Archive of November 14, 2007

Scottish bishop attacks inaction preserving anti-Catholic laws

Edinburgh, United Kingdom, Nov 14, 2007 (CNA) - Bishop Joseph Devine of the Diocese of Motherwell harshly criticized British Prime Minister Gordon Brown for failing to pledge the reform of Britain's anti-Catholic laws, The Times reports.

In a letter to Downing Street, Bishop Devine accused the Prime Minister of compromising his beliefs in justice, virtue, and respect, saying he had "broken faith" with Britain's five million Catholics.

The bishop demanded that "a firm timetable" be set to reform the 1701 Act of Settlement and that the government pledge that Catholics would no longer be victims of state-sponsored sectarianism.

The Act of Settlement was originally introduced to secure Protestant succession to the British throne by enshrining anti-Catholic measures into law.  It forbids the heir to the throne from marrying a Roman Catholic.

In Scotland the law is seen as legitimizing anti-Catholic prejudice.

Bishop Devine said that the Labor government's sanction of continued discrimination against Catholics “is an affront to civilized society and serves only to encourage the suspicion that the demons of our past remain at large where we might least expect to find them.”

“I have the depressing feeling that if this legislation had discriminated against other sections of society and religious groups there would be justifiable outrage no doubt with government quite properly in the vanguard of the campaign to overturn such a prejudiced Act,” he continued.

The Act of Settlement's repeal would be a complicated affair because each country in the British Commonwealth would have to repeal the law individually.  If some countries did not repeal the bill, the British throne could be split.  Were the present heir Prince William to marry a Catholic, he could only become King over countries that had repealed the act.

Bishop Devine claims that all the leaders of the Scottish Parliament's political parties have agreed to the repeal campaign, with the exception of the Labor Party leader Wendy Alexander.

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Illinois religious sister pleads "no contest" in 1960s sex abuse case

Milwaukee, Wis., Nov 14, 2007 (CNA) - A religious sister who taught in Chicago-area Roman Catholic schools for more than three decades pleaded no contest Monday to molesting two teenage boys at a Milwaukee elementary school in the 1960s, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Sister Norma Giannini, 79, was accused of dozens of incidents of sexual contact with a twelve-year-old and a thirteen-year-old boy when she was an eighth grade teacher and principal at St. Patrick's School in Milwaukee.

Nikola Kostich, the sister’s attorney, explained the no-contest plea: "She is basically saying that the prosecutor has enough evidence to find her guilty."

Kostich said Giannini didn't plead guilty out of concern her admissions could be used in possible civil lawsuits against her religious order, the Sisters of Mercy, and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Victim Gerald Kobs, now 53, expressed relief at Giannini’s plea. "It's very hard to describe. It took so long," he said. "It's close to the end for us, and I can't wait for sentencing.”

Sister Giannini was able to be prosecuted more than forty years after her crime because she moved from Wisconsin before the six-year statute of limitations for indecent behavior with a child expired.  Under Wisconsin law, a perpetrator's time living out of state does not count against the statute of limitations.

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Cardinal George speaks about his presidency

Baltimore, Md., Nov 14, 2007 (CNA) - On Tuesday afternoon in Baltimore, Cardinal Francis George held a press conference on his upcoming tenure as president. The cardinal addressed a range of questions among which were how he sees his role as president, the sex abuse scandal and the withholding of Communion from politicians.

Describing his leadership style as one that is more of discernment than visionary, Cardinal George also noted that his role is not like that of the president of the United States, rather, he is “the president of the conference, not the ‘Bishop of the United States.’”

A controversy has been brewing over the cardinal’s election to the presidency of the conference because of claims that the Church has not done enough to solve the sex abuse crisis. Cardinal George addressed those accusations and the proposed legislation in Illinois to suspend the statute of limitations for clerical sex abuse. The legislation is “a moot point in Chicago because we’ve taken every allegation that has come forward …a few years ago I settled an allegation that took place in 1937,” the cardinal said.

The withholding of Communion from public officials who act contrary to Catholic teaching also was brought up during the press conference. Cardinal George explained that he sees three areas that must be considered when discussing the issue of withholding Communion. First, priests and bishops need to work to properly form the consciences of the laity, especially those who are public officials. Second, he pointed out that the canons on withholding communion refer not to the bishop and his responsibility for communion but to the minister. Finally, he noted that if the refusal of communion does take place, it should not detract from worship.

