Archive of October 19, 2006

US Bishops to vote on guidelines for ministering to homosexuals

Washington D.C., Oct 19, 2006 (CNA) - Spokesmen for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) announced yesterday the bishops’ intention to approve new guidelines for the pastoral care of persons with homosexual inclinations during their fall meeting in Baltimore.  A member of the committee who drafted the document told CNA that the document will a be an overwhelmingly positive tool for ministering to a group of Catholics who may feel unwelcome in the Church.

The bishops, who will meet November 13-16th, hope to vote in approval of the guidelines which have been in the works since the fall of 2002.

According to a press release from the USCCB the new guidelines say that support and leadership from the bishops and clergy is essential and much needed now, “because more than a few persons with a homosexual inclination feel themselves to be unwelcome and rejected.”

“As baptized members of the Catholic community, persons with a homosexual inclination continue to look to the Church for a place where they might live in authentic human integrity and holiness of life,” the guidelines say. “Being welcomed into and participating in their local faith community is the foundation of spiritual support that the Church offers to them. Full and active participation is encouraged. Participation in a worshipping Catholic community can be a support for living a life of integrity and an encouragement to an ongoing personal conversion.”

The document, “Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care” was prepared by the bishops’ Committee on Doctrine in response to questions which were raised about the suitability of these ministries in some instances.

A member of the Committee on Doctrine told CNA that it’s important to stress that the bishops have been mindful of the need to reach out in ministry to Catholics with homosexual inclinations for sometime and that this is not a hasty response to current affairs.  In fact, he said, there is nothing in the document that does not reaffirm current teachings of the Church.

The bishop said that “it’s regretful that many stories are unfortunately casting a negative spin on the document,” when, in fact, the guidelines provide an “overwhelmingly positive plan for outreach and ministry to persons with same sex attraction.”  

The USCCB confirmed that work on the project began in the fall of 2002. The draft was sent to four other committees for comments and suggestions, Canonical Affairs, Catechesis, Marriage and Family Life, and Pastoral Practices.

According to the USCCB press release, the document is “intended for bishops, in order to assist them in evaluating existing or proposed ministerial efforts, and for those engaged in this ministry, in order to provide them with guidance.”

The guidelines begin with a statement of general principles, including an affirmation of the fundamental dignity of each person as created by God. The document says the Church teaches that persons with a homosexual inclination “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity,” and it condemns all forms of violence, scorn, and hatred, whether subtle or overt.

The document would call those who minister in the Church to examine their attitudes towards persons with homosexual inclinations, “in order to discern any thoughts or feelings that might stand in need of purification.”

 “The work of spreading the Good News involves an ever-increasing love for those to whom one is ministering,” the draft states.

The work also restates the Church’s consistent teaching on the gift of human sexuality and how that sexuality is naturally ordered.  It also touches on a commonly misunderstood term in the Church’s teaching on sexuality. “It is crucially important to understand that saying a person has a particular inclination that is disordered is not to say that the person as a whole is disordered. Nor does it mean that one has been rejected by God or the Church.”

The guidelines state that while the Church teaches that homosexual acts are immoral, there is a distinction between engaging in homosexual acts and having a homosexual orientation. “While the former is always sinful, the latter is not.”

The document briefly touches on the issue of using reparative therapy to reorient those with homosexual inclinations. “There is currently no scientific consensus on the cause of the homosexual inclination,” the document asserts “There is no consensus on therapy. Some have found therapy helpful. There is, however, no moral obligation to attempt it.”

The document will provide guidelines for the participation of persons with homosexual inclinations in service and leadership of parishes.

Yesterday’s press release also points out the document’s affirmation that, “the Christian life is a progressive journey toward a deepening of one’s discipleship of Christ…Those who stumble along the way should be encouraged to remain in the community and to continue to strive for holiness. In this regard, frequent reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is of great importance.”

Finally, the document will address the Church’s opposition to so-called same-sex “marriages” and to adoption of children by homosexual couples.

