Vatican City, Apr 18, 2007 (CNA) -
Thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square today to attend Pope Benedict XVI’s weekly General Audience and catechesis. The Holy Father discussed the great Father of the Church, St. Clement of Alexandria, who emphasized the need for a harmony between faith and reason to achieve an intimate union with God.
The Pope recalled that Clement was born in the mid second century, probably in Athens, whence "the great interest for philosophy which would make him one of the flag-bearers of dialogue between faith and reason in Christian tradition." He later moved to Alexandria, but abandoned the city during the persecution of 202-203 and died in Cappadocia in 215.
His most important work is a trilogy that has provided "effective accompaniment to the spiritual maturation of Christians," said the Pope. The first part is "an exhortation addressed to those beginning the journey of faith" in which "the Logos, Jesus Christ, exhorts mankind to start decisively down the road of Truth."
In the second part of the trilogy "Jesus Christ becomes a pedagogue, in other words educator of those who, by virtue of Baptism, have already become children of God." And in the third part, Christ is "the Master Who presents the most profound teachings."
In this way "the Clementine catechesis provides a step-by-step accompaniment to the progress of catechumens and of baptized so that, with the two 'wings' of faith and reason, they may attain an intimate knowledge of the Truth that is Jesus Christ. Only this knowledge of the Person Who is truth, is 'true gnosis.’”
"Clement returns to the doctrine which holds that man's ultimate goal is to become like God. This is possible thanks to the connatural similarity with Him that man received at the moment of the creation, and by which he is already [made in] the image of God. This connatural similarity makes it possible to know the divine realities, to which man adheres primarily through faith." Then, "through the practice of virtue, he can develop to the point of contemplating God."
"Two virtues adorn the heart of the 'true gnostic,' ... freedom from the passions," and love "which ensures intimate union with God." Thus "the ethical ideal of ancient philosophy, in other words freedom from the passions, is redefined by Clement and conjugated with love in the constant process of assimilation to God.”
In this way Clement “creates the second great opportunity for dialogue between the Christian message and Greek philosophy.”
“For him,” Pope Benedict noted, “the Greek philosophical tradition, almost like the Law for the Jews, is an area of 'revelation', both being paths leading to the Logos."
This Father of the Church, the Pope concluded, "can serve as an example to Christians, to catechists and to theologians of our time" whom John Paul II urged in his Encyclical "Fides et Ratio" to " recover and express to the full the metaphysical dimension of truth in order to enter into a demanding critical dialogue with (...) contemporary philosophical thought.”
Arlington, Va., Apr 18, 2007 (CNA) -
Catholic faithful and leadership across the United States and around the world continue to respond to the tragic events which occurred Monday at Virginia Tech University.
Dioceses and parishes have offered prayers, Masses, and Holy Hours for the repose of the souls of the deceased and those who mourn them, after a gunman opened fire on campus, killing 32 students and professors before turning a gun on himself.
Prayers surged forth as faithful learned of the callous slaughter on Monday morning. In addition to the messages of spiritual support issued by Pope Benedict XVI and Richmond, Virginia Bishop Francis DiLorenzo, several Catholic leaders have issued statements and led prayer services.
Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde, who shepherds the diocese which covers northern Virginia, urged the faithful to pray for victims and families of the Virginia Tech tragedy, yesterday. “I join countless others across the Commonwealth [of Virginia] in praying for those killed, the wounded, the Virginia Tech campus community, and families and friends of the students,” Bishop Loverde said.
“I also am praying for the soul of the person responsible for this heinous act,” the bishop added.
“I commend all the victims of this unspeakable violence and their families to the Lord of Life and assure them that our diocesan family of Arlington, especially our clergy, offer their prayers and support in this time of grief and need.”
In addition to offering Mass on Tuesday for the victims and families himself, parishes in Bishop Loverde’s diocese have organized nearly 100 prayer services, Holy Hours, and Masses for those affected. Thousands of Virginia Tech students hail from the Arlington Diocese and some 325 current VT students attended Catholic schools in the Diocese.