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National Right to Life endorses "best-positioned" Thompson for president

Washington D.C., Nov 14, 2007 (CNA) - The National Right to Life Committee has endorsed former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson as the candidate most likely to beat abortion-rights supporter Rudy Guliani, the Associated Press reports.

"While there are various polls, and some are up-and-down, the overwhelming consensus has been that he is best-positioned to top pro-abortion candidate Rudy Giuliani for the Republican nomination," the group's executive director, David N. O'Steen, said at a Washington news conference.

O'Steen argued that the National Right to Life endorsement was of greater importance to the race than recent endorsements from prominent conservatives, such as televangelist Pat Robertson's endorsement of Giuliani or Moral Majority co-founder Paul Weyrich’s endorsement of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

"This is an endorsement by an organization representing groups throughout the country, 3,000 chapters, and it just can't be compared to individual endorsements," O'Steen said.

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U.S. Bishops support "responsible transition" in Iraq

Baltimore, Md., Nov 14, 2007 (CNA) - The U.S. Catholic Bishops' Conference on Tuesday released a statement calling for a responsible transition of power in Iraq in preparation for a gradual American withdrawal. 

"As the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops gathers in Baltimore, our thoughts and prayers are with our military personnel in Iraq, their families, and all the suffering people of Iraq," the statement begins.

Bishop Thomas Wenski, of the Diocese of Palm Beach, Florida, chairman of the bishops' Committee on International Policy, summarized the statement:  "We don't advocate for retreat. Neither do we advocate staying the course. We advocate for responsible transition" that takes into account the humanitarian crisis that the war has precipitated, he said.

The statement itself explained the place of the bishops in the discussion of Iraq policy, saying "we do not have specific competence in political, economic and military strategies and do not assess particular tactics, but we can, as teachers, share a moral tradition to help inform policy choices. Our Catholic teaching on war and peace offers hard questions, not easy answers. Our nation must now focus more on the ethics of exit than on the ethics of intervention."

"The grave moral concerns we and others raised prior to the war now give way to new moral questions," the statement declared.

The moral questions the bishops perceived included how to minimize further loss of life, how to achieve the best result while doing the least harm, how to evaluate the financial costs and global consequences of the war and occupation, and how to counter religious sects and ideologies that support terrorism.

The bishops voiced support for Iraqi Christians in particular, declaring "the suffering of the Christian community has a particular claim on our hearts and consciences. We remain in solidarity with the suffering Catholic Church in Iraq, and welcome with joy the naming of Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel-Karim Delly of Baghdad to the College of Cardinals by our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI."

The Iraqi refugee situation was also mentioned.  Two million refugees have left the country, while another two million have been internally displaced.  The bishops encouraged commitments to policies that would ease refugees' plight.

"Iraq’s future stability is related to the stability of the region," the bishops said.  They endorsed a just peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a means to help stabilize Iraq.

Those who serve in the American military were also to be supported.  "Our concern for human life and dignity extends to the members of our own military. We support those who risk their lives in the service of our nation and recognize their generous commitment," the statement read.

The bishops reminded policymakers to take into account the effects of wartime duties on military personnel and their families, while not forgetting the obligation to address the human, medical, and social costs of military action.

The statement also affirmed the right to both complete and selective conscientious objection to military action.

Bishop William Skylstad, outgoing president of the bishops' conference, summed up the statement's objectives:  "We hope that this [statement] really pushes forward strongly a call for responsible transition. For someway, somehow to move forward into a transitional situation where there is investment and support for the refugees and displaced people within Iraq. All of those are humanitarian crises that need to be addressed. And for us to delay any longer our timing, even longer than a year, I think is unconscionable."

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Colorado Court OKs pro-life ballot initiative to expand definition of personhood

Denver, Colo., Nov 14, 2007 (CNA) - The Colorado Supreme Court on Tuesday released a decision approving a pro-life group's ballot initiative to restore legal personhood to human beings from the moment of conception.

"We fully expected this positive decision from the Colorado Supreme Court. We are pleased that they supported the Title Board's previous decisions. Plans to begin our petition drive are underway," stated Kristi Burton, spokesperson of Colorado for Equal Rights.

Colorado for Equal Rights is seeking to pass an amendment expanding the definition of "person" in three parts of the Colorado Constitution.  The new definition will define "person" to mean a human being from the moment of fertilization.

