Archive of March 9, 2006

Holy See reminds its opposition to an “indigenous church” and to married priesthood in Latin America.

Vatican City, Mar 9, 2006 (CNA) - Through a letter sent to the Bishop of San Cristóbal de las Casas (México), Bishop. Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel, the Holy See decided to put an end to the so-called “Indigenous Church,” influent especially  in southern parts of Mexico and throughout Latin America.

The letter is signed by Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Cult and the Discipline of Sacraments. He deplores the influence of the ideology of the "autoctonous church,” inherited by Bishop Arizmendi from his predecesor Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia and remarks that the new policy should supress the overreliance on the ordination of permanent deacons in this diocese.

Bishop Ruiz prevented many different movements and religious orders to be active in the diocese, and seriously discouraged religious vocations to celibate priesthood and above all, he promoted the massive ordination of permanent deacons, valuing that in little time the Church would end up accepting the practice of married priests, which according to him was better adapted to the vision of an "indigenous" or “autochthonous church.”

The eloquent letter written by Cardinal Arinze  in the latest issue of the “Notitiae” the bulletin of the dicastery is addressed to Bishop Arizmendi, but its conclusions are extended to other regions such as Guatemala, Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru, where the similar “Indian theology” has been spread.

The case and constant petitions coming from San Cristóbal de las Casas, has forced the creation of a interdicasterial committee in September 1993, and which finally came to a conclusion in October during the pontificate of Benedict XVI. The Committee rejects the creation of an “autochthonous church,” inspired by the “theology of liberation.”

The letters states as follows:

“We can’t ignore that, even after five years after the retirement of H.E Samuel Ruiz of San Cristóbal de las Casas, the ideology that promotes the implementation of the project of Autochthonous Church is still latent. In that sense, the Interdicasterial meeting has pronounced himself for a suspension of eventual ordinations of permanent deacons.”

“Therefore, we ask that a proper pastoral of vocations, in the perspective of celibate priesthood might be strengthened as in other parts of Mexico, and other countries in Latin America.”

In order to reorganize the ecclesial life, we asked from the beginning that the diocese may open itself to the proper realities of the universality of the Catholic Church, to help it overcome  its ideological isolation.”

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Don’t neglect rural peoples, but guarantee real development, Vatican representative urges U.N.

Porto Alegre, Brazil, Mar 9, 2006 (CNA) - On Tuesday, Archbishop Janusz Bolonek, the Vatican’s apostolic nuncio to Uruguay, told members of a United Nations Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development that the world body must never consider the rural world of “secondary importance”, but must guarantee real opportunities for economic and societal development.

The conference, which is being held in Porto Alegre, Brazil through Friday, was conceived and organized by the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

The archbishop told the assembly that the themes of the conference "are of vital importance to the human family and, as such, they also appeal directly to the Catholic Church which ... feels called to support the cause of human beings in all circumstances."

He also stressed the need--being addressed by the gathering--to "give fresh impulse to international solidarity in order to face the challenge presented by the development of peoples,” adding his support for a “compromise in favor of the growth of the rural world in order to guarantee humanity effective food security."

Archbishop Bolonek went on to point out what he called an urgent need "to avoid the danger of the rural world being considered of secondary importance, or even forgotten altogether.”

This, he stressed, “would be detrimental to those fruitful elements of social, economic and spiritual order that characterize it."

He chided the FAO, saying that the group‘s “idea of once again associating agrarian reform with rural development shows that, despite various initiatives carried out in many countries and incessant appeals for collaboration launched by international institutions, millions of people continue to await results.”

The prelate urged conference members to recognize “that one of the limits on policies and interventions in support of the rural world is the lack of reference to traditional structures, to moral values ... and to the capacity for autonomous action on the part of individuals and communities."

The Archbishop explained that "Because they often live in situations of poverty and exploitation, with limited access to markets ... and no support for their fundamental rights and needs, landless peasants and small-holders must be the primary recipients of cooperation programs ... that are able to guarantee real development."

Protecting the Natural Order

Archbishop Bolonek went on to stress what he called this generation's fundamental responsibility to conserve and protect the created environment, as well as respect the "mutual balance" of its various ecosystems.

He said that "The worldwide scope of agricultural activity, the use of modern technology and constant progress in research encourage us to hope ... in the rapid and imminent growth of the production and rate of human development.”

He quickly added however, that “these elements must be evaluated positively, on the condition that they are seen as being an extension of the creation, something given to the human family and not factors to disturb the natural order."

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New Church movements, communities gather for historic Latin American meeting

Vatican City, Mar 9, 2006 (CNA) - Catholic leaders from across Latin America are descending on Bogotá, Columbia this week for the first meeting to discuss Ecclesial Movements and New Communities in the Latin American world.

