Vatican City, Jul 5, 2007 (CNA) - This morning in the Vatican, the Holy Father received the bishops of the Dominican Republic who have just finished their “ad limina” visit. The Pope’s message for the bishops was that they must work tirelessly to ensure that the “truth about Christ and the truth about man” penetrates all levels of Dominican society.
This task, said Benedict XVI, "not without difficulties, takes place among a people whose spirit is open and sensitive to the Good News." Despite the fact that in the Dominican Republic there are evident "symptoms of a process of secularization in which, for many people, God does not represent the source, the goal, or the ultimate meaning of life, in the end, as you well know, this people has a profoundly Christian soul."
Benedict said that first and foremost the family must be evangelized. He emphasized that the Church must work to ensure that "the family remains a real environment in which a person is born, grows up and is educated for life, and in which parents, in their tender love for their children, prepare them for healthy interpersonal relationships that incarnate human and moral values in the midst of a society so marked by hedonism and religious indifference."
After encouraging the bishops to urge the State to protect the family, the Pope told the prelates that he is aware of the threats that Dominican society is faced with. Currently there are people pushing for legalization of abortion, a large number of divorces, and groups seeking the recognition of homosexual unions.
Because Dominicans society cannot be abandoned to these evils, the Holy Father explained how to evangelize the culture. "In this task we cannot overlook the social communications media: radio, television productions, videos and computer networks can be very useful for a wider diffusion of the Gospel. This task devolves particularly upon the laity."
Benedict XVI also spoke about the formation of the laity saying, "adequate religious formation, so as to enable them to face the numerous challenges of modern society,” is necessary.
"At the same time, in accordance with ethical and moral norms, [the laity] must provide an example of honesty and transparency in the management of public affairs, in the face of the unseen and widespread blight of corruption, which at times even touches areas of political and economic power, as well as other spheres of public and social life."
New Orleans, La., Jul 5, 2007 (CNA) - The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the city of Slidell, Louisiana on Tuesday for displaying a painting of Jesus in its courthouse lobby.
The ACLU sued after the Slidell City Court refused to voluntarily remove the picture and a message below it that reads: "To Know Peace, Obey These Laws." The ACLU says the portrait — an image of Jesus presenting the New Testament — is a religious icon of the Eastern Orthodox branch of Christianity, reported The Associated Press. It claims the portrait violates the constitutional separation of church and state.
The suit was filed on behalf of an unidentified person who complained to the ACLU about the picture. The defendants in the suit are the city of Slidell, City Judge James Lamz and St. Tammany Parish, which partially funds the court, said the ACLU.
On Saturday, Lamz said he didn't believe the portrait violates the Constitution and the picture would stay up unless a federal judge ordered it removed, reported the AP.
Michael Johnson of the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian civil rights group representing the city and parish, noted that the painting has been on display at the courthouse for nearly a decade.
Johnson noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that similar displays in public places are constitutional.
Dublin, Ireland, Jul 5, 2007 (CNA) - The Irish pro-life organization Youth Defence is holding what is says will be the largest Irish pro-life event in fifteen years in Dublin this coming Saturday, 7 July. While abortion remains illegal in Ireland, a legal quandary remains because of the X case ruling in 1992 which has been interpreted to allow abortion in one specific instance.
On Saturday the 7 July, at 1pm, pro-lifers from all around Ireland will gather outside the main post office in Dublin. They will then walk to the Irish Parliament where they will be addressed by numerous pro-life speakers. Eoghan De Faoite, Chairman of the Rally Committee and leader of the Irish pro-life group Youth Defence, said that “this rally intends to send a strong message to the Irish government; ‘Keep Ireland abortion free’.”
Historically, two things have protected the unborn child from abortion in Ireland. First, the provisions of the 1861 Offences against the Persons Act, and second, a Pro-life Amendment to Ireland's constitution in 1983.
Unfortunately, a decision by Ireland’s Supreme Court in 1992 interpreted the amendment as allowing abortion in the case of suicide. This outraged the Irish electorate whose intention, in voting for the 1983 amendment, was to protect the unborn fully in all circumstances; and so they brought their voices to the streets.
In what was seen as hugely significant in keeping abortion out of Ireland, thousands of people attended four pro- life rallies in Dublin, during 1992, to make their voices heard. Those rallies stalled the political momentum to legalize abortion in Ireland.