Opponents tried to forbid the group's petition, arguing the amendment it advocated dealt with more than one issue.  However, the state supreme court ruled the amendment was in fact a one-subject issue.  The Colorado Constitution restricts ballot initiatives from addressing more than one subject.

Colorado for Equal Rights must now gather 76,000 signatures to put the initiative on the November 2008 ballot.

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Pontifical council addresses care for elderly

Vatican City, Nov 14, 2007 (CNA) - At a press conference today, located in the Holy See Press Office, the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care addressed the theme of its annual conference: “Pastoral care in the cure of sick elderly people.”  The prelates discussed how the conference will address ways to care for the elderly spiritually, biomedically and socio-politically.

"In the world today," said Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, "there are 390 million people over the age of 65 and it is expected their numbers will increase to 800 million by the year 2025. Five hundred million people live in countries with a life expectancy that exceeds 60, while 50 million people live in countries where the expectancy does not exceed 45. Sierra Leone in Africa, for example, has an expectancy of 39 years."

Faced with statistics such as these, said the cardinal, "we asked ourselves how can we offer better pastoral assistance to these people, given the great importance of life in its final stages?"

During the forthcoming conference, said the president of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, experts from 20 countries will analyze the demographic situation, and the main illnesses, both old and new, in the context of globalization, as well as the origins of such illnesses from an individual, technological, scientific, socio-political and ecological viewpoint.

Another aspect due to be studied, said Cardinal Lozano, is care for the sick in the light of Sacred Scripture, of the writings of the Church Fathers and of the history of the Church.

The conference will also include reflections on this form of pastoral care from the standpoints of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and of contemporary post-modern culture.

Participants will also debate the steps that must be taken in the pastoral care of sick elderly people from the religious (catechesis, education in the faith, Sacraments) and biomedical (research, drugs, nutrition, lifestyle) perspectives. In socio-political terms, they will consider how to tackle this theme through the mass media, and examine national and international healthcare systems, economic, scientific and technological resources, nutritional policies and public health.

Finally, Cardinal Lozano indicated that the question will also be considered from the point of view of families and the attitude they should assume towards their sick and elderly members, with particular emphasis on the spiritual attention that must be offered to them especially through the Sacraments, prayer and visits.

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U.S. Bishops move to help form consciences as 2008 election draws near

, Nov 14, 2007 (CNA) - A new document concerning the duties of Catholic voters has been overwhelmingly approved at the Baltimore meeting of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops this morning. Many of the bishops expressed their belief that this is document is a great improvement over teachings from past years.

Titled "Forming Citizens for Faithful Citizenship," the document is an update to past conference statements of the same name.  Unlike previous years, this version underwent multiple revisions and was brought before the whole bishops' conference for approval. The bishops approved the document with 97.8 % in favor and only three votes against it.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn led the presentation of the document to the bishops' conference.  He said the document takes its inspiration from Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical "Deus Caritas Est," where the Pope says that the Church “wishes to help form consciences in political life.”

The bishop emphasized that following those words was their goal.  "This document is not about bishops and politicians," he said, "it’s about helping Catholics form their consciences."

At the presentation of the document one bishop asked if the scandal of pro-abortion politicians receiving Holy Communion was addressed in the document.  Bishop DiMarzio answered that the question had already been answered twice in previous "Faithful Citizenship" documents, to which the latest document referred its readers.

The document itself said that with a proper foundation, "Catholics are better able to evaluate policy positions, party platforms, and candidates’ promises and actions in light of the Gospel and the moral and social teaching of the Church in order to help build a better world."

"Faithful Citizenship" explained that conscience was not a justification for doing what one wants, nor a mere feeling, but instead the voice of God revealing the truth to us and calling us to do good.  "Conscience always requires serious attempts to make sound moral judgments based on the truths of our faith," it said.

The document briefly mentioned various voter guides distributed to voters in election years, but recommended that Catholics look to their bishops for proper formation.  "We encourage Catholics to seek those resources that are authorized by their own bishops, their state Catholic conferences, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This statement is intended to reflect and complement, not substitute for, the ongoing teaching of bishops in our own dioceses and states," the document read.

The document also rebuked partisanship and warned of its potential to corrupt the conscience:  "As Catholics, we should be guided more by our moral convictions than by our attachment to a political party or interest group. When necessary, our participation should help transform the party to which we belong; we should not let the party transform us in such a way that we neglect or deny fundamental moral truths."

