Archive of April 7, 2006

Catholics shocked by Notre Dame president’s turnaround on ‘Vagina Monologues’

South Bend, Ind., Apr 7, 2006 (CNA) - Following his own strong words denouncing the play in January, many Catholics have responded with dismay to the decision of Notre Dame University president, Rev. John Jenkins to allow the controversial ‘Vagina Monologues’ to be performed at the school.

In a January 23rd address to university faculty, Fr. Jenkins said that the play contains “no hint of central elements of Catholic sexual morality,” but instead, “contains graphic descriptions of homosexual, extra-marital heterosexual, and auto-erotic experiences. There is even a depiction of the seduction of a sixteen year-old girl by an adult woman.”

He had stressed that the “portrayals stand apart from, and indeed in opposition to, the view that human sexuality finds its proper expression in the committed relationship of marriage between a man and a woman that is open to the gift of procreation.”

He even said that “the repeated performance of the play and the publicity surrounding it suggest that the university endorses certain themes in the play, or at least finds them compatible with its values.”
Despite this, on Wednesday, Fr. Jenkins surprised many by saying that he will now place “no restrictions” on the performance.

After hearing from hundreds of students, faculty and alumni over the last 10 weeks, Notre Dame’s president has now expressed his determination “that we not suppress speech on this campus.” “I am also determined”, he said, “that we never suppress or neglect the Gospel that inspired this university."

Patrick J. Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, said that "Either he has radically changed his perspective on 'The Vagina Monologues' or he is entirely ignoring the Catholic identity of Notre Dame. In either case, it smacks of hypocrisy when he made such strong statements weeks ago and is not imposing any restrictions at all now."

He added that his group believes that Fr. Jenkins’ “original instincts about ‘The Vagina Monologues’ were correct and sincere, but he fell into the trap that has paralyzed so many other Catholic colleges and universities in the United States—he has insisted on defining ‘The Vagina Monologues’…within the context of “academic freedom.” 

“This” he said, “is a play, a piece of entertainment and one-sided advocacy.  It is not an academic event; it does not in itself offer substantial information or reasoned argument that would contribute to a discussion of sexual morality or violence.” 

Likewise, Bill Donahue, president of the New York based Catholic League said in an e-mail that Fr. Jenkins‘ "statement is a strained and ultimately failed attempt to reconcile free speech rights with the mission of a Catholic institution."

In a recent statement, South Bend’s Bishop John D’Arcy, appealed to the memory of the late John Paul II, a playwright himself and longtime professor in a Catholic university in his criticism of the performance.

The bishop recalled John Paul’s thinking “that freedom must always be linked to the truth and the common good. The same principles apply to artistic freedom. As a university professor, the future pope presented a series of lectures on human love and sexuality in which he reflected how artistic freedom must always be linked to the whole truth about human love and sexuality.”

He added: “I regret the sponsorship of this play by Notre Dame again this year, and pray it will be the last time.”

Very Rev. David O’Connell, president of Catholic University of America also recently spoke out against the performance at his own school saying, “I find the play crude, ugly, vulgar and unworthy of staging or performing at CUA in any manner whatsoever.”

He said that he believes the cause of “promoting the dignity of women deserves better than this play…” adding that “it has become a symbol each year of the desire of some folks to push Catholic campuses over the edge of good and decent judgment.”

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Pope to youth: Life is a great adventure, dare to believe that God will not abandon you

Vatican City, Apr 7, 2006 (CNA) - Throngs of young people from around the Diocese of Rome gathered in St. Peter’s Square yesterday evening to meet with Pope Benedict XVI and prepare for the 21st World Youth Day, which will be celebrated in Rome and throughout the world on Palm Sunday.

The theme of World Youth Day, which is celebrated alternately on local and international levels every other year, is: "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."

At 6 p.m., the Holy Father arrived into the midst of an evening of prayer, music and dancing and greeted the young people. Shortly afterward, the World Youth Day pilgrim was carried into the square by a group of youth from the German city of Cologne, the site of last year's WYD.

During his time with them, the Pope answered questions from five young people chosen for the occasion. They concerned themes of Holy Scripture, love, apostolate, vocation, and the relationship between science and faith.

Responding to the first question, from an engineering student who asked whether Holy Scripture is always the Word of God, the Holy Father said that "The Bible cannot be read as if it were a history book. ... The Word cannot be read as an academic exercise, but by praying and saying to God: 'Help me to understand Your Word'."