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Priest says Foley may accuse him of inappropriate actions

Miami, Fla., Oct 19, 2006 (CNA) - A priest who served in former U.S. Representative Mark Foley’s parish in 1966 and 1967, when Foley would have been about13, has admitted that he had a close relationship with the young man and that Foley may accuse him of acting inappropriately.

Fr. Anthony Mercieca, a 72 year old priest who has returned to his homeland of Malta, said that he and the young Foley had a close friendship and spent a lot of time together, sometimes alone.

Mercieca told the Associated Press this morning that the two "were friends and trusted each other as brothers and loved each other as brothers." Asked if their relationship was sexual in nature, the priest replied: "It wasn't."

The elderly priest had previously been reported in Southern Florida’s “Herald-Tribune” as having a sort of one-night-stand with Foley.  Mercieca says the paper exaggerated his words and "wrote many things that I didn't say."

Mercieca did admit that he and Foley had visited a sauna together in the nude, but claimed that “everyone does that.”

Mercieca also admitted that he had taken Foley along on overnight trips, but did not see anything wrong with that.  

He told the AP that at the time he knew the young Foley "I had a nervous breakdown and was taking some pills and alcohol and maybe I did something that he didn't like."

The priest said he based that statement on what he had seen on TV news accounts about the Foley case. When the AP reporter pressed Mercieca for details about what Foley might not have liked, he claimed it was too long a go to remember anything specifically.

Foley "seems to have interpreted certain things as inappropriate. ... I don't know what I did to him," the priest said. "I wonder why 40 years later he brought this up?"

Foley resigned from his Congressional seat earlier this month, after messages between him and a young male page surfaced.  Prior to entering alcohol rehab, Foley released a statement, through his lawyers, that claimed he had been molested by a “clergyman” when he was 12 or 13.

On Tuesday, Foley’s council announced that he would be disclosing the priest’s name to officials with the Archdiocese of Miami, at their request.

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Bishop Morlino defends his right to inform Catholics on issues of faith and morals

Madison, Wis., Oct 19, 2006 (CNA) - The Bishop of Madison, Wisconsin, is defending his right to inform Catholics about the Church’s stance on issues of faith and morals after a watchdog group accused him and the diocese of electioneering in the weeks leading up to a vote on the state’s proposed same-sex marriage referendum.

According to a press release issued by the Diocese of Madison, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign filed a complaint with the Elections Board over the appropriateness of a brochure on the marriage debate, which the diocese created and distributed directly to its parishioners.

“To claim that I must pay a fee and report to the state about my teaching activities in Catholic venues blatantly violates the rights of myself and my sister and brother Catholics to the free exercise of religion,” said Bishop Robert Morlino in a statement.

“To have my teaching about marriage in Catholic venues called ‘electioneering’, so as to seek the imposition of penalties from the state, seems an attempt to intimidate the Catholic Church as we try to teach the truth in an admittedly volatile atmosphere,” he added.

The watchdog group asked the state Elections Board to take action against the diocese for failing to register its activities. According to state law, groups that spend more than $25 to influence a state referendum must register with the Elections Board. Those who spend more than $1,000 must disclose their fund-raising and spending.

However, in a statement, the diocese explained that these state requirements do not apply when a church communicates only with her members.

Therefore, an item included in a diocesan or parish mailing that goes only to Catholics would be exempt, as should materials that are distributed at Catholic activities in Catholic venues, the statement says.

The particular item in question in this case is a flier that was distributed outside a church in Madison. The flier says "a yes vote upholds the Catholic teaching that marriage is a union between a man and a woman.

While the Church “does not play partisan politics … this does not mean that when important issues arise, the Church will remain quiet while the truths of the dignity of the human person and of Christ are being threatened,” the diocesan statement reads. “The Church and her members have a moral responsibility to engage the culture and political world in which we live.”

