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Archive of August 11, 2006

Pope Benedict sends personal envoy to Lebanon

Vatican City, Aug 11, 2006 (CNA) - The Holy See announced today that Pope Benedict XVI is sending a special personal envoy to Lebanon.  The Holy Father has tapped Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, to head into the war-torn country.

The cardinal is to visit Lebanon on behalf of the Pontiff, “in order to express to the Maronite Catholic population and all who suffer in the region his spiritual closeness and concrete solidarity, and to pray for the great intention for peace.”

The visit, according to the Vatican, is of an “essentially religious nature.”  Cardinal Etchegaray will meet with Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, Patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church and visit with members of the Catholic population there.  The two cardinals plan, if possible, to concelebrate Mass for the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, in the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lebanon, in Harissa.  

The press release noted that the cardinal’s prayers for peace will be joined spiritually by a Mass celebrated at the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, Israel.  The Holy See’s representative to Israel and Palestine, Archbishop Antonio Franco and Archbishop Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarchy of Jerusalem will concelebrate the Mass.

It was previously reported by Asia News that Cardinal Etchegaray would meet with Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri; however such meetings have not been confirmed by the Vatican.

The Holy Father has been continuously calling for an immediate ceasefire in the region, as well as for prayers for a just and lasting peace.

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Catholics perplexed by actions of San Francisco Catholic Charities

San Francisco, Calif., Aug 11, 2006 (CNA) - Catholics in San Francisco and throughout the United States continue to be confused by the decision of San Francisco Catholic Charities to persist in facilitating adoptions to homosexual couples, an action which the Church has spoken out against.

In announcement made two weeks ago, San Francisco Catholic Charities decided that while it will close its own adoption services, it will continue to outsource personnel to an agency that facilitates adoptions in the area, including adoptions to homosexual couples.

Many claim that the motivating factor for Catholic Charities’ decision to change its policy on adoption is increasing pressure from the Vatican.  In 2003, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), headed by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, released a document entitled Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons.  The CDF document makes clear that the Catholic Church does not approve of or wish to take part in the adoption of children by couples living an active homosexual lifestyle.  Since the document’s release little visible action had taken place on the part of Catholic Charities, that is, until this year.

Following the election of Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop William Levada, who at the time was Archbishop of San Francisco, was chosen to take his place as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  

In the midst of the transition, some questioned the fact that San Francisco Catholic Charities, along with the Catholic Charities of Boston, continued to place children with homosexual couples.  

Archbishop (soon to be Cardinal) Levada issued a statement admitting that children had been placed in the custody of homosexual partners while he was in San Francisco but declaring that appropriate action should now be taken to ensure that the practice did not continue by any Church organization.

With a directive for action coming from the Vatican, the foundational identities of Catholic Charities of Boston and San Francisco came head to head with state legislation prohibiting the “discriminatory action” of not adopting to homosexual couples.

The decision of Boston’s Catholic Charities, which came on March 10th of this year, was to fully cease their adoption services and transfer all open cases to the Massachusetts Department of Social Services.  During the period of decision-making, seven members of Boston’s Catholic Charities Board of Directors resigned, telling the Boston Globe that they disagreed with the Church’s teaching on homosexual adoption.

The Archdiocese of San Francisco also responded to the issue in March.  Archbishop George Niederauer announced that the organizations of the archdiocese, including Catholic Charities, “fully accept and faithfully teach what the Catholic Church teaches on marriage and family life.”  As such, Niederauer said, the archdiocese would begin considering a course of action that would best serve children.

When asked to clarify, the official spokesman for the archdiocese, Maurice Healy, said that gay adoptions would no longer be allowed.  However Brian Cahill, Executive Director for Catholic Charities of San Francisco, quickly replied through the press that Mr. Healy was mistaken and that a different solution was being sought.

A concrete plan for San Francisco’s Catholic Charities, was finally announced just this month. The plan was not for the organization to pull entirely out of adoptions but rather to continue funding workers who would work for California Kids Connection, which is an information and outreach service of Family Builders by Adoption, an organization who actively places children with homosexual couples.  

Herein lays the confusion for many Catholics.  While San Francisco Catholic Charities says its employees will not technically be placing children into the custody of homosexual couples, it would be promoting the services of Family Builders and guiding both homosexual couples and children in need of families into homosexual adoptions.