The Pope also stressed the importance of reading Scripture while closely following "the masters of 'Lectio Divina,' ... in the company of the People of God, and in communion with the Church which transmits the Word down through the centuries."

Secondly, Benedict responded to a question on the nature of love, recalling from scripture that a "man will abandon his father and his mother; he will follow a woman and they will become one flesh, one life. From the beginning, then, we are given a prophecy of what marriage is, a vision that will remain the same in the New Testament.”

“It is a Sacrament of the Creator of the Universe inscribed in human beings themselves,” he said, “Thus, it is not an invention of the Church."

The Pope also treated the crowd with some insight into his own life as he recalled his own decision to become a priest.

Responding to a young man who has asked him about vocations, Benedict said, "I grew up in a world very different from ours…on the one hand there was a 'situation of Christianity' and it was normal to go to church, on the other we lived under the Nazi regime which sought a world without priests. Faced with this brutal and inhuman culture, I understood that the Gospel and the faith show us the right path to follow."

He also noted other factors which helped him discover his vocation, such as theology and the "beauty of the liturgy.”

“Obviously”, he said, “there was no lack of difficulties and I asked myself if I would manage to live my entire life in celibacy, aware that theology was not enough to be a good priest. ... Courage and humility are also necessary, as are the trust and openness to ask oneself what the Lord wants.”

“It is a great adventure,” he said, “but life can only be lived if we have the courage to dare and the faith that the Lord will not abandon us."

Finally, speaking about faith and science, Benedict said that "There is an intelligence that precedes mathematics and natural laws, the intelligence of God; in other words, an 'intelligent plan' which created both nature with its laws and the human mind."

"There are two possibilities," the Pope told the crowd, "God exists or He does not exist. In other words, we recognize the precedence of a creative intellect ... or we uphold the precedence of the irrational.”

“In the end,” he said, “we cannot speak of 'proving' one project or the other, but the great option of Christianity is the option for rationality, for the precedence of reason."

Following his meeting with the young people, the Pope handed out Bibles to a number of those present, calling the scriptures "a lamp to your feet."

He also recalled his predecessor, John Paul II, whom he called "a great witness to the Word of God." At the end of the evening, he and a number of youth went down to the Vatican Grottoes to pray before the tomb of the late Pope who originally initiated the World Youth Day celebrations.

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President Bush praises Church as voice for human dignity at National Catholic prayer breakfast

Washington D.C., Apr 7, 2006 (CNA) - This morning in the nation’s capital, Catholic and political leaders from around the U.S. gathered for the annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast. For his part, President George Bush praised the Catholic Church for its voice in the national immigration debate and called for hope in a time of national and international tension.

President Bush quipped about what an honor it was that the organizers of the Catholic event invited himself--a Methodist. He also added his particular thrill “to be here with the cardinals of the Church.”

He began by saying that the world needs a “hopeful moment,” at a time “when more people have a chance to claim freedom that God intended for us all.”

“It's also a time of great challenge,” he said. “Some people believe you cannot distinguish between right and wrong. The Catholic Church rejects such a pessimistic view of human nature and offers a vision of human freedom and dignity rooted in the same self-evident truths of America's founding.”

Recalling the late Pope John Paul II, Bush said that “in the last part of the 20th century, we saw the appeal of freedom in the hands of a priest from Poland.”

“When [John Paul] ascended to the chair of St. Peter, the Berlin Wall was still standing. His native Poland was occupied by a communist power. And the division of Europe looked like a permanent scar across the continent. Yet Pope John Paul told us, "Be not afraid," because he knew that an empire built on lies was ultimately destined to fail.”

He went on to say that “By reminding us that our freedom and dignity rests on truths about man and his nature, Pope John Paul II set off one of the greatest revolutions for freedom the world has ever known.”

The president also talked spoke about John Paul’s predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who he said “understands that the measure of a free society is how it treats the weakest and most vulnerable among us. In his Christmas homily, the Pope noted that the Savior came to earth as a ‘defenseless child,’ and said that the splendor of that Christmas shines upon every child, born and unborn.”

In this light, he called for a strengthening of a “culture of life”, a term coined by John Paul II, saying that “we will continue to work for the day when every child is welcome in life and protected in law.”

San Antonio’s Archbishop Jose Gomez greeted the president and congratulated him for his efforts in developing an immigration legislation that simultaneously strives to protect the U.S.’s borders and extend compassion to immigrants.

On this, the president praised the role of Catholic organizations in “welcoming newcomers and helping them to become good citizens.”