Bishop Walker Nickless of Sioux City, Iowa also addressed the faithful of his diocese, recalling the tremendous grief he experienced while he served as a Denver priest during the tragic killings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.
The bishop, who served at a parish in neighboring Lakewood and who, as Vicar General of the Denver Archdiocese, had confirmed several Columbine students, said that upon hearing about the Virginia Tech tragedy, his mind turned immediately to “my family and friends in Colorado at the time of the Columbine shootings.”
Bishop Nickless offered his heartfelt prayers for the families of the victims and their families of the Virginia Tech massacre and recalled that the source of such “all too common” tragedies is despair.
The answer to despair, the bishop emphasized, is hope. “Christ says again and again from the Cross, from the tomb, and from the glory of the Resurrection: It does not have to be this way.”
“The insidious voice of Satan in the world tries always to convince us that we have no choices, that we are indeed trapped by our past and our limits. When we wound someone else, or when they wound us, if we do not have hope, the only balm for the wound becomes a greater wound inflicted on someone else. Vengeance is the fruit of Satan’s pride,” Nickless lamented.
“In Christ’s Passion and Resurrection, however, vengeance is defeated. Forgiveness becomes possible, and from forgiveness grows a greater healing. Hope, the possibility of healing our deepest wounds, begins and ends with the Cross of Christ.”
Urging the faithful to pray for the souls of those who have died, Bishop Nickless also insisted that change can only come about if Christians and Catholics witness to the hope and forgiveness of Christ. “Our Christian, Catholic faith is supposed to shine in the world,” the bishop said. Our lives must teach others that hope is possible, because of faith and love, in Jesus Christ.”
“The ‘culture of life and love’ is precisely the culture of hope, because only hope in the possibility of forgiveness forces us to recognize the dignity of others who share our frail human condition.”
Washington D.C., Apr 18, 2007 (CNA) - In a stunning victory for life, the Supreme Court of the United States today upheld a 2003 law passed by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush, which bans the procedure known as partial-birth abortion.
In a 5-4 decision the justices ruled that the 2003 law does not violate a woman’s right to procure an abortion and, as such, is in line with the court’s precedent set by 1973 decision in Row v. Wade.
The opponents of the act "have not demonstrated that the Act would be unconstitutional in a large fraction of relevant cases," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion.
The court accepted arguments on behalf of the legislation which claimed that the procedure, which involves partially removing the child then crushing or cutting its skull, qualifies as infanticide and not as abortion.
According to the AP the cases constitutes the first time the court banned a specific procedure in a case over how - not whether - to perform an abortion.
The decision found President Bush's two appointees, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, siding with the majority. Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia also were in the majority.
All five of the majority-voting Justices are Catholic.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, led the dissenters against the majority. She was joined in her descent by, Stephen G. Breyer, as well as David H. Souter and John Paul Stevens.
Ginsburg wrote that, "Today's decision is alarming,” claiming that the ruling, "refuses to take ... seriously" previous Supreme Court decisions on abortion.
However, in his Majority opinion Kennedy noted that “The Act allows a commonly used and generally accepted method, so it does not construct a substantial obstacle to the abortion right.”
The Justice also referenced medical testimony that the Partial-birth procedure is never medically necessary to save the life of a mother and said there was “medical disagreement whether the Act's prohibition would ever impose significant health risks on women.”
However Kennedy also noted that the Act can remain in place even, “when medical uncertainty persists...The Court has given state and federal legislatures wide discretion to pass legislation in areas where there is medical and scientific uncertainty.”
Kennedy said the Court was assuming that the federal ban would be unconstitutional “if it subjected women to significant health risks.” He added, however, that “safe medical options are available.”
In 2000, the court with key differences in its membership struck down a state ban on partial-birth abortions. Writing for a 5-4 majority at that time, Justice Breyer said the law imposed an undue burden on a woman's right to make an abortion decision.