"Faithful Citizenship" emphasized that a person’s conscience motivates one not just to avoid evil, but also to do good.  As examples of positive action mandated by conscience, the document said "The moral imperative to respond to the needs of our neighbors--basic needs such as food, shelter, health care, education, and meaningful work--is universally binding on our consciences."

But the document did not neglect to list some political evils that should always be avoided:  "Abortion, racism, the use of the death penalty, resorting to unjust war, the use of torture, war crimes, the failure to respond to those who are suffering from hunger or a lack of health care, or an unjust immigration policy-these are all serious moral issues that challenge our consciences and require us to act."

The bishops' document also warned of the effects of political decisions on voters' and politicians' spiritual welfare.  "It is important to be clear that the political choices faced by citizens impact on general peace and prosperity and also may affect the individual’s salvation. Similarly, the kinds of laws and policies supported by public officials affect their spiritual well-being."

"Faithful Citizenship" reiterated support for the right to life, the dignity of the human person, action supporting both the family and the community, and the importance of balancing rights and responsibilities.  It explained the "preferential option" for the poor and vulnerable, calling all people to solidarity with one another.  The document also spoke of the dignity of work, and the rights of workers.  Touching on environmental issues, it also examined the duty to care for God's creation.

Expressing his overall satisfaction with the new document Bishop Morlino of Madison, WI said, “I’m generally… very pleased with the text. I find that many of our people have been misinstructed about conscience. They’ve been taught that conscience is a maker of truth instead of a seeker of the truth. Our emphasis on conscience dictates and clarifies… that at times salvation can be at stake.”

Also approved by an almost unanimous vote (98%) was a bulletin insert informing parishioners about the new “Faithful Citizenship” document.

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Relics of St. Therese of Lisieux present at Pope’s General Audience

Rome, Italy, Nov 14, 2007 (CNA) - At this week’s General Audience with Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter’s Square, thousands of pilgrims were able to venerate the relics of St. Therese of Lisieux.

According to Vatican Radio, the relics were taken to the Vatican as part of a pilgrimage throughout Italy, giving Catholics the chance to venerate the relics of the French saint. The pilgrimage will also coincide with the 10th anniversary of her proclamation as Doctor of the Church on October 19, 1997, the 120th anniversary of her encounter with Pope Leo XIII on November 20, 1887, and the 80th anniversary of her proclamation as patroness of the missions, together with St. Francis Xavier.

The pilgrimage is being led by Bishop Pierre Pican of Bayeux and Lisieux, France and the Rector of the Basilica of Lisieux, Msgr. Bernard Lagoutte.

The relics of St. Therese have been venerated in numerous countries throughout the world in recent years, usually at Carmelite monasteries.

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World Assembly of Parliamentarians for Life established

Madrid, Spain, Nov 14, 2007 (CNA) - For the first time in history, more than a hundred parliamentarians and governors from 17 countries have joined together to work for the defense of life, with the creation in Chile of the World Assembly of Parliamentarians for Life.

Lola Velarde, president of the European Network of the Institute for Family Policy, this is “a point of inflection in the work for life at the worldwide level.”

“At the Institute for Family Policy we not only encourage and celebrate this event, we also actively collaborate in its continuity and expansion to other countries and multi-national organizations,” she said.

The ceremony was held and the University of Santo Tomas in Chile, with more than 400 people in attendance, in addition to parliamentarians, mayors, pro-life leaders and young people.

According to the Institute, the World Assembly of Parliamentarians for Life will be led by Argentinean Senator Liliana Negre.  The opening day of the Assembly was marked by a round-table discussion on successful efforts to defend life in Latin America.

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Chavez reforms would lead to Socialist monopoly on life in Venezuela, cardinal warns

Caracas, Venezuela, Nov 14, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino of Caracas denounced what he called the “serious problem” of President Hugo Chavez’s proposed constitutional reform, which would mean that “there would be no room for anything but Socialist ideas in the life of the country.

In an interview with the Televen channel, Cardinal Urosa said the constitutional reforms which will be subject to a referendum on December 2, would convert the country from a “social State of rights and justice” to a “Socialist State,” entailing “a structural change that would mean that Socialism would be the sole ideology, the only economic model, the only form of politics, the only form of culture, in such a way that there would be no room for anything but Socialist ideas in the life of the country.”

The Constitution, he said, is a guidepost for the entire life of the country, and the Chavez reforms would put an end to “freedom of conscience, freedom of opinion, freedom of expression, economic freedom.”  The cardinal said he was surprised at the degree to which the reforms would limit economic activity. 