The bishop reiterated as much, adding: “As we move ahead in the future, I will do everything to support authentic human rights for all people. The right to redefine marriage is not one of those authentic human rights."

“Saint John the Baptist laid down his life to protect the marriage bond.  Throughout the history of the Catholic Church the Popes, the successors of Saint Peter, have similarly defended the marriage bond specifically, even up to the present in the case of Pope Benedict XVI.  It is my responsibility and obligation to maintain that communion,” Morlino said.

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Catholic Church not opposed to all stem-cell research, says priest

Washington D.C., Oct 19, 2006 (CNA) - The public has the misconception that the Catholic Church and pro-life political candidates oppose all types of stem cell research, says Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, director of the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia.

And the misconception is worsened by the ads that fail to distinguish between embryonic and adult stem-cell research, he added.

Fr. Pacholczyk addressed this misunderstanding in a talk he gave recently, entitled "Cutting Through the Spin of Stem Cells and Cloning", reported

The priest said it is incorrect to make the blanket statement that the Church is against stem-cell research. Instead, it is important to clarify that the Church is only against embryonic stem-cell research, which requires the embryo—new human life—to be killed for research.

The Church, he stated, supports adult stem-cell research. The more recent research that uses stem cells from umbilical cords is also deemed acceptable since no life is killed in the process.

Pacholczyk reportedly showed a video of late actor Christopher Reeve, saying that embryonic stem-cell research has the potential to cure 100 million diseases.

"We have to cut through that number to get to the truth,” he was quoted as saying. “We have to discern between truth and the hype."

He said the possibilities of embryonic stem-cell research has been exaggerated, and the adult stem-cell research, which is already curing diseases, has been undersold.

The priest concluded by encouraging Catholics to be more involved in the public debate on stem-cell research.

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Personality test helps Catholic singles meet future spouse

Toronto, Canada, Oct 19, 2006 (CNA) - Ave Maria Singles website has now expanded its features to provide personality assessment tools. The new tools are one of “a variety of services that help [members] to achieve their personal relationship goals,” says Anthony Buono, founder and president of Ave Maria Singles.

The tools are designed by Thomas Technologies International, a leader in private-label behavioral assessment software and reporting.

The addition of this new feature will allow Ave Maria Singles to provide its members with Thomas' personality assessment as well as Personal Feedback and Compatibility Reporting.

“We believe that Thomas’ personality assessment and reporting will help members of our community to communicate more effectively with one another,” says Buono. “This will make their quest to find their future spouse an enlightening one.”

Ave Maria Singles is dedicated to helping faithful, practicing Catholics find their future spouses and become better followers of Christ.

Thomas is a global leader in the provision of behavioral assessment software. The 30-year company has developed tools that have been used in more than 50 countries and 22 languages.

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Caritas and Archdiocese of Piura donate six tons of food for the poor

Lima, Peru, Oct 19, 2006 (CNA) - Catholic charity group Caritas, together with the Archdiocese of Piura in Peru donated six tons of food this week to parishes, religious congregations, and schools in order to help the more than 2,630 poor residents of the region.

The donation, which consisted of rice, noodles, beans, cooking oil, cookies and beverages, was delivered to the Caritas food bank by its president, Archbishop Jose Antonio Eguren of Piura.
During the ceremony, the archbishop noted that the donations are intended to “alleviate, in some degree, the hunger for bread of the poorest of the poor, and also to tell them that they are not alone, as along with the Lord Jesus, we, their brothers and sisters, are with them in their trials and difficulties.”

Archbishop Eguren also asked the children and the adults who would benefit from the donations to offer their prayers that the efforts of Caritas to help the poor would be successful.

“Through our fraternal love, may the Church in Piura and Tumbes be a home and a school of Communion, in which we all see each other as children of the same Father, and brothers and sisters in Christ the Reconciler, called to live in fraternal and united love,” he said.

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Ignatius Press preps for John Paul II movie release

, Oct 19, 2006 (CNA) - Two award winning Hollywood actors will be on hand for the DVD release of an acclaimed film on the life of Pope John Paul II.

