Vatican City, Oct 15, 2007 (CNA) - The director of the Holy See’s Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, confirmed this weekend that a Vatican official has been suspended from the priesthood after he apparently confessed to homosexual practices on a television program.
Father Tommaso Stenico, who works at the Congregation for the Clergy, appeared on a documentary on October 1 in which the producers arranged for a young homosexual man who finds “blind dates” on the internet to carry a hidden camera and microphone on his visits with three homosexuals who claimed to be priests.
The three alleged priests appear on camera with their faces and voices distorted, but one of them arranged to the meet the young man at St. Peter’s Square and took him to his office at the Vatican. Vatican officials said the office was that of Father Tommaso Stenico of the Congregation for the Clergy.
On Saturday, Father Lombardi confirmed reports of the priest’s suspension and of the launch of an investigation. “His superiors are treating the situation with appropriate discretion, even if this person has made a mistake,” he explained.
“Vatican authorities must intervene with decisiveness and severity in response to behavior that is not compatible with priestly service and the mission of the Holy See,” Father Lombardi said.
Vatican City, Oct 15, 2007 (CNA) - Yesterday at noon, Pope Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with thousands of pilgrims who had gathered below in St. Peter's Square. The Holy Father’s message for the Angelus was taken from Sunday’s Gospel reading. He told the crowd that true healing is found through salvation and that this kind of healing more than health, it is a new life.
The Pope commented on the cleansing of ten lepers, of whom just one, a Samaritan, returned to thank Jesus for having cured him. "Complete and radical healing is 'salvation'," said the Holy Father. "Everyday language itself, by distinguishing between 'health' and 'salvation,' helps us to understand that salvation is much more than health: it is, in fact, new, full and definitive life. Furthermore, here, as in other circumstances, Jesus uses the expression: 'your faith has made you well.'
"It is faith that saves man," he added, "re-establishing him in his profound relationship with God, with himself and with others; and faith is expressed through gratitude. People who, like the healed Samaritan, know how to give thanks, show that they do not consider everything their due, but as a gift which, even when it reaches them through man or through nature, comes in the final instance from God."
Benedict XVI went on: "The leprosy that truly defaces mankind and society is sin; it is pride and egoism that generate indifference, hatred and violence in the human soul. This leprosy of the spirit which disfigures the face of humanity can only be healed by God, Who is Love. By opening their hearts to God, people who convert are internally healed from evil."
The Holy Father then turned his attention to the celebrations occurring in Fatima, Portugal to mark the apparitions of the Virgin Mary there from May 13 to October 13 in 1917. The Cardinal Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone, was on hand in Fatima on Sunday to preside at a celebration in the Pope's name marking that anniversary. "We ask the Virgin Mary," said Benedict XVI, "that all Christians may receive the gift of true conversion, so as to announce and bear witness coherently and faithfully to the perennial evangelical message, which shows humanity the path of authentic peace."
Ravenna, Italy, Oct 15, 2007 (CNA) - The 10th plenary assembly of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox, held in the Italian city of Ravenna last week, came to an end yesterday.
During the gathering, the Catholic and Orthodox members of the commission turned their attention to the theme of "the ecclesiological and canonical consequences of the sacramental nature of the Church - conciliarity and sinodality in the Church," and approved a joint document.
The commission also confirmed that the Russian Orthodox delegation withdrew from the meeting because of the presence of the Church of Estonia.
The Church of Estonia has been declared 'autonomous' by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, a status not recognized by the Patriarchate of Moscow." This happened "despite the fact that the Ecumenical Patriarchate, with the agreement of all the Orthodox members present, had offered a compromise solution, that of recording the non-recognition by the Patriarchate of Moscow of the autonomous Church of Estonia."
The theme of the next plenary session, the date and location of which are shortly to be decided, is: "The role of the bishop of Rome in the communion of the Church in the first millennium."
Vatican City, Oct 15, 2007 (CNA) - During a visit on Saturday to the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music, Pope Benedict XVI called on the Church’s leaders to ensure that the “aggiornamiento [updating] of religious music is done in continuity with the living tradition of the Church.”
After greeting and thanking the benefactors of the Institute, including its Grand Chancellor, Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, the Holy Father praised the Institute as a place where “numerous students, who come here from all parts of the world to receive formation in the disciplines of sacred music, return from to provide formation in their respective local churches.”
The Pope underscored the importance that Vatican II gave to sacred music, calling it “a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. The main reason for this pre-eminence is that, as sacred song united to the words, it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy."
