London, England, Jan 30, 2007 (CNA) - The Catholic hierarchy in the United Kingdom is facing serious questions today following Prime Minister Tony Blair’s declaration last night that Catholic adoption agencies in the United Kingdom will not be exempt from a new law requiring them to provide children for homosexual couples. While the Church in England and Wales has announced its disappointment at the decision, Scotland’s Catholic hierarchy has already declared that it will not close its adoption programs without a fight.
Blair’s cabinet made the decision late yesterday to deny the request of the Catholic Church for an exemption from a law that would require all adoption agencies in the U.K. to place children with homosexual couples.
The Roman Catholic Church holds that homosexual lifestyles spring from an intrinsically disordered desire and that as such, a household led by a homosexual couple is not a healthy place for the raising of children.
While the Catholic Church of England and Wales forewarned that the decision to require Catholic agencies to provide adoption services to homosexuals would result in their closing, Archbishop Mario Conti, speaking for the Church in Scotland, has insinuated that the Church plans on fighting the decision.
Conti, the Archbishop of Glasgow and Vice-president of the Scottish Bishops Conference said late last week that agencies would continue to work as normal, and that it would be the government that forced them to close by not allowing them to work within their conscience.
The archbishop admitted that, "Catholic adoption agencies would be unlikely to retain registration, given that they would be unable to comply with the proposed regulations."
A spokesman for the Church in Scotland has said that the Church may have legal ground for fighting the regulations. “We believe there is an opportunity for a judicial review on the grounds that compelling people to act against their religious beliefs contravenes Article 9,” he said according to Lifesite.com Article 9 of the Human Rights Act affirms the right of freedom of religious expression.
Nonetheless, Peter Kearney, the Catholic Church's spokesman in Scotland, conceded to the Daily Record that ultimately the agencies will be forced to close, saying, "It is impossible to see how a Catholic adoption agency could remain in business. This is a full-scale assault on religious belief.
But, he added, "It is not just a Catholic Church issue. It affects anyone who has a belief that says homosexuals are not on a par and should not be equated with heterosexual marriage.”
"Anyone who holds that belief could be in a position where they break the law."
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster and head of the Bishops Conference of England and Wales, echoed Kearney’s sentiments, expressing his dismay this morning that the Church’s beliefs will now be subject to legal action for discrimination, "We are, of course, deeply disappointed that no exemption will be granted to our agencies on the grounds of widely held religious beliefs," he said.
"This debate has raised crucial issues for the common good of our society,” the Cardinal added. "We believe there is an urgent task to reach a new consensus on how best the public role of religious organizations can be safeguarded and their rights upheld."
The Catholic position had also been backed by leaders of the Church of England as well as some Muslim clerics.
"The freedom of conscience cannot be made subject to legislation, however well meaning," the Archbishop of York John Sentamu told the British Broadcasting Corp.
Sentamu, whose church has ordained homosexual priests and allows them to marry so long as they refrain from sex, said he opposes all forms of discrimination.
"But when you overlegislate and intervene too much in people's private lives, I think in the long run you end up with a statute being used to cure all ills, which it cannot.”
The Catholic Church in Scotland, England, and Wales now has 21 months to either close its adoption agencies or face legal action for non-compliance.
Vatican City, Jan 30, 2007 (CNA) -
Pope Benedict XVI announced Tuesday that the Most Reverend George V. Murry, S.J., has been appointed Bishop of the Diocese of Youngstown in northeastern Ohio. Bishop Murry is currently Bishop of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands.
“I am honored to accept the Holy Father’s appointment to serve as Bishop of Youngstown and I look forward to meeting and working with the priests, deacons, religious, and laity of the diocese,” the bishop said in a statement this morning.
The date for Bishop Murry’s installation is already scheduled for March 28th. Murray will be the fifth Bishop of the Diocese of Youngstown. The Diocese had been without a bishop since March of 2005 when Bishop Thomas Tobin was appointed Bishop of Providence, Rhode Island.
