray they will reconsider."
The 7 resigning board members are Geri Denterlein, president of Denterlein Worldwide Public Affairs and a supporter if homosexual “marriage”; Donna Gittens, chief executive officer of Causemedia; Paul LaCamera, general manager of the WBUR radio group; Brian Leary, partner of Gadsby Hannah; Peter Meade, executive vice president of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts; Colette Phillips, president and CEO of Colette Phillips Communications and Micho Spring, chairman of Weber Shandwick New England.
On Tuesday, the state's four bishops said that state law compromised their religious freedom by requiring them to consider gays as acceptable adoptive parents.
"Because of the Church's teaching,” they said, “Catholic agencies may not provide adoptions to same sex couples. Hence we intend to seek relief from the regulatory requirements of the Commonwealth on this issue."
Since 1985, Catholic Charities has placed 13 children in same-sex households. In fact, the process started even before same sex unions were legal in the state.
Fr. J. Bryan Hehir, Catholic Charities’ president, released a statement saying that the organization was "saddened" that the board members felt compelled to step down.
Edward Saunders of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference said he had no comment on the resignations.
The resignation of the seven board members marks the latest and perhaps most volatile chapter in the stand-off between the state’s bishops and Catholic Charities.
Last year, Cardinal-designate Sean O’Malley explicitly asked Catholic Charity’s board to stop allowing homosexual couples to adopt through the agency.
In response, the 42-member board voted unanimously to continue the practice.
In light of today’s resignations, the remaining board members will have to make a decision: whether they will collectively resign their own posts or abide by the bishops’ new rules.
Madrid, Spain, Mar 3, 2006 (CNA) - In an article published recently by the Spanish daily La Razon, renowned Italian author Vittorio Messori said he is convinced “Catholicism today needs more than ever its own Anti-defamation League” similar to the organization that defends Jewish interests.
Messori maintains that the number of attacks on Catholics in different media outlets is on the rise, and that often they are left unanswered mainly because of the lack of information, or even because of disinformation, on the part of Catholics with regards to the truth.
The Italian journalist writes that his efforts as well as those of other authors to counter the many false ideas in the media are isolated and uncoordinated, and therefore he is proposing the creation of an organization: “Something small, agile, motivated, informed, and prepared to respond, or to enable people to respond, point by point, to all of the false notions that bombard us each day in the media. Why is that only the Church and her history can be disparaged with no one to counter it? There is no lack of informed historians or undoubtedly cultured individuals in the Church who are capable of clarifying, explaining and rebutting,” Messori explains.
Messori maintains he has no intention to restrict freedom of speech, but that he does have “zero tolerance for lies, deliberate misrepresentations and outright errors. We must counter, therefore, not peoples’ opinions, but rather the historical falsehoods upon which these opinions are all too often based.”
Messori says a “League” of this type should serve as an instrument for intervening in these kinds of matters, and that it should be supported by a group of lawyers. Many people believe denials or clarifications are published out of kindness or honesty on the part of newspaper editors, he continued, when in reality “there are precise laws that guarantee the right to reply and establish that rebuttals be visibly published. It is not necessary to call for new laws, what we need is for the ones that exits to be well known and enforced.” Lies, Messori maintains, have no legal basis, no matter if they are passed by the legislature.
A Catholic league, he says, could begin in Italy and become a model for similar type organizations in other countries. Not only would the Church benefit from such an organization, all of society would be helped, as “the truth is an indispensable condition for our freedom, and for the freedom of non-believers and non-Christians as well.”
While such an organization should be created and managed by the laity, “the intervention of the Church should be decisive, in order to exhort, counsel and perhaps help economically as well,” Messori says.
Madrid, Spain, Mar 3, 2006 (CNA) - The president of an evangelical organization in Germany dedicated to issues related to sexuality and bioethics presented various studies this week that show that one in four young people in that country suffer from psychosomatic problems as a result of “sexual liberation.”
According to the Archdiocese of Madrid’s news service, Analisis Digital, Wolfgang Vreemann, president of Wiber Kreuz (White Cross) is warning that sexual pressure is one of the main causes of depression and suicide in young people.
