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Archive of June 12, 2006

President-elect of Peru pledges “devotion to the Church and service to the people”

Lima, Peru, Jun 12, 2006 (CNA) - During a meeting last week with representatives of the Peruvian Bishops’ Conference, the President-elect of Peru, Alan Garcia Perez, said last week, “As a Christian I will always pledge my devotion and service to the Church in Peru and to the Christian causes of my country.”

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, the President-elect acknowledged the historic role the Catholic Church has played in his country and reiterated his own dedication to the faith.  “I am sure that the Catholic Church as well will collaborate in alleviating the situation of those who have the least,” Garcia stated.
 
“This meeting represents a greeting from the Bishops’ Conference for which I am very thankful, it is a gesture of democratic strength,” Garcia said, adding that he would collaborate “with the Church as much as possible. I am sure that the Catholic Church and all the Christian churches will collaborate as well.”

The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Peru, Archbishop Hector Cabrejos of Trujillo, expressed congratulations to Garcia on behalf of the country’s bishops, together with Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani of Lima and Bishop Juan Jose Larrañeta, secretary general of the Bishop’s Conference.

Archbishop Cabrejos gave President-elect Garcia a copy of the Compendium of the Social Teachings of the Church “so that he bear in mind all of the teaching of the Church in the social sphere.”

“We call all Peruvians to unity, solidarity and hope.  I think all Peruvians need, search for, and want to find pathways to hope,” he said.

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God is an infinite communion of love, Benedict says

Vatican City, Jun 12, 2006 (CNA) - With a crowd of thousands gathered in St. Peter’s square for the praying of the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI discussed the infinite love of God and the call to enter into communion with Him.
 
Making his comments on the feast of the Most Holy Trinity, the Holy Father, said that through the Holy Spirit which, “helps us to understand the words of Jesus and guides us to the fullness of truth, believers can experience ... intimacy with God Himself, discovering that He is not infinite solitude, but a communion of light and love."

Commenting on the fact that God can seem distant, Pope Benedict said, “In this world, no one can see God, but He made Himself known so that, with John the Apostle, we can affirm: 'God is love.'”

The Christian community, he said, has, “come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. Whoever meets Christ and enters into friendship with Him, welcomes Trinitarian communion into his soul."
 
"For those with faith, all the universe speaks of God, One and Triune. ... Everything that exists leads back to a Being Who communicates Himself in the multiplicity and variety of elements, as in an immense symphony,” the Pope said.

Because all existence comes from God, the Holy Father said, everything that exists shares in a sense in the “harmonic dynamism” of what humans call “love”. 

“But,” he continued, “only in human beings ... does this dynamism become spiritual, does it become responsible love: a response to God and to others in a sincere giving of self. In this love, human beings find their truth and happiness."
 
There are, said Benedict XVI, "various analogies of the ineffable mystery of God, One and Triune." In this context he mentioned the family, which "is called to be a community of love and of life, in which differences must come together to form a 'parabola of communion'." Another "masterwork of the Most Holy Trinity" is the Virgin Mary, because "divine love found perfect correspondence in her, and in her womb the only begotten Son became man."
 
 After the Angelus prayer, the Pope invited the faithful to participate, on Thursday, June 15, in the traditional procession for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, which every year passes from the Basilica of St. John Lateran, along Rome's Via Merulana, to the Basilica of St. Mary Major. It is, said the Holy Father, "an occasion that expresses the faith and love of the Christian community for their Lord present in the Eucharist."

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Congress on Human Life to be held in Fatima

Lisbon, Portugal, Jun 12, 2006 (CNA) - The Austrian branch of Human Life International and the World Apostolate of Fatima are organizing a World Congress for Life, to be held in Fatima, Portugal, under the theme, “Mary, we entrust to you the cause of life.”

The event, which will take place October 4-8, 2006, will be kicked off with a rosary and procession.  On October 5 there will be presentations on the teaching of Church on human life, as well as presentations on the lives of St. Pio of Pietrelcina and St. Gianna Beretta Molla.