The theme of the gathering, which is being promoted by the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM), is “Disciples and missionaries today.” It is being held from March 9th through the 12th.

Organizers say that the aim of the meeting is to reflect upon the experience of ecclesial movements and new communities in the formation of lay people who are at the service of the evangelization of culture. Likewise, one of the major themes for the weekend will be that of social solidarity.

More than 40 movements and new communities in Latin America are scheduled to be represented during the weekend, accompanied by bishops who have apostolic responsibility for the groups. 

All 22 Latin American episcopal conferences are due to be represented.

The meeting will conclude Sunday afternoon with a Eucharistic celebration which all members of movements and new communities in Bogotá are invited to attend.

Recently, Pope Benedict XVI called for the fifth General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate, which will meet in May of next year in Brazil.

Conclusions gained from this weekend’s gathering will be used to help shape the May 2007 assembly. The Vatican announced that its theme will be similar to this weekend‘s: "Disciples and Missionaries of Jesus Christ, that our Peoples May Have Life in Him - 'I am the Way and the Truth and the Life'."

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Christian leaders applaud arrests in Alabama church fires

Washington D.C., Mar 9, 2006 (CNA) - The Christian Defense Coalition and National Clergy Council have commended federal and state law enforcement for stemming hate crimes against Christians by apprehending those behind the recent Alabama church fires.

The two organizations visited the burned churches and helped set up a fund for their reconstruction. They had also lobbied aggressively for the Department of Justice and President George Bush to make this investigation a top priority.

“When a church is burned and attacked in America, faith itself and religious expression is under attack. It is more than just a building being burned,” said Rev. Patrick Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition in a statement.

“The faith community must continually stress to the American public that over 1,000 churches have been burned in the past 10 years and that Christianity is the overwhelming target of hate crimes and attacks in America,” he said.

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'Choose Life' license plate lawsuit wins in appeals court

, Mar 9, 2006 (CNA) - The Second Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s second attempt to ban the phrase "Choose Life" from a pro-adoption specialty plate in New York State. The decision was issued March 7.

The Children First Foundation’s Alliance Defense Fund attorneys, Jeff Shafer and Brian Raum, were pleased the decision did not grant qualified immunity to any of the defendants, including Gov. George Pataki and Spitzer, who are being sued for constitutional violations in both their individual and official capacities.

"No one is above the law," said Dr. Elizabeth Rex, president of the Children First Foundation. "This ruling is another great victory for freedom of speech and equal treatment under the law for all New Yorkers."

The three-judge panel ruled that the foundation’s complaint "specifically alleges that defendants denied the picture-plate application ‘based on their disagreement with [the] life-affirming viewpoint expressed on the plate.’ On a motion to dismiss, we must accept this allegation, and all reasonable inferences drawn from it, as true."

The appellate decision further states: "Even if defendants are correct that the picture-plate program is a nonpublic forum ... the complaint alleges that defendants engaged in viewpoint discrimination, and it is clearly established that, even in a nonpublic forum, restrictions on speech must be reasonable and viewpoint neutral."

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Catholic agencies call for funding for humanitarian, development activities

Washington D.C., Mar 9, 2006 (CNA) - Catholic agencies are urging Congress to support essential funding for urgent humanitarian and development activities around the world as it considers Fiscal Year 2006 emergency appropriations.

Bishop Thomas Wenski, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Policy, and Ken Hackett, president of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), addressed their requests to members of the House Appropriations Committee.

In their letter, dated March 7, they urged the committee to include critical funding requirements in the supplemental legislation pertaining to Sudan, migration and refugee assistance, Title II Food Aid, and Iraqi reconstruction.

The bishops and CRS support the President George Bush’s request for emergency funding for the refugee situation in Sudan, which they say is “crucial to alleviating the conflict and instability” in the African country. However, CRS staff in Darfur reports that there are still too many innocent lives that are being claimed by the genocide. Increased violence and insufficient humanitarian resources exacerbate the problems, and the U.S. must respond with more aid.

Given their perception of real need, the Catholic organizations also urged Congress to increase its allocation to the Migration and Refugee Assistance Account from $51.2 million to at least $117.2 million.

“This would enable the United States to provide a greater level of protection to refugees in Africa, and elsewhere, to meet their urgent unfilled assistance and admissions needs,” they wrote.

More funds should also be allocated to food aid. “Current food aid shortages have forced USAID/Food for Peace to take resources intended for long-term development programs for agriculture, public health, and education and use them instead for emergency needs,” they said. “CRS staff sees greatly expanding food insecurity in Kenya, the Sahel, and Southern Africa.”

While they support the $350 million in Title II resources requested by the president, they recommend an additional sum of $50 million.