The Republican-controlled Congress responded in 2003 by passing a federal law that asserted the procedure is gruesome, inhumane and never medically necessary to preserve a woman's health. That statement was designed to overcome the health exception to restrictions that the court has demanded in abortion cases.
Pro-life leadership from around the country has already praised the court’s decision.
Fr. Frank Pavone, voiced the support of his group Priests for Life noting that “the United States Congress, and the vast majority of state legislators and American citizens, have made it clear over the last decade that this procedure - by which a child is killed in the very process of delivery - has no place in a civilized society.”
"We are grateful to all who worked so hard to pass this law and to educate the public about this unspeakably violent procedure," Fr. Pavone said.
Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), who serves as Co-Chairman of the Bipartisan Pro- Life Caucus and is a strong advocate for the defense of life, also praised the decision, stating, “Finally, the High Court has found its voice and used its authority to defend helpless children and their vulnerable mothers from the violence of abortion.”
“Abortion methods either chemically poison a child to death or rip, tear, dismember, and vacuum the brain of the defenseless baby,” Smith boldly added. “ There is absolutely nothing whatsoever benign, compassionate, or just about a violent act that utterly destroys the life of a baby - it is a gross violation of human rights. Scrutiny must be brought to bear on the methods. The discussion of partial-birth abortion begins that process.”
“Women deserve non-violent, life-affirming, positive alternatives to abortion," Smith said, noting that, “Since 1973, almost 49 million babies have been slaughtered by what is euphemistically called choice.”
Dr. Paul Schenck, Executive Director of the National Pro-life Action Center on Capitol Hill, pointed out that with the ruling the Supreme Court has made only the first of several necessary rulings. “In its opinion, the Court today has begun to right a terrible wrong,” Schenck said. “Partial Birth abortions, as testimony in the lower courts showed - and oral argument in the Supreme Court confirmed, is equivalent to infanticide.”
The procedure, he said, “is an immoral, medically unnecessary act that should be condemned not only by this Court, but every court and legislature in the country. The Court's majority has upheld the rejection of these acts against innocent children at the very threshold of their births. Their decision is an encouraging demonstration of moral fortitude.”
Troy Newman, leader of Operation Rescue, called the decision, “another in a string of recent victories for the pro-life movement.”
"We are seeing a remarkable decrease of in the number of yearly abortions,” Newman said, “and an amazing increase in the number of closed abortion mills. In addition, polls are showing that America is becoming more and more pro-life, especially among the younger generations.”
“This is the first legal crack in the crumbling Roe v. Wade foundation, and is the first, necessary step toward banning the horrific practice of abortion in this nation,” he said.
London, England, Apr 18, 2007 (CNA) - The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says the number of doctors refusing to carry out abortions on the grounds of conscience is rising.
While the medical college has warned that this trend threatens to "plunge the abortion service into chaos", journalist Melanie McDonagh proposes that the college take heed of these doctors’ views.
“The fact that more doctors are refusing to carry them out on the grounds of conscience seems to me like an unexpected outbreak of morality in a profession which has become scarily cost-driven in the past decade,” wrote McDonagh in The Telegraph.
Doctors are avoiding abortions, says McDonagh, “not just because it's undemanding, but because it stinks.”
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service, which carries out a quarter of all abortions is calling on the government to do more to “motivate doctors to train in abortion.”
McDonagh says it is yet to be seen if the government will respond affirmatively to abortion providers by making abortion part of the new core curriculum for doctors-in-training, which is to be introduced in August.
“Instead of treating the rebel doctors as a problem, why not listen to them? If increasing numbers of doctors don't want anything to do with abortion, it's worth considering not how best to make them conform, but whether they might be right,” says McDonagh.
McDonagh also notes that each abortion can cost between £300 and £500. This is a huge expense for the government given that there are more than 190,000 abortions in England and Wales per year, she says. She suggests some this money “could be better spent on the kind of education that might reduce the number of abortions.”