Since 1992, even though the Irish people have had the anti-life Supreme Court interpretation hanging over them, not one abortion has been carried out in Ireland. Successive Irish governments, fearful of the backlash from Ireland's pro-life movements, have balked at abortion legislation. The pro-life lobby, who have remained extremely active since those four mass rallies in 1992, are now celebrating 15 years of keeping Ireland abortion-free.
Significantly, last week, only 80 people turned up for a pro-abortion demonstration in Dublin, which was addressed by Irish politicians. Eoghan De Faoite said that "it is striking that such a small number turned out. It makes it abundantly clear that the pro-abortion lobby in Ireland has very little support from the Irish people."
Brussels, Belgium, Jul 5, 2007 (CNA) - Belgian homosexual activists have brought charges against Bishop André-Mutien Léonard of Namur for homophobia.
Homophobia is a criminal offence in Belgium since the passage of the Anti-Discrimination Act of 2003.
In an April interview for the weekly Télé Moustique, the bishop is said to have described homosexuals as “abnormal” people.
According to Michel Graindorge, the lawyer for the homosexual activists, the bishop intended to “stigmatize” homosexuals, whose “identity and dignity is debased from the moment that the bishop considers them to be abnormal,” reported the Brussels Journal.
Graindorge warned about the dangers of stigmatization, such as “the fate the Nazis reserved for [homosexuals].”
The bishop said he never described homosexuals as “abnormal”. He said he was only referring to their sexual behavior, which deviates from the normal pattern.
“One has to distinguish between the person and his behavior,” he explained.
However, according to the Brussels Journal, the journalist who taped the interview claims that the bishop had been referring to the people rather than to their behavior.
This case is one of several that have begun to appear in Europe. This past January Christian Vanneste, a member of the French parliament, was convicted for homophobia by a French court for saying that, “heterosexuality is morally superior to homosexuality” and that “homosexuality endangers the survival of mankind.”
Caracas, Venezuela, Jul 5, 2007 (CNA) - President Hugo Chavez insulted Venezuela’s Catholic bishops on Tuesday, calling them "liars" and "perverts", after they questioned the openness of Venezuela's constitutional reform process.
Reform proposals are currently being drafted by a special committee appointed by Chavez. The committee has not made any of the proposed changes public. Members say they took an oath of confidentiality and cannot divulge details until their proposals are presented to lawmakers, reported The Associated Press.
But groups, including the bishops’ conference, are criticizing this closed-door process. "We don't think the constitution should be changed in a laboratory or within closed groups," Archbishop Ubaldo Santana, president of the bishops' conference, was quoted as saying earlier this week. "Rather, it should be something that involves the entire country."
Msgr. Roberto Luckert — one of Chavez's most outspoken critics — also told Globovision TV on Tuesday that he believes Venezuela is headed for "a military autocracy." Chavez has said that he wants to be president until 2021 or beyond, and has proposed indefinite re-election as part of the forthcoming reform.
Chavez said the country's Catholic bishops' conference had demonstrated ignorance by their comments.
"For the love of God, if you do it due to ignorance, reflect. If they do it for perversion, they better take off the robe," said Chavez. "They are either ignorant, perverse or perverts."
It is not uncommon for Chavez to use personal insults to ridicule his critics, including U.S. President George W. Bush, former Mexican President Vicente Fox and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Venezuela's National Assembly, which is controlled by Chavez's allies, will review the proposals next month. The reforms will later be put to a referendum.
Washington D.C., Jul 5, 2007 (CNA) - Fourteen Catholic members of Congress released a letter on Tuesday, calling on the country’s Catholic bishops to help end the war in Iraq. The letter urges the bishops to "mobilize Catholic opinion on this, one of the most critical issues of our time."
"If we understand the Catholic tradition correctly," the members of Congress wrote, "thoughtful Church leaders around the world do not believe that the war in Iraq meets the strict conditions for a just war or the high moral standards for overriding the presumption against the use of force. We agree and seek an end to this injustice."
The members asked to meet with key Catholic officials. They reminded the bishops that "throughout our nation's history, Catholics have been at the forefront of the fight for social justice.”
"As Catholic members of Congress, we stand in unison with the Catholic Church in opposition to the war in Iraq," said Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro in a statement. "Yet to attain the ideal of peace, we must not only speak the words, we must take action."
Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, director of the USCCB media relations office, confirmed with the Hartford Courant that the bishops’ conference received the letter.