During the recent annual gathering of the organization, Vreeman warned of the disorders that young people between the ages of 15 and 25 are experiencing. Those most evident are of a sexual nature provoked by “the pressure to function” and “the fear of failure,” which affect more than 25% of young people. In addition, many youths feel a sense of emptiness and that they are being reduced to mere objects.
Vreeman said one out of every two German youths acknowledges that sexual relations are not “liberating.” In fact, they are often the cause of depression and suicide—which are the leading causes of death among 15-25 year-olds. According to another study cited by Vreeman, 80% of young people change sex partners frequently, despite desiring to have a lasting relationship.
Vreeman maintained the antidote to the problem is simple: “Engagements need more time to mature.” Therefore he recommends young people wait for marriage until having sexual relationships.
Cologne, Germany, Mar 3, 2006 (CNA) - The Catholic Church in Germany has launched a Lenten outreach effort by which Biblical passages will be sent via cell phone text messaging to help the faithful prepare for Easter.
The plan, developed by the Bishops’ Conference of Germany, the Catholic radio station “Domradio,” and the Katholische Fernseharbeit television producer, consists of sending text messages to cell phone users from March 1-16.
More information about the project can be found at: http://www.kirche.tv/sms-fasten
Madrid, Spain, Mar 3, 2006 (CNA) - Bishop Juan del Rio of Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, decried this week what he called the double-standard that exists in the country, as Spain’s leaders “call for ‘sensitivity’ in understanding Islam but remain silent or look the other way in response to attacks on Christianity.”
Bishop del Rio mentioned blasphemous theatrical productions that, with “significant public financing,” have recently debuted in Spain, as well as various television programs that ridicule or denigrate the images of Christ and the saints and that paint Catholics as “a group of repressed cave-dwellers.”
“The impression is that anything goes against Christianity, including lukewarmness in applying the laws of our Penal Code,” the bishop said. The Church “is the most persecuted human group in the world in these modern and supposedly civilized times.”
Regarding the publication in Denmark of cartoons depicting Mohammed, Bishop del Rio said it was clear the controversy was driven by politics and ideology. Freedom of expression has its limits under the law, he said, but the name of God must not be used to justify “the violent destruction of the principles that make societies free.” “Freedom of speech,” he noted, “cannot mean the right to offend the religious sentiments of believers.”
Burlington, Vt., Mar 3, 2006 (CNA) - Six months after Hurricane Katrina left Gulf Coast cities and communities devastated, Catholic Charities-USA is still committed to rebuilding and long-term planning in the region, but its efforts are being slowed by government-controlled factors.
The president of Catholic Charities-USA shared the organization’s projects and challenges in a recent interview with the Free Press Burlington.
Fr. Larry Snyder, 55, who heads the organization that has 1,400-member agencies across the country, said the worked has been slowed by decision-making about the extent to which the levees will be built, requirements about housing codes, and other decisions about the city's infrastructure.
"I'm not sure why the government is dragging its feet on this," Fr. Snyder said.
In its largest collection effort ever, Catholic Charities-USA raised $152 million for Hurricane Katrina recovery. About half that amount has come from bishops' collections across the country. The organization is also helping Katrina evacuees across the nation.
In addition to working in the Gulf region, the Washington-based agency continues its work for and on behalf of the country’s most vulnerable. It is seeking immigration reform with regard to illegal immigrants, who despite their political status, help to maintain the country’s economy.
It is also working for Social Security and other programs that help seniors, services for children, as well as affordable housing. He said the number of women, children and seniors living in shelters is "startling.”
Snyder told the Free Press Burlington that the role of government "is to provide for the common good," but he hasn’t had too much success convincing people in Washington.
Washington D.C., Mar 3, 2006 (CNA) - The talks between the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches will continue, said the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity.
Bishop Brian Farrell told the Church of England Newspaper that there was “no question” that the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) would continue.
He claimed: the “decision has already been made”, saying that the general topic of ARCIC III would be the “local and universal Church.” The bishop spoke with the newspaper at the Assembly of the World Council of Churches, Porto Alegre, Brazil, in mid-February.
