Archive of March 16, 2007

French High Court rejects same-sex marriage

Paris, France, Mar 16, 2007 (CNA) - France's highest court upheld the definition of marriage to be the union between a man and a woman, this week, and rejected as unlawful the first marriage of a homosexual couple in France.

The court annulled the marriage of Stephane Charpin and Bertrand Charpentier, who were “married” in a civil ceremony in June 2004.  Following the attempted marriage, the government immediately said the union was outside the law and the couple began pursuing legal recognition by way of the courts.

Successive courts ruled against the couple.  The magistrates pointed out that France already grants cohabiting couples, regardless of their sex, certain rights enjoyed by married couples.  The rights, they said, have been legalized since legislation was passed in1999 which legalized civil unions, known as Partes Civil de Solidarité (PacS).

No other same-sex couple has attempted to be married in France since 2004.

A commission formed by the President of the French National Assembly advised in 2006 that marriage, adoption and artificial procreation for homosexual couples should not be permitted under French law, reported LifeSite.

The commission’s final report argued that gay marriage would necessarily open the way to gay adoption. “Marriage is not merely the contractual recognition of the love between a couple; it is a framework that imposes rights and duties, and that is designed to provide for the care and harmonious development of the child,” the report says.  

The commission also concluded that marriage has a natural procreative element. "This corresponds to a biological reality, that same-sex couples are naturally infertile, and to an imperative, that of helping the child develop his/her identity as necessarily coming from the union of a man and a woman,” the report stated.

The commission concluded that its ultimate decision to advise against gay marriage and adoption was meant “to affirm and protect children’s rights and the primacy of those rights over adults’ aspirations.”

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Cardinal O’Malley calls for more humane immigration policy

Boston, Mass., Mar 16, 2007 (CNA) - The immigration raid in New Bedford last week is evidence of the urgent need for comprehensive immigration reform in the United States, said Cardinal Sean O’Malley in a comment published yesterday in the Boston Globe.

“President George W. Bush has called for it, Senators Edward Kennedy and John McCain have worked for it, but the objective has been mired in political rhetoric and obstructive tactics at several levels of the political process,” the Cardinal-Archbishop of Boston wrote.

While the people arrested in last week’s raid are illegal immigrants, respecting their humanity and the meeting the needs of the women and children, whose situation is desperate, should be foremost, the cardinal said.

The Cardinal said he is concerned about some of the principles guiding the response and the fact that a policy that meets the immediate needs of those who were caught up in last week's raid is not yet in place.

O’Malley pointed out that in order to be released from custody those arrested in New Bedford had to assert that they were "the sole caretaker" of their children.

“The question is intended to guarantee one parent or caretaker for each child, but reports indicate that this goal has not been met,” he said.

“More important, the question fails to produce an acceptable humanitarian policy. Mothers can be separated from their children, and perhaps deported, as long as there would be a caretaker for the children remaining in Massachusetts,” he stated.

“Our shared respect for humanity and our faith in the promise of a better future call us to do better,” he concluded.

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Great cathedrals are 'catechism in stone', says architect

Madison, Wis., Mar 16, 2007 (CNA) - Cathedrals should be a "catechism in stone that represents the whole diocese," said architect Duncan Stroik at a recent lecture on church architecture.

The associate professor of architecture at the University of Notre Dame spoke at the Bishop O'Connor Catholic Pastoral Center in Madison March 8th, as part of the St. Thérèse of Lisieux Lecture Series.

His talk addressed an imminent concern for the diocese. St. Raphael Cathedral in Madison was destroyed by fire in March 2005 and the diocese is currently discussing plans for a new cathedral.

According to the Catholic Herald, Stroik said great cathedrals around the world are “symbols of their cities” and form part of each city’s identity.

He recounted the story of the 12th-century construction of the magnificent cathedral in the small French town of Chartres. It is one of the world’s finest cathedrals and examples of Gothic architecture, he said. The cathedral was rebuilt twice after being destroyed by fire.

