Vatican City, Oct 18, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI concluded his catechesis on the 12 Apostles today, speaking of the Apostle who betrayed Jesus, Judas Iscariot and the Apostle Matthias, who succeeded him. More than 30,000 filled St. Peter’s square to hear the Holy Father speak of the part Judas played in God’s mysterious plan of salvation.
The Holy Father noted that although, “the name of Judas Iscariot always appears last in the lists of the Twelve,” which recognizes the fact that his betrayal had already occurred at the writing of the Gospels, at the same time scripture is clear in emphasizing Judas’s role among the apostles. Pope Benedict noted his status as an Apostle "to all effects," and quoted the Acts of the Apostles which said of Judas, “He was numbered among us and was allotted a share in this ministry (Acts 1,17).”
"We ask ourselves why Jesus chose this man and put His trust in him. ... Even more uncertain is the mystery concerning his eternal fate." However "it is not for us to judge his gesture, putting ourselves in the place of God, Who is infinitely merciful and just," the Pope continued.
"Why did he betray Jesus?" the Holy Father asked. "Some people highlight the question of his greed for money. Others favor a messianic explanation: Judas was disappointed to see that Jesus' plans did not include the political-military liberation of his country."
The Gospels, however, explain Judas' betrayal as "going beyond the historical reasons," and attributing it to "the personal responsibility of Judas who miserably submitted to a temptation of the Evil One. ... Jesus treated him like a friend but, in His invitations to follow Him, (he) did not force people's will or protect them from the temptations of Satan, respecting human freedom. Truly, there are many ways in which the human heart can be perverted. The only way to obviate them,” Benedict concluded, is “to be in full communion with Jesus."
Judas' repentance, the Pope said, "degenerated into desperation and thus became self-destruction. For us, this is an invitation never to despair of divine mercy."
Even Judas "negative role" is part of God's mysterious plan of salvation, said the Pope, explaining how, "God takes Judas' inexcusable gesture as an occasion for the total donation of the Son for the redemption of the world."
Judas was replaced by Matthias "of whom we know nothing more, save that he was a witness to the entire earthly teaching of Jesus, remaining faithful to Him unto the end," his election "almost compensating the betrayal.
“Here," said Pope Benedict, "is a final lesson: if even in the Church there is no lack of unworthy and false Christians, it is up to each of us to counterbalance the evil they commit with our own clear witness of Jesus Christ."
At the end of the audience, Pope Benedict made reference to yesterday's accident on Rome's underground railway system, in which one person was killed and 236 were injured. “At this painful moment,” he said, “I am especially close to those affected by this tragic event. To them I express my affection and give assurances of a special recollection in my prayers.”
Vatican City, Oct 18, 2006 (CNA) - Bishop Anthony Frontiero, an official for the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said during the annual summit on Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, that true democracy cannot survive without truth and religious values.
“In the noble pursuit of democracy,” Frontiero told the organization, “it is critical to resist the tendency to claim that agnosticism and skeptical relativism are the philosophy and basic attitude which correspond to the democratic forms of political life.”
“Often times, those who are convinced that they know the truth and firmly adhere to it are considered unreliable from a democratic point of view, since they do not accept that truth is necessarily determined by the majority, or that it is subject to variation according to different political trends,” he added.
The Bishop highlighted the Holy See’s conviction that, “if there is no ultimate truth to guide and direct political activity, then ideas and convictions can easily be manipulated for reasons of power. As history demonstrates, a democracy without values can easily turn into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism.”
Finally, regarding the role of the state in social life, Bishop Frontiero said that “precisely because of the social embeddedness of human dignity, the Holy See has consistently linked human rights with responsibility, and recognizes that government still has a responsibility to reign in or modify subsidiary action that is detrimental to the good of the whole or injurious to the welfare of some members.”
Rome, Italy, Oct 18, 2006 (CNA) - Fr. Reginald Foster, one of the most renowned Latinists in the world, was fired last week from the Gregorian University by the Society of Jesus, stating that too many students were taking Fr. Foster’s classes without paying tuition.
Fr. Foster said his superior received the news from the university’s Jesuit administration in an e-mail Saturday evening. The letter reportedly stated that "Fr. Foster would no longer be teaching Latin at the Gregorian.” The administration has cancelled Fr. Foster's Latin program and substituted another class for that time slot.
However, in breaking the news with great regret to his students yesterday, Fr. Foster also announced his intention to found a new Latin institute in the Eternal City.