On October 6, Fr. Leo Maasburg, National Director of “Missio Austria” and confessor and retreat master of the late Mother Teresa of Calcutta, will speak of the work of the “saint of the gutters.”  The next day will feature talks Bishop Antonio Marto of Fatima and Dr. Thereza Amela, foundress of the Prayer Chain for Life in Portugal.

The conclusion of the event will include a special lunch with pro-life leaders who will speak about their different apostolates, and there will be testimonies from several abortion survivors.

Those giving presentations during the Congress include Archbishop Karl Josef Romer, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Auxiliary Bishop Andreas Laun of Salzburg, Austria, and Professor Americo Lopez Ortiz, international president of the World Apostolate of Fatima.

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Cardinal McCarrick issues clarification on same-sex marriage comments

Washington D.C., Jun 12, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Theodore McCarrick issued a clarification Friday on remarks he made during an interview on CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer. The interview had generated some concern among many Catholics.

The cardinal said he recognized that his remarks could have given the wrong impression to people who took them out of context.

“I’m afraid that I misspoke last Wednesday when I was being interviewed on CNN,” the cardinal wrote, referring to the June 7 interview.

The cardinal explained that he and Blitzer were discussing the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment that had yet to be voted on in the Senate. During the interview, the cardinal defended the need to “continue to define marriage as we have defined marriage for thousands of years as a union between a man and a woman.”

“After that, I spoke of the legislation as it had been proposed and that it would not eliminate the possibility of civil unions,” the cardinal wrote in his clarification. “I said, ‘If this is what the legislation would provide for, I think we can live with that.’”

“My point was that the wording of the proposed legislation to protect marriage, which did not eliminate civil unions, might be necessary in order to have the votes needed to pass it,” he explained in the clarification, which was posted on the Archdiocese of Washington’s website this weekend.

“When probed further on the question of civil unions, which came up because the wording of the constitutional amendment did not seem to eliminate them, I returned to the ideal,” he wrote.

The ideal, he had said during the interview, is that everyone should be “able to enter a union with a man and a woman and that would bring children into the world and have the wonderful relationship of man and wife that is so mutually supportive and is really so much part of our society and what keeps society together.”

“In trying to reply to a question, I mentioned people who may need the right to take care of each other when they are grievously ill and hospitalized, but it was always in the context of the proposed legislation and in no way in favor of a lifestyle that is contrary to the teaching of the Church and Scripture,” he clarified.

“I realized that my words could have given the wrong impression to someone who did not take my remarks in context,” wrote the cardinal. “I regret any confusion my words may have caused because I did not make myself sufficiently clear.”

The official transcript of the segment of the CNN interview in question follows:

BLITZER: Another very sensitive issue that's being dealt with in the Senate right now involves a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Senator Ted Kennedy said this yesterday. He said, "A vote for this amendment is a vote for bigotry, pure and simple." You disagree with him, don't you?

MCCARRICK: On this one, I do. Ted and I have -- do have differences from time to time. And this is a real big one. It seems to me that we really have to continue to define marriage as we've defined marriage for thousands of years as a union between a man and a woman.

Now, I think the legislation as it is proposed would not throw out the possibility of a civil union. And I think we can -- we can live with that if this is what -- if this is what the Constitution will provide for. But to say that you can take this concept of marriage, this word of marriage and use it in ways that it has never been used before, as far as I know, in the history of the world, I think that makes no sense.

BLITZER: So just explain. You think that you could live with -- you could support civil unions between gays and lesbians, but you wouldn't like them to get formally married, is that right?

MCCARRICK: Yes. I think -- I think basically the ideal would be that everybody was -- was able to enter a union with a man and a woman and bring children into the world and have the wonderful relationship of man and wife that is so mutually supportive and is really so much part of our society and what keeps our society together. That's the ideal.

If you can't meet that ideal, if there are people who for one reason or another just cannot do that or feel they cannot do that, then in order to protect their right to take care of each other, in order to take care of their right to have visitation in a hospital or something like that, I think that you could allow, not the ideal, but you could allow for that for a civil union.

But if you begin to fool around with the whole - the whole nature of marriage, then you’re doing something which effects the whole culture and denigrated what is so important for us.  Marriage is the basic foundation of our family structure.  And if we lose that, then I think we become a society that’s in real trouble.

