Tegucigalpa, May 18, 2007 (CNA) - In statements to Carlos Polo, director for Latin America of the Population Research Institute, Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, said he agrees that Communion should be denied to politicians who publicly support abortion.
In an interview with Time magazine, Cardinal Maradiaga was asked, “Do you agree with the Pope’s statement that pro-choice Catholic politicians merit excommunication?” The cardinal responded by saying: “It is canon law that everyone who works for abortion is excommunicated. It’s not something the Pope invented. If you favor abortion, you are outside the communion of the Church. And it was necessary to say that. There are people in Mexico saying I am Catholic and I support abortion rights. This is a contradiction in its very essence. As a teacher of the Church, the Pope has a responsibility of teaching when something happening is wrong.”
Later he was asked: “Do you agree with bishops who deny giving Holy Communion to these politicians?” The cardinal replied: “This is a different point. For who am I to deny Holy Communion to a person? I cannot. It’s in the tradition of moral theology that even if I know a person is living in grave sin, I cannot take a public action against him. It would be giving scandal to the person. Yes, he should not seek [communion], but I cannot deny it from him.”
Nevertheless, in statements to Carlos Polo, reproduced exclusively by the Catholic News Agency, Cardinal Maradiaga, who is in Aparecida participating in the V General Conference of the Latin American Bishops’ Council, said his comments to Time magazine should be reformulated “in light of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith teaches in its document, ‘Worthiness to Receive Communion’.”
“A politician who publicly supports abortion, he excommunicates himself. It’s not question of receiving Communion or not; he has already done serious harm to the communion of faith of the Church, to the communion of moral life, and therefore that person himself is doing an act that is inconsistent with what he says he believes,” the cardinal said.
“That is, we’re talking about a person who has become a broken-off branch of the tree of life of the Church, a dry branch that has lost its vital sap and is doing something that is a lie. One who is against life and who is clearly opposed to the message of the Lord Jesus, as is an abortion supporter, cannot be in Communion with Holy Mother Church,” he stated.
“Therefore, if one uses the desire to receive Communion as a justification, it is the worst manner of doing so, because one is doing an act that contradicts what one says he believes,” the cardinal said.
“In addition,” he continued, “a recent declaration of the Holy See clearly states that when
all precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible, and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it.”
“This is the current law of the Church and it would be best if these people who know it do not try to receive Holy Communion because they are committing an act that is completely immoral and inconsistent with truth,” he said in conclusion.
Vatican City, May 18, 2007 (CNA) - Today in the Apostolic Palace of Castelgandolfo, shortly before his return to the Vatican this evening, the Pope received prelates of the Episcopal Conference of Mali. Benedict XVI called them to remain close to their flock, caring for the needs of priests, seminarians, and the laity.
The Pope called upon the bishops to be "zealous pastors who, as men of faith, guide the people of God with trust and courage, remaining close to everyone so as to engender hope, even in the most difficult situations."
Addressing the need for priests to remain spiritually grounded, Benedict said, contemplative and sacramental life are, “a real pastoral priority, which will help priests to respond decisively to the call to sanctity they received from the Lord and to their mission to guide the faithful on that same journey."
The Holy Father also reminded the Malian bishops of the need for the human formation of candidates for the priesthood. He called particular attention to how, “candidates' emotional maturity will help them to respond freely to a life of celibacy and chastity, a precious gift of God, and to maintain a firm and stable conscience throughout their lives."
The Pope also emphasized the need to form, "competent lay men and women to serve the common good", making them capable "of facing the daily challenges of the political economic, social and cultural fields."
Finally, the Pope expressed his satisfaction at the cordial relations that exist between the Catholic faithful of Mali and their Muslim compatriots. "It is legitimate," he said, "for each community to express its identity visibly, while maintaining mutual respect, recognizing the religious diversity of the national community and favoring peaceful coexistence at all levels of society. In this way it is possible to advance together, jointly committed to justice, harmony and peace."
Omaha, Neb., May 18, 2007 (CNA) - The College of St. Mary, in Omaha, Nebraska has decided to withdraw its invitation to Roberta Wilhelm, the scheduled speaker for Sunday's commencement out of concern that threatened protests might disrupt the ceremony.
The college had invited Ms. Wilhelm, who is the executive director of Girls Inc. in Omaha, to give the address. The controversy was caused by Girls Inc.'s national advocacy positions, which include statements on contraception, abortion and sexual orientation that are contrary to Catholic beliefs.
Last weekend, the college began receiving e-mails, faxes and telephone calls, some of which threatened to picket, demonstrate or shout down Wilhelm, said Sister Maryanne Stevens, the college's president.