The Professor/Priest, known as the “Pope’s Latinist,” had taught at the Gregorian University for more than 30 years. His course became renowned, drawing students from around the world.
More than 100 Latin students, both past and present, were gathered in the priest’s classroom when he made the announcement.
A source told CNA that it was true that many of Fr. Foster’s students were not registered with the university; however, it was well known that his program was attracting Latinists from all corners, many of whom did enroll in the mother of Jesuit Universities.
Fr. Foster said his new Latin institute did not yet have a locale but he would keep students informed.
According to the source, Fr. Foster, in good spirits, explained to his students the roundabout way he found out he was being fired: "Well you see, the Jesuits were rather Jesuitical about the whole thing, now weren't they?" After informing them of his plans for an institute, Foster exclaimed, “Latin lives!"
It was not disclosed whether the e-mail firing Fr. Foster was in Latin.
Los Angeles, Calif., Oct 18, 2006 (CNA) -
The Catholic bishops of California have united to send a sharp letter to the editor-in-chief of the Jesuit magazine America, claiming that attorney Marci Hamilton’s recent article on clergy abuse in the United States is skewed and not based on evidence.
Hamilton is an attorney for the plaintiffs in sex abuse cases and a professor at Yeshiva University in New York. Her article, “What the Clergy Abuse Crisis Has Taught Us”, was published under editor Fr. Drew Christiansen, SJ, in America’s Sept. 25 edition.
In their letter, the bishops describe Hamilton as “one of the most vociferous and bitter critics of the Catholic Church” and state that America magazine just provided her with “a forum to publish a new plaintiffs’ brief.”
“We regret that America has lent its support to the propagation of the skewed, inadequate and partisan ‘lessons’ that Professor Hamilton presents,” the bishops letter states.
Signed by 25 California bishops, including Cardinal Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles and Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco, the letter underlines the way in which Hamilton completely ignores all of the evidence provided by the 2004 John Jay Study on clergy sexual abuse as well as all of the efforts made by the Church to understand the sexual abuse problem.
In fact, Hamilton has previously disparaged the John Jay Study, say the bishops.
While Hamilton insists that Church leaders responded to the abuse by shuttling abusing priests from one parish to another, the members of the team who conducted the John Jay Study clearly stated in 2004 that transferring abusing priests “was not a general response to the problem, and was limited to a finite number of cases,” the bishops note.
The bishops also dispute Hamilton’s claim that “thousands” of children were being abused by clergy in 1993. They point to the John Jay Supplementary Report, which indicates only 80 cases of abuse by clergy in 1993 and fewer than 50 in the remaining years of the decade.
Furthermore, the report also indicates that before 1985, Church authorities were only aware of a small number of abuse cases. However, with greater awareness after 1985, the report shows that “Church authorities dealt with it vigorously, and that it declined precipitously in subsequent years.”
The bishops also cite former America editor Fr. Thomas Reese, who said in a comment in 2004 that the Church “seems to have been ahead of the rest of American society” in dealing with the issue of sexual abuse.
The bishops claim that the magazine lacked transparency by not fully disclosing to its readers Hamilton’s involvement in the sex abuse cases. Hamilton was active in the move to repeal the Statute of Limitations in California, thereby creating the possibility for many more lawsuits against various dioceses.
“Clearly, the Statue targeted the Catholic Church,” the bishops’ letter says. “That is how it was drawn up, and that is how it has operated.”
“We agree with Professor Hamilton that the protection of children must be an ‘absolute priority’. However, we note that her priority extends only to children abused in private institutions [like the Church],” the bishops wrote. “She argues that repealing statutes of limitations is essential to justice for victims, but in her system, children victimized in public schools (a huge number) are separated and excluded.”
The bishops’ letter is dated Oct. 3, and it was copied to the Jesuit superiors in 10 U.S. provinces, as well as to Fr. Thomas Smolich, SJ, President of the U.S. Jesuit Conference.
Providence, R.I., Oct 18, 2006 (CNA) - Same-sex marriage is not an issue of civil rights, said Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence in a recent letter to the editor.
"There’s never a right to do something wrong," he said. "Human freedom is not unbridled license; it must be grounded in truth."
The bishop’s letter was published Oct. 14 in the Providence Journal, Rhode Island’s largest daily newspaper, after a Rhode Island lesbian couple — Wendy Becker and Mary Norton — was legally married in Massachusetts on Oct. 8, reported NBC 10.