"Precisely for this reason," he added, "the ecclesial authorities must undertake to guide ... the development of such an important form of music, not by 'freezing' its heritage but by seeking to combine the legacy of the past with the worthwhile novelties of the present, so as to achieve a synthesis worthy of the exalted mission [sacred music] has in the service of God.
"I am certain, "Benedict XVI concluded, "that the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music, in harmony with Congregation for Divine Worship, will not fail to contribute to an 'aggiornamento' ... of the precious traditions of which sacred music is so rich."
Sydney, Australia, Oct 15, 2007 (CNA) - In his recent book “God and Caesar,” the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, said a “common heresy of our times” is believing that Catholics can accept and practice contraception, using the “primacy of conscience” as a justification.
Taking a metaphor from Oxford professor Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, the cardinal called this belief that has spread among Catholics the “Donald Duck heresy,” referring to the Disney character who "knows it all", and "has an unshakeable conviction of self-righteousness." The self-indulgent duck, explains Pell is well-meaning but "his activity is often disastrous for himself and others."
The same thing happens with Catholics who practice and promote a disordered vision of human sexuality through contraception, abortion and the destruction of embryos.
With claims to "primacy of conscience," he said, “they falsely believe themselves in the right, while they thus distort the image of God which the Creator intended to convey in the fruitful sexual union of husband and wife.”
"Too many 'Donald Ducks' produce a 'feel good' society, which works to remove personal guilt, anything that would make people feel uncomfortable, and complacent self-satisfaction becomes a virtue," writes Pell. "Confession of sins is replaced with therapy, and self-reproach with self-discovery."
Cardinal Pell noted that the false conception of the “primacy of conscience” was the object of John Paul II’s 1993 encyclical Veritatis Splendor.
"Only truth, or the Word of God has primacy, and is the ultimate rule of action.” The individual conscience is necessary, but sometimes insufficient. “Even a genuine searcher for truth can be mistaken, sometimes with disastrous consequences," he added.
The book is a compilation of essays the Cardinal has penned over the years. In one essay which was delivered as a talk to the Linicare Conference in the UK in 2000, under the title "The Role of the Bishop in Promoting the Gospel of Life", the Cardinal warns that the Catholic Church would not grow unless the full teaching of the Church on life issues was promoted. "Tactical silence", as practiced by many bishops, would in fact stifle growth, he suggested.
Rome, Italy, Oct 15, 2007 (CNA) - “The Last Visionary of Fatima. My Conversations with Sister Lucia,” is the title of a new book by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, which reveals details of his encounters with the last survivor of the three shepherd children who were witnesses of the Marian apparitions in Fatima in 1917.
The book was released on September 21 at a reception hosted by the Pontifical Urbanianum University.
The cardinal’s encounters with Sister Lucia, who passed away recently, focused in detail on the miraculous events surrounding the apparitions, including the prophecies about the war and the future of Russia. They also address the controversy surrounding the “third secret” of Fatima, which was revealed by John Paul II in the year 2000.
Cardinal Bertone’s book includes a preface by Pope Benedict XVI, who was the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the time the "third secret" was revealed.
Sister Lucia died on February 13, 2006, at the age of 97. Her death came on the thirteenth day of month, as did the first apparition of Mary in May of 1917.
In 1948 she became a Carmelite nun at the Convent of St. Teresa in Coimbra.
In the year 2000, the two other witnesses of Fatima, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, who both died at a young age, were beatified by John Paul II.
Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 15, 2007 (CNA) - The Apostolic Nuncio in Mexico, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, said this week the “State has the duty to guarantee security for all citizens” in order to prevent such things as the death threats that Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera has been subjected to in recent weeks.
After a meeting with the Bishop of Cuernavaca and the city’s mayor, Archbishop Pierre said he was saddened by what has happened to the cardinal and said the State must guarantee the security of all Mexicans.
The nuncio’s statements came as Cardinal Rivera has been given police protection in response to a wave of death threats against him in recent weeks, including interruptions while he has celebrated Mass at the Cathedral.
The spokesman for the archdiocese, Father Hugo Valdemar, said the cardinal requested that the security at the Cathedral be increased, saying his greatest concern was for the safety of the people attending Mass each Sunday.
The governor of Cuernavaca, Marco Adame Castillo, said he supported the cardinal’s request and that the State should analyze the threats that have been made against him and respond accordingly.