The callers were distressed that someone who led a group that favors abortion was the commencement speaker at a Roman Catholic college. The Sisters of Mercy - an order of Catholic nuns - are affiliated with College of St. Mary.
"I decided it had the potential to mar our graduation ceremonies that are truly celebratory events for our students and families," Stevens said.
The e-mails, faxes and calls came after Fr. Damien Cook, pastor of St. Peter Catholic Church in Omaha, sent an e-mail Friday to a number of people in the area asking them "to do what you can in a respectful manner" to encourage the college to cancel Wilhelm's speech.
"Whatever the speaker's personal feelings, she works for and represents a corporation that works in direct opposition to our faith and the true health and good of girls and women," he wrote.
Fr. Cook said he was concerned that the college's speaker choice would tarnish its image as a Catholic institution.
The College of St. Mary was one of 12 Catholic colleges in the country this year with commencement speakers or honorees who have "taken public positions contrary to Catholic values or teaching," according to the Cardinal Newman Society. The society identifies its mission as renewing and strengthening the Catholic identity of Catholic colleges and universities.
Among other colleges on the list are Marquette University in Milwaukee and the Graduate School at the University of Notre Dame, which was cited for awarding an honorary degree to its commencement speaker, Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan.
Coleman, according to the society's Web site, launched the university's center for embryonic stem cell research and called on Michigan's legislature to reconsider a ban on cloning.
In his e-mail, Fr. Cook also cited a June 2004 statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops saying that the Catholic community and Catholic institutions "should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles."
Fr. Cook said he was pleased that Stevens listened and that the college changed speakers.
"I think it's a moot point now since they so graciously did that," he said.
Cook, who is director of the Bishops' Plan for Pro-Life Activities for the Archdiocese of Omaha, said he sent the e-mail on his own.
Stevens said she visited with Wilhelm personally on Monday.
The college, she said, recognizes that there is language on Girls Inc.'s national Web site that supports the legal right to an abortion. But the local chapter promotes abstinence, she said, and supports a consistent ethic of life by the way it works with young girls.
Stevens said the college chose Wilhelm because of the longstanding relationship between the college and Girls Inc. and because of the work Wilhelm has done for children and for girls.
Wilhelm said she understood the college's desire to keep the day's focus on graduates and their accomplishments.
"I understand and fully support what Dr. Stevens feels like she has to do," she said. "It's a difficult position to be in. And I respect that as the head of an agency that sometimes faces difficult decisions."
Konigstein, Germany, May 18, 2007 (CNA) - This past Friday, a proposal was floated by the U.N. envoy and former Finnish president Martii Ahtisaari's to grant Kosovo independence through a “phased transition to autonomy.” From the standpoint of the Church, there is only one option that will lead to peace and stability.
In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Bishop Dode Gjergji, the apostolic administrator of Prizren said, "For Kosovo there is in fact only one option -- independence. Otherwise there will be war. And we don't want any more war."
Nominally, Kosovo is still under Serbian rule. However, since 1999 it has been administered by the United Nations. Catholics make up only a tiny minority of around 60,000 out of a mainly Muslim total population of 1.9 million. "Psychologically we are constantly aware of our minority situation", says Bishop Gjergji, who has been head of the diocese of Prizren since December 2006. Yet he is convinced that the number of Catholics will grow. Many Muslims who still remember their Christian roots -- the so-called "crypto-Catholics" are returning to the Church. "As yet they are a relatively small group, but in the longer term this trend will increase."
The prelate emphasized, "We must get out of the sacristy and go out to the people and proclaim the Good News to them. The people of Kosovo are ready to hear this message". The bishop's motto is: "I wish to proclaim the Gospel to all".
Above all the Catholic Church wants to engage in the field of the media, for "we have become mute and outside the church walls we have no voice", as the bishop puts it.
Despite her minority situation, the Catholic Church in Kosovo is undertaking a mediating function between the various different ethnic and religious groups. Even the Muslims describe Bishop Gjergji as "our bishop". At the same time, however, the Catholic Church is entirely dependent upon outside help.
Bishop Gjergji is critical of the efforts of the Serbian government to oppose independence. "It is not our task to become involved in politics, but we Albanians are looking towards the future."
For young people especially, he believes, the decision as to the national status of Kosovo is an important one. "If everything is left hanging in the air, then one cannot plan any kind of future", he observes. Some 60% of Kosovans are under 35 years of age and many young adults are emigrating abroad. The Catholic Church is hoping that the clarification of the status of Kosovo will help to encourage young people to remain in the country.