Fires have scourged other important churches as well, including St. Paul Outside the Wall and St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, he said.

Stroik said the "sacredness of the site" must be taken into account in the location of a cathedral. The site of St. Raphael Cathedral in Madison, whose cornerstone was laid in 1854, is sacred, he said. "There's a strong argument for rebuilding on the same site," Stroik emphasized.

He added that temples are usually the greatest work of architecture in a city. “Historically it's been the temple, not the office building, apartments, or condos," he said.

According to St. Augustine, Stroik recalled, there are two cities: the City of God and the City of Man. The two must "talk" with each other, he said.

"The cathedral in the city should be salt and light. We look for architecture that can preach, be seen from the streets. Its placement and size has a conversation with the city architecture. The goal is to bring us all to the City of God."

The professor said he prefers cathedrals to be in the city, rather than in the suburbs, so that they can be in "dialogue" with the buildings of state and academia, providing a "living room" in the public square.

He is an advocate of providing a piazza, a garden or atrium with the cathedral open to public gatherings. Other elements of a great cathedral, he said, include a dome, towers or spires, a more private cloister garden, a baptistry (which used to be a separate building in earlier times), a prominent tabernacle, and smaller chapels.

It also needs a generous-sized sanctuary for large liturgical events, office space, meeting rooms, a rectory, as well as for the mission of charity, he added.

Stroik admitted that people may question spending money on "bricks and mortar" when the Church needs to serve the needy. But he said it is important to have a cathedral with the mission of charity to the poor. "Among the poorest must be counted those without faith or hope," he said.

Stroik's designs reflect his commitment to the principles of classical architecture. His involvement in the new renaissance of sacred architecture has led to the formation of the Society for Catholic Liturgy and the Sacred Architecture Journal, of which he is editor.

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Include God, Judeo-Christian tradition in European constitution: German bishops

Berlin, Germany, Mar 16, 2007 (CNA) - A European Constitution must include a reference to God, “to the Judaic-Christian tradition of Europe and to its long-lasting effectiveness,” said the German bishops in a declaration published this week. The declaration marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaties of Rome.

The statement from the German bishops invites all people “to recall the origins of this European integration process, to adopt the fundamental provisions and to recognize the tasks of Europe.”

“The peacemaking and pacifying force was the original spur for the European unification process” and still is “its most important legitimization,” they wrote. “Europe is no longer synonymous with historical rivalries and war, but with the settlement of conflicts and the prevention of conflicts, without resorting to weapons.”

The bishops stressed that “the unconditional primacy of the human being” and the great regard for human rights were fundamental to the creation of the EU and that these also reflect “the Christian view of the human being”.

“The fact that European politics is basically synonymous with this view of man is the true Christian heritage of Europe,” they said. This is why it is appropriate that a fundamental European text should include a reference to the Judaic-Christian tradition of Europe, they continued.

The bishops say Europe should be accountable to the world, have a good common foreign policy, practice a good balance “between a liberal economic order and a charitable social order”, and have a greater consideration for the needs of the family.

The bishops welcome the resumption of the European Constitutional process, and propose that God be referenced in a Constitution, making it “clear that all human actions are finite, that no politics is absolute.”

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Pope Benedict praises fruitful collaboration between Church and state in Peru