Bishop Murry was born in Camden, New Jersey, in 1948. After graduating from Catholic elementary and high school, he attended St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore. In 1972 he entered the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and was ordained to the priesthood in 1979. Bishop Murry holds a M.Div. degree from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, California, as well as an M. Phil. and Ph.D. in American Cultural History from the George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
He has served as a professor of American Cultural History at Georgetown
University in Washington, D.C., President of Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington, D.C., and Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Detroit. In 1995 Pope John Paul II appointed him Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago. In May of 1998 Pope John Paul II appointed him Coadjutor Bishop of St.Thomas in the Virgin Islands and on June 30, 1999, appointed him bishop of the diocese.
The bishop has also served on numerous boards including the University of Detroit and Loyola Academy, both in Detroit; St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Mount St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, Maryland and Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut. He is a member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and serves on the Domestic Policy and Education Committees. Since November of 2002 he also serves on the Board of Directors of Catholic Relief Services, the overseas arm of the U.S. Bishops, which provides food, clothing, shelter and medicine for those in need.
Presently, Bishop Murry is preparing a book on the role of the American Church in the reception and resettlement of refugees from 1939 until 1980.
Rome, Italy, Jan 30, 2007 (CNA) -
Latin is a language that is integral to the life of the Church and it must be saved, says Papal Latinist Fr. Reginald Foster.
The 69-year-old Carmelite friar, originally from Milwaukee, was appointed the Papal Latinist 38 years ago by Pope Paul VI. He spoke with the Sunday Telegraph about the importance of Latin and his desire to see the study of the language restored.
“You cannot understand St Augustine in English. He thought in Latin. It is like listening to Mozart through a jukebox," he told The Sunday Telegraph. "Like classical music, Latin will always be there. If we cannot understand it, it is we who are losing out."
Fr. Foster, who has translated speeches and letters for four popes, including Benedict XVI’s Deus Caritas Est, has just launched a new Latin Academy in Rome in his final effort to prevent it from dying out. He hopes to attract 130 students a year.
But he admitted: "It is dying in the Church. I'm not optimistic about Latin. The young priests and bishops are not studying it." He said priests were no longer compelled to study Latin at seminaries, and now found it impossible to read vital theological tracts.
Paul VI insisted on greater use of Latin within the Vatican, but Fr. Foster said more junior members of the Catholic hierarchy were less enthusiastic now. He offered that the only solution to the decline of Latin was for the Pope to lead by example.
Fr. Foster, who until recently taught a popular course at Rome's Jesuit-run Gregorian University, lamented the loss of Latin in schools across most of Europe. He said students were missing out on important elements of history by not learning the language.
He added that the schools that do teach Latin use outdated teaching techniques. "You need to present the language as a living thing," he said.
Lisbon, Portugal, Jan 30, 2007 (CNA) - More than 15,000 people marched through the streets of Lisbon on Sunday to demonstrate their support for the right to life and against the legalization of abortion, which will be decided by referendum on February 11.
The “March for Life,” organized by the Portuguese Association of Large Families, was divided into seven phases symbolizing each stage of life—conception, birth, infancy, adolescence, youth, adulthood, and old age.
The marchers carried signs calling for a “no” vote on the referendum and were led by pro-life politician Jose Ribeiro e Castro and former government ministers Ernani Lopes, Antonio Bagao Felix, and Jose Pedro Aguiar Branco.
Other well-known figures that joined in the march included popular singer Katia Guerreiro.
At the end of the march, participants applauded as messages of support from pro-life groups in Spain, France, Italy, and the United States were read.
Brussels, Belgium, Jan 30, 2007 (CNA) - During a meeting with the European Parliament’s Family and Infancy Protection Group, Germany’s Minister of Family Affairs, Ursula Von der Leyen, announced she would propose to the European Council the adoption of a European Alliance for the Family.