As for the practical day-to-day life of the Catholic Church, however, little is likely to change, in the bishop's view. "We desire to live in peace in a peaceful country, and indeed we can already do this today. When there are problems, however, they are often blown up by the media." At any rate, Bishop Gjergji is hoping that after independence there will be a better climate for the ecumenical efforts between Catholics and the Serbian Orthodox, who likewise constitute a minority. According to media reports, the decision on the constitutional status of Kosovo is expected by the end of May 2007.
Washington D.C., May 18, 2007 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops have pledged to work with lawmakers to bring about federal immigration law that will “protect the basic human rights and dignity of persons and serve the national interest.” They are also calling on Catholics to pray for immigrants and those who are advocating for just immigration policy.
The bishops issued this message as the Senate announced a compromise immigration proposal. They expressed “significant reservations” about the compromise immigration proposal, but said it is important that the legislative process move forward, so that improvements can be made to legislation.
“Specifically, Congress should ensure that any final legislation contains a legalization program which is workable and includes family unity and a fair and realistic path to citizenship, a new worker program which provides participants a meaningful opportunity to obtain permanent residency, and the preservation of family unity as an integral part of the U.S. immigration system,” wrote Bishop Gerald Barnes in a statement. “We intend to pursue changes in these important areas.”
Bishop Barnes of San Bernardino is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration.
“We urge the congressional leadership to ensure that the regular legislative process is honored, and that amendments to improve the legislation are permitted and given due consideration,” Bishop Barnes said.
At the same time, the Catholic bishops’ Justice for Immigrants campaign is urging the nation’s 63 million Catholics to pray for changes in U.S. immigration law.
“A Million Prayers Initiative” asks Catholics to lobby and pray on behalf of immigrants nationwide, their families, and members of Congress between May 20 and 26.
“This is a most critical time in the comprehensive immigration reform debate with legislative solutions being proposed by both the President and Congress,” said School Sister of Notre Dame Jane Burke, manager of Justice for Immigrants.
“The U.S. Senate will be considering this legislation during the next two weeks. They need our prayers and need to know that we are calling for a just and equitable immigration reform bill,” she said. “Our voices are essential to the passage of this crucial legislation.”
Catholics are asked to pray a special Justice Prayer.
For information on the prayer campaign, go to: http://www.usccb.org/mrs/jfi/millionprayers.shtml.
Hartford, Conn., May 18, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Henry Mansell said he is considering all options, including a court challenge, to change Connecticut’s new law that requires all hospitals to provide emergency contraception to rape victims. The law has already been signed by Gov. Jodi Rell.
Catholic hospitals and officials are opposed to the new law because emergency contraception, used 72 hours after intercourse, could cause an abortion.
The archbishop reportedly spent over an hour in a meeting with the speaker of the house and the chairman of the human services committee yesterday. After the meeting, the archbishop said there is still a possibility for dialog about the Plan B law.
But Sen. Jonathan Harris of the Human Services Committee reportedly suggested that future talks would be futile. "I don't think there's more that we can do, I wish we could but I don't think there is," he was quoted as saying by WTNH (Hartford, CT).
Harris had presented Church representatives with a compromise to the law prior to its passage. The compromise would allow a third person to dispense the Plan B pill as opposed to Catholic hospital staff. A similar compromise is in effect in New York and New Jersey. But Archbishop Mansell has said this compromise is not acceptable.
The Archdiocese is considering the possibility of asking for the law to be changed through a technical adjustment, for which the deadline is June 6. If that route does not result in a change that accommodates Catholic values, then the Archbishop has said he will consider a court challenge of the new law.
Islamabad, Pakistan, May 18, 2007 (CNA) - Christians in Pakistan are seeking government protection after pro-Taliban militants sent letters to Christians, telling them convert to Islam or face violence, reported The Associated Press.
The letters were sent to about 500 Pakistani Christians in Charsadda, a town in the North West Frontier Province bordering Afghanistan. The letters told them to close their churches and convert by May 17 or be the target of "bomb explosions."
Some Christians have responded by fleeing. Others continue to live in fear, saying police are not taking the threat seriously.
Chaudhry Salim, a Charsadda Christian leader, said during a news conference in Islamabad that police have deployed only two officers at local churches. “This is the kind of security we are getting now," he said.
Shahbaz Bhatti, a prominent Christian leader and head of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, urged Muslim religious scholars to condemn the threats and said the federal government should take "concrete steps to provide protection," reported the AP.
Asif Daudzai, a spokesman for the provincial government, asked Christians not to panic, saying authorities were doing all they could to ensure their protection. “Christians are our brothers and sisters, and we will not allow any one to harm them," he told The Associated Press.
Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and other religious minorities make up about 3 percent of Pakistan's 160 million residents.
Los Angeles, Calif., May 18, 2007 (CNA) - The largest outdoor celebration of the Rosary in Southern California in nearly 50 years will take place at the Rose Bowl, Pasadena, on Friday May 19, 2007. The event was announced by Holy Cross Family Ministries and its local sponsor Family Theater Productions of Hollywood, CA.
“The Rosary Bowl carries forward the tradition and mission of the “Rosary priest,” Servant of God Father Patrick Peyton, to foster world peace and support the spiritual well-being of the family by encouraging daily family prayer, specifically the Rosary,” stated Holy Cross Father John Phalen.
The Rosary Bowl is also being sponsored by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Cardinal Roger Mahony encouraged all the faithful to continue devotion to Our Lady by attending the bowl. “The faithful of the archdiocese have long maintained a special intimacy with our Blessed Mother Mary, particularly under the title of Our Lady of the Angels,…I strongly urge all our pastors, the leaders of our parishes and schools, and individuals to unite in prayer, labor and sacrifice in helping organize our communities’ participation in this Rosary celebration.”
Aparecida, Brazil, May 18, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, said this week “the time has come to facilitate” access to the liturgy “according to the liturgical books promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962.”
“The Holy Father has the intention of extending to the entire Latin Church the possibility of celebrating the Holy Mass and the Sacraments according to the liturgical books promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962,” the Colombian cardinal said during a speech at the 5th General Conference of the Latin American Bishops’ Council.
“There exists today a new and renewed interest in this liturgy, which was never abolished and which, as we have said, is considered a treasure.” “For the same reason, the Holy Father thinks that the time has come to make this liturgy available to the faithful…making it an extraordinary form of the one Roman rite,” he said.
In this way, Cardinal Castrillon added, “the Holy Father wishes to conserve the immense spiritual, cultural and aesthetic treasures linked to the ancient liturgy. The recovery of this treasure is united to the current liturgy of the Church, which is by no means less precious.”
“This generous offer of the Vicar of Christ,” he noted, aims to put “all of the treasures of the Latin liturgy, which for centuries has nourished the spiritual lives of so many generations of faithful Catholics, at the disposal of the Church.”
Aparecida, Brazil, May 18, 2007 (CNA) - During a press conference at the 5th General Conference of the Latin American Bishops’ Council, the president of the Conference of Jesuit Provincials of Latin America, Father Ernesto Cavassa, SJ, expressed his hope that the theology of Father Jon Sobrino would in time be vindicated, and that therefore the notification of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith would be left historically outdated.
Earlier this year on March 14, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published a notification on some of the writings of Jesuit priest Father Jon Sobrino, stating that parts of his theology are “not in conformity with the doctrine of the Church.” The warning mainly addressed two works by Sobrino in which the divinity of Jesus is questioned, as well as Jesus’ knowledge of himself and the salvific value of his death. While the Congregation praised Sobrino for his concern for the poor, it said this option (the preferential option for the poor) should “exclude no one,” and that “the Church cannot express this option by means of reductive sociological and ideological categories which would make this preference a partisan choice and a source of conflict”.
In response to a question by an activist of the organization “Amerindia” about the censuring of the writings of Sobrino, Father Cavassa said, “The notification on Jon Sobrino is not a condemnation but a notification. They are very different. A notification is the Church hierarchy’s lowest category for publishing a statement on issues it disagrees with.”
A notification may signal “disagreement with some points of his theology, but it cannot say absolutely that the Church does not recognize Jon’s testimony. The notification explicitly says this,” Father Cavassa claimed.
“The notification says absolutely nothing about any sanctions that prevent him from teaching,” he continued. “It refers to some theological points in two of his works, which are debatable issues, disputed questions, most of which are not his own. These formulations in his works have been previously taught by other theologians for the purpose of determining whether they are or aren’t within the bounds of the faith of the Church. In most cases the response has been positive,” Father Cavassa stated.
Father Cavassa continued his comments on Sobrino saying, “This is not the first time that the hierarchy has notified a theologian of the Church about supposed errors or discrepancies. The theologians of the 1950s were themselves considered outside the Church’s orthodoxy. Ten or thirteen years later they were the theologians of the Council.”
He went on to compare Father Sobrino to the controversial Jesuit theologian Pierre Theilard de Chardin, who was also disciplined but who he said made “significant contributions” to the faith of Church. “The relationship between charism and institution is not new in the Church and will always be with us,” he said.