Chicago, Ill., Apr 18, 2007 (CNA) - The child welfare system in Chicago was shocked this week with the news that the foster care program, run by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago will shut down June 30th after a $12-million lawsuit payout led the agency's insurer to drop its coverage.
The child care program, established in 1921, is one of the oldest and largest child care programs in the state. In the 1960s, Catholic Charities advocacy prompted the state to take on foster care, leading to the creation of Department of Children and Family Services.
Erwin McEwen, acting director of DCFS, told the Chicago Tribune that losing the Catholic agency will have “a greater impact on the system in the long run.”
Walter Ousley, chief operating officer for Catholic Charities, said the agency tried to find other insurers to cover the foster care operations, but none was willing to take on the risk. He told the Tribune that it took Catholic Charities months to come to its final decision.
Catholic Charities has 156 employees in its foster care program, and Ousley said he intends to help most of them find jobs with other agencies, keeping as many as possible working with the children they now serve. The 900 children currently in its care will be absorbed by other child care agencies.
Ousley said the agency's insurance company began to review its contract after Catholic Charities settled a $12-million lawsuit alleging that three children were abused by their foster parents, reported the Tribune.
Catholic Charities agreed to the settlement five years after the suit was originally filed. But the agency and its insurance carrier disagreed on the amount the company should pay, delaying the resolution and ultimately forcing Catholic Charities to pay part of the settlement. Ousley declined to name the insurance carrier.
, Apr 18, 2007 (CNA) - Catholic League president Bill Donohue has launched a campaign against Planned Parenthood Golden Gate and its recent “Safe is Sexy” television ad that features a young couple being interrupted from having “unprotected” sex by their guardian angels.
The ad, which will appear on MTV, VH1 and FX, shows a sloppy-looking male angel eating popcorn at the head of the bed and watching the couple in delight. Then, his female counterpart appears imploring him to do something. He accesses a TV remote and rewinds the scene of the couple in bed. This time, the woman asks her male partner if he has any protection, to which he exclaims, “Yeah, of course.” She responds, “Amen!”
“Given the moral hollowness of Planned Parenthood, it is not surprising to learn that it is now in the business of hijacking religious imagery to pander its sex-without-consequences message,” said Donohue.
“Ironically, while PPGG is ripping off Guardian Angels, the California chapter of Planned Parenthood is lobbying to defeat the Missing Angels Act,” noted Donohue.
The Missing Angels Act would require the issue of a birth certificate when stillbirth occurs. The act is being promoted by women who have experienced stillbirth. Currently, all states are required to issue a death certificate for a stillbirth; they also require the family to bury or cremate the baby.
“What really galls Planned Parenthood is the fear that the bill would help the pro-life movement by acknowledging the humanity of the unborn child,” said Donohue. “The bill says the fetus must have advanced beyond the 20th week of gestation.”
Des Moines, Iowa, Apr 18, 2007 (CNA) -
Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani told about 1,000 GOP activists in Des Moines on Saturday that Republicans must get past social issues, like abortion, if they are to win the next federal election.
“Our party is going to grow, and we are going to win in 2008 if we are a party characterized by what we’re for, not if we’re a party that’s known for what we’re against,” the former New York mayor was quoted as saying in the Des Moines Register.
According to the newspaper, Giuliani said Republicans can win the next election if they nominate a candidate committed to the fight against terrorism and high taxes, rather than a pure social conservative.
“Our party has to get beyond issues like that,” Giuliani said, a reference to abortion rights, which he supports.
It was Giuliani’s second trip to Iowa, where he leads in early polls.
West Des Moines Republican Linda Robel, who supports Giuliani, told the newspaper she’s concerned that the abortion issue is “dividing this party so badly that we may not be able to elect a Republican president.”
Vatican City, Apr 18, 2007 (CNA) - In greetings at the end of today's general audience, the Pope made particular mention of Angola, remarking how 400 years ago, during the pontificate of Paul V, the first black ambassador from a Christian kingdom in Africa came to Rome. That ambassador, the representative of the Kingdom of the Congo (modern-day Angola), was Dom Antonio Emanuel Ne Vunda, cousin of King Alvaro II.