Vatican City, Mar 16, 2007 (CNA) - Today in the Vatican, the Holy Father received the Letters of Credence of Alfonso Rivero Monsalve, the new ambassador of Peru to the Holy See.  The Holy Father asked the diplomat to pass on his "respectful greetings to Alan Garcia Perez," Peruvian president, and "to the beloved people of Peru,” and recalled the strong history of collaboration between the Church and state in Peru.
"This meeting calls to mind the profound ties that have existed and continue to exist between your nation and the Church," said Benedict XVI.  The Pope recalled how "the Catholic faith, taken there by evangelizers such as St. Toribio de Mogrovejo, became accepted and slowly penetrated the cultural and social fabric of that blessed people among whom the first saints of Latin America soon appeared," such as "Rose of Lima, Martin de Porres, Francis Solano, Juan Macias, and the Blessed Ana de los Angeles Monteagudo."
Pope Benedict went on to refer to "the profound changes" that Peru is facing in the context of "social, political and economic transformations," observing that such processes "have a direct effect upon people and their values."
"We know," he said, "that Peru wishes to respond effectively to the phenomenon of globalization, taking advantage of the opportunities presented by economic growth to ensure that the resulting wealth and other social advantages reach everyone in an equitable way. Peruvians ... also hope that health services may serve all social categories, that education may be available to everyone, ... and that corruption may be contrasted with an integrity that enables the effective operation of public institutions, thus helping to overcome so many situations of hunger and misery."
"Furthermore," the Holy Father continued, "there is a pressing need for unity of intent among leaders to ensure they face the challenges of a globalized world ... with true solidarity. The Church, which recognizes the State's role in social, political and economic questions, assumes as her duty - deriving from her evangelizing mission - the protection and proclamation of the truth about human beings, about the meaning of life and its final destiny, which is God. She is the source of inspiration ensuring that the dignity of the person and of life, from conception to natural end, is recognized and protected, as guaranteed by the Peruvian Constitution."
"From the Apostolic See," Pope Benedict continued, "we will continue to support all social efforts currently being made in favor of equality of opportunity," and to ensure "that each Peruvian feels their inalienable rights are respected," and that "the Peruvian episcopate continues to foment, in the light of the Gospel and the Church's social doctrine, the search for truth in the family, the workplace and the socio-political field."
"The Church, aware of her religious mission (and for that reason sublimely human), and of her duty to propose the truth to all mankind (who as children of God have a superior dignity that comes before all positive law), will continue to work to reach these objectives," the Pope concluded. Moreover, as "an expert in humanity she teaches that only by respecting moral law which defends and protects the dignity of the human person, can peace by built, favoring stable social progress."

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Confession provides a spiritual spring which provides energy for defeating evil, Pope says

Vatican City, Mar 16, 2007 (CNA) - Receiving participants in an annual course on the internal forum and confidentiality within Sacramental Confession, promoted by the Apostolic Penitentiary, at midday today, Pope Benedict XVI reemphasized the tremendous importance of the Sacrament of Penance.
According to a press release from the Vatican, Benedict XVI considered the importance of the Sacrament of Penance and the need for priests to prepare themselves to administer it with devotion and faithfulness to God, for the sanctification of Christian people.

"We all," said the Holy Father, "need to draw from the inexhaustible spring of divine love, which was made totally manifest to us in the mystery of the Cross, in order to find true peace with God, with ourselves and with our fellow man. Only from this spiritual spring is it possible to draw the interior energy indispensable for defeating evil and sin in the ceaseless struggle that marks our earthly pilgrimage towards the heavenly homeland."
The Pope highlighted how in the modern world "we see a humanity that wishes for self sufficiency, where no small number of people almost feel they can do without God to live well; and yet, how many seem sadly condemned to face ... empty lives, how much violence there still is on the earth, how much solitude weighs upon the soul of man in the era of communication! In a word, it seems today that we have lost a 'sense of sin' ... but have increased our 'complex of guilt'."
"May priests, ministers of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, always feel that their task is to make known the merciful love of God, both through words and in their approach to penitents. Like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, welcome penitent sinners, help them to arise from their sin and encourage them to make amends, never compromising with evil but resuming the journey towards evangelical perfection."
Priests, said the Holy Father, must be animated by a constant longing for sanctity. In order to carry out their "important mission," as confessors they "must remain faithful to the Church's Magisterium in matters of moral doctrine, aware that the law of good and evil is not determined by situations, but by God."
The Holy Father concluded by calling upon the Virgin, Mother of Mercy, "to support the ministry of priest confessors and to help Christian communities to understand the value and importance of the Sacrament of Penance for the spiritual growth of all the faithful."

