Archive of August 24, 2006

Priest fined during emergency call to offer Sacrament of the sick

, Aug 24, 2006 (CNA) - The pastor of a New York Catholic church is protesting a $115 parking ticket, which was issued while his associate priest was giving an ailing woman the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.

Fr. Cletus Forson, of St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Parish, rushed to the hospital bedside of Nelly Munoz July 26th, after receiving a call from a parishioner that the 65-year-old lady needed the assistance of a priest desperately. Munoz was undergoing emergency intestinal surgery at Maimonides Medical Center.

Unable to find a parking spot around the hospital, Fr. Forson parked his car with a line of others in a “No Standing” zone, placing his "Clergy on Call" placard on the dashboard, reported the New York Daily News.

After administering the Sacrament, he emerged 20 minutes later to find the ticket. While Fr. Forson insisted there were several other cars belonging to hospital employees parked in the same zone that didn't get tickets, Administrative Law Judge Michael Ciaravino refused to throw out the summons.

Transportation Department officials said no cars, no matter what placards they have, are allowed to park in such a zone.

On Tuesday, however, the Daily News followed up on the story and found four private cars parked illegally in the same zone without tickets - including vehicles belonging to a doctor, two EMS workers, and a police officer.

Msgr. Guy Massie, Fr. Forson’s pastor, paid the ticket under protest but still plans to appeal.

According to the report, City Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Brooklyn) is demanding the ticket be thrown out. "He was rushing to the hospital to administer the Catholic last rites to a dying patient," Gentile was quoted as saying in the Associated Press. "To me this is just another episode in the continuing saga of the city out of control with ticketing."

In the meantime, Munoz, who is recovering at a friend's house in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, heard about Fr. Forson’s fight in the news and said she had wanted to find a way to pay for the ticket out of gratitude to the priest.

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Pope to extend visit to Turkey to spend time with Catholics, visit Hagia Sophia

Rome, Italy, Aug 24, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI will extend his planned trip to Turkey, from three days to four, in order to celebrate Mass with Turkish Catholics and pay a visit to Hagia Sophia, the former seat of the Church of Constantinople, which was transformed into a mosque and is now a Turkish Museum, Italian news service APCom has reported today.

Bishop Luigi Padovese, Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia Turkey, told APCom that, "The Pope has decided to remain an extra day, the first of December, to meet the Catholics of Turkey.   It was becoming clear that the time was a little tight and there was not an encounter with the Catholics of the county in the program.”

The trip, which was formally announced on February 9th, had begun to take shape when it was realized that the Pope would be unable to accomplish everything he wanted in three short days.  

The unofficial schedule for the initial part of the Holy Father’s trip includes a series of necessary ceremonial appointments on the 28th.  The Pope, who in addition to his role as leader of the Catholic Church is also head of a sovereign state, will most likely conduct separate meetings with both Turkish President Ahment Necdet Sezer and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.  According to APCom the meetings will take place separate from the Pope’s official arrival, as Turkish protocol does not allow the Turkish President to meet incoming heads of state at the airport.  Instead, upon entering the country the Pontiff will most likely be greeted by the governor of the region and the Mayor of Ankara.

On the morning of the 29th, Pope Benedict is expected to travel to Ephesus, in Smyrna, where he will say Mass at the House of the Virgin Mary and meet with the Capuchin Friars whose monastery surrounds the shrine.

The Pontiff is also widely expected to spend time with Bartholomew I, the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, with whom he will almost certainly celebrate the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle on November 30th.  

St. Andrew was the brother of Peter and is considered the patron of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.  Patriarch Bartholomew, who traditionally sends a representative to celebrate the feast of St. Peter in Rome, invited Pope Benedict to Turkey immediately following the Pope’s election in 2005.  Pope Benedict has made increased dialogue between the Church of Rome and the Orthodox Churches one of the priorities of his Pontificate and signaled his desire to accept the inviation.  However, the Turkish government, upset that the Patriarch invited the Pope to Turkey with out their approval and probably still stinging from comments Benedict had made in opposition to the country’s entry into the European Union, refused to issue an invitation in time for the Pope to visit last year.  

