Archive of July 13, 2007

No-fault divorce has led to three-fold increase in failed marriages in Spain

Madrid, Spain, Jul 13, 2007 (CNA) - The Institute for Family Policy in Spain said this week that two years after the country began allowing no-fault divorce, the number of failed marriages has more than tripled.

“The breakdown of the family has had a very negative development in Spain during recent years, in the last two years since the approval of no-fault divorce, the increase has been of such scope that, among other things, the number of divorces has tripled during this time,” the institute said in a report.

The report states that a martial separation occurs every 3.19 minutes in Spain, and that most separations end in divorce. More than 274,000 couples have separated since the law was passed.  More than 450,000 children are caught in the middle, and by 2010 for every marriage that takes place another will end in divorce.

The culture of a country is measured by the way in which it addresses problems and cares for the well being of families, the report stressed.  The duty to provide answers to the needs of married couples and families, it continued, is based on the need to “maintain the health and stability of marriages and families” and to soften the crisis and sufferings of those who are involved in difficult situations.

The institute proposed measures for addressing the problem of failed marriages in Spain, including the modification of the law on no-fault divorce, increase emphasis on therapy and counseling for troubled marriages and the creation of a congressional committee to study ways to help marriages.

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Vatican announces plans to become first "carbon neutral state" in the world

Vatican City, Jul 13, 2007 (CNA) - The Vatican is quickly moving to become the first “carbon neutral state” with its recent plans to switch the Paul VI audience hall to solar power and the initiative to plant a forest in Europe it announced yesterday.

The Holy See says that it will create a forest that will offset all of its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions for the year, according to the eco-restoration company Planktos that is working to help the Holy See achieve what it calls a "historic goal."

"The Holy See's increasingly creative environmental leadership is both insightful and profound," said Russ George, CEO of Planktos Corp. and managing director of its Hungarian forest subsidiary, KlimaFa, in a news release on Thursday.

In recognition of its leadership, the KlimaFa is donating the resources to help the Vatican plant the forest and become the "first carbon neutral sovereign state" in the world.

According to the press release from Planktos, the new Vatican Climate Forest will be created in Hungary's Bükk National Park. Its dimensions will be determined by the Vatican's 2007 energy usage and the success of its current emission reduction efforts.

"We believe this climate forest initiative clearly reflects the Vatican's deep commitment to both environmental healing and the welfare of the poor," said David Gazdag, KlimaFa's managing director in Budapest.

"Besides their local ecological and global climatic benefits, these projects offer many rewarding new eco-forestry jobs to struggling rural communities and increasing eco-tourism employment opportunities as these beautiful woodlands mature," he stated.

George also noted that, “Not only is the Vatican steadily reducing its carbon footprint with energy efficiency and solar power, its choice of new mixed growth forests to offset the balance of its emissions shows a deep commitment to planetary stewardship as well. It eloquently makes the point that eco-restoration is a fitting climate change solution for a culture of life."

In a July 5th ceremony announcing the forest plans, Cardinal Paul Poupard, the head of the Pontifical Council for Culture said, "As the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, had recently stated, the international community needs to respect and encourage a 'Green
Culture,' characterized by ethical values.”

The Pope also gave a biblical reflection on caring for the environment saying, “The Book of Genesis tells us of a beginning in which God placed man as guardian over the earth to make it fruitful. When man forgets that he is a faithful servant of this earth, it becomes a desert that threatens the survival of all creation.”

However, not everyone is satisfied with the Vatican’s plans to become “more green.” Mr. Iain Murray, senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told Cybercast News Service he doubted the new program would go far enough to satisfy what he called "the environmental ultras," who had recently decided "that trees don't cut it when you're offsetting."

"To the Church of Green, the Vatican will remain heretical," Murray added.

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Missouri sees decidedly pro-life shift in last 15 years

Kansas City, Mo., Jul 13, 2007 (CNA) - A new study reveals that public opinion in the trend-setting state of Missouri has shifted strongly in the pro-life direction.

The study, conducted by Overbrook Research in Illinois, looks at public opinion and abortion in Missouri between 1992 and 2006 and is authored by Christopher Blunt and Fred Steeper.

In 1992, 34 percent of Missouri voters described themselves as "strongly pro-choice". In 2006, this figure dropped to 23 percent. The percentage of citizens polled who described themselves as "strongly pro-life" rose from 26 percent to 36 percent in the same period.

Blunt and Steeper note that the most dramatic shift is among the young people they polled. In 1992, those under age 30 were the most strongly pro-abortion (39%), and the least strongly pro-life (23%). In 2006, 36 percent of this same age group described themselves as pro-life.

The authors hypothesize that this shift among the 18- to 29-year-olds is related to the ascendance of partial-birth abortion during their lifetime as the issue's dominant frame.

This is also the generation for whom fetal ultrasound images have become ubiquitous, increasing the sensitivity of many to the possible humanity of the unborn child. Furthermore, these voters grew up with the realization that they themselves could have been aborted if their parents had chosen differently.