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Ex-priest says silencing of Father Sobrino will reanimate liberation theology in Latin America

San José, Costa Rica, Mar 16, 2007 (CNA) - A former Franciscan priest, Leonardo Boff of Brazil, who left the priesthood and the Franciscan order several years ago after his writings were condemned by the Holy See, said the decision by the Vatican to silence Father Jon Sobrino would mark a resurgence of Marxist theology in Latin America.

Boff, who together with Sobrino, Gustavo Gutierrez, and Juan Luis Segundo, was one of the most outspoken proponents of this theology, which had a significant impact on the life of the Church in Latin America, came out with a harsh reaction to the decision by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to censure several theological works by Sobrino.

In statements to the AFP news agency, Boff said Sobrino “is one of the most serious, most evangelical, and I would say one of the holiest theologians that we have.  For this reason, the condemnation against him is especially grave.”

“I think a condemnation such as this cheats many of the poor, because Jon Sobrino was always an ally of the poor. And the Church may be able to disappoint the rich, but she cannot betray the poor,” Boff said during a visit to the capital of Costa Rica for the opening of a special course of the University of Costa Rica.

Boff asserted that “liberation theology is alive and well in Latin America, Asia and Africa, although the controversy surrounding its tenets has lessened in recent years.”  

“The theologians of liberation theology continue to work,” he said, adding that the censure of John Sobrino “may life the spirits of those Christians who are followers of liberation theology.”

In its statement against Fr. Sobrino’s work, the Vatican strongly emphasized the necessity of caring for the poor, but pointed out numerous errors in Sobrino’s approach to “the methodological presuppositions on which the [Sobrino] bases his theological reflection, the Divinity of Jesus Christ, the Incarnation of the Son of God, the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God, the Self-consciousness of Jesus, and the salvific value of His Death.”

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Woman at center of euthanasia debate in Spain dies after respirator disconnected

Madrid, Spain, Mar 16, 2007 (CNA) - Inmaculada Echevarria, the woman suffering from progressive muscular dystrophy and who had spent the last 20 years confined to bed, had her respirator removed and died on Wednesday at the San Juan de Dios Hospital, a public health care facility where she had been transferred hours earlier.

According to officials, Echevarria was sedated by the medical team charged with her care, so that she would not suffer “any pain.”

The 51 year-old woman was transferred from the San Rafael Hospital, operated by the Order of St. John of God, where she had been cared for during the last 15 years, to the San Juan de Dios Hospital, which - despite its name - is a state-run facility.  The decision to move her was made by San Rafael administrators according to a statement released by the hospital and by local health officials.

Health officials said the transfer to the public facility located in a building next to San Rafael Hospital was done in order “avoid unnecessary bother to the patient.”  

Administrators at the religious order’s hospital considered the petition by Echevarria to have her ventilator removed, which she had been using for nine years, to be “correct and acceptable, from the legal and ethical point of view” and that the transferal was requested “so that whatever she needed could be done and so that her request could be appropriately guaranteed.”

Before removing the vital life support, doctors and psychologists had Echevarria reconfirm that the decision to do so was truly hers.

Earlier this week, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares of Toledo, vice president of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, said removal of the respirator would constitute an attack on human life and would be an act of euthanasia.

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Strong condemnation of new euthanasia case in Spain

Madrid, Spain, Mar 16, 2007 (CNA) - Diverse civil organizations and leaders are deploring the death of Inmaculada Echevarria, a Spanish woman who suffered from progressive muscular dystrophy and whose respirator was removed by doctors, calling it a case of euthanasia that has no legal or moral basis.

According to the president of the State Federation of Pro-Life Associations, Alicia Latorre, this case could become “a rallying cry for opening the doors to euthanasia” in Spain.