Calling for more civil discussion on the immigration debate, Bush said that “an immigration system that forces people into the shadows of our society, or leaves them prey to criminals is a system that needs to be changed.

He expressed his confidence “that we can change our immigration system in ways that secures our border, respects the rule of law, and, as importantly, upholds the decency of our country. As the Congress continues this debate, its members must remember we are a nation of immigrants. And immigration has helped restore our soul on a regular basis.”

1,700 people attended the prayer breakfast, including some 20 congressmen, 3 senators, and two Secretaries of the current administration.

In addition, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the new Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S. was on hand bearing personal greetings of Pope Benedict XVI.

Madison’s Bishop Robert C. Morlino gave the keynote address, speaking about how Catholics have to respond to the dictatorship of relativism created by, among other things by the complete manipulation of language.

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Experts skeptical of new ‘Gospel of Judas’

Washington D.C., Apr 7, 2006 (CNA) - The Gospel of Judas, a manuscript which experts believe may date back to the 2nd century, and suggests that Judas Iscariot was merely taking orders from Jesus himself when he turned the Messiah over to authorities, was officially presented in Washington yesterday by the National Geographic Society.

The ancient papyrus manuscript first came to light 30 years ago when it was discovered on the Egyptian antiquities market. Aside from new dating, evidence of its existence stretch back to the time of St. Irenaeus, a bishop, who condemned it as early as 180 A.D.

The document is one of many ancient manuscripts which were rejected by Church fathers when formulating the canon of scripture.

According to the ANSA news service, the Vatican has denied suggestions that this week’s hugely publicized publication is part of a rehabilitation of Judas by the Catholic Church.

According to the National Geographic Society, the newly translated document begins: "The secret account of the revelation that Jesus spoke in conversation with Judas Iscariot."

In one passage, Jesus tells Judas, "You will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me," supposedly indicating that Judas was essentially following orders when he turned the Lord over to his death.

Another passage reads: "Step away from the others and I shall tell you the mysteries of the kingdom," Jesus says to Judas, singling him out for special status. "Look, you have been told everything. Lift up your eyes and look at the cloud and the light within it and the stars surrounding it. The star that leads the way is your star."

The text ends with Judas turning Jesus over to the high priests and does not include any mention of the crucifixion or resurrection.

A number of Catholic teachings come into conflict with the new document. For one, the suggestion that Jesus needed to be released from “the man that clothes him”, or his physical body, hearkens back to an early Church heresy that which suggested that the flesh was evil and mankind needed to shed material things for the sake of the spiritual.

In addition, Catholic ethics teach that one can never use an evil means to reach a good end. Under Catholic thinking, it would never be morally acceptable for Judas to betray his master, even for the sake of a greater good. 

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Immigration bill does not criminalize assistance efforts, say legislators

Washington D.C., Apr 7, 2006 (CNA) - A group of legislators are striving to assure the U.S. Catholic bishops that a new and much criticized immigration reform bill “does not criminalize humanitarian assistance efforts … nor did it intend to.”

The bill, they wrote in an April 5th letter, is the “House's good-faith effort to bring human traffickers to justice” but it “will not be the final product on this issue.”

The letter was sent by House Judiciary Committee chairman F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-Wis.), House Homeland Security Committee chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.), and House International Relations chairman Henry Hyde (R-Ill.).

“We can assure you, just as under current law, religious organizations would not have to ‘card’ people at soup kitchens and homeless shelters under the House bill's anti-smuggling provisions,” they wrote.

“Prosecutors would no sooner prosecute good Samaritans for ‘assisting’ illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. under the House bill than they would prosecute such persons for ‘encouraging’ illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. under current law, which has existed for nearly 20 year,” they continued.

The three legislators said they supported H.R. 4437 in December because it would be a solid first step in preventing illegal immigration, helping law enforcement agents gain control of the borders, and re- establishing respect for immigration law.

They “wholeheartedly concur” with the bishops’ assessment that “human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery,” they wrote.

However, the “current alien-smuggling laws are inadequate in the fight against these sophisticated coyotes and snakeheads who rape, rob, beat, and abandon their human ‘cargo,’ and also poison our communities through drug trafficking,” the legislators argued.

They said border-area U.S. Attorneys have asked for the tools in H.R. 4437 to aid them in their fight against alien smuggling.

The legislators promised to keep communication open with the bishops as Congress considers the issue. They also said they remain committed to reducing the penalty for illegal presence in the U.S. from a felony to a misdemeanor.