In the letter, the bishop said same-sex marriage is “spiritually harmful to individuals and families and erodes the foundation of society”.
"Homosexual acts are contrary to the law of nature and gravely immoral,” the bishop wrote. “The state has no business encouraging immoral behavior or ratifying illicit unions."
The bishop, however, did not mention the couple by name and said his remarks were not directed at them personally.
“I wish them no harm and I sincerely pray that God will bless them and the children with them with much health and happiness,” the bishop wrote. “Nonetheless, their attempt to have the state ratify their homosexual relationship is disturbing and morally objectionable."
Becker and Norton were the plaintiffs in a case, decided by a Massachusetts superior court judge. The judge ruled that there was nothing in Rhode Island statutes or case law that prevented Rhode Island same-sex couples from being married in Massachusetts. The ruling was issued in September.
The bishop said he hopes Rhode Island would not follow Massachusetts’ lead by legalizing same-sex marriage.
The bishop insisted that marriage is between a man and a woman and explained Catholic teaching on this point.
“Contrary to some current ideologies, this teaching does not discriminate against homosexual persons. The Catholic Church has consistently taught that homosexual persons are children of God, our brothers and sisters, and must be respected,” he wrote.
“Nonetheless, we have to recognize the possibility, sometimes even the necessity, of respecting individuals even while opposing their immoral behavior," he stated.
Rochester, N.Y., Oct 18, 2006 (CNA) - The Diocese of Rochester is urging voters to consider the ethics of embryonic stem-cell research when going to the polls next month and not to give their vote to a candidate who is willing to fund the controversial science.
In the heated statewide debate on embryonic stem-cell research, the upcoming election could decide the issue. Many Democratic candidates have clearly stated that they want Congress to push for federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research.
The diocese also blasted a new ad, currently running in Syracuse but which could soon run in Rochester, which falsely states that Congressman Jim Walsh (R) has voted against stem-cell research.
The diocese has clarified that Walsh has voted against more federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research but in favor of adult stem-cell research, which the Catholic Church supports.
Embryonic stem-cell research creates and kills human life for the sake of research, whereas adult stem-cell research utilizes cells from adult tissue, without causing the death of any person.
Diocesan Life Issues Coordinator, Jann Armantrout said she believes that more than 200 researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center, who support embryonic stem-cell research, are bluffing when they warn that without more federal or state help to fund embryonic stem-cell research, they could leave the state.
These scientists are currently working on adult stem cells and have come out with some of the most advanced treatments to date, she noted.
Miami, Fla., Oct 18, 2006 (CNA) - Mark Foley, the Florida Republican that resigned last month after he was confronted with sexually explicit e-mails sent to teenage pages, plans to reveal the name of a clergyman he says abused him as a teenager after being urged to do so by the Archdiocese of Miami.
Foley has been in seclusion at an alcohol rehabilitation facility at an undisclosed location, since the news of his improprieties surfaced. Gerald Richman, Foley's civil attorney, said yesterday that the congressman is, "dealing with this issue, but it's going to take a lot of time."
Immediately after Foley announced he was abused by a clergyman from the Archdiocese of Miami, but refused to provide the name, the Archdiocese's spokeswoman, Mary Ross Agosta urged the congressman to identify his accuser.
"He's coming forward in baby steps and there's nothing much we can do until we have it clearly identified," said Agosta. "Without the name of the priest, there is little the church can do and the healing process will not begin," she added.
Criminal charges against the soon to be accused priest cannot be filed because the statute of limitations on the sexual assault expired long ago, since the events happened 36 to 38 years ago.
According to Richman, "this is all part of the healing process for Mark Foley. He thinks it's important to go ahead and bring this information out and hope and encourage other people who have been similarly abused to go ahead and come forward."
Richman also said that, although he doesn't know the name of the priest, he knows is still alive and lives in Florida.
Warsaw, Poland, Oct 18, 2006 (CNA) - Attilio Tamburrini, Director of the Italian section of the German-based Charity "Aid to the Church in Need," lamented to 18 countries, who are either full members of or associates with the European Union, several countries which continue to allow discrimination against and even persecution of Christians.
During the meeting of the Organization for Security and Collaboration in Europe (OSCE) recently held in Poland, Dr. Tamburrini, who took part in the conference as an independent contributor, decried that even in Europe Christians are disadvantaged.