The attitudes of 30- to 49-year-olds have also shifted. In 1992, 27 percent of women and 23 percent of men in this age group described themselves as "strongly pro-life"; in 2006, they increased to 38 percent and 34 percent respectively.

Blunt and Steeper also noted that 56 percent of "strongly pro-life" voters in 1992 identified themselves as Republicans and 33 percent as Democrats. In 2006, the numbers were 62 percent and 25 percent respectively.

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Catholic sexual abuse crisis shows signs of fading

Washington D.C., Jul 13, 2007 (CNA) - The Roman Catholic Church in the United States is starting to move out of crisis mode five years after the sex-abuse scandal broke, according to an Associated Press report.

"I think the crisis mode is over, and I think that's a good thing," Robert Bennett, a Washington lawyer told the AP. Bennett is a former member of the National Review Board, which was formed by the U.S. bishops in 2002 to deal with the scandal.

While dioceses continue to receive and settle claims of sex abuse by priests, there are signs to support the claim that the crisis is fading.

The AP report notes that number of clergy sex abuse claims received by Catholic bishops and religious orders in the U.S. declined in 2006. This is the second consecutive year of decline. Furthermore, the new claims involve mostly decades-old events.

It also notes that donations to diocesan annual appeals fell slightly as the scandal spread, then jumped 13 percent in 2006, including in Boston, where the scandal first broke.

In addition, a survey conducted in October 2005 found 74 percent of Catholics were either "somewhat" or "very" satisfied with U.S. bishops' leadership, up from 57 percent in January 2003.

Furthermore, while the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) continues to press for reforms in the Roman Catholic Church, it faces a budget deficit and declining membership. To help stem the declines, it has expanded its lobbying efforts to deal with such issues in other churches as well.

"People had predicted early on the credibility of the bishops would be wounded forever," Fr. James Heft, director of the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies at the University of Southern California, told the AP. “There is a way in which things move on. In general, I think people are willing to believe there have been positive steps taken, and life moves on to other issues."

Robert George, director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University, said U.S. Catholics have generally been able to separate the failures of Church leaders from Church teachings. Some thought that the crisis would lead Catholics to reject the Church, but George notes that didn't happen.

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Board approves cell-phone tower on church property against some parishioners' concerns about porn

Chicago, Ill., Jul 13, 2007 (CNA) - Schaumburg, Illinois village officials approved plans Tuesday to place a telecommunications antenna on the roof of a Catholic community center, despite concerns that it could promote the spread of pornography, reported the Chicago Tribune.

Village trustees voted unanimously to allow the construction of a brick enclosure that would conceal an antenna several feet high. The community center belongs to St. Matthew Catholic Church, located in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

A few members of the church raised a moral objection, arguing it could become a conduit for wireless customers to send and receive pornography. But other parishioners urged the board to approve the project.

Telecommunications towers on church properties are not uncommon. However, new cell-phone antennas and towers usually spark concerns among parishioners about health, safety, and aesthetics. Officials with the Archdiocese of Chicago said this is the first time anyone has raised concerns about the content that would pass through the technology.

The telecommunications tower would bring $20,000 into the parish budget each year.

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Zimbabwean political crisis ‘threatens lives’ says Archbishop

Harare, Zimbabwe, Jul 13, 2007 (CNA) - As talks between Zimbabwe’s ruling party and the opposition resumed in South Africa this week, a leading cleric has warned that Zimbabwe’s political and economic situation has reached "life-threatening proportions.”

Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo, who has emerged as one of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s most vocal critics, has said that regional political intervention is urgently needed. He says there is almost no fuel in the country, and every day people must search for a loaf of bread.

According to a report by the Angola Press, the archbishop accused President Robert Mugabe’s government of not taking responsibility for the deepening crisis.

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Pope writes letter for the Feast of Patron of Italian Forest Rangers

Rome, Italy, Jul 13, 2007 (CNA) - Made public today was a letter from Benedict XVI to Bishop Maffeo Ducoli for yesterday's Feast of St. John Gualbert, patron of the Italian Forest Rangers.

Yesterday, in the church of the Virgin of the Snows at Pra Mirino, Bishop Ducoli presided at a Eucharistic concelebration attended by members of the Forest Rangers from the provincial headquarters of Belluno. Pope Benedict recalled the feast with fondness writing that it, "has particular significance this year because it coincides with the 20th anniversary of the visit my predecessor John Paul II made to that church, so beloved by the inhabitants of this splendid region."

"This is an appropriate occasion for me to express my appreciation and affection for the Forest Rangers, certain that they will seek to undertake their activities in a spirit of service so as to remain close to the people and to protect as best they can the richness of nature, which is a gift from God to everyone."

St. John Gualbert was from a Florentine noble family. When his brother Hugh was murdered, John tracked down the killer and found him on Good Friday. Upon seeing his brother’s killer, John received a vision of Christ on the Cross, which he took as a sign to pardon the killer, and convert to Christianity. He did both.