Natalia Lopez Moratalla, doctor in Biology and professor of biochemistry, said the case of Echevarria is “euthanasia pure and simple.”

At the same time, the Spanish Forum for the Family stressed that suffering and terminal illnesses should be addressed with “palliative care and humane medicine.”  

“To voluntarily deprive a person of nourishment or a respirator that keeps him or her alive is to open the door to euthanasia.  Once this door is open there are no longer any objective limits that allow for maintaining an active commitment to human life, and thus the way is opened for progressive abuses, as the historical experience shows of any country that has gone down this road,” the organization warned.

Manuel de Santiago, president of the Spanish Association of Bioethics, criticized the contradiction of two government decisions: one to disconnect Inmaculada Echevarria’s respirator, and two, that of force-feeding Basque separatists Iñaki de Juana Chaos, who has been on a hunger strike.  

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Baby boy who survived abortion "was not just a cluster of cells," pro-life leader says

Rome, Italy, Mar 16, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the Italian Pro-Life Movement, Carlo Casini, said this week the Italian baby who survived an abortion and died a few days later “was not just a cluster of cells but rather a healthy boy, a child who could have come into this world had the pregnancy lasted a little bit longer.”

“The case in Florence of the abortion survivor, that is, of a little body 25 centimeters long and weighing 17 ounces, who struggled after leaving his mother’s body, emitting small sounds, finally speaks,” Casini wrote in his editorial for the monthly magazine, “Yes to Life.”

The flawed diagnosis that the baby might be deformed and subsequent attempt to abort caused “great distress in the people, such that it would have been better if the [media] had simply ignored it,” and thus revealed “a culture in which the health have a right to life but not the one who needs to be cured,” he said.

Casini explained that we live “in a horrible culture against which we must urgently react.”  He proposed mandatory autopsies on all aborted fetuses and more accurate pre-natal diagnosis, as well as the application of the law “in the least perverse way possible, ensuring that the principle of preference for birth prevail” over every other option.

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Cardinal Obando Bravo to preside over Peace and Reconciliation Commission in Nicaragua

Managua, Nicaragua, Mar 16, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Miguel Obando Bravo, Archbishop Emeritus of Managua, has accepted a request made in January by Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega to preside over the Peace and Reconciliation Commission, which is charged with ensuring the implementation of signed agreements with Nicaraguans who were affected by the civil war of the 1980’s.

During a joint press conference on Wednesday at the Unica Catholic University with President Ortega, Cardinal Obando said he agreed to lead the commission in his own name, “considering that the work for peace and reconciliation cannot wait,” and he denied claims that presiding over the commission would be a partisan or governmental job.  “This is not a partisan job but rather a job for the nation, especially for those who have suffered the consequences of the different conflicts,” he said.

In response to questions from reporters about the Holy See’s view of his role on the commission, Cardinal Obando limited himself to stating that Pope Benedict XVI, with whom he met recently, told him to “work for the reconciliation of the Nicaraguan family.”  

The Holy Father “wants me to work for reconciliation, that is the idea, to seek out reconciliation,” he said.  Last month, Cardinal Obando said he would “accept (the nomination) as long as the Holy See gave the green light.”

Collaboration from the bishops

Cardinal Obando also said that he has begun conversations with his brother bishops in Nicaragua in order to gain their input for the work of national reconciliation.

President Ortega said he had spoken with Bishop Leopoldo Brenes of Managua, who said the Bishops’ Conference is open to addressing the subject next week, when they gather for their general assembly.

According to Ortega, Bishop Brenes agreed to schedule a meeting with the bishops so that the president could explain all of the aspects of the reconciliation commission and make an official request for the bishops’ collaboration in the effort.

Ortega said he has also been in contact with the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Jean Paul Goebels, to keep him informed of the involvement of Cardinal Obando in the work of the commission, which he said would be completely “autonomous” and “independent of the government.”

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