But Family Builders is not simply “open” to homosexual adoption.  According to their website, Family Builders offers special support groups for gay and lesbian families, and says that they “are the only agency which has a program and a staff person devoted exclusively to outreach in the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community,” in order to encourage more adoptions by homosexual couples.  

Their web site also claims that, “Family Builders has been in the forefront of advocating for public policy and practice changes in the adoption field to provide the opportunity for LGBT families to adopt.  Family Builders is a lead partner in the newly formed Bay Area LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning) Youth Task Force, along with Legal Services for Children, and The National Center for Lesbian Rights.”

Jill Jacobs, executive director of Family Builders, told the Bay Area Reporter yesterday that, “We're about the gayest adoption agency in the country."

The Bay Area Reporter said that Jacobs noted that it was important for her organization to make sure Catholic Charities "really knew who we were, and that in our own adoption program more than half the families we serve are LGBT families.”

“I ask myself, ‘How is this not supporting homosexual adoption?’” Vivian Dudro, a San Francisco resident, told CNA. Dudro, who has lived with her husband and four children in the area for the last ten years, says that her family has given to Catholic Charities through parish appeals nearly annually.  

“When I found out that these adoptions had already been occurring I felt betrayed.  Now I learn that (Catholic Charities employees) are going to continue to assist in placing children into the hands of homosexual couples and I just wonder, ‘What is going on?  How is the Church’s teaching not clear?’”

Vivian, who works full time raising her children, is not alone in her confusion. Several moral theologians, familiar with Church teaching on the issue, are also unclear as to how the Catholic organization is rationalizing their participation.  Dr. William May, a professor at the John Paul II Institute for the Study of Family and Marriage, told CNA that he’s not sure why Catholic Charities thinks they are not acting contrary to the Church’s teaching.

“I find it difficult to reconcile the actions of Catholic Charities of San Francisco with the 2003 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,” May said.

Dr. May pointed to a paragraph of the document which considers the fact that homosexual unions lack in both the biological and anthropological elements that make up a marriage.  The CDF document states that children should not be placed into such a situation.  “As experience has shown, the absence of sexual complementarity in these unions creates obstacles in the normal development of children who would be placed in the care of such persons,” it says. “They would be deprived of the experience of either fatherhood or motherhood.”  In other words, the best environment for raising children involves a mother and a father.

The document continues, “Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development.”

Such actions, the Vatican says, are “gravely immoral and in open contradiction to the principle, recognized also in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, that the best interests of the child, as the weaker and more vulnerable party, are to be the paramount consideration in every case.”

May also pointed to a paragraph of the document which discusses what action individual Catholics and Church organizations should take in situations, such as the ones which exist in Boston and San Francisco, in which governments recognize homosexual partnerships as equal to marriage.  The document states that in such situations, “clear and emphatic opposition is a duty.”

What is more, the document says that, “One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application.”

Cahill, who was unavailable after repeated phone calls from CNA, told the Boston Globe last week that in his opinion, the only thing the Vatican was saying is that Catholics should not directly place children into the custody of homosexuals.  Cahill said that the Catholic Charities staffers will assist any prospective foster or adoptive parents who approaches California Kids Connection, regardless of sexual orientation, and if that work leads to a match between a gay parent and a foster child, that is fine. "God loves them all," he said.

Cahill repeated his views in the Bay Area Reporter this week saying that adoption to homosexual couples has never been an issue for his staff.  “It only came onto the radar after it became an issue in Rome,” he said.  

“We should be praising (those adopting) regardless of sexual orientation and thanking them for what they are doing.”

Under the new agreement, Cahill said, his staff will, in the end, do more of what they want to do. “It's impossible not to use the word 'irony' in this situation,” he remarked, “Out of what could have been a crisis came a great opportunity.  We actually are going to increase our role in adoptions. And working with Family Builders will actually help them double and triple the number of kids who are up on their Web site.”

The Catholic Charities partnership may even result in more LGBT families adopting children than before, the Bay Area Reporter said.