Washington D.C., Oct 15, 2007 (CNA) - Deirdre McQuade, an official for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has criticized a recent study by the Allan Guttmacher Institute on global abortion rates for its circular definitions, inaccurate analysis, and advocacy of legalized abortion.
The study, "Induced Abortion: Estimated Rates and Trends Worldwide," was published in the October 13, 2007 issue of The Lancet. It was written by researchers from the World Health Organization and the Allan Guttmacher Institute, a research organization affiliated with Planned Parenthood.
Ms. McQuade argued the study began by defining 'safe' abortions as 'those that meet legal requirements' in countries with permissive abortion laws. She found this definition suspect: "...by this unusual definition, legal abortions are 'safe' even if they kill women as well as their unborn children." The study also defined illegal abortions as 'harmful,' even when women experience no medical complications, because the women have to violate the law. "This is a closed semantic circle into which no fact about real-life women can intrude," McQuade said.
She also criticized the Lancet's editorial, which claimed the United States' Mexico City policy had worsened the worldwide abortion situation. The Mexico City policy forbids federal funding of organizations that perform or actively promote voluntary abortions. Ms. McQuade explained that according to the study itself, worldwide abortion numbers had substantially decreased even during the years when the policy was not in force.
Ms. McQuade concluded with a pro-life appeal: “Lost in the authors’ ideological fog is the fact that abortion always kills; legal or illegal, it sometimes also kills women, especially when they are poor and have a terrible health care system. Promoting more abortions will not change this. Rather than pitting women and their children against each other, we need to stand in solidarity with both and focus on improving the quality of global health care.”
Sacramento, Calif., Oct 15, 2007 (CNA) - We seem to be having an impact on Planned Parenthood, 29th and B Street, downtown Sacramento, where we are holding our constant prayer vigil these 40 days.
When we arrived Monday morning, they had put a sign on the door saying "Closed for Staff Meeting" until after 10 a.m. With the doors locked, no loud PP radios to talk over, and no escorts to contend with, it was a great opportunity to talk with PP clients who showed up; many turned to us for help and information.
Tuesdays and Fridays are usually abortion mornings here. But thanks be to God, the next day --Tuesday -- the abortionist never showed up. Prayers are being answered!
Today, Planned Parenthood's parking lot was at 30% capacity most of the day.
I spoke with a grandmother who brought her teenage grandchild, Caitlin, to obtain birth control pills. It greatly struck me, upon seeing her granddaughter, that Caitlin does not know how precious she is in God's eyes. Please pray for them both.
A Hispanic couple also spoke with me after exiting the facility. The woman seemed overwhelmed, yet she had an openness about her. They had the "Before You Choose" brochure still with them. Please keep this couple in your prayers as well.
I dropped in at the nearby friendly gas station at 29th and E streets, where we store our vigil supplies. As I walked in, Kevin, the daytime cashier said, "Hey, you know I haven't been to church since I was about this high," as he stretched out his arm to show me a height about waist-high. "But my girlfriend asked me to go to church with her this past weekend and you know what? I kinda liked it. All I felt was love, with so many good people all together in one place."
Somehow, I wanted to give him something special to commemorate this event, but all I had with me was a “precious feet” pin. I gave him one and explained it was the exact size of a baby's feet in the womb at 10 weeks. He was very touched and thankful. Then I noticed three to four other customers in line, who saw and overheard our entire conversation. You just never know who may have needed to hear that!
We need more vigilers at 29th and B Street Planned Parenthood, particularly at night. Ideally we need three or four people for each shift to keep the place covered 24/7. Contact Chris Jonas at [email protected], telephone (530) 878-0598, if you can help fill these hours.
Story courtesy of California Catholic Daily.
Sacramento, Calif., Oct 15, 2007 (CNA) - California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed a same-sex marriage bill, the Associated Press reports.
The measure, proposed by Assemblyman Mark Leno, would have defined marriage as a union between two people, rather than between a man and a woman. Leno, a San Francisco Democrat, proposed a similar bill in 2005. It was also vetoed.
The Republican governor has pledged to veto all such bills. He said voters and the state Supreme Court should decide the issue. The California Supreme Court is likely to rule next year on whether the state's voter-approved ban on homosexual marriage violates the constitution.
In his veto message Governor Schwarzenegger voiced support for domestic partnerships that provide many of the rights and responsibilities of marriage.
Sacramento, Calif., Oct 15, 2007 (CNA) - California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has signed a special bill favored by Planned Parenthood to increase Medi-Cal rates for "family planning services."