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Connecticut bishops claim bias in state legislature

Hartford, Conn., Apr 7, 2006 (CNA) - Connecticut’s three Catholic bishops said Wednesday they believe the Church is under fire in the state legislature, where there have been efforts to require Catholic hospitals to provide emergency contraception for rape victims, reported the Associated Press.

More than 500 people attended Catholic Day at the Capitol, along with Archbishop Henry Mansell of Hartford, Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport and Bishop Michael Cote of Norwich.

In his address, Archbishop Mansell did not accuse specific legislators of being anti-Catholic but said he believes that “Catholic bashing” is on the increase and that there is an abortion-rights agenda behind the emergency contraception bill.

“We have to see the agenda beneath the agenda,” the archbishop was quoted as saying. “Many would like to see Catholic services and the Catholic Church go away.”

A bill that would have required all hospitals, including Catholic ones, to provide the morning-after pill to rape victims died in the Public Health Committee last month after the panel ran out of time to act.

But last week, a version of the legislation reappeared in the Democrats’ spending bill, which sets aside $5 million in energy assistance for hospitals that provide rape victims with emergency contraception. Archbishop Mansell said the move “could be seen by many as extortion.”
The AP reported that Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell said it is doubtful the provision will be part of the final budget, which must be negotiated between the majority Democrats in the legislature.

The archbishop said he was willing to meet with legislators to discuss the issue, but said the Catholic Church will not compromise on its position.

In January, Archbishop Mansell directed Connecticut’s four Catholic hospitals to establish a policy of not prescribing Plan B if a rape victim is ovulating or one of her eggs has been fertilized. The policy was modeled after one in Peoria, Ill.

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LA group to bring relics to hurricane-ravaged area, calls for national prayer

Los Angeles, Calif., Apr 7, 2006 (CNA) - A Los-Angeles group will make a pilgrimage through the hurricane-ravaged Gulf States with its collection of relics of Christ’s passion.

The Apostolate for Holy Relics is also calling upon people of faith nationwide to join in one week of prayer, May 13-20, for those who continue to suffer the effects of the hurricane. The theme of the pilgrimage is One Cross, Many Hands.

A relic is an object, especially a bone or a personal item, of someone of religious significance, such as a saint or a martyr. The Church’s doctrine on relics teaches that the bodies or items of martyrs and saints, who were elevated to heaven by Christ, may be venerated by the faithful, for through them benefits may be bestowed by God.

The group’s president, Tom Serafin, said he would like to rally about one million people in prayer and would like one million rosaries to be said.

The group’s collection of relics from the Passion of Jesus Christ will tour Mississippi and Louisiana. The relics will visit St. Charles Borromeo Church in Picuyune, MS; Annunciation Church in Kiln, MS; St. Patrick Church in New Orleans, LA; and St. Anselm Church in Madisonville, LA.

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Vatican Nuncio demands Radio Maria stay out of Poland’s politics

Warsaw, Poland, Apr 7, 2006 (CNA) - In a letter sent this week to the bishops of Poland and to the provincial superior of the Redemptorist community in Poland, who own Radio Maria, the country’s Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Jozef Kowalczyk, demanded the station “fulfill its pastoral obligations” and stay out of politics.

“I ask and demand that the Bishops’ Conference of Poland consolidate its efforts to ensure that Radio Maria and other media outlets linked to this station fulfill their pastoral obligations and the Church’s principle of staying out of political battles,” the archbishop wrote.

The Nuncio said, “The Vatican is aware that the Polish bishops have already criticized the activity of Radio Maria and reiterated the obligation of priests and religious to refrain from participating in politics, but it believes that the issue of the stations continues to be too troublesome and uncomfortable.”

Archbishop Kowalczyk also asked that the intervention of the Holy See be taken as a serious warning, and he invited the provincial of the Redemptorists to adopt adequate and effective measures to resolve the matter.

In 2005 during a visit to the Holy See, several Polish bishops indicated that Radio Maria had participated too directly in the political campaign of a specific party.  

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Expert says changing Islamic mentality requires enormous educational effort

Madrid, Spain, Apr 7, 2006 (CNA) - Father Khalil Samir, a professor at the Oriental Pontifical Institute of Rome and St. Joseph’s University of Beirut, said this week that in order to change the Islamic mentality, “which is fearful of reality,” an “enormous educational effort” is needed at schools and universities, while paying special attention to textbooks and teacher formation.