Finally, Congress must make available all of the “necessary financial support …for genuine reconstruction” in Iraq. This assistance must help create decent levels of employment and economic opportunity, the letter stated.

“The future of Iraq depends on creating a sense of hope and opportunity as well as security and democracy,” they said.

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Chilean bishop praises women for contribution to Church and humanity

Santiago, Chile, Mar 9, 2006 (CNA) - On the occasion of International Women’s Day on Wednesday, the president of the Bishops’ Conference of Chile, Bishop Alejandro Goic, sent a special greeting to the women of that country and thanked God for “the marvels that God has done in women and through their intervention in the history of humanity and of our country.”

After echoing the words of Pope John Paul II that the greatest event of humanity, the Incarnation of the Word, was done in and through a woman, the Chilean bishop said, “The Church gives thanks for each and every woman.”

“For mothers, young women and for grandmothers as well; for wives; for those consecrated to God; for so many women dedicated to serving those who thirst for love; for the women who care for others in the family, which is the heart of the human community; for women who work and are often tasked with great social responsibilities.  All of them assume, together with men, the common responsibility for the destiny of humanity,” said Bishop Goic.

He also expressed the Church’s gratitude for “all of the manifestations of the feminine genius and for the charisms the Holy Spirit bestows on women; for all of the virtues and gifts which we owe to their faith, their hope and their capacity to love, to welcome, and to serve others; for all of the fruits of feminine sanctity.”

Lastly, the bishop prayed to God that “these manifestations be duly recognized and valued, so that they might bear fruit for women, the Church and humanity, especially in our days.”

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Mexican archbishop denies Church receives money from drug trafficking

Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 9, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Emilio Berlie Belaunzaran of Yucatan, Mexico, said this week the Church doesn’t accept money from suspicious sources and that donations that are received come from trustees that know who their donors are.

“We don’t accept it, never. We are totally against drug trafficking.  We cannot accept it; drugs mean the destruction of the human being. Their consumption destroys the human person,” the archbishop said during comments about almsgiving during Lent.

Archbishop Berlie said drug traffickers “must ask for forgiveness for the harm they are causing to human beings.”

He also noted that there is no budget for the monies the Church needs for her works, because “the need is great: today there are more than 200 projects under construction, 14 priests and seminarians studying in Rome and many other projects.”

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Supreme Court refuses to hear appeal involving anti-Catholic statue

Ann Arbor, Mich., Mar 9, 2006 (CNA) - The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal this week involving a constitutional challenge to an anti-Catholic statue. The statue, located on the campus of Washburn University in Kansas, depicts a Catholic bishop with a grotesque facial expression wearing a miter that resembles a phallus.

The statue is called “Holier than Thou” and includes a plaque with a derisive statement about the sacrament of reconciliation. It first appeared on campus in September 2003. Washburn is a public university, supported by tax dollars. 

Many prominent Catholics criticized the statue, including Archbishop James Keleher of Kansas City, the Catholic League, the Knights of Columbus and the Archdiocesan Conference of Catholic Women. The bishop wrote an open letter to the university president strongly urging the school to remove the offensive statue.

However, the university refused, defending the display as art that has the purpose of engaging the community intellectually and emotionally.

“Incredibly, during the course of this litigation, university officials admitted that they would never permit an anti-Jewish, anti-black, or anti-gay/lesbian statue on campus,” said Robert Muise, the Thomas More Law Center attorney who handled this case.

The center filed the lawsuit on behalf of a Washburn professor and a student, both devout Catholics. The lawsuit alleged that the statue conveys the state-sponsored message of hostility toward the Catholic faith in violation of the Establishment Clause.

The case was dismissed by the federal district judge who ruled that Washburn had a secular purpose for displaying this sculpture because “[i]t functions to aesthetically enhance Washburn’s campus[,] broaden the educational experiences [and] increase the intellectual capacities of Washburn’s students.”

The judge concluded that the statue would not “cause a reasonable observer to believe that [Washburn] endorsed hostility towards the Catholic religion.”

In July 2005, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Denver affirmed the lower court’s ruling. The law center asked the Supreme Court to revisit its inconsistent Establishment Clause jurisprudence, but to no avail.

“The Supreme Court’s decision not to hear this case is disappointing, and it reaffirms the double standard and hypocrisy spawned by the current Establishment Clause jurisprudence,” said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel for center in a statement.

“Despite giving lip service to the concept of neutrality towards religion, many federal court decisions have in fact bristled with hostility to all things religious, especially those that are Christian,” he continued. “This double standard is also applied by our nation’s public universities, which have refused to allow school newspapers to show the recent controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed because it was insulting to Muslims.”

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