Now that the Pope is able to make his visit, he clearly wants to have an effect, not only on ecumenical relations but also with his flock.  With the reported extra day, the Pope will have time to celebrate Mass with the Catholics of Turkey, who are suffering increased instances of persecution from some radical sects in the primarily Muslim country.  Bishop Padovese said that all Turkish Catholics as well as all officials and bishops of the Turkish Bishops Conference will be invited to attend.

On the same day, APCom reports, the Holy Father will visit what was once one of the greatest architectural and artistic structures of the universal Church.  Hagia Sophia was built by the emperor Justinian I in 537, upon the ruins of another church built by Constantine the Great.  After the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, the magnificent structure was converted to a mosque.  It remained a mosque until 1935 when the Turkish government converted it into a museum.

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Bishop says Parliament made "terrible mistake" in approving same-sex marriage

Halifax, Canada, Aug 24, 2006 (CNA) - Canadian Parliament made a “terrible mistake” when it redefined marriage last year, said Bishop Richard Smith of Pembroke, Ont., to the 800 women present at the annual national convention of the Catholic Women’s League last week.

The bishop told the women in Halifax, Aug. 15th, that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s promise of a Parliament vote in the fall on whether to reopen the same-sex marriage debate, offers “a rare second chance” to revisit the issue, Canadian Catholic News reported.  

Bishop Smith, who is the CWL’s national spiritual advisor, urged the group’s 99,000 members across the country to get in touch with their members of Parliament and to address the marriage issue on the parish level.

The bishop reportedly said he believed he could speak for all Canadian bishops when it came to the “incredibly important issue” of upholding marriage as the lifelong bond between a man and a woman.

Bishop Smith also urged the league members to bring the resolutions passed at the national convention last week — on health, the environment, aging, and religious freedom — back to their parishes for grassroots action.

Most of the attention, he said, is focused on moving resolutions up the ladder from the parish level to the national level. He suggested more attention be focused on moving the resolutions back down to the local parish level once they are passed so they can be “put into practice at the parochial level.” 

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Canadian bishop encourages boycott of President Clinton

Hamilton, Ontario, Aug 24, 2006 (CNA) - After receiving complaints from across Canada, Bishop Gerard Bergie, is encouraging Catholics to boycott an upcoming fundraiser at which former President Bill Clinton is speaking.

Bishop Bergie, who is an auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of Hamilton in Ontario, says that Clinton is an inappropriate guest speaker for a $500 per seat fundraiser being held by the Catholic Family Counseling Centre, The Kitchener Record reports.

Clinton is well known for his outspoken support of abortion in the U.S., a stance which is absolutely opposed by the Catholic Church.  His administration also promoted abortion worldwide, especially in third world countries, in a stated attempt to control “over-population” and put an end to world poverty.  The Record also noted that while in office, Clinton twice vetoed a ban on partial-birth abortion, which is performed after 20 weeks of pregnancy.  One most remembered moments of his administration remains, however, the scandal surrounding his marital infidelity with a White House staffer.

More recently, the former U.S. President has opposed the Church his continued attempt to push condoms as a primary tool in the prevention of AIDS.  

Taken in part or as a whole Clinton’s stance on life issues made him an inappropriate choice to speak at a “Catholic” event, Bergie said."We felt it wasn't appropriate to have Mr. Clinton as a speaker, based on the fact that they were a Catholic counseling centre," Bergie told the Record.  

The bishop said that he agrees with the numerous people who have contacted him, concerned about the message Clinton’s message sends.  “They find it difficult to reconcile the fact that an organization that calls itself Catholic has extended an invitation to an individual whose views, in particular regards to life, go against the Catholic Church," the bishop said.

Cathy Brothers, the centre's executive director, told the Record that, “The decision to ask Clinton wasn't connected to the Catholic Church.  Nothing that we're doing, with having Bill Clinton, is a comment at all on what we believe. It's not about our Catholicism."

Brothers also claims that despite their name, the organization is actually a non-denominational agency, saying, “We're a very diverse agency made up of people of all different backgrounds and faiths."

While the organization was founded by a priest in 1952, Brothers said that the center still calls itself Catholic, but only follows the portion of the Church’s teachings.  “We see ourselves as having been committed to the social teachings of the Catholic Church around the importance of doing good works," Brothers said.  "The name has always motivated us to try a little harder to make sure everything we do is based on love and compassion."