The bill will result in an additional $3.2 million per year being spent on family planning services. It was signed the day before the deadline for the governor to pass or veto bills on his desk. The proposal was opposed by all but one Republican in the legislature.
In a September 14 letter to the governor, Senate Republican Leader Dick Ackerman wrote, “it is unclear why rates for family planning services should be singled out for an increase from among the entire universe of services which Medi-Cal covers, especially when the increase was proposed at the eleventh hour of the legislative session. This proposed rate augmentation is more appropriately considered during the regular budget process.”
Planned Parenthood affiliates launched a massive statewide publicity campaign to pressure Governor Schwarzenegger to sign the bill. Planned Parenthood's California branches typically end each year with fiscal surpluses.
Fatima, Portugal, Oct 15, 2007 (CNA) - One of the largest churches in the world was dedicated on Sunday in Fatima, Portugal one of the most popular Marian pilgrimage sites in the world.
The Church of the Holy Trinity, built to accommodate the estimated 5 million annual pilgrims to Fatima, can hold nearly 9,000 people. Its interior measures 130,000 square feet, containing five chapels, fifty confessionals, and a cafe. It will be decorated with an enormous mural of the New Jerusalem, and the walls will bear passages from the Bible in twenty-three languages.
Pope Benedict XVI delivered a live televised message to congregants on Sunday, the 90th anniversary of the final apparition of the Virgin Mary.
The Blessed Mother appeared to three shepherd children over a six-month period in 1917. She counseled prayers for those in danger of hell and for the conversion of Russia. She also conveyed a vision that some interpret to have prophesied the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II, who himself credited Our Lady of Fatima with saving his life.
Two of the children, Francisco Marto and his sister Jacinta, have been beatified. The third visionary, Lucia, became a nun and died two years ago.
The new church’s low-slung profile complements the existing basilica by not overshadowing the older structure.
Freetown, Sierra Leone, Oct 15, 2007 (CNA) - An association of various national bishops' conferences in western Africa has issued a communiqué encouraging Christian-Muslim dialogue as "the only way that we can truly cultivate respect for each other."
The English-speaking Episcopal Conferences of West Africa, which include Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana and Nigeria, issued the document from Freetown, Sierra Leone yesterday. The communiqué affirms Christian-Muslim dialogue as a way both to solidify common ground between the faiths and to mitigate controversies and violent conflicts.
The letter states that Muslims and Christians share similar "fundamental religious values," which include belief in the uniqueness of God, the need for prayer, almsgiving, fasting, and pilgrimage. The bishops cited similar sexual morality as a ground for dialogue, since both faiths share belief in the dignity of the family and both condemn promiscuity, homosexuality, prostitution, and abortion.
The bishops decried inter-religious violence and blamed the "bigotry, intolerance, militarism, and fundamentalism" on a tiny minority of Christians and Muslims. They further condemned both Christians who use violence to avenge perceived insults to Jesus and Muslims who use violence to avenge perceived insults to Mohammed. Government officials were cited for neglecting their duty to oppose violence, but clerics too were chastised: "For their part, many religious leaders remain silent in the face of violence and criminal activities perpetrated by these few members."
At the same time, the bishops recognized obstacles to Christian-Muslim relations. "What Christians concede to Muslims is not often reciprocated," they wrote. They also suggested that some Muslims wrongly identify the Christian Church with the West, thus blaming Christianity for the actions of Western governments. The bishops urged Christians not to give up on religious dialogue, but at the same time advised that they recognize the human limits of such efforts.
Further, the bishops cautioned that inter-religious efforts should not lead to "the watering down of our own doctrines to suit Muslims." They likewise advised that Christians should not expect Muslims to adopt Christianity as a requirement for interaction.
The conference’s report also credits collaboration between the two faiths for hastening the end of wars in the region and the beginning of peaceful elections.
Rome, Italy, Oct 15, 2007 (CNA) - The Syrian Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Basile Georges Casmoussa, has denied a report by the Aina news agency that four Iraqi priests kidnapped last Saturday have been released. “The two priests Father Pius Afas and Father Mazen Ishoa are still in the hands of their captors,” he said.
According to the Misna news agency, which spoke directly with the archbishop, the news of the release “is not accurate. The last contact with the kidnappers was yesterday evening (Sunday) when they called us on the phone and asked for a ransom payment of one million dollars—an amount that is not within our possibilities,” the agency reported.
“This morning we have called the kidnappers a number of times, but we have not yet received an answer. We have faith and we pray for the release of our two priests,” the archbishop said, adding that he was hopeful the priests would be released soon.