During the January 23 meeting, Von der Leyen mentioned the demographic changes in Europe, the aging of the population and the economic and social deficit created by this situation.
She said the promotion and support of the family would be one of the top priorities of the German presidency of the rotating European Council. Von de Leyen added that the reason for the pro-family priority comes from, among other things, the fact that it contributes notably to economic prosperity and social solidarity.
Von der Leyen underscored the importance of children, not only for demographic reasons related to the birthrate but also because of the solidarity and social cohesion that the creation of a family represents.
At the same time, Lola Velarde, president of the European Network of the Institute for Family Policy, expressed the support of her organization for the German proposal. “We will not only support it, we will actively push it forward,” she said.
Velarde stressed the Alliance would be “a platform for the exchange of experiences and ideas at all levels: the European Council and member states, the Commission, Parliament, sectors of society and civil society.”
She added that the Institute for Family Policy would launch an effort to raise awareness about the idea and to lobby European leaders for their support.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 30, 2007 (CNA) - The weekly newspaper of the Archdiocese of Mexico, “Desde la Fe,” reported this week that there is reason to believe that top officials of the government of former president Carlos Salinas are pressuring authorities “to close the investigation” into the murder of Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo.
The story follows statements made recently by forensic doctor Mario Rivas Souza, who said he was ordered not to perform an autopsy by then-President Salinas.
“There is reason to believe that top officials of the Salinas administration continue to successfully pressure authorities to close the investigation so that the sacrilegious crime against Cardinal Posadas Ocampo might remain buried in the shameful Mexican-style impunity,” the newspaper article stated.
It also noted the existence of “important witnesses” who show that that the cardinal was “under surveillance in the days leading up to the murder, that the telephones in his house were bugged and that the signal was being sent to the [Mexican government].”
Therefore, the paper stated, it is “totally shameful that until now no one has been convicted of committing or organizing this murder, despite that fact that it happened over 13 years ago.”
The article also reaffirmed the Church’s interest in solving the case. “Desde la Fe” noted that on October 16, 2006, a commission headed by the current Archbishop of Guadalajara, Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iñiguez, provided an update on the case to Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
Advances in the investigation reveal that the murder “was a crime of the State” and that “the only thing that is clear” is the pressure against “the Attorneys General of the Republic who were aware of the matter, to make them put it off, investigate the homicide in a superficial manner, and if possible, to close the case.”
Lisbon, Portugal, Jan 30, 2007 (CNA) - As the vote on a referendum on abortion nears in Portugal, a new poll has revealed that support for abortion has dropped by seven points. Although the results indicate the measure would pass with a slight majority of 54%, pro-life forces are hopeful a defeat of the referendum is within reach.
The newspaper “Diario de Noticias” published the results of the poll taken by the Marktest firm, which indicated 33% would vote against the legalization of abortion and that 13% still remain undecided or would abstain from voting.
Two months ago 63% said they would vote for the referendum and 27% against it.
On February 11 Portuguese voters will go to the poll to decide whether or not to legalize abortion up to the 10th week of pregnancy.
This past weekend some 15,000 people marched through downtown Lisbon to voice their opposition to abortion. In 1998 a similar referendum failed to pass, but this year the Socialist government decided it would re-introduce the proposal.
Vatican City, Jan 30, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong says he believes it is time for the Vatican to change its strategy with China and take a more uncompromising line as it works toward establishing diplomatic relations with the communist country.
Cardinal Zen was in Rome last week for a two-day conference at the Vatican on the Church in China. The 75-year-old cardinal told the Associated Press that he asked the Pope during this visit to Rome to let him retire as Hong Kong's bishop so he can focus on helping the Vatican establish ties with China.
The cardinal told the AP that the change in strategy was necessary because the Vatican accepted compromises over the years, "which in the beginning were good and necessary, but after so many years we can see there is a bad side effect."