"Even in 18 member states of the OSCE itself, which have enshrined the basic right to religious liberty in their constitutions, this right is not accorded unrestrictedly", he said.
As examples, he cited Belarus, Turkey, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Italian office of ACN publishes an annual report on the situation of religious liberty around the world. The report has been published in Italian since 2000 and since 2004 in Portuguese as well. Tamburrini, hopes to publish the 400-page work in English and Spanish starting next year.
Tamburrini also noted the October 12th decision, at the conclusion of the 10-day conference of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) representatives of the 56 member states, which was made to establish an information service at the ODIHR to document instances of discrimination, xenophobia, and offences against religious liberty.
Washington D.C., Oct 18, 2006 (CNA) - - Dr. Janice Crouse, Senior Fellow of Concerned Women for America’s (CWA) think tank, The Beverly LaHaye Institute, said today that last week's headlines proclaiming the "death of marriage" across the country have been greatly exaggerated.
"The headlines are misleading. In fact, the text of the New York Times article admits that the total number of married couples is higher than ever and that most Americans do get married," Crouse said.
The expert explained that “while it is accurate that married couples as a proportion of all American households have fallen below 50 percent (many households consist of single people -- unmarried young adults or older widows and widowers), 60 percent of women aged 25-54 are married."
"We’ve been writing for months about the 'loneliness epidemic' -- the increasing number of people who live alone. We’ve also been writing about the dramatic increase in the number of couples who are cohabitating. Even so, these trends are negligible in comparison to the number of couples that marry," she added.
"Another important fact has been overlooked. Most households with children are families of married couples (though the number of cohabiting couples with children is increasing)," she concluded.
Vatican City, Oct 18, 2006 (CNA) - The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue will release on Friday, October 20th a “manual” for dialogue between the Catholic Church and other religions according to the teaching of the II Vatican Council and Pope John Paul II.
The manual, entitled “Interreligious Dialogue in the official teachings of the Catholic Church from the II Vatican Council to John Paul II (1963-2005),” will be made public at a press conference held also on the occasion of the Pontifical Council’s message to Muslims for the end of Ramadan, the holy period of fasting for Muslims around the world.
The press conference will be attended by Cardinal Paul Poupard, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and Msgr. Khaled Akashed, Director for the dialogue with Islam.
Lisbon, Portugal, Oct 18, 2006 (CNA) - Portugal’s ruling Socialist Party began an effort this week to legalize abortion through a national referendum, which could take place in the coming months pending approval by the country’s Parliament.
The effort, led by the Portuguese socialist delegation to the European Parliament, is an attempt to “launch a serious and very informed debate” on abortion, according to Representative Edite Estrela, who said it would be “the first great debate” in Portugal about a possible referendum.
Portugal’s Prime Minister, Jose Socrates, defended the need to legalize abortion the country as “essential for combating clandestine abortion and ensuring that women who desire to seek an abortion up to the tenth week of pregnancy are not persecuted or penalized.”
The Minister of Health, Antonio Correia de Campos, also weighed in on the issue, calling on women and doctors to support the legalization of abortion but offering assurances that if the referendum does not pass, “the Government will enforce current law,” which punishes both the facilities that offer abortion and the women who obtain them, as well as third parties that did not intervene to stop the procedure.
Correia echoed the arguments of Prime Minister Socrates in his defense of need to legalize abortion and said doctors should “assume a democratic and progressive vision with regard to the protection of the sexual and reproductive health of women.” “The legality of abortion as a medical practice should not be delayed any longer,” he added.
Correia also stated that the health ministry would ensure that both state-run and private health care facilities would provide abortion services as currently permitted under Portuguese law, which allows the practice in cases of life of the mother, rape or fetal deformation, and that the government would redouble its efforts to provide family planning information on all forms of contraception.
Santiago, Chile, Oct 18, 2006 (CNA) - The White Feast of All Saints is becoming increasingly more popular in Chile as an alternative celebration to Halloween, or “Eve of All Saints.”
The initiative was started seven years ago by a group of individuals led by Professor Jose Miguel Carafi and has become a hit in parishes, communities, and especially in schools. On October 31, children dress up in costumes and express thanks to the families that give them candy.
Families that desire to participate in the White Feast of All Saints hang something white on the door of their homes as a sign that children can knock on their door and receive candy in exchange for clean jokes, holy cards, or short skits.
Promoters of the initiative have created a special website with information about their project at www.todoslossantos.cl.