In statements made to the Italian daily “Avvenire,” Father Samir, an expert in Islamic issues, said, “The enlightened West should help the most liberal Muslims to be heard in their countries and contribute to the spread of their ideas by fostering the circulation and translation of their works, inviting them to speak in Europe.”  

“Above all,” he stressed, “an enormous educational effort needs to be initiated at schools and universities,” with special attention to textbooks and teacher formation.

“This is a task that would require generations to slowly change a mentality that is fearful of reality.  As Christianity teaches us, reason is not an enemy, but rather an ally of faith,” he added.

Father Samir explained that in Islamic schools, “the teaching methods are based on repetition and memorization more than on logical reasoning.  In the family, parents do not give their children motives for obedience; rather, it is imposed, sometimes through violence.”

The Koran, he continued, “is learned by heart and applied in a mechanical and literal way since, according to Islam, the text has been revealed directly by God to Mohammed and contains all that is necessary for life, and no interpretation is allowed.”

“If somebody says an effort is needed to find a better application of it to today’s world, he is accused of being a traitor of the most authentic spirit of Islam and even deserves death for apostasy.” The result, he said, is world that is “fearful of modernity.”

Father Samir explained that such a mentality is “easily manipulated by the statements and orders of radicals, who use religious sentiments for political purposes and identify the West with the Great Satan.”  

The recent controversy over comics depicting Mohammed, he pointed out, was an example of this situation in which reprisals were carried out not only against the authors, but also “against the governments of those countries in which they were published and, by extension, against the West or Christians, with the tragic consequences which we have seen, such as the assassination of Father Santoro.”

“This type of mentality neglects the value of the person, drowning him in the group.  Reason must be exercised rather than letting oneself be led by emotions.  Unfortunately, reason is asleep in Islamic countries,” Father Samir stated.

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Holy Week speaks to culture in its most profound roots, says Spanish archbishop

Valencia, Fla., Apr 7, 2006 (CNA) - In his weekly pastoral letter, Archbishop Agustin Garcia-Gasco of Valencia, Spain, said that “what we relive in Holy Week always speaks to our culture in its most profound roots,” adding that it has special meaning in today’s world because of growing individualism present throughout modern culture.

In his letter the archbishop notes that the different celebrations and re-enactments of Holy Week in churches and on the streets provide people the opportunity to recall the overwhelming gesture of love of Jesus, the Son of God, “who gave his life for us,” and to affirm that “the total manifestation of God always puts forth a message of truth and love, which is none other than the way to laying down one’s life for others.”

“Do you want to see human fullness? Look upon him who loves to the point of giving up his entire person.  Do you want to find authentic greatness? Contemplate him who chooses to humble himself to the extreme.  Do want to grasp the truth?  Follow him who does not hold anything back for himself.  Do you want the highest freedom?  Imitate him who was not intimidated by aggressions or threats,” the archbishop writes.

Archbishop Garcia-Gasco also underscores in his letter that “showing the human person his true dignity and his profound value is the central task of the evangelizing action of the Church,” adding that this can be achieved if people are challenged to live in such a way that conforms to the desire of the human heart to love.

“To love is not a heroic ideal just for the few, but rather the proper consequence of discovering the truth and being transformed.  One of the places where we discover our most intimate identity, as men and women, is the family,” he writes.

In concluding his letter, the archbishop recalls that it was “the Son of God himself who desired to have a family and experience upbringing and obedience to show that all human reality, even from its most fragile and hidden biological origins, is steeped in the wisdom and love of God.”

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Cardinal launches prayer appeal for Mexico and Latin America

Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 7, 2006 (CNA) - While celebrating Mass at the archdiocesan cathedral on April 2nd, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City launched a massive prayer appeal for Mexico and all of Latin America.

The appeal, which will end on January 27, 2007, with a large youth pilgrimage, was called for by a group of committed lay faithful, aware that “prayer is the path to advancing a solution to the gravest problems that afflict our society.”

According to organizers of the appeal, the purpose is to pray for Mexico and for people upon whom the future of the country depends. They said that “the situation Mexico and the other Latin American countries are enduring is not easy because it constitutes a challenge not only for the work of evangelization in all areas, but also for social participation and political action.”

In referring to the serious problems facing Latin America, organizers mentioned lack of security and injustice, corruption and impunity, severe poverty and unemployment, as well as the weakening of the family and of moral values.  

“Therefore”, they said, “we have launched this appeal which above all has as its goal the personal transformation of those Mexicans, who participate, as well as the unity and motivation of those who are willing to join in the commitment.”

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