He says the Vatican should take a firm line with the government-controlled church when it tries to impose conditions or limitations on formation in seminaries.
"Maybe people don't like to take a hard line, but I would say clearer lines" are needed, he said. The people of China are expecting from the Pope “clear direction,” he added.
The cardinal told the AP he believes the upper echelons of China's government may be more ready for change than the state-sanctioned church.
The AP report cites various sources which indicate that 17 underground bishops have disappeared, been arrested or detained in the last month. Twenty priests have been arrested, and at least five, detained on Dec. 27 in Hebei, are still in prison.
"The foreign office is more interested in establishing diplomatic relations and the higher authority has a more international perspective," Cardinal Zen was quoted as saying. "So they must understand that a normalization of relations between Beijing and the Holy See may be conducive to more prestige for the nation."
Washington D.C., Jan 30, 2007 (CNA) - U.S. Senator Sam Brownback reintroduced the Public Expressions of Religion Act on Jan. 29. The bill would prevent activist groups from using a 1976 civil rights law to recover attorney’s fees when they sue local cities and towns in cases related to public displays of religion and faith.
“It is not fair for taxpayers to pay the legal bills for groups like the ACLU,” said Brownback. “Currently many small towns comply with the demands of the ACLU rather than risk going to trial and paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees to the ACLU if they lose the case.”
Currently, legal activist groups recover hundreds of thousands of dollars from state and local governments based on a provision of the 1976 Civil Rights Attorney Fees Awards Act, which was intended to assist underprivileged plaintiffs in obtaining legal representation in civil rights cases.
For example, when several groups won a case in Alabama to remove a Ten Commandments display from the Alabama Supreme Court building, taxpayers were forced to pay the groups’ attorneys nearly $550,000.
Brownback said the legislation would still allow “plaintiffs with legitimate claims to have their day in court. However, it would prevent local cities and towns from being coerced into settling claims out of a fear of huge monetary losses.”
This new measure would require parties in Establishment Clause cases to pay their own attorney fees.
Washington D.C., Jan 30, 2007 (CNA) -
Crossroads, a national collegiate pro-life organization that has sponsored annual pro-life walks across the United States each summer since 1995, is announcing a proposed expansion to include a walk across Canada in the summer of 2007. The walk would be made up of volunteer students from colleges and universities across Canada and would coincide with the American walks.
“A Canadian walk is something that has been frequently proposed by pro-life students from Canada,” said Jim Nolan, President of Crossroads. “Due to the extraordinary success of our American walks since 1995, and the high volume of volunteer students we have signed up for this summer, it’s beginning to look as though this will be the year a Canadian walk will be possible, provided that we have a sufficient number of Canadian volunteers.”
Since 1995, Crossroads walkers have spoken to over two million Americans at churches alone, and countless millions through local and national media and speaking engagements. Walking a combined 10,000 miles through 35 states and thousands of towns and cities, the volunteers on Crossroads take the term “grass-roots” to a new level.
“The tentative plan would consist of a walk originating in British Columbia and concluding in Quebec. Thirty-two hundred miles,” said Nolan, who has participated in three walks across America, including a walk to World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002. “We are looking into any potential legal issues that might arise pertaining to the walks, especially with the right to freedom of speech, but we don’t anticipate any problems.”
Crossroads currently sponsors three simultaneous pro- life walks across America each summer, beginning in Seattle, San Francisco, and San Diego, and concluding together in Washington, D.C. The group also sponsors Spring Break walks up the Florida coast, and recently conducted a walk across Europe to World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, in 2005.
For more information on Crossroads, visit their website at www.crossroadswalk.org
Vatican City, Jan 30, 2007 (CNA) -
The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity this morning released a communiqué announcing that starting this morning, January 30th, the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox will resume meetings in Rome, in accord with the agreement signed by Pope Benedict XVI and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, during the Pontiff’s recent trip to Turkey.