The main problem, Cardinal Urosa continued, is that the reforms would reverse progress in human rights in Venezuela, “and therefore we say it is unacceptable.”  He stressed that the bishops are not speaking as politicians or partisan supporters.  “We are not promoting any kind of bias,” he added.  However, “we are not indifferent to the problems of the country,” he went on, “and we have the duty to speak out with the light of the Gospel and of the Church’s social teaching about what is happening in the country.”

“Religion cannot be dislodged from the life of the nation, and that is what concerns us,” the cardinal said.

He called on Chavez to soften his rhetoric against those who oppose the reforms.  “As members of the Bishops’ Conference,” he said, “we do not accept disrespect, insults or offenses nor are we going to take refuge in the sacristy.”

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Argentinean bishops denounce scourge of drugs and propose anti-drug strategy

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 14, 2007 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Argentina issued a statement this week addressing the problem of drug use in the country, saying, “We have heard the pain of many families throughout the country whose children are trapped by the effects of drugs and its consequences of death and destruction.” In their document the bishops propose a strategy for dealing with the problem of drugs.

The bishops noted that the drug trade has been established in Argentina and “destroys families and kills.  Our land has ceased to be only a country of passage.”  “Everything related to drugs is de-humanizing, erodes the gift of freedom, submerges in failure life’s projects and submits families to harsh trials.”
In speaking about the causes of drug addiction, the bishops note that currently, “Young people feel they are without roots and are forced to confront a fleeting present and an uncertain future.  In addition to this, they often do not find adults who are willing to listen and understand.”

This serious problem, they continued, is “an expression of a profound malady that some call ‘existential emptiness.’  Thus, for a growing number of young people, there is a conviction that life has no meaning and is not worth it,” a perspective that comes from the devil, who “seeks allies to spread this venom like a pest.  It generates true structures of sin that scorn love and human dignity.” 

The bishops said that the way to confront the problem of drugs has three aspects: “promoting a culture of life, founded on the transcendent dignity of every human person, called to be happy and live free of all enslavement,” “dispelling the false illusion one can easily enter and leave addiction,” and “denouncing and pursuing the merchants of death who are destroying humanity with the scandalous business of drugs.”

These measures must be strengthened by a social network that discourages anything that fosters addictions, as well as by a strategy of prevention based on education all levels, especially in the family, the parish, schools and places of work.  The bishops also said there should be an increase in the number of rehabilitation centers to help individuals overcome drug addiction and rejoin society.

“As the Church, with the strength that comes from the Gospel of Life,” the bishops stated, “and with the humble means at our disposal, we renew our desire to be at the service of society in a commitment of solidarity to confront this evil.”

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Let your actions be in accordance with the Word of God, exhorts the Pope

Vatican City, Nov 14, 2007 (CNA) - Continuing his catechesis initiated last week on St. Jerome in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI noted that "for Jerome, a fundamental criterion for interpreting Scripture was that it should harmonize with the Magisterium of the Church."

In this regard, he noted that "we cannot interpret Scripture alone because we come across too many closed doors and fall into error. The Bible was written by the People of God and for the People of God. ... Only in this communion of the People of God can we enter 'with ourselves' into the heart of the truth that God Himself wishes to tell us."

The Pope stressed how Jerome "did not overlook ethical aspects and often recalled the duty of living in accordance with the divine Word. Such coherence is indispensable for all Christians, and especially for preachers" whose actions must be "in keeping with their words."

The saint emphasized that "the Gospel must be translated into attitudes of true charity because the Person of Christ is present in every human being. ... And Jerome makes it clear that 'it is yours to clothe Christ in the poor, to visit Him in the sick, to feed Him in the hungry, to shelter Him in the homeless'."

St. Jerome "also left us a rich and varied teaching on Christian asceticism," said the pontiff. "He recalls the fact that courageous commitment to perfection requires constant vigilance, frequent mortification (with moderation and prudence), assiduous intellectual or manual work to avoid idleness and, above all, obedience to God."

Finally, the Holy Father highlighted the contribution of St. Jerome to Christian teaching through education.  "Among Jerome's main achievements as a pedagogue we must highlight the importance he attributed to healthy and complete education from earliest infancy, ... and the need for study in order to achieve a more complete human formation. Moreover, a question somewhat overlooked in antiquity but considered vital by our author was the promotion of women, whom he recognizes as having the right to a full education."

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