Archive of July 27, 2006

Seattle Archbishop applauds wisdom of court in same-sex marriage ruling

Seattle, Wash., Jul 27, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Alexander Brunett congratulated the Supreme Court of the State of Washington yesterday, after they decided to uphold the state's ban on same-sex marriage. The Washington Supreme Court ruled by a 5-4 majority that the state legislature had the power to limit marriage to one man and one woman.

The text of the decision said that the court was ruling on the constitutionality of the law, not on the issue of same-sex marriage. It said it saw no reason why the rights of marriage should not be extended for gays and lesbians through a state ballot, reported Reuters.

Regardless of the court’s reasons for upholding the ban, Archbishop Brunett expressed gratitude to the court for its decision.

“The court has shown wisdom and insight in recognizing the separation of powers that grants authority to the Legislature for enacting legislation designed to promote the wellbeing of children and all persons,” he wrote in an official statement.
“The essential reality of marriage as a creative union for the protection and education of children is a long-held understanding not only by the Church but by virtually all civilized societies throughout history,” he also wrote.

In an earlier pastoral letter, the archbishop stated that Church teaching on marriage as the union of one man and one woman does not detract, “from the dignity of and respect owed to each individual person.” The court’s decision, he said, “in no way diminishes that dignity nor encourages unjust discrimination.”

The archdiocese had filed a brief with the state Supreme Court last week, which warned that changing the definition of marriage to include same-sex unions would “lead the way to an inevitable collision with religion.” 

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Holy See renews call for immediate ceasefire following Rome conference

Rome, Italy, Jul 27, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, spoke this morning about the Rome summit on Lebanon which he attended as an invited observer.  Archbishop Lajolo told Vatican Radio that despite the lack of a definitive statement demanding an immediate ceasefire, many positive results stemmed from the meeting.  Lajolo said that the Vatican continues its call for an immediate cessation of fighting.

The Archbishop said that a very positive sign was the speed with which the conference was convened and the fact that, it focused its attention on, "the most urgent needs of the present time."

It was extremely encouraging, Lajolo said, “that countries from various parts of the world ... came together in an awareness of the gravity of what is happening in Lebanon, reaffirming the need for the country to regain full sovereignty as soon as possible," and that "they made a commitment to help her."

He also mentioned, "the request to form an international force under the United Nations, to support the regular Lebanese army in security matters," as well as, "the commitment to offer immediate humanitarian aid to the people of Lebanon and the guarantee of support in rebuilding by calling a conference of donor States," as positives.

On the subject of the final declaration, which was judged by many as disappointing, he noted that "the expectations of the public were certainly high, but for the well-informed who understand the difficulties, it could perhaps be said that the results were significant."
The sense of disappointment, said the archbishop, may have been caused above all by the fact that there was no request for an immediate cessation of hostilities. “Unanimity among the participants was not achieved,” Lajolo said, “because some countries maintained that an appeal would not have produced the desired effect, and it was felt more realistic to express a commitment to achieve, without delay, a cessation of hostilities, (a commitment) which can, in fact, be maintained."

The call for immediate ceasefire was opposed by the United States and several European countries, which hold that due to the failure of past ceasefires further steps must be taken to achieve a lasting peace before a ceasefire can be initiated.

Lajolo criticized the view that continued fighting is necessary to achieve a more lasting peace.  “The position of those who maintain that conditions must first be created so that any truce is not once again violated is only apparently one of realism, because those conditions can and must be created with means other than the killing of innocent people,” Lajolo said. “The Pope is close to those peoples, victims of contrasts and of a conflict foreign to them. Benedict XVI prays, and with him the entire Church, for the day of peace to come today and not tomorrow. He prays to God and appeals to political leaders.”
Another problematic issue, said the archbishop, was the fact that the conference limited itself, "to inviting Israel to exercise the greatest restraint. By its nature, this call has a certain inevitable ambiguity, whilst respect for the innocent civilian population is a precise and binding duty."

Today in fact, the BBC has reported that Israeli Minister of Justice, Haim Ramon, told Israeli cabinet ministers that the decision of the international group not to demand Israel to cease its attacks on Lebanon qualifies as a green light to continue. 