The meeting which will run through the 3rd of February is to be presided by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the pontifical council, and by Metropolitan Anba Bishoy of the Coptic Orthodox Church.
The Orthodox delegation includes representatives from seven local Churches that are part of the family of the Eastern Orthodox Churches: the Coptic Orthodox, the Syrian Orthodox, the Armenian Apostolic (represented by the two catholicosates of Etchmiadzin and Cilicia), the Ethiopian Orthodox, the Eritrean Orthodox and the Malankara Orthodox Syrian.
The Catholic delegation includes representatives of the Latin tradition and from the various Eastern Catholic traditions (Coptic Catholic, Syrian Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Maronite, Syro-Malabarese, and Ethiopian).
In accord with the desires of Pope Benedict and Patriarch Bartholomew, the commission will continue its discussion of the ecclesiological questions regarding each Church’s structures of communion and the exercise of apostolic ministry in the Church; themes which continue to be two of the largest obstacles to Catholic-Orthodox unity.
Washington D.C., Jan 30, 2007 (CNA) -
"We need to raise the volumn in announcing the Gospel of Life," with these words Cardinal Sean O’Malley strongly urged Americans to join in building a civilization of life and love.
The Cardinal-Archbishop of Boston told a packed house of Pro-life demonstrators, gathered at a Mass in the Crypt of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington last week that while Gospel of Life must be announced with conviction, it must also be proclaimed with love.
The cardinal related the fictional story told in the film "Children of Men," which describes a world 20 years from now with no babies, an epidemic of infertility, and hopeless violence. A group of people resisting the culture of death form the Human Project.
“Finally, one baby is born in secret. During a battle scene, the baby cries and suddenly everyone stops fighting, women want to touch the baby, soldiers kneel and make the sign of the cross. In the midst of the violence and despair, the baby becomes a sign of hope,” the cardinal said, recounting the plot.
O'Malley noted that the fertility rate in Europe is 1.4, indicating that deaths will outnumber births within five years. The fertility rate in Italy and Spain is 1.2, which he says will halve their current population in 20 years time.
The United States is apparently in better shape because more Americans are churchgoers and churchgoers get married and have families, he reported.
“The churches in the United States are family-friendly and nurture family life,” he said. “Church is a bastion of defense against the culture of death. In terms of the film 'Children of Men,' we are ‘the human project’ — the alternative is the culture of death. As the populations of the Western world age, we will see that the generation of parents that aborted their own children will be euthanized by the children who survived.”
The cardinal spoke about how western cultures have become desensitized to violence and to death.
“We have come to embrace a new morality that is dehumanizing and dangerous. The new morality is: the ends justify the means,” he said, referring to unethical medical research.
He pointed out that the stem-cell research that does not destroy human life has brought about many successes and cures.
“We all want the cures, but the ends do not justify the means. We need to raise the volume in announcing the Gospel of Life,” he said. “It must not be a strident and hateful scream but a courageous proclamation of the Gospel of Life by witnesses whose lives are transformed by faith, love and a desire to serve.”
“As a country we have become callous to the horrors of abortion to human life,” he continued. “The greatest parallel is with slavery in the antebellum period of our history. The people convinced themselves that slavery was necessary, justifiable for economic, social reasons. Today our society is turning a blind eye to abortion and saying that now the ends justify the means.”
He said the losers in this type of a culture are the elderly, the poor, the disabled and the politically marginalized.
“None of these pass the utility test; and yet, they at least have a presence. They at least have the possibility of organizing to be heard,” he said. “Those who are unborn, infirmed and terminally ill have no such advantage. They have no “utility,” and worse they have no voice.
“As we tinker with the beginning, the end and even the intimate cell structure of life, we tinker with our own identity as a free nation dedicated to the dignity of the human person. When American political life becomes an experiment on them rather than for and by them, it will no longer be worth conducting,” he stated.
The cardinal’s homily was posted on his blog Friday: www.cardinalseansblog.org