Against his family objections, he became a Benedictine monk at San Miniato del Monte monastery. He also founded and built by hand the monastery in Vallombrosa, Italy near Friesole in 1038. The rule of his order was an austere form of the Benedictine Rule, which included an order of lay brothers, and received papal approval in 1070. He is reported to have had the gift of prophecy and was known for his great charity.


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New Vatican doctrinal statement is to provide clarity so dialogue can be possible, Cardinal Kasper says

Vatican City, Jul 13, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, Cardinal Walter Kasper, said this week the new statement by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Questions on certain aspects of the doctrine on the Church,” “says nothing new, but rather expounds and explains in a synthetic way, the position which the Catholic Church has held up to now.”

In response to negative reactions by some Protestant leaders, Cardinal Kasper said the document is “an urgent invitation to continue in serene dialogue” and that “no new situation exists and therefore there is no objective reason to be resentful or to feel mistreated.  All dialogue presupposes clarity about the different positions,” he said.

He noted that many Protestant leaders have recently called for ecumenical dialogue with clearly defined positions.  “The present statement expounds and proclaims the Catholic position, that is, the issues that from a Catholic perspective unfortunately still divide us. This is not a limitation but rather it favors dialogue,” the cardinal said.

“A close reading of the texts clearly shows that the document does not say that Protestant churches are not churches, but rather that they are not churches in the proper sense, that is, they are not churches in the sense in which the Catholic Church understands the term church.  This is totally obvious to anyone with a certain amount of ecumenical formation,” he added.

“When the statement Dominus Iesus came out, I said the Protestant churches are churches of another kind.  This does not contradict the formulation of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as some Evangelical reactions tried to show.  On the contrary, I sought out an appropriate interpretation of which I am convinced even today, especially because Catholics today still speak of Protestant churches,” the cardinal continued. 

“The declaration by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith does nothing more than show that we use the word Church, attributing to it a meaning that is not completely the same.  Thus the declaration allows us to move towards greater clarity and consequently towards the process of dialogue,” he said.

“The declaration is not a step back regarding the ecumenical progress that has already been achieved, but rather it is an effort to resolve the ecumenical tasks that lie ahead,” Cardinal Kasper stated.  “These differences should motivate us and not discourage us simply because we call things by their names. At the very least, the declaration is an urgent invitation to continue in serene dialogue.”

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Church only wants peace for Cuba, says new CELAM president

Havana, Cuba, Jul 13, 2007 (CNA) - This week the Latin American Bishops’ Council (CELAM) is meeting in Havana, Cuba for their 31st Ordinary Assembly. During the meeting the newly elected president, Archbishop  Raymundo Damasceno Assis, said that the Church only seeks peace for Cuba and that “the people should decide about their future.”

Speaking to the Efe news agency, the archbishop of Aparecida said, “What we desire for Cuba is that it always have peace, prosperity, that the people…can decide about their future, their path in the history of the Latin American continent, always seeking out integration.”

Although he avoided assessing the situation that is currently facing Cuba, Archbishop Damasceno said, “It’s a problem that must be posed to the local Church, we can only accompany from the outside…. We have a very superficial knowledge, at least I do as I am no expert in international politics,” he said.

“The Church is present in Cuba, she is working. The Church in Cuba is alive, her presence is felt in the dioceses and in the parish communities,” and she works to carry out “her main objective, which is a spiritual religious objective but with much life.”

Archbishop Damasceno was elected president during the Ordinary Assembly of CELAM, which was held for the first time in Cuba. He succeeds Cardinal Francisco Errazuriz of Santiago, Chile.

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Diocese of Getafe in Spain asks soccer team to pull offensive TV promo

Madrid, Spain, Jul 13, 2007 (CNA) - The Diocese of Getafe has called for a TV commercial for the local soccer team to be taken off the air for ridiculing the Catholic faith.  The spot encourages fans to financially support the team, telling them that fanaticism for sports is better than the faith.

In the commercial, Abraham, Moses, Adam deny their devotion to God and say they would only sacrifice themselves for the soccer team.  The most offensive portion is at the end when the Crucified Christ is shown with the phrase, “My team comes first.”

In a press release, the Diocese of Getafe noted the “general bad feeling” caused by the commercial and that most people considered it to be “irreverent and blasphemous.”  The diocese said it hoped those responsible for airing the commercial would use “common sense” and pull it off the air.

Speaking to Europa Press, Marcial Cuquerella, president of the Observatory for Religious Freedom, said the commercial is an example of the “banalization of the history of Christianity” and attacks not only Catholics but also “all those who have their roots in the Bible, from the Jews to the Protestants.”

Officials with the Getafe soccer team have acknowledged the commercial is controversial but they do not consider it offensive.  Despite having received complaints, team officials told “La Razon” the commercial was simply “an exaggeration, and we understand that some might find it irreverent, but our intention was not to offend anyone. The commercial has to be seen as a metaphor, in an artistic sense.  It really was not done in bad faith,” they said.

Angel Torres and Lucas Paulino, who are in charge of the team’s publicity and created the spot, said they did not consider it offensive.  They called it “an exaggeration” and said the idea behind the commercial was, “If you are going to sacrifice yourself, you do it for your team.”

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