But Bishop Bergie said that Catholic organizations don’t need to act in a manner contrary to the teachings of the Church in order to be effective in a world which may disagree with you.  "Personally, I feel you can be faithful to your Catholic tradition and still be able to minister to the greater community," Bergie told the Record. "The greatest challenge is how to deal with that, especially when an organization wants to proceed in a way the diocese feels is not appropriate."

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Duluth Diocese cancels nun's talk because of anti-Bush newspaper ad

Duluth, Minn., Aug 24, 2006 (CNA) - Sr. Helen Prejean, author of "Dead Man Walking" and a longtime social activist, has been uninvited as the keynote speaker at the Diocese of Duluth education dinner fundraiser in October, reported the Duluth News Tribune.

Bishop Dennis Schnurr of Duluth explained in a letter to parishioners that the decision was based on her name appearing on an Aug. 3 New York Times advertisement calling for President George Bush to be removed from office.

Kyle Eller, communications director for the diocese, said the problem was not the political nature of the issues raised in the ad, but the ad's partisan attack of Bush.

The ad, titled "The World Can't Wait! Drive Out the Bush Regime!" was endorsed by 90 people. The ad organizers are also organizing a mass day of protest against the Bush administration on Oct. 5.

While Prejean was unavailable for comment, she wrote on her website that the ad was justified in criticizing Bush's "reckless pursuit of war in Iraq, which has helped to destabilize the entire Middle East; his approval of torture; his zealous promotion of imprisonment and executions; his fiscal policies which make the wealthy people more wealthy and poor people poorer."

However, Prejean said she would have asked to be removed from the list of signatories had she known that the ad also criticized Bush's stand against abortion.

"There is... one issue addressed in the ad that I cannot endorse, which if I had seen the final version of the ad would have led me to withhold my signature. My stance on abortion is a matter of public record. I stand morally opposed to killing: war, executions, killing of the old and demented, the killing of children, unborn and born,” she wrote on her website.

The ad shows a picture of the earth set aflame and lists seven points of protest, among them: religious belief among politicians, the Bush administration’s “suppressing science that doesn’t fit its religious…agenda” (presumably a reference to the administration’s opposition to embryonic stem cell research and human cloning), and the administration’s opposition to birth control and abortion.  

The text of the ad reads: “Your Government is moving each day closer to a theocracy, where a narrow and hateful brand of Christian fundamentalism will rule. Your government suppresses the science that doesn't fit its religious, political and economic agenda, forcing present and future generations to pay a terrible price. Your government is moving to deny women here, and all over the world, the right to birth control and abortion…People who steal elections and believe they're on a ‘mission from God’ will not go without a fight.”  

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Thomas More Law Center asks Supreme Court to review New York’s Nativity ban

, Aug 24, 2006 (CNA) - The Thomas More Law Center has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review its case challenging New York City’s ban on the display of the Nativity in its public schools during Christmas.

The Law Center argued that City policy expressly discriminates against Christians by allowing the menorah to be displayed as a symbol of the Jewish holiday of Chanukah and the star and crescent to be displayed as a symbol of the Islamic holiday of Ramadan, but does not allow the Nativity to be displayed as a symbol of the Christian holiday of Christmas.

This past February, a sharply divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, sitting in New York, ruled that this policy was constitutional. Judge Chester Straub issued a 46-page statement of dissent.

The challenge was brought on behalf of Andrea Skoros and her two minor children, who are students in the New York City public school system, which is the largest in the country.

Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, called the City’s policy a blatant example of religious bigotry, and the panel’s decision another outrageous example of federal courts discriminating against Christians.

“Many federal courts are using the contrived endorsement test to cleanse America of Christianity. This unprincipled test allows judges to impose their ideological views under the pretext of constitutional interpretation,” said Thompson.

The “endorsement test” is a theoretical method, proposed by retired Justice Sandra Day O’Conner, of considering individual government actions and asking whether or not they might create the perception that the government is endorsing a particular religion, in presumed violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

In its petition, the Law Center is asking the court to “abandon the endorsement test because it is unworkable and incapable of consistent application.” The Law Center points out that several justices on the Court are critical of the test, including Justices Thomas, Kennedy and Scalia, and see a need for overhauling the Court’s Establishment Clause jurisprudence.