Shot on location in Rome and Poland, Pope John Paul II follows Karol Wojtyla's journey from his youth in Poland to his pontificate. It explores how he touched millions of people, defended the dignity of mankind and changed the face of the Church and the world.

The film, which originally aired as two-part television series on CBS, features Jon Voight's powerful, Emmy Award-winning performance as the Pope, and Cary Elwes as the young Karol.

Voight and Elwes will be at a gala screening of the film on Nov. 11, which will also mark the DVD release. The DVD is closed captioned, and it includes Spanish subtitles and a special 16-page collectible booklet.  It’s being exclusively distributed by Catholic publisher, Ignatius Press.

The event, organized by Ignatius Press, is open to all. Those who register by Oct. 30 will be entered to win the following set of outstanding items: Pope John Paul II Special Edition DVD; Witness to Hope, the best-selling biography of Pope John Paul II by George Weigel, and a poster featuring Jon Voight in his role as the Pope. The three winners will be announced at the event.

It will be held Nov. 11 at Our Lady of Peace Hall (2800 Mission College Blvd.) in Santa Clara. Wine and an hors d'oeuvres buffet will be served before the screening. There will be reception, speakers, and a signing afterwards

For more information, go to:

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Spanish bishops reject proposed law that would open door to “therapeutic cloning”

Cordoba, Spain, Oct 19, 2006 (CNA) - The bishops of the dioceses in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia have expressed rejection of a proposed law that would regulate “research into cellular reprogramming for exclusively therapeutic ends,” which was approved by the Andalusia provincial government on September 12 and would open the door to the creation of embryos for “therapeutic purposes.”

In a statement, this week, the prelates warned that “cellular re-programming through nuclear transfer” is a broad term that, in the way in which it is presented, opens the door to therapeutic cloning.  Such broad term, the bishops said, leads to the creation of cloned humans to be used “as material for scientific tests” in order to seek out “possible and improbable future therapies.”

“Therapeutic cloning is an attack on human dignity, as it subordinates the cloned human being to the sick one.  It feeds the idea that it is licit for some men to have total control over others, to the point of determining their biological identity,” the bishops maintained.

Another “grave problem” mentioned by the bishops is the use of human eggs for research, “as obtaining them implies a serious risk to the donor, who goes through hormonal treatment with possible consequences for her health and minimal intervention to extract them.”  They warned that “the dignity of women is threatened when they are subjugated and subjected to an empire of technology with its own goals.”

Therefore because of the ethical problems posed by this law, the bishops expressed their “concern and rejection” of it, emphasizing that it is “necessary to regulate science in the service of human beings.”

While they said research with adult stem cells and “the use of public funds for projects that pose no ethical concerns” were licit, they pointed to the need for legislation that “prevents giving science the power to use human beings.”

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Archbishop warns “culture of extreme feminism” denigrates meaning of motherhood

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct 19, 2006 (CNA) - Commenting on the celebration of Mother’s Day in Argentina, Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata said this week “the culture of extreme feminism, which is a culture of death and destruction of the family and of the natural order” strips motherhood of its true meaning.

Archbishop Aguer warned that “ultra-feminist ideologies” distort cultural traditions by treating motherhood as a burden and a problem, ignoring mothers who confront burdens and problems with joy.

He noted that feminism treats motherhood almost like a “curse in which the woman must free herself from the slavery of being a mother in order to live in authentic freedom, in accord with the impulses of her whims.”

The true meaning of motherhood, he countered, is to discover its meaning for the woman, who initiates a special relationship with her baby long before birth, “long before seeing his face or holding him in her arms.”  For this reason, he went on, “the role of mothers is essential for the formation of the human person.”

Mother’s Day is celebrated in Argentina on October 11, which, in centuries past was the date of the Feast of Mary, Mother of God.  That feast day is now celebrated on January 1.

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