There was some concern about how the election of the openly homosexual bishop Gene Robinson in New Hampshire, the blessing of same-sex unions in and talks of ordaining women bishops may impact relations between the two churches.
According to Bishop Farrell, the Vatican has made no conditions for the continuation of dialogue and would continue its dialogue with the Anglican Communion no matter what “shape” the Communion “might take” in the future, reported the Church of England newspaper.
“This is one of our ecumenical partners in difficulty and we are very concerned that they find a way out of the difficulty… However, we cannot make up their minds for them. So we have to wait,” he told the newspaper.
Vatican City, Mar 3, 2006 (CNA) - Yesterday, as the Church began its observance of Lent, Pope Benedict XVI met with clergy from the diocese of Rome, with whom he stressed the importance of ministry to families, to women, to the unborn and ultimately, the ministry of giving their own lives in service to others.
The meeting, which takes place yearly, was held in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace in the presence of Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope's vicar general for Rome, the auxiliary bishops, and the more than 800 priests who pastor the city's 337 parishes.
Although the Holy Father opted not to make a formal address, he did dedicate much of the meeting to fielding questions from the assembled priests.
The event, which lasted around two hours, began with a remembrance of Fr. Andrea Santoro, the Roman priest murdered recently in Trabzon, Turkey.
The Pope called on the clergy to pay "particular attention" to the position of families within the sprawling city. He also challenged them to defend all human life, recalling how "above all during Lent, we must reaffirm our vocation, which is a fundamental choice in favor of life."
The topic of discussion also turned to the role - including the institutional role - of women in the Church. Here the Pope noted the examples of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Bridgit and St. Hildegard, recalling the profound contributions that each of these have made to Church life.
Throughout the discussions, it seemed clear that Pope Benedict’s recent meetings with bishops from Africa were still at the forefront of his mind, as he continually noted that men and women are all debtors of that people and continent, and must transmit therefore, a living and joyful faith to them.
The Holy Father also cited his own recent Encyclical, "Deus caritas est," as he expressed thanks to all those who, as witnesses of Christian love, dedicate themselves to the service of others, especially the poor and the sick.
In this context, he said that the "ultimate significance of the Cross," is the offering of one's life for others.
Vatican City, Mar 3, 2006 (CNA) - Earlier today, Pope Benedict XVI visited the studios of Vatican Radio, currently celebrating its 75th anniversary, where he told workers and technicians that theirs is the “good fight…of spreading the Gospel of Christ” to the world.
Vatican Radio’s three directors, Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J., Fr. Andrej Koprowski S.J., and Alberto Gasbarri, respectively, director general, director of programs, and technical and administrative director, were all on hand to welcome the Holy Father.
Pope Benedict began with a visit to a fourth floor studio, where he blessed a plaque which read, "Cardinal Karol Wojtyla.” The late pontiff had recorded a number of interviews there while he was still cardinal.
Following the blessing, the Holy Father went live on air and delivered some off-the-cuff remarks to listeners.
He said that "Today, the voice of Vatican Radio can reach to every part of the world, to many homes,” adding that “There is above all great reciprocity, not only speaking but also welcoming replies, in a true dialogue that aims to understand and respond, and so to build the family of God.”
Benedict said that to him, the benefit of a means of communication like Vatican Radio is “to help build the great family that knows no frontiers and in which, with their multiplicity of languages and cultures, all are brothers and sisters and thus represent a force for peace.”
He also expressed his desire that everyone listening to him would “feel they are truly involved in this great dialogue of truth.”
He said that because “in the world of the communications media there is no lack, as we know, of contrasting voices…it is all the more important that this voice should exist, which truly desires to place itself at the service of truth and of Christ, thus placing itself at the service of peace and reconciliation in the world."
During a brief address to station personnel, the Pope outlined Vatican Radio’s role during key moments in history, including World War II, during which Pope Pius XII “was able to ensure that the whole world heard his "impassioned exhortations for hope and peace."
Likewise he pointed out that during the height of communism in Europe, the station "increased its programs and its languages, in order to assure Christian communities oppressed by totalitarian regimes of the closeness and solidarity of the Pope and the Universal Church."