Asked by Catholic News Agency if he was saying that the Congregation was in error rather than Father Sobrino, Father Cavassa replied, “I don’t know if what I said can be interpreted that way. I don’t think that is the most accurate interpretation.”
After the press conference, Father Cavassa told Catholic News Agency, “There have been cases in which the Congregation was mistaken. I can’t say what will happen in the future. Can you?”
Aparecida, Brazil, May 18, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, announced at the 5th General Conference of the Latin American Bishops' Council that the World Meeting of Families 2009 will be held in Mexico City.
The cardinal made his announcement during his remarks on the family and the challenges and dangers it faces in Latin America. The World Meeting of Families last took place in Valencia, Spain, in 2006, and was attended by Pope Benedict XVI.
Madrid, Spain, May 18, 2007 (CNA) -Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Tarazona called on the faithful this week to vote in the May 27th elections and said the Christian must vote for measures that defend life and the family, respect religious freedom and the right to a just wage, and that are welcoming to immigrants.
“Let’s closely examine the proposals of each of the political parties in this election. One is not necessarily just as good as another. We should accept the results of the vote out of respect for the democratic system in which we live, but the Christian, based on his profound convictions of faith, should cast his vote for the person whose proposals are consistent with the Christian faith,” Bishops Fernandez wrote in his latest pastoral letter.
He said political policies should respect life in all of its states and that abortion “is against the Christian vision of man.”
He called for support for policies that promote childbirth and help families to have more children, as well as programs that assist the infirm and the elderly. “Life is sacred up until the last natural breath,” the bishop said.
He also called for respect for marriage and the family, saying the government should provide economic assistance to young couples and should favor policies that promote adoption.
Regarding religious freedom, Bishop Fernandez said the faithful have the right to practice their faith in private and in public and to pass it on to their children. Therefore he called on the faithful not to support “those who attack the Catholic faith in whatever way, those who do not respect the right of parents to choose the religious and moral education they desire for their children at home and at school.”
In conclusion, he addressed the right to dignified work and a “just wage.” Policies that encourage the welcoming of immigrants should be promoted, he said, “facilitating their assimilation into Spanish society” with appropriate respect for their own cultural background.
Rome, Italy, May 18, 2007 (CNA) - The editors of a Catholic website claim their site was brought down by Muslim hackers residing in Turkey.
The website — www.totustuus.it – was hacked May 10, but is again operational. Editors of the website, named after the motto of the late Pope John Paul II, believe it is a religiously motivated attack.
"In the past two months we had already suffered 70 attacks," David Botti told AKI. Botti is the president of the Totus tuus network. He told AKI that 80 percent of those attacks were carried out by Islamic hackers, and of those 25 percent were by Turks belonging to Turkhacks.com.
Botti said that the source of a hack can be determined by the hacker’s signature, for example a propaganda message with which they replace the original text. “The most frequent is the Islamic crescent symbol with words offending the Holy Father," explained Botti.
Botti said prayer, rather than technological protection systems, is the key to staving off further hacking. Readers, he said, need to pray for Europe.
Phoenix, Ariz., May 18, 2007 (CNA) - The Bishops of the Arizona Catholic Conference, in a statement released today, are speaking out in opposition to the death penalty in light of the pending May 22 scheduled execution of Robert Charles Comer.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix, Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, and Bishop Donald E. Pelotte of Gallup, NM, state that life in prison without parole is a means to punish criminals and protect society without resorting to capital punishment. “State-sanctioned killing, whether by unnecessary use of the death penalty or by the intrinsically evil actions of abortion and euthanasia, violates human life and dignity,” the Bishops said.
“There is no doubt that the state has an obligation to promote the common good by
punishing criminals and preventing the recurrence of crime. Furthermore, those who
commit brutal crimes such as murder are certainly deserving of a punishment proportionate to the gravity of their offense. However, we believe that the state should not respond to the violence of brutal crimes with the violence of capital punishment.”
The bishops also invoked the teaching of Pope John Paul II on the death penalty. “When there are means available to punish criminals and protect society from the recurrence
of crime (e.g., life in prison without parole), the use of capital punishment is both
unnecessary and undesirable. “Because these means exist, the use of capital punishment should be limited only to extremely rare situations where it is necessary to defend society (Evangelium Vitate, #56).”
Also of great concern, is the potential for the wrongful conviction of an innocent person. “Over the past two decades more than 200 people have been wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death in our country, only to be later released after DNA evidence proved their innocence.”
The full text of the statement from the Arizona Catholic Conference Bishops is available at www.azcatholicconference.org.