"The bishops have voiced concern for the conflict in Iraq repeatedly since the war began and have repeatedly called for a responsible transition," she noted.
Konigstein, Germany, Jul 5, 2007 (CNA) - News has just been received that a group of Catholics in eastern Ukraine has become the target of a land dispute. Bishop Stanislav Padewski told Aid to the Church in Need that some elderly women were beaten and then dragged outside while were trying to pray in a church in Dnipopetrovsk.
The apparent cause of the abuse is an ownership dispute between a private company which claims to own the building and the parishioners. During the communist era the church was seized and then in 1998, it was sold to a private company.
Since then, the church has changed ownership several times and the current company that claims to own the property has resorted to violent means to expel the faithful who still insist that the church be returned to them.
The police were informed of the situation, but have failed to take any action.
The bishop said that the State has adopted the principle and tactics of "might is right", which has "nothing to do with civilized and democratic methods." He also mentioned that these "crude measures" were accompanied by threats from those in power, who were portraying the Catholic faithful as "criminals".
This type of situation is reportedly quite common in the former communist states, where the exchange of property is usually quite profitable for the authorities who tacitly approve of it and for the supposed owners.
Washington D.C., Jul 5, 2007 (CNA) - According to the pro-family activist Peter LaBarbera, what he calls "big gay money" is becoming a huge force in state and local politics in America. The pro-family activist is urging grassroots conservatives to offset the influence of these contributions that are being used to finance the campaigns of candidates who favor same-sex "marriage" by contributing themselves.
LaBarbera asserts that many Americans are unaware that pro-family lawmakers who support state marriage amendments are being targeted by wealthy homosexual donors. National Public Radio (NPR) reports that last year, wealthy homosexual activists "funneled millions of dollars into dozens of carefully selected campaigns." One of those donors was Denver software magnate Tim Gill, who according to NPR, targeted 70 state-level races in more than a dozen states.
That report says Gill's staff confirmed his launching of an "under-the-radar political giving campaign." It also names another major contributor -- philanthropist and Michigan billionaire Jon Stryker -- who was "inspired" by Gill's efforts. Their goal, according to NPR, was "to elect gay-friendly governors and state lawmakers."
LaBarbera, who is now director of the group Americans for the Truth About Homosexuality, points out that the media appears to have a double standard for covering this admitted outside influence in local and state elections differently than they have in the past.
"When the Christian evangelicals did it -- Ralph Reed and the Christian Coalition years ago -- the media was up in arms about 'Christian right stealth tactics,'" says LaBarbera; "but when the homosexual activists do it, somehow it's okay or they become good citizens when they use stealth tactics to unseat good pro-family, Christian lawmakers."
LaBarbera contends that if Christian activists were employing the same strategy today, members of the mainstream media would be wringing their hands in frustration.
According to LaBarbera, Americans do not like outside forces, especially homosexual activists, influencing local elections. "I don't think a farmer in Iowa is going to be too pleased to know that his pro-family representative was unseated by a homosexual stealth money strategy," he states.
LaBarbera also noted that homosexuals tend have a great deal of disposable time and money for political activity because they do not have children and their partners often provide them with a second income.
Konigstein, Germany, Jul 5, 2007 (CNA) - Despite the war-torn surroundings of nothern Uganda, priestly vocations continue to increase, said Fr. Cosmas Alule in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
“Currently there are 126 candidates living in the seminary, which is housed within the confines of a refugee camp. In the next semester there are expected to be 151. There is a still greater number of interested potential candidates, but the capacity of the seminary is limited,” said Father Alule.
Because the seminary is located within the camp, several people have suggested that it be moved to a safer location. But Father Alule believes that it is advantageous both for the refugees and for the seminarians for the seminary to remain within the camp. "We are not going to abandon the suffering; we want to show our solidarity with the people", he explained.
The rector believes that these future priests should share the lives of the ordinary people and "bear witness for Christ in the existing situation." And while it is true that every priest belongs to the Universal Church, he is nonetheless rooted in the concrete situation of his own people and society and it is here that he must bring the Gospel to the people, he said.
Fr. Alule is, in his own words, "optimistic" that the situation in the north of Uganda will continue to stabilise further. Although the peace deal between the government and the rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army still hasn't been officially signed, the situation has been quieter for the past year, he told ACN. The biggest challenge now for the Church, he believes, is to help those people who have lost all hope as a result of the war and to restore in them a sense of faith in a better future -- in short to be "a light for society".