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Archive of December 8, 2006

Knights of Columbus continue campaign to ‘Keep Christ in Christmas'

New Haven, Conn., Dec 8, 2006 (CNA) - The Knights of Columbus have continued with their North American media campaign to “Keep Christ in Christmas”.

Public service announcements (PSAs) in English and Spanish will air on television and radio, encouraging people to remember the real religious significance of the Christmas season and to celebrate it in various meaningful ways, including by helping the less fortunate.

"In the midst of an increasingly materialistic and secular society, it is all too easy to lose sight of what Christmas really means. We give gifts to each other because it is the day on which we celebrate the ultimate gift: the Christ child, the savior of mankind," said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. "Even those who do not share the Christian faith can and do appreciate the message of peace and hope that this Christian holiday – holy day – brings to the world."

The Knights have been producing the PSAs since the 1980s. The radio and TV spots can be accessed at www.kofc.org

Last year, the PSAs reached more than 43 million television viewers and 37 million radio listeners. Hundreds of billboards with the same message were also posted around the country.

This month the Knights kicked off the Christmas season with the "Light up for Christ" program. Councils were encouraged to hold a Christmas tree or Nativity scene lighting ceremony on the first Tuesday of December to commemorate Christ's birth.

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The Immaculate Mary shows the Church its vocation, to receive Christ and offer Him to the world, Pope says

Vatican City, Dec 8, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI greeted thousands of pilgrims and faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square today for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary and prayed the Angelus with them.  Prior to leading the Angelus, the Holy Father pointed out that in her receiving of Christ in faith and offering Him to the world the Immaculate Virgin showed to us the vocation and mission of the Church.

On this day, “we celebrate one of the most beautiful and popular feasts of the Blessed Virgin,” the Pope noted.  “Not only did Mary never commit a sin, but she was even preserved from the common inheritance of the human race, which is original sin.  And this due to the mission for which God had always destined her: to be the Mother of the Redeemer.”

The biblical foundations of this truth of the faith, the Holy Father noted, “are found in the words of the Angel Gabriel directed at the maiden of Nazareth, ‘Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.’” The Pontiff noted that the name “full of grace,” “is the most beautiful name of Mary, the name which was given by God Himself, to show what she is from the beginning and forever, the beloved, the elect, the one chosen to receive the most precious gift, Jesus, ‘the love of God incarnate.’”

The Holy Father said that man can never know why God, among all women, chose Mary, “the answer is hidden in the unfathomable mystery of the Divine will.”  Still, he continued, “there is one reason which the Gospel puts forward: her humility.”

“The same Virgin in the ‘Magnificat,’ her song of praise, says that, ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord...for He has looked with favor on his lowly servant.’”

Mary, then, “Is made the Mother of God, image and model of the Church, chosen among the people to receive the blessing of the Lord and to spread it through the entire human family.  This ‘blessing’ in none other than Jesus Chris Himself.  He is the Font of Grace, from which Mary is filled from the first instant of her existence.  She received Jesus in Faith and with love gave him to the world,” he said.

“This is also our vocation and our mission, the vocation and mission of the Church,” the Pope emphasized, “to receive Christ in our lives and give him to the world, ‘that the world might be saved through him.’”

The Holy Father also recalled that the Feast of the Immaculate Conception “illuminates, like a lighthouse, the time of Advent, which is a time of watching and faithfully waiting for the Savior.”

“While we march ahead to meet the God who comes, we look to Mary who, shines as ‘a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God,’” he added.

After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted the various pilgrims praying that Christians everywhere, following the example of Mary, might allow the gift of grace to bear fruit in a life of holiness.

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Vatican supports excommunication of Call to Action group

Lincoln, Neb., Dec 8, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops has sent a letter supporting Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz’s decision to excommunicate members of the dissonant group Call to Action in the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska.  Cardinal Re affirmed that, in the judgment of the Holy See, belonging to or supporting Call to Action is “irreconcilable with a coherent living of the Catholic Faith,” due to some of their anti-Catholic activities and stances.

CTA was begun in 1976 based on an initiative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.  However, according to the Diocese of Lincoln, by 1990 CTA leadership was growing impatient with their own lack of influence on Catholicism in the United States and decided to take more drastic action.

To motivate change, CTA founders Dan and Sheila Daley, both former religious, drafted a document titled “Call for Reform in the Catholic Church.”

In the statement, printed as a full-page ad in the New York Times on Ash Wednesday in March 1990, they chastised the Church for “ignoring” social issues like a threatened environment, growing poverty, increased drug abuse, and international conflicts. By contrast, the solutions they offered included ordination of women, an end to the discipline of priestly celibacy, popular election of bishops instead of papal appointments, new forms of liturgy, and the use of artificial contraception.