Pope calls for release
After the recitation of the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI referred to the news of the kidnappings. "Serious news of attacks and violence continues to arrive daily from Iraq," he said, "shaking the conscience of all people who have the good of that country and the peace of the region in their heart. Among this news, I learned today of the kidnapping of two good priests of the Syrian Catholic archdiocese of Mosul, who have been threatened with death.”
"I appeal to the kidnappers to release the two religious immediately and, in underlining once again that violence does not resolve tensions, I raise to the Lord a heartfelt prayer for their liberation, for all those suffering from violence, and for peace."
The two priests were kidnapped last Saturday at 4pm as they were traveling to the Church of Our Lady of Fatima in al-Faisaliya.
Father Pius Affas is professor of Biblical Studies at the local seminary and publishes the magazine “Christian Thought.” Father Mazen Ishoa was just recently ordained to the priesthood.
Dublin, Ireland, Oct 15, 2007 (CNA) - Ireland has experienced a dramatic increase in its wealth over the last several years. Along with this surge of income, a strange way of thinking has developed amongst some people that disassociates their bad behavior from its larger societal consequences. The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin described this thinking by mentioning that some people “use cocaine on Saturday and eat organic food on Sunday.”
Archbishop Martin pointed out that a double standard exists among the better-off in Ireland because they want to be self-indulgent and also believe that their actions don't have a wider impact on society. He explained that people don't see their sins as being contected to societal problems.
"There is a strange dichotomy in society that these two realities are not being linked," he told the Sunday Tribune. "People are being killed in one area of the city, and the cocaine is being used in another part. It is not a healthy thing.”
"There are two different realities in our society. You get people using cocaine on Saturday night and eating organic food on Sunday."
Expressing his shock at the level of violence in Ireland, he noted that this reflected a weakening of respect for human life.
"What's going on here?" he asked. "Every day there is another version."
In the wake of the escalation in violence, the archbishop reiterated his proposal for a national summit of community leaders to address violent crime. He has made this suggestion before, but it was rejected by the Prime Minister of Ireland Bertie Ahern.
Archbishop Martin, who took over from Cardinal Desmond Connell three years ago after living in Rome for 30 years, asked why it was the case in Irish society today that people who used cocaine for recreational purposes did not see any link with a 19-year-old being killed.
The Irish prelate was also asked by The Independent what his thoughts are concerning the refusal of Communion to politicians who support abortion. His response was that he hoped no politician would receive the Eucharist “as a photo-op for his own position.” He also suggested that Communion should be withheld from “people involved in exploitation and corruption, especially a drug baron known to have ordered somebody's killing”.
Philadelphia, Pa., Oct 15, 2007 (CNA) - While gaffes by the secular press covering religion are somewhat common and often humorous, they usually aren’t as bad as the Associated Press’ latest error. On Friday, AP reporter Nicole Winfield incorrectly wrote that Pope Benedict XVI supports therapeutic cloning.
The article accurately states that Pope Benedict XVI has asked the South Koreans not to resume embryonic stem cell research, now that the scandal caused by Hwang Woo-suk is receding from their collective memory. Hwang claimed to have cloned human embryos and was lauded as a national hero until his work was proved to be fraudulent.
At the end of Winfield's article, she states: "Benedict noted that the Vatican does not oppose -- and in fact encourages -- somatic stem cell research -- also known as 'therapeutic cloning', which uses human eggs specifically for research from which stem cells are harvested."
The National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) reacted to Winfield’s mistake saying, “This is false. Ms. Winfield has confused the terms. The Catholic Church does support "somatic" stem cell research, if by this Winfield means adult stem cell research. The Church is resolutely opposed to "therapeutic cloning," which is the production of a cloned human being solely for the purpose of destroying him or her in research.”
The AP was also taken to task for failing to pick up on a key point of the Pope’s address in their headline: "Pope to South Korea: No Stem Cell Research."
The NCBC pointed out that, “[i]f the Church encourages adult stem cell research, as Winfield notes, how can it be true to say that the Pope told the South Koreans ‘no stem cell research’?”
According to the NCBC, this is more than an editorial error, “This is a clear example of bias.”
“The media casts the Church's position in absolute terms, ignoring her careful distinction between licit and illicit forms of research.” The Pope has not told the South Koreans "no stem cell research." Rather, he has encouraged the pursuit of ethical stem cell research,” said the bioethics group.