"I invoke the blessings of God upon the entire nation," said the Holy Father, "that each individual may contribute to consolidating the peace that was achieved five years ago, and that promised to give a voice to the people and to institute authentically democratic life. I ask everyone to persevere in the work of reconciling hearts that still bleed for the wounds of war, and I express my joy at the reconstruction in progress, as I remind the religious and civil authorities of their obligation to favor the poorest. God bless Angola!"
Vatican City, Apr 18, 2007 (CNA) - "Dialogue in airport chaplaincies as a response to terrorism" is the theme of the 13th world seminar of Catholic chaplains and members of civil aviation chaplaincies, due to be held in Rome from April 23 to 26.
According to a communiqué made public today "the seminar, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, aims to support and encourage the pastoral efforts of those who concern themselves with this sector of human mobility."
As an introduction to the work of the seminar, Archbishop Angelo Amato S.D.B., secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, will present some "philosophical and theological" reflections on the subject of evil.
Experts from the United Nations and from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) will explain strategies "to protect airport structures and workers, as well as passengers and the general public."
"The seminar," the communiqué goes on, "aims to contribute towards countering terrorism through ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue in the world's airports" where people from various Churches and ecclesial communities and other great religions work, and where people from different cultures and nationalities come together. In this context, "in order to help participants to discover the paths of dialogue," Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, will speak on the subject of "inter-religious dialogue to counter terrorism," and bishop Brian Farrell L.C., secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, on "ecumenical collaboration in relation to the threats of terrorism."
The program of the seminar also includes the testimony of two chaplains: Fr. David Baratelli of the airport of Newark who will recount his experiences during and immediately after the attack on the World Trade Center in New York, and Fr. Paschal Ryan of Heathrow, who will talk about the discovery of plans for an attack against that airport.
Baghdad, Iraq, Apr 18, 2007 (CNA) - Officials from the district of Dhora in Baghdad have reported that an Islamic fundamentalist group has threatened to kill Christians who do not convert to Islam.
Iraqi journalist Latif Al Saadi explained, “This is another example of the complicated situation in Iraq. It’s not the first time that the Aina movement led by Moqtada Al Sadr has adopted such a tactic, because already when Iraqi Prime Minister Al Maliki met with President Bush on February 14 of last year regarding security, Al Sadr’s group threatened to withdraw from the government.”
According to Iraqi sources, this Islamic extremist group also issued a fatwa demanding Christian women wear veils and prohibiting them from wearing any kind of cross around the neck. The fatwa also allowed the confiscation of the possessions of Christian families that have fled.
Amnesty International has called on the European Union and the United States to take “concrete and urgent measures to help Iraq, in order avoid facing a major humanitarian crisis in the Middle East.”
Vatican City, Apr 18, 2007 (CNA) - The Holy Father’s agenda is always full of activities dealing with serious and even grave issues. Nevertheless, when he meets with Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope enjoys spending a few minutes discussing soccer and good humor.
According to an interview the Cardinal granted to the RAI television network, his meetings with the Pontiff often begin with a joke or with some talk of sports.
On the Pope’s birthday, Cardinal Bertone said that before speaking about “much more serious and grave matters about the Church and the world,” the Pope shared joked with him and commented about an upcoming soccer championship.
According to the Cardinal, Benedict XVI “is vivid and spontaneous like a child” and he stands out most for “his greatness and simplicity.”
“Those who meet him for only a moment during the audiences take note of his penetrating eyes, his ability to listen, to always say the right thing, as if he were a life-long friend,” the Cardinal said.
Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 18, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the College of Catholic Lawyers of Mexico, Armando Martinez Gomez, criticized Mexican lawmakers this week for their “hatred for the Church” and for insulting Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City over his defense of human life.
According to the Notimex news agency, the Cardinal did not hold his normal Sunday press briefing “in protest over the aggression and repression of his freedom of expression by Mexico City lawmakers.”