Which leaves the faithful wondering what is happening with the Catholic organization to whom they’ve given money and support as well as with the archdiocese, which is supposed to be following Catholic teaching.  “I don’t see how they don’t understand that this may not be good for a child, especially one who is coming from a difficult situation already,” Vivian Dudro wondered.  

Reconciling questions such as Dudro’s will ultimately be the task Archbishop Niederauer.  The archbishop is officially the Chairman of the Board of San Francisco Catholic Charities.  However, Cahill has praised the Archbishop for his “hand’s off” approach to the decision, “If we were precluded from helping gay or lesbian parents then we would not be able to work with anyone,” Cahill said of the decision. “So rather than shut it down, we came up with something. The good news is that the new archbishop (Niederauer) was very pastoral and gave us an opportunity to develop a creative solution to serve everyone,” he told the Bay Avenue Reporter.

Rather than being created based on directives from the archbishop, the paper says, the decision for partnership was hammered out after months of meetings and consultations between Catholic Charities and Family Builders, members of the San Francisco community, and elected officials.  Other than Cahill and Niederauer the top representative for Catholic Charities is Clint Reilly, the President of the Board.

Reilly, who was appointed to his post by then Archbishop Levada, is a San Francisco businessman and philanthropist who has raised a great deal of money for the archdiocese over the years.  Reilly helped Levada found the Archbishop’s Charity Council and the Archbishop’s Loaves and Fishes Dinner, which has raised millions for the archdiocese and Catholic Charities.  

Reilly also has had a very successful career in the political realm.  Aside from an unsuccessful run for Mayor in 1999, Reilly has been highly involved in political activism and for many years ran a campaign management firm, called Clinton Reilly Campaigns.  Clients of Reilly have included, U.S. House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, as well as fellow Democrats, Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.  

Although Reilly has officially retired from his political campaigning, he continues to support and advise candidates including his wife, during her run for California State Assembly this year and is considered to wield considerable political power within the city and state.

With such political power on the side of Catholic Charities, many wonder how the agreement allows the organization to take on a roll which seems so much at odds with the 2003 Church document.  Dudro and others wonder why Catholic Charities felt necessary to continue their adoption work, instead of making a clean break, such as Boston’s organization did.  

“It seems that the leadership of the Archdiocese decided that they were willing to sacrifice the children and the lay faithful in the pews so as not to earn the displeasure of the politically powerful in this city,” Dudro said.

“It’s as if political power and money have overshadowed the Truth of the Church’s teaching.”

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Holy See intercedes on behalf of Indonesian Catholics sentenced to death

Vatican City, Aug 11, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State of the Holy See, has penned a letter in the name of Pope Benedict XVI, requesting clemency for three Catholics scheduled to be executed today.

In a letter made public today, Sodano requested from Susilo Ydhoyono, President of the Republic of Indonesia, a stay of execution for Fabianus Tibo, Dominggus da Silva, and Marinus Riwu.  The three were sentenced to death in 2001, after being found guilty of leading a Christian mob in an attack which killed more than 200 people at an Islamic boarding school during Muslim-Christian clashes in Central Sulawesi's Poso region.  

Sodano wrote, “In the name of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI I turn to you again, Your Excellency, to seek your intervention on humanitarian grounds, and in light of the particularity of the case, in order that an act of clemency might be granted to these three Catholic citizens of your nation.”

Several groups, both in Indonesia and abroad, have requested a reconsideration of the death sentence in recent months.  From 1998 to 2001 fighting between Muslims and Christians in Central Sulawesi and the nearby Maluku Islands erupted, killing nearly 10,000 people in total, the majority of which were Christians.

Some 5000 Indonesians have taken to the streets in protest and prayer for a stop to the executions.

“In adding my voice to others I would also note the position of the Catholic Church which on numerous occasions has spoken out against the death penalty,” Sodano continued. “Trusting that this appeal made on behalf of His Holiness will meet with a positive outcome, I extend to you my sentiments of esteem.”

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Discussions continue after University of Wisconsin boots Knights of Columbus

Madison, Wis., Aug 11, 2006 (CNA) - The University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Knights of Columbus are attempting to work towards an agreement after the University abruptly announced that the Catholic fraternal organization would no longer be recognized on campus, due to the group’s faithfulness to their Catholic identity.