In the petition, the Law Center also claims that New York City’s policy is unconstitutional because it is hostile toward the Christian religion. It argues: “The Constitution does not require complete separation of church and state; it affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance of all religions, and forbids hostility toward any.”

The Thomas More Law Center is a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Mich.

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Government seeking to impose new family models on Argentinean children, archbishop warns

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug 24, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata, Argentina, has denounced the country’s government for seeking to impose new “definitions of the family” on young children by altering sciences textbooks used by second graders.

During his program, “Keys for a Better World,” the archbishop warned that in the midst of the government’s spearheading of a debate on the country’s education laws, it is also implementing strategies to instill in minors the idea that different types of families exist besides that which is born of the marital union between a man and a woman.

“It is said that there is not a single type of family, nor one that is the best, but rather that there are many models, and that it doesn’t matter what form they take,” Archbishop Aguer noted, saying such an attitude stems from “a relativistic understanding” that is foreign to the customs of the Argentinean people, not to mention natural law.

The archbishop said that what concerns him most is that “the State attributes to itself not only the capability and power to force these things to be taught, but also to intervene in an authoritarian way to ensure compliance,” and he warned that “the policy is reminiscent of a subtle brainwashing operation.”

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Dominican cardinal exhorts faithful to live the gift of sexuality responsibly

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Aug 24, 2006 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Santo Domingo, Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez, said this week sexuality is a gift from God and as such should be treated “in a respectful, appropriate and serious fashion.”

During a television program taped with a group of young people, the cardinal expressed the widespread concern about the high number of teenage mothers who experience great frustration because the fathers of their children do not assume their responsibility.

Cardinal Lopez Rodriguez recalled that sexuality is a “most beautiful gift that God has given to man and woman, and which should not be used the way many people believe, swapping out partners as if they were wild animals.”

“On the contrary, man must make use of that formidable capacity that God has given him in a respectful, appropriate, and serious fashion; for example, 12 and 13 year-old children should not be having sex, because that is neither serious nor appropriate,” the cardinal continued, emphasizing that “engaged couples, when they are married, should make appropriate use of sexuality, but they should not play around.”

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Cardinal Spidlik opens World Congress on spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius

Madrid, Spain, Aug 24, 2006 (CNA) - Czech Republic Jesuit, Cardinal Tomas Spidlik, opened this week a World Meeting on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, which will run through August 26th.  The World Meeting, which is taking in the Spanish city of Azpeitia, is a part of several commemorations marking the 450th anniversary of the death of the founder of the Society of Jesus, also know as the Jesuits.

Several hundred international experts are expected to attend the event. Speaking to the EFE news agency, Pascual Cebollada, professor of Spirituality at the Comillas University, explained that the famous exercises, written in 1548, have been a “generator of religious experiences for four and a half centuries.”

Cardinal Spidlik was born on December 17, 1919, in Boskovice, Czechoslovakia (today the Czech Republic).  He entered the Society of Jesus in 1940 during the Nazi occupation.  He was ordained priest on August 22, 1949 in Maastrich.

In 1990, the American Bibliographical Institute of Raleigh, North Carolina, named him “person of the decade.”

The cardinal preached the Spiritual Exercises for Pope John Paul II and the Roman Curia in March of 1995.  He is a member of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. He is also known as a great writer and expert in Eastern Christian spirituality.

He was made a cardinal during the October 21, 2002 consistory.  Because he is above the age of 80 he did not participate in the 2005 conclave which elected Pope Benedict XVI.  However, he led the cardinals to the opening of the conclave in the Sistine Chapel.

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Palestinian organization asks Pope to intervene in securing release of prisoners

Rome, Italy, Aug 24, 2006 (CNA) - The Italian news agency ANSA reported Wednesday that a Palestinian organization has asked Pope Benedict XVI to intervene in their efforts to get Israel to release Palestinian prisoners, particularly “senior officials, women, and children.”

“It appears the message was sent to the Pontiff through Archbishop Antonio Franco, the Apostolic Nuncio in Israel and Apostolic Delegate in Jerusalem and Palestine, who visited Gaza in recent days,” the Italian news agency reported.

Since Islamic radial group, Hamas, kidnapped an Israeli soldier on the Gaza border last June, Israel has detained 39 Palestinian officials—four of whom have been released.

Both the president and the deputy prime minister of the Palestinian Authority are currently being detained by Israel.

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