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Same-sex marriage will impact religious liberty say experts

, Jun 12, 2006 (CNA) - In a recent column, Newsweek religion editor, Peter Steinfels, discusses the opinion of several respected legal scholars, many of whom are proponents of same-sex "marriage", that the legalization of same-sex “marriage” will have an inevitable impact on religious liberty.

Steinfels, the former editor of Commonweal, contributed a commentary in Saturday’s New York Times, titled “Beliefs; Advocates on both sides of the same-sex marriage issue see a potential clash with religious liberty.”

In the article, Steinfels discusses comments made by several scholars during a conference last December, sponsored by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.  One attendee of the conference, Marc D. Stern, who has handled religious freedom cases for the American Jewish Congress for many years, said that clashes with religious liberty would be "inevitable," if same-sex “marriage” was legalized.

While Stern doesn’t believe clergy will be forced to perform marriages that are against the values of the faith group they represent, other programs or institutions-like schools, health care centers and social service agencies-that operate by religious standards will be impacted.

Steinfels referred to the decision of Boston Catholic Charities to withdraw from providing adoption services because the state license required placing children with same-sex couples.

Stern was joined by several scholars on the subject, including  Chai R. Feldblum, a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center and a proponent of same-sex marriage.

Feldblum agreed with Stern that religious liberty will be challenged. However, Feldblum holds, the dignity and equality of gay people should almost always outweigh considerations of religious freedom.

Arguments from the conference were initially reported by Maggie Gallagher and published in The Weekly Standard.  Steinfels says that in her report Gallagher observes that legal scholars opposed to same-sex marriage are more hopeful about overcoming the potential conflicts with religious liberty than those in favor of it.

While University of Chicago Law School constitutional scholar, Cass Sunstein did not attend the conference, he called the conflicts Feldblum and Stern's views point to "real and serious."  Sunstein told Steinfels that same-sex marriage does not raise new issues. Rather, it intensifies existing tensions "between antidiscrimination norms and deeply held religious convictions." He also said the first great impact will be in the political realm.

Many morally contentious laws contain exemptions for religious bodies or even for the personal moral beliefs of some professionals. However, these exemptions are being challenged in the courts.

Follow the link below for more on Maggie Gallagher’s article: <http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/012/191kgwgh.asp>

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Morning-after pill spreading out of control in Spanish schools

Madrid, Spain, Jun 12, 2006 (CNA) - According to a report in the Spanish daily “La Opinion de la Coruña”, the morning-after pill, approved for use in Spain for emergency only, has spread out of control in schools in the northern Spanish region of Galicia, with some young women taking the drug up to seven times a month.

“Doctors are denouncing (the fact) that the pill is being prescribed uncontrollably,” the newspaper reported, and “the practice of turning the post-coital pill into the principal or only contraceptive method is spreading among adolescents” in the region.

Isidro Lago, secretary of the Galician Council of Medical Schools, told the newspaper that there has been an increase in the number of young people who are habitually coming to health centers, sometimes several times a month, to request the morning-after pill.

Government-run health centers in the region offer the drug free of charge.  Doctors are supposed to record each prescription in the patient’s file, but this is not happening at emergency clinics where, according to Lagos, “doctors only have around two minutes to spend with each patient, and records of most clinic visits are not computerized.”

Lagos warned that the result is that “the youngest couples do not protect themselves during sexual relations and come in search of a solution a posteriori.  In addition, by making the pill available at all centers, it has become easier for some women to request it during each separate visit in order to prevent health professionals from noticing.”

The morning-after pill is equivalent to 25 regular birth control pills and its frequent use can seriously affect a woman’s health.  It has three acting mechanisms: the prevention of ovulation, the prevention of fertilization and the prevention of implantation of a fertilized ovum in the uterus, which makes the pill a potential abortifacient.

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New method of fertility regulation in line with Catholic teaching

Seattle, Wash., Jun 12, 2006 (CNA) - A relatively new method of regulating fertility is catching on around the world.  CycleBeads are 95 percent effective and, in themselves, do not conflict with Catholic teachings related to reproduction and fertility.

The CycleBeads, which consist of 32 beads in three colors, is a fertility awareness-based method that helps plan or prevent pregnancy naturally.