The group has also closely linked themselves to abortion providers and strong abortion supporters and more recently have begun supporting homosexual agendas and protesting the Church’s ban on openly homosexual clergy.

Cardinal Re’s letter, which was part of press release from the Diocese of Lincoln to be held under embargo by the press until this morning, came in response to a request by Call to Action Nebraska’s John McShane, for an “authoritative judgment of the Holy See,” regarding Bishop Bruskewitz’s statement of Extrasynodal Legislation, published in the Southern Nebraska Register.  

Bruskewitz’s statement cited Call to Action (CTA) and ten other organizations, including the Freemasons, Catholics for a Free Choice, Planned Parenthood, the Hemlock Society, and the Society of St. Pius X, declaring that membership in the organizations, “is always perilous to the Catholic faith and most often is totally incompatible with the Catholic faith.”  The bishop’s 1996 letter invited Catholics who supported the groups to remove themselves from their rosters and to seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation so that they could return to full communion with the Catholic Church. Those who refused to do so within a month were automatically excommunicated.

Local CTA members objected strongly to the bishop’s instruction and appealed his decision, but according to the diocese, Bishop Bruskewitz remained steadfast in his desire to lead the people under his pastoral care away from organizations perilous to the faith.

“Parents have to tell children that they can’t test everything in the medicine cabinet or drink everything under the sink,” the bishop explained. “The Church is our mother and gives us these instructions as protection against dangers we might not perceive…It is liberating, not enslaving.”

Call to Action, however, appealed to Rome to overturn Bruskewitz’s decision.  

Cardinal Re’s recent letter responds to their appeal, which was forwarded by the Bishop of Lincoln himself.  The cardinal says that Bruskewitz’s “ruling in the case of ‘Call to Action Nebraska’” was “properly taken” within his competence as Pastor to the diocese.

“The judgment of the Holy See is that the activities of ‘Call to Action’ in the course of these years are in contrast with the Catholic Faith due to views and positions held which are unacceptable from a doctrinal and disciplinary standpoint,” Re’s letter continued.

“Thus, to be a member of this Association or to support it, is irreconcilable with a coherent living of the Catholic Faith,” he said, adding, “I am confident that Mr. McShane and all the members of ‘Call to Action’ will understand that their line of action is causing damage to the Church of Christ.”

Jim McShane, responded to the cardinal’s letter this morning, telling the AP that the Church’s ruling is “very unfortunate.”

"I'm deeply distressed by it,” McShane said. “There's every evidence that Rome is acting on misinformation."

Bishop Bruskewitz said he is not surprised by the ruling of the Holy See and continues to hope that former Catholics will renounce their membership in CTA or the other organizations and return to the Church.

“My prayer will always be that when people understand they have taken a wrong turn, they will stop and take the right turn,” he said in this morning’s press release.
However, Call to Action leaders have told the Lincoln Journal Star that group has already discounted the cardinal's letter, saying it won't have much effect on members of the group in Lincoln or elsewhere.

According to an AP story, Nicole Sotelo, acting co-director of the group's national office in Chicago, said Call to Action is planning an appeal to the Apostolic Signatura, which serves as the highest “court of appeals” in this case.

Whether or not the organization attempts to appeal the cardinal’s ruling, the press release from the Diocese of Lincoln continues to offer individuals a way back to full communion.  To overcome the excommunication, the release notes, is still not difficult, “Catholics who wish to return to full communion with the Church need only repudiate their membership in these groups by sending a letter to the organization and having their names removed from any rosters or mailing lists. Then, they can seek out the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where their priests can guide them in confession and penance.”

“They may be asked to make a profession of faith,” added Bishop Bruskewitz, because membership in these organizations often requires them to reject Catholicism and take dissenting oaths.

“The Lord loves everyone and died for everyone, and He wants all to be saved,” he said. “The best lesson that can be learned from everything that has happened is that one finds happiness, joy and satisfaction in obedience to the Church.”

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Married former priests warn against Milingo's group

Parsippany, N.J., Dec 8, 2006 (CNA) - Two groups made up of former Catholic priests, who are pushing for a married priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church, have issued warnings to married former priests about a third, similar organization, Married Priests Now, which is headed by the excommunicated Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo.

The recently formed Married Priests Now is holding a convention, from Dec. 7 to 10, at the local Sheraton Hotel. As of Wednesday only 200 people were registered to attend, far less than the 1000 organizers had expected.