“We have attacks above all on human rights and on the freedom of expression, and for this reason the Cardinal is not speaking today in protest of the repression against him and all members of the clergy by lawmakers,” explained Martinez, who is also legal counsel for the Archdiocese of Mexico City.
Martinez said lawmakers have displayed open anticlericalism as well as hatred of the Catholic Church in their attempts to legalize abortion in the Mexican capital. He noted that law provides that the only proper democratic channel for voters to address the issue of abortion is through referendum, and that 20,000 of the 36,000 signatures required by Mexican law for a referendum to take place have been collected so far.
Martinez also recalled the exaggerated reaction of local and federal lawmakers in Mexico to the comments on abortion made by Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, during a recent visit to the country.
Nevertheless, he pointed out, other foreign individuals such as Italian political scientist Giovanni Sartori and Spanish philosopher Fernando Savater have commented about Mexican politics and yet they were not criticized.
Lima, Peru, Apr 18, 2007 (CNA) - In an interview with the Catholic News Agency, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz of Santiago, president of the Latin American Bishops’ Council (CELAM), underscored that one of the objectives of the 5th General Conference of CELAM is to awaken in Catholics the missionary spirit that is “dormant” in many believers.
In commenting on the importance of the upcoming meeting, the Chilean Cardinal said, “For a long time this was a continent with the good fortune of being evangelized, with the good fortune that many missionaries from Europe, the United States, and Canada came to our lands and we became accustomed to receiving people and receiving help but not to awakening our own missionary spirit and becoming more or less Catholics.”
“The Catholic spirit of going out to others and speaking to them of Jesus Christ was very dormant in many countries: If we are all Catholics why, for what reason am I going to go out and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ?” the Cardinal told CNA, emphasizing that “what we would like is for there to be a great awakening of the missionary spirit in our Church. We are thinking of concluding the 5th Conference with a Great Continental Mission.”
Cardinal Errazuriz noted the challenges that are facing Latin America, such as the defense of life and of the family, the environment and other issues, and he lamented that there is a lack of Catholics engaged in resolving the great problems of the world and in bring their convictions into politics, the media and other areas.
He said that in preparation for the 5th Conference, the bishops of Latin America are reflecting on how to be better disciples and missionaries, finding inspiration as well in the reflections on the subject of different movements in the Church, “so that the bishops will be in union with the lives of the faithful of our Church.”
Denver, Colo., Apr 18, 2007 (CNA) - The Colorado Catholic Conference, which is supported by the Archdiocese of Denver and Dioceses of Colorado Springs and Pueblo, has written a letter to Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, urging him not to sign a new bill that would make possible homosexual adoption, against the will of the people.
The Catholic Conference had joined efforts to amend House Bill 1330 and solve some of the many difficulties the legislation presents for adoption agencies, such as those run by Catholic Charities.
The bill, they say, “fails to recognize the intricacies of adoption law and processes, and therefore is not in the best interests of children or the people of Colorado.”
“House Bill 1330 was drafted in a manner that did not take into consideration the many voices, groups, and organizations who are directly involved with family life matters and adoptions,” the organization said in a statement yesterday. “Input from adoption agencies, such as Catholic Charities, was not sought during the drafting process of this legislation.”
Furthermore, the Catholic Conference said, “House Bill 1330 seeks to circumvent the clearly expressed will of Colorado voters who clearly rejected Referendum I in November of 2006.” Referendum I, which would have similarly allowed same-sex couples the possibility of adopting children was rejected by a majority of Coloradans during a popular vote.
Bill 1330, which passed the Colorado State Senate last week now rests on the desk of Colorado Governor Bill Ritter. The Catholic governor’s spokesman, Evan Dreyer, told the AP that Ritter is inclined to sign the Bill despite the bishops’ urging otherwise.
“This legislation, if it becomes law,” the Catholic Conference warned, “will have a negative impact on the state of the adoption process in Colorado for years to come.”