Victoria Jennings, an anthropologist and director of Georgetown's Institute for Reproductive Health, believes women are looking for non-hormonal, non-invasive ways to control their fertility.

She and other researchers at Georgetown University conducted a scientific trial of the beads they call "The Standard Days Method" (SDM) of family planning, reported the Seattle Post Intelligencer.

The trials were conducted on women in Bolivia, Peru and the Philippines for up to 13 menstrual cycles. Researchers discovered that fewer than 5 percent of women using the beads became pregnant compared with about 8 percent of women who become pregnant while consistently using a diaphragm.

The team began their research in 2000, using data from the World Health Association. They assembled a computer model based on cycles of 26 to 32 days. On average, days eight to nineteen were most likely to be fertile days.

Jennings said the beads are catching on around the world, with more than one million users, reported the newspaper. In the United States, there are between 50,000 and 75,000 users.

In addition, there are no side effects and it's inexpensive. Beads sell for about $14 in local pharmacies, reported the Seattle Post Intelligencer. Medicaid covers them in Washington state, and the Seattle/King County health department sells them for about $4.50.  Some women even make their own beads.

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Bolivian government to eliminate Catholicism from classrooms

La Paz, Bolivia, Jun 12, 2006 (CNA) - LA PAZ - Bolivia’s Minister of Education told reporters last week the government intends to implement an educational reform that would include replacing Catholic religion courses in schools with a history course.

According to Education Minister Felix Patzi, under the Evo Morales administration, “education will emphatically be secular and no longer Catholic.  Religion classes will now be optional instead of obligatory.  There will be a course on the history of religions: indigenous, Arabic, or Catholic.”

The proposed educational reform calls for “secular education that respects the beliefs, the spirituality of indigenous and native nations and of the Bolivian nations as the basis of individual and communitarian rights.” The National Congress of Education will consider the proposal on July 10-15 in Sucre, Bolivia.

Although the Bishops’ Conference of Bolivia has not yet issued an official statement, Archbishop Tito Solari of Cochabamba said the government should be consistent with what it has said about respecting beliefs, which “implies respecting the Catholic beliefs of the majority of Bolivians.”

“Parents are the first and foremost educators of their children,” he stated, “therefore they have the right to choose the kind of education they want.”  The archbishop noted that families are very appreciative of the schools that are administered by the Church, which serve the community and, in a special way, those in need.

“The state and the institutions of civil society can contribute, in a democratic atmosphere, to people choosing the best educational model for the integral and critical formation of persons,” Archbishop Solari stated.

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Scotland parishes closing due to few home-grown priests, declining church attendance

Edinburgh, United Kingdom, Jun 12, 2006 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Edinburgh has announced the need to close parishes in light of a significant priest shortage and declining church attendance. He said the “root of the problem” is that Scottish parishes weren’t producing enough home-grown priests.

In a pastoral letter issued Sunday, Cardinal Keith O'Brien laid out a radical restructuring plan, which involves redrawing parish boundaries and creating parish clusters that will share a pastor. The letter also calls for a consultation. Parishioners will also be asked to do more to keep parishes going.

Church officials say the faithful will have to get used to the idea of traveling long distances to church, just as they drive to their local out-of-town shopping center.

Figures show that the number of active priests in the diocese is expected to fall from 63 to 34 in 10 years. The average age of priests in Scotland is above 60, and there are very few new vocations. The cardinal has already called for older men to consider becoming priests, including widowers.

Furthermore, religious practice has dropped in the country. The number of practicing Catholics is a little more than 200,000 - down 20 percent since the mid-1990s. In the last decade, the number of Catholic couples in Edinburgh baptizing their children has also dropped, from 1,910 to 1,075.

"The fact remains: we are not producing enough home-grown Scottish priests. That is the root of the problem,” Cardinal O’Brien reportedly said. "Catholics have been spoilt by the fact that we had a huge influx of Irish clergy who sustained the Scottish Church when it wasn't sustaining itself.” He also thanked the missionary priests from Poland, Malta and Africa.

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Glasgow - Scotland's largest diocese - said there was no need for similar reorganization at this time.

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