The university made its initial decision to de-recognize the Knights, according to Executive Assistant to the Chancellor, Casey Nagy, “because the group's policy limiting membership to Catholic men does not comply with state law prohibiting discrimination against students on the basis of religion.”

The decision would bar the student chapter of the Knights from using campus spaces for meetings or social events, recruiting students at UW-sponsored events, or even using the school's name in its title.  Such unrecognized groups also cannot qualify for student fees, although the Knights of Columbus have never received funding from the school.  

Following a firestorm of news articles, phone calls, and e-mails the university has begun discussions with Knights’ faculty advisor, Professor Mark Etzel, and the local chapter as to what might be done to allow the group to be reaccepted on campus.  Late yesterday, the university retracted a press release which stated that an agreement between the school and the organization had been reached.  

Following the false announcement, Etzel told the press that, in fact, no agreement had been reached because the Knights had not agreed to changes the university wanted to make to the group's mission and membership policies.  Etzel also warned the school not to release false information to the media, according to the Associated Press.

Patrick Korten, Vice President for Communications for the Knights of Columbus Supreme Council, told CNA that the international organization was surprised by the decision to de-recognized the university chapter and is trying to get to the bottom of the situation.  “We are very concerned that a well-respected university such as the University of Wisconsin would make such a decision.”

First Amendment rights advocate, the Alliance Defense Fund, said that the university has no legal ground to bar the Knights, based upon their beliefs.  "Christian student groups shouldn’t be treated differently from other student organizations,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel David French.  “The University of Wisconsin has decided to force campus student organizations to violate their core beliefs, even in the face of controlling federal case law that bars them from doing so.”

The ADF cited a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in which the court reinstated the official recognized status of the student Christian Legal Society (CLS) chapter at the Southern Illinois University School of Law, after they had been de-recognized for the same reason.  The ADF also criticized a decision by the University of Wisconsin-Superior to de-recognize the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

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EWTN wraps up anniversary celebration with “Grand Finale”

Birmingham, Ala., Aug 11, 2006 (CNA) - This weekend Catholic media giant, EWTN, will celebrate the last of a handful of events surrounding its 25th anniversary of service to the Church.  The affair will take place at Birmingham, Alabama’s Jefferson Event Center.

The “Grand Finale” celebration will include talks from speakers such as Fr. Andrew Apostoli and Dr. Scott Hahn and will culminate in a Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving celebrated by Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family.  The events are free to the public.

The global Catholic media network, which now reaches 127 countries and more than 118 million households, began with the vision of a single nun.  

Mother Angelica originally began taping programs for other Christian networks, but soon learned that each episode would air just one time and then be shelved. Mother became convinced that a constant Catholic presence on the airwaves was necessary.

In 1981, Mother Angelica began the network out of the garage of her monetary.  She soon purchased a plot of land with money gained from the sale of fishing lures and began transmitting Catholic programs 4 hours per day to 60,000 homes.  

Despite a lack of funding for much of its history, Mother Angelica moved EWTN constantly forward, relying she says, on divine providence.  Before founding EWTN, Mother established a convent of cloistered sisters who pray constantly for the ministry of EWTN.  Mother Angelica attributes much of the network’s success to their prayers.  

Today the network includes satellite broadcast television services, internet sites, and a radio station.  Its website says that it is the largest religious media network in the world.

It’s hard to measure the impact EWTN has had and continues to have on the world.  However, Mother Angelica says, “its not what we’ve done, but how we’ve done it.” – with prayer and faithfulness to the Church, trusting in the providence of God.  “Unless you are willing to do the ridiculous,” Mother has said, “God will not do the miraculous.”


For more information, visit the EWTN website at www.ewtn.com.

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“Luke-warm Christians” will not change Paraguay, archbishop warns

Asunción, Paraguay, Aug 11, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Pastor Cuquejo of Asuncion called on the faithful this week to embrace their role in the Church and in society because, he said, “lukewarm Christians” would have no effect in transforming the country.

“If we are lukewarm Christians, we are not going to have the courage to transform the country, and we will just continue to criticize each other and cry about our past without making the commitment to take the steps that will make [Paraguay] an important country in Latin America, which is not the case at this point,” the archbishop said.

He reminded the faithful that a strong prayer life and a commitment based on the faith would help them to be better Christians and citizens.