"Yours”, he told the group, “is 'the good fight of the faith' to spread the Gospel of Christ."
Here, he cited the station’s own Statutes, which charge them to “announce the Christian message freely, faithfully and effectively, and [link] the center of Catholicism with the countries of the world. ... This is always an important mission, though the circumstances and ways of carrying it out change over time."
The Pope concluded his address saying that today, Vatican Radio "is a chorus of voices sounding out in more than 40 languages, and capable of maintaining dialogue with different cultures and religions."
He likewise encouraged Radio personnel "to work in the great Areopagus of modern communications, drawing upon the wealth of the extraordinary experience you underwent during the Great Jubilee 2000, and even more so on the occasion of the death of the beloved John Paul II, an event that showed how much humanity wishes to understand the reality of the Church."
Since its inauguration in 1931 under the pontificate of Pius IX, every Pope has visited the radio headquarters at least once during their pontificate, with the noted exception of John Paul I, whose own pontificate was too brief to do so.
, Mar 3, 2006 (CNA) - Speaking to a United Nations Commission on the economic and social status of women, a Holy See delegation led by Marilyn Ann Martone, adamantly called for new policies protecting women worldwide from the violence, human trafficking and exploitation which plague them in many regions.
The group addressed the 50th session of the Commission on the Status of Women of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC), which is meeting to consider themes arising from the Fourth World Conference on Women and from the 23rd special session of the General Assembly.
That session was entitled, "Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century."
It’s purpose was to prepare recommendations and reports to the ECOSOC on promoting the social, ethical and economic rights of women.
The Vatican delegation told the U.N. that the Commission should endorse "policies…that restore balance and fairness to social and political structures in such a way that their very success persuades all people to work towards the true advancement of women."
Likewise, the group praised the U.N.’s recently-completed “Year of Microcredit” which was particularly aimed at helping female entrepreneurs in developing countries. They pointed out that this phenomenon "has had the support of local Catholic Churches for many years."
Switching gears, the delegation highlighted the increased worldwide scourge of human trafficking which "has a particularly negative impact on women."
They also addressed the problem which often arises in armed conflicts, in which “women and girls are also victims of systematic rape for political purposes."
The Vatican representatives sternly condemned "the sexual violence that frequently has women and girls for its object," and encouraged "the passing of laws that will effectively defend them from such violence."
They also spoke out on "the widespread culture which encourages the systematic exploitation of sexuality and corrupts even very young girls into letting their bodies be used for profit in a world-wide three billion dollar industry."
Rome, Italy, Mar 3, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Renato Martino, president of Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, criticized the way the United States is treating some 500 inmates at its Guantanamo Bay naval base prison. Cardinal Martino visited the Caribbean island to attend celebrations for the 20th anniversary of the first bishops conference allowed following the Cuban revolution. He also held talks with Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
"It seems clear that human dignity is not being fully respected in that prison," Cardinal Renato Martino told ANSA on his return from a visit to Cuba .
"Is not the trampling of man's dignity a violation of human rights? Everyone has a right to a fair trial. Wherever in the world inmates are being held in such conditions, without even knowing the charges they face, we will not fail to defend them," said the cardinal, who heads the Vatican's Justice and Peace department .
"I would like to stress that even those who have committed crimes are still human beings and as such their dignity must be respected," said the cardinal .
Pope Benedict XVI referred to Guantanamo in a recent message to youths on world peace. Although he did not directly refer to alleged violations at the prison, the German pope called for the respect of international human rights accords, saying this was a fundamental "duty for everyone." There have been several reports of abuse and torture of detainees at the US naval base, where many prisoners have been held for four years without trial .
The camp was set up in 2002 to hold foreign terror suspects, many of them captured in Afghanistan .
Only ten prisoners being held at the prison have been formally charged with a crime. Washington has so far flatly refused to shut down the facility, denying accusations of torture and saying the prison is needed to confine what it calls "dangerous terrorists" .
In February, a US federal court judge ordered the Pentagon to publish a list of the roughly 490 Guantanamo inmates. Their names have been kept secret till now .