Lajolo said that despite the cessation of fighting, he was pleased that Fouad Siniora, Prime Minister of Lebanon, "had the opportunity to explain fully the dramatic nature of the situation of the country, and to present his own plan for the immediate and definitive resolution of the conflict with Israel. He was also able to witness and further encourage the positive efforts being made by the international community to help the Lebanese people, to put an end to the conflict and to reinforce his government's control of the country."
In a meeting yesterday evening with Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano, Siniora "expressed great appreciation for the commitment with which the Holy Father in person, and the Holy See, are following the conflict that is wracking Lebanon, and he requested continuing support for his country in the international arena" said Archbishop Lajolo. "He also recalled the words of Pope John Paul II, who defined Lebanon not only as a country but as 'a message' for all peoples of harmonious coexistence among various religions and confessions in one State."
The Archbishop affirmed that, following the Rome conference, "the Holy See remains in favor of an immediate cessation of hostilities. The problems on the table are many and extremely complex, and precisely for that reason cannot all be dealt with together. While bearing in mind the general picture and the overall solution to be achieved, the problems must be resolved 'per partes,' beginning with those that are immediately resolvable.”

"The Pope weeps with every mother weeping for her children, with all those weeping for their loved ones. An immediate suspension of hostilities is possible, and therefore necessary," Lajolo concluded.

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Holy Land bishop: concrete actions needed to achieve peace in Middle East

Lourdes, France, Jul 27, 2006 (CNA) - Reacting to talks in Rome on the crisis in the Middle East, Bishop Fuad Twal, Coadjutor of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, said this week, “A humanitarian corridor is fine, UN peacekeepers are fine, but now actions should follow words.”

“As far as I know, there is still no agreement on a ceasefire, but the delegations have outlined a path to get there.  The problem is that meanwhile the death and destruction continues,” the bishop said in an interview with the Religious Information Service.

He underscored that “people will have to wait for there to be peace. We need concrete actions.  They want to come up with a peace plan, but the conflict that has started everything, that is, the war between Israelis and Palestinians has been going on for 60 years.  If this is not solved, there will be no peace in the Middle East or the world.”

“I am in Lourdes with thousands of young people from all over Europe and their bishops.  Everyone feels solidarity with the Holy Land and the Middle East,” Bishop Twal said.  “Tomorrow I am going to celebrate a Mass with three thousand young people and I am going to thank them for solidarity with us,” he added.

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Italian bishops call research with embryos “morally unacceptable”

Rome, Italy, Jul 27, 2006 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Italy has issued a statement calling the European Union decision to fund research on human embryos “morally unacceptable” because it constitutes an attack on innocent human life.

The bishops note that they, “have insisted and insist frequently that any research that involves human embryos corresponds to an anthropological point of view that does not consider human life as an end but rather as a means for achieving certain aims—albeit some of which may be noble—such as the treatment of disease and scientific knowledge.”  

“Science must serve man, not use him, especially man in his most fragile state—an embryo in its first days of life,” they added.

The bishops appealed to “Italian politicians and all those who can still stop this ethical attack” and to the EU “not to allow its funds to be used in any way for this grave attack on the dignity of man regarding his fundamental right to life, without which all other personal or social values lose their essence.”

“Benedict XVI reminded us that ‘the protection of life in all of its stages, from conception until natural death, is a non-negotiable principle’,” the bishops emphasized.

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Cardinal George undergoes surgery for bladder cancer

Chicago, Ill., Jul 27, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago, underwent surgery Thursday morning Loyola University Medical Center to remove a cancer that was recently discovered in his bladder.

The cardinal explained his health situation in a letter addressed to the faithful of his archdiocese and asked for their prayers.

“I am informed that I can expect to make a full recovery from this cancer and the surgery to remove it. I have asked my doctors and Archdiocesan officials to fully brief you after the surgery on the specifics of the operation and my recovery,” he wrote.

Fr. John Canary, the vicar general, will provide day-to-day governance of the archdiocese while the cardinal recovers.

Bishop William Skylstad, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), also issued a statement offering prayers that the cardinal has a full recovery from his surgery. Cardinal George is vice-president of the USCCB.

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Michigan Catholic Conference calls for honest dialogue in bioethics debate

Lansing, Mich., Jul 27, 2006 (CNA) - The Michigan Catholic Conference called on state legislators to engage in honest dialogue with citizens regarding proposed measures in favor of embryonic stem-cell research and human cloning.

According to the conference, legislators have failed to communicate to the public the “Pandora's box” of ethical and moral issues that accompany such legislation.

"It is utterly disingenuous for any elected official to discuss embryonic stem-cell research and Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer without addressing the fact that human embryos must be purposefully cloned and killed for the process to be successful," said Paul Long, conference vice president for public policy, in a statement.