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Catholic Relief Services struggling to lead massive aid effort in Lebanon

, Aug 11, 2006 (CNA) - Officials from the Maryland-based Catholic Relief Services announced last week that they, along with their oversees partner Caritas Lebanon, are leading a massive effort to provide aid to the hundreds of thousands of Lebanese displaced or cut off by the ongoing battle between Israel and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah group.

While many are calling the humanitarian situation in Lebanon dire, CRS stressed that their efforts are continuing to move at full power. The group announced that they have provided aid to over 85,000 so far and hope to be able to help 130,000-140,000 more in the coming weeks and months.

The group said that Caritas Lebanon has 36 offices spread throughout Lebanon staffed by a 7,000 person-strong volunteer force. CRS added however, that they are still in need of numerous supplies like water, medicine, clothing, food, mattresses and diapers.

Adib Faris, CRS’s Beirut Security Manager said that  “Distribution of these relief supplies proves incredibly difficult each day because a humanitarian corridor still does not exist…CRS and Caritas staff are working around the clock to provide assistance in any way they can, but the job is getting more arduous by the day. Our relief convoys are particularly vulnerable and may be targeted at any time.”

Catholic Relief Services reported that some 900,000 people have been displaced since the beginning of hostilities in mid-July. That amounts to almost 25% of Lebanon’s total population.

Among the displaced not included in that statistic are some 100,000 migrant workers whom the Caritas staff are trying to assist back to their home countries.

“We are coordinating buses for transportation and food parcels for the journey from Beirut to Damascus,” explained Najla Chahda, who is director of the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center. “We are also negotiating with airlines to provide airway tickets from Syria to their countries of origin.”

The government of Lebanon has even called on Caritas’ migrant office to help with the care and movement of some 600 migrant prisoners displaced by the fighting.

For more information or to make donations to relief efforts, visit www.crs.org.

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Feminists attack Catholic University over rector’s offer to adopt unwanted baby

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug 11, 2006 (CNA) - A group of 30 feminists led a march to the Catholic University of La Plata on Tuesday attacking it’s rector for offering to adopt a baby who was saved from abortion last week.

The march was the latest chapter in the case of a mentally handicapped woman who became pregnant supposedly through rape and whose parents asked the courts to allow her to obtain an abortion.  After lower courts ruled against them, the Supreme Court of the Buenos Aires province granted the parents’ request.  During the court hearings, several individuals offered to adopt the baby, including the rector of the Catholic University of La Plata, Ricardo de la Torre, who spoke out in defense of both the life of the baby and the mother.

The 30 feminists met on Tuesday at the Cathedral in La Plata and marched toward the university campus, where they shouted insults at the rector, distributed pamphlets and even painted graffiti on buildings used by the Department of Law.  Fences were later put up around the Cathedral and its rectory in order to keep them from painting graffiti there as well.

A large group of students staged a counter protest by praying the rosary, Emilio Nazar Kasbo, a La Plata lawyer told CNA.  

Pamphlets distributed by the women echoed the pro-abortion slogans made popular by pro-abortion forces in the US, such as, “Get your rosaries off our ovaries.”  Although the leaflets listed a number of organizations as participants in the protest, only some 30 activists participated in the march.  

“These people are intent on imposing their ideas or combating those of other people by force or through fear,” Nazar said.  “All this was on display at the campus, where in addition (to their vocal protests) they committed the crime of damaging private property by painting graffiti on the walls of the university.”

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Faithful commemorate 15th anniversary of death of Polish priests in Peru

Lima, Peru, Aug 11, 2006 (CNA) - Dozens of people gathered in the Peruvian city of Pariacoto for a pilgrimage and special Mass to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the deaths of two Polish priests, who ministering in the region in the early 1990’s and were killed by a terrorist group

During the Mass Bishop Angel Francisco Simon Piorno of Chimbote called on those present to pray fervently for the beatification of Michael Tomaszek and Zbigniew Strzalkowski, members of the Conventual Franciscans, who were gunned down on August 9, 1991, by the Shining Path terrorist organization.

The two priests came to Pariacoto in 1990 as missionaries.  In 1995 the Congregation for the Causes of Saints authorized the opening of their cause for beatification as martyrs of the faith.

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