CORPUS and Celibacy is the Issue (CITI), both groups consisting of men who left the Roman Catholic priesthood to marry, along with their supporters, have expressed concern about Married Priests Now and the new group’s legitimacy.

CORPUS and CITI cited Milingo’s excommunication after his illicit attempt to ordain three married men as bishops. CORPUS also expressed concern about the new group’s connection with the Unification Church's Rev. Sung Myung Moon, who has called himself the Messiah.

"That doesn't click with most Roman Catholics," Russell Ditzel, president of CORPUS, told the Daily Record. CORPUS has about 1,500 members nationwide.

Paul Mayer, a former Benedictine monk of 18 years who got married decades ago, told the Daily Record that he sent e-mails this week warning married priests and organizations that represent them about Milingo's connection with Moon.

"It is very troubling," Mayer reportedly said. "I consider him (Moon) to be sinister."

Peter Paul Brennan, one of the married men supposedly ordained by Milingo in September, told the Daily Record that Moon provides funding for Married Priests Now and paid for much of their convention but he is not a member of the organization.

CITI, which runs a listing of married men who supposedly work as priests though they are not allowed to do so by the Catholic Church, issued a press release saying it did not support the convention and would not be represented there.

CORPUS is, however, advertising for the convention on their website.

Despite the renouncement of the vows or ordination promises of their members, CORPUS and CITI claim to be Roman Catholic organizations. "We are Roman Catholics and plan to stay that way," said Louise Haggett, founder of CITI.

Neither group is recognized by the Roman Catholic Church.  Although the Church holds that a man, once ordained, remains a priest forever, the Church forbids Catholics from participating in sacraments celebrated by those who have left the active ministry, through the rejection of their vows.  

Milingo, who said he does not recognize his excommunication, has announced that he plans to ordain three other married men as priests on Sunday at an independent church in West New York.

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Man files lawsuit over polling station at Catholic church

Miami, Fla., Dec 8, 2006 (CNA) - A nonobservant Jewish man, whose polling station last month was in a room connected to a Catholic church, has filed a lawsuit in federal court, claiming that casting a ballot on church property is unconstitutional and amounts to a breach of church-state separation, reported the Associated Press.

While the polling place was located in a room inside Emmanuel Catholic Church, Jerry Rabinowitz said he should not have been forced to walk past crucifixes and pro-life banners to get there. He claims elections officials refused to remove or cover religious materials.

"The effect of the defendant's conduct in this case is nothing if not government endorsement of religion," the lawsuit says. The supervisor of elections for Palm Beach County, Arthur Anderson, is named as the defendant.

Jim Hurley, an attorney for Rabinowitz, said the lawsuit was the first of its kind in the U.S.

It is not uncommon for polling places across the country to be located in houses of worship.

"The use of this church as the polling place in this case, with all of its outward and obvious manifestations of a particular religion, has the primary effect of advancing a particular religion over other religious and nonreligious positions," the suit claims.

"Mr. Rabinowitz and I believe very sincerely that voting in churches is, in and of itself, a breach of the constitutional requirement of church and state," said Hurley.

Rabinowitz’s case is being funded by the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, which is part of the American Humanist Association. Humanists believe in leading ethical lives, but without religious doctrine or the worship of God.

"The civil rights of Mr. Rabinowitz, who is not a Catholic or Christian, were violated by forcing him to vote in a Christian Church setting," Hurley was quoted as saying in the Palm Beach Post. "It's improper to use churches for polling places, just as it would be improper to use mosques and synagogues."

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Irish bishops attack schools proposals

Belfast, UK, Dec 8, 2006 (CNA) - The Catholic bishops of Northern Ireland say proposed changes to the state’s education plan would "radically undermine" the Catholic education system and "pose a serious threat to the right of parents to choose a Catholic education."

The bishops were responding to detailed draft documents regarding the government’s plan to close some under attended schools and restructure the administration of educational facilities in Northern Ireland.

According to a BBC report, the changes include removing powers from the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools.  In addition, the bishops said their power to influence their own schools would be diminished due to the required handing over of powers to a new Education and Skills Authority and to the Department of Education

"The proposals will radically undermine a long-cherished Catholic education system which has been recognized for the strength of its distinctiveness and the richness of its tradition and diversity as contributing to the raising of school standards and the promotion of a culture of tolerance and understanding," they said.

The bishops said they’ve been glad to cooperate with the Education Department to promote quality education. "On this occasion, however, we feel compelled to say that we cannot in conscience commend these proposals to parents, teachers, and all involved in Catholic education," they said. 

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