"By using euphemisms such as 'therapeutic cloning,' or by expressing the need to strengthen an existing human cloning ban, supporters of these measures are deceiving the public," he said.

The Michigan Catholic Conference is calling on legislators to address the fact that proposed legislation would amend current statutes and allow for human embryos to be cloned — a necessary component of Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer — then killed to extract the embryo's stem cell lines.

The conference also wants legislators to use straight talk and admit that “therapeutic cloning” and “reproductive cloning” are really the same thing. “Regardless of the purpose for which it is used, ‘therapeutic cloning’ is a euphemism and friendly term applied to soften the reception of the fact that human embryos are being cloned and killed,” says the statement issued by the conference.

Legislators should also consider the public opinion polls, which indicate that the majority of Americans do not support federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, the conference says.

In addition, legislators must acknowledge that “there are not hundreds of thousands of spare embryos that are going to be ‘just thrown out,’” as some supporters of embryonic stem-cell research claim, the conference says.

“In fact, more than 85 percent of frozen embryos have been designated for family building purposes, with less than 5 percent designated for research purposes,” reads a statement issued by the conference. “Of those designated for research purposes, scientists disagree on just how many will actually survive the thawing process.”

Michigan Catholic Conference has repeatedly expressed its support for adult stem-cell research, which has already helped to treat over 70 different conditions and which does not pose any ethical dilemmas. 

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Government contemplates eliminating religious holidays in Bolivia

La Paz, Bolivia, Jul 27, 2006 (CNA) - Amidst the conflict between the government of Evo Morales and the Church over proposals to secularize the country’s school system, other government officials have now voiced their interest in eliminating certain national religious holidays such as Corpus Christi.

Socialist Senator Antonio Peredo told reporters he believes there is an excess of national religious holidays and that some, such as Corpus Christi and All Saints Day, should be eliminated and that only Holy Week and Christmas should be observed.  Likewise he criticized the Archbishop of Santa Cruz, Cardinal Julio Terrazas, for calling on Catholics to defend the faith.  

Bolivia’s Minister of Labor, Alex Galvez, said the holidays would continue to be observed until a change is made to the law.  He said the Constitutional Assembly, which will be installed on August 6, would take up the issue.

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Catholic political expert heads New Jersey's bishops' conference

Newark, N.J., Jul 27, 2006 (CNA) - A former aide to three New Jersey governors has been named executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference.

Patrick Brannigan, 63, came out of retirement to begin working at the Catholic Conference this week. Prior to his retirement in February, Brannigan had pursued a lifelong career in state government.  He had worked as deputy chief of management and operations in the governor's office, serving former Govs. James E. McGreevey and Richard Codey, reported the Star-Ledger.

Brannigan succeeds William Bolan, who has retired after 22 years with the conference.

In a prepared statement, Archbishop John Myers of Newark praised Brannigan's, "wide range of experience and expertise.”

"We believe he will serve the conference and the New Jersey bishops well as we seek to maintain a strong, solid voice in the shaping of laws and policies that deal ethically, fairly, and justly with everyone in society," the archbishop said. 

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Bishop says Church cares for homosexuals but rejects “gender ideology”

Madrid, Spain, Jul 27, 2006 (CNA) - In an interview with the Spanish daily “La Razon,” newly appointed Bishop Jose Ignacio Munilla of Palencia said that while the Church cares for each homosexual as a person, those who promote “gender ideology” not only fail to liberate homosexuals but actually enslave them.

The new bishop, who at 44 years old has become Spain’s youngest, said he was certain that “in the current debate about homosexuality, things are not as they appear: the Church cares for each homosexual as a person and by name; while others lay claim to a gender ideology that, far from liberating, actually enslaves homosexuals.”

Bishop Munilla also referred to the discourses by Pope Benedict XVI in Valencia during the World Meeting of Families, in which he emphasized a, “concept of the family without qualifiers.” The bishop said that several groups are attempting to classify the natural family as one of many types.  “One of the major goals they have wanted to use against us is to use the word ‘traditional’ when referring to the natural family.”

The bishop also denounced attacks on the family based on a supposed “extension of rights.”  “If any type of living arrangement is equal to the family and to marriage, then what is the family and marriage?” he asked.  In order to illustrate his point, he suggested imagining “extending the rights” of government leaders to the rest of the citizenry.  “Would not the political authorities feel under assault by the fact that citizens were laying claim to that equality?” he said.

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