Archive of November 23, 2007

Resistance to Latin Mass liberalization is disobedient and proud, says bishop

London, England, Nov 23, 2007 (CNA) - A Vatican official has criticized some bishops' actions as prejudiced and proud for obstructing Pope Benedict XVI's recent reform liberalizing the use of the Tridentine Mass.

Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and Sacraments blasted as "disobedience" the reaction of many bishops to the Pope's motu proprio document Summorum Pontificum, which lifted the restrictions of the older "extraordinary rite" of the Mass.

The document instructs bishops that priests who wish to follow the older rite must be allowed to do so without asking permission, and says that congregations who request the Tridentine Mass must be provided it.

Archbishop Ranjith decried the action "and even rebellion" of many bishops who are trying to limit access to the older Mass.  “On the part of some dioceses, there have been interpretive documents that inexplicably aim to limit the ‘motu proprio’ of the pope,” he said earlier this month.

The archbishop's comments come in response to "interpretations" of the motu proprio supported by the bishops of England and Wales.  Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor provoked outrage from some Catholics after his commentary on the document claimed that priests still needed to ask permission from their bishops to celebrate the Tridentine Mass.  Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor also said that congregations requesting the old Mass must be "stable," though that requirement is absent from the Pope’s document.

The cardinal’s commentary was called an “ungenerous interpretation” and “a slap in the face of traditionalists.”

Another clergyman, Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds, claimed that the power of the bishops to stop the Tridentine Mass remained in effect.

Archbishop Ranjith said that, in these dissents, “there hide, on the one hand, ideological prejudices and, on the other hand, pride, which is one of the most serious sins.”

“The bishops, in particular, have sworn fidelity to the pontiff; may they be coherent and faithful to their commitment,” he said.

The older rite of the Mass is almost entirely in Latin.  Latin was generally abandoned after 1965 by bishops and clergy who claimed to be following the mandate of the Second Vatican Council.  Many Catholics found the state of the Church since the council to have been confused by “trendy innovations” in both Catholic moral teaching and the liturgy.

Father Richard McBrien, a Notre Dame professor considered a leading dissenter on Catholic sexual ethics and abortion, wrote on the Tridentine Mass controversy in the diocesan newspaper of the archdiocese of Los Angeles, The Tidings. 

He criticized young Catholics who favored the old rite, saying “it is a mystery how one can be nostalgic for something one had never experienced.”  He also praised "liturgical scholars" who “have published articles which carefully pick apart the reasoning behind the papal document.”

Damian Thompson, writing for the Daily Telegraph, defended the papal motu proprio.  “By failing to welcome the latest papal initiatives - or even to display any interest in them, beyond the narrow question of how their power is affected, the bishops of England and Wales have confirmed Benedict's low opinion of them.”

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Chinese bishop to be ordained with papal approval

Beijing, China, Nov 23, 2007 (CNA) - A priest will soon be ordained to the episcopacy in China's state-recognized church with the approval of the Pope.

The elevation of Father Joseph Gan Junqiu has also been approved by the Chinese government.

Last year three bishops were ordained without the approval of Rome, but the Vatican is still trying to improve its relations with Beijing.

China's Catholics, who number between 8 and 12 million, are split between the official state church and an underground church that rejects government ties.

Father Gan's elevation to the bishopric of the Guangzhou diocese had been approved as early as January, but disagreements over who would conduct the ordination Mass caused the delay.

"With the Pope having approved his promotion, [Father Gan] has the right to decide the ordination date," the South China Morning Post quoted Father Francis Tan Tiande of Sacred Heart Cathedral as saying.

Father Gan has not yet made a decision.  "I still need to discuss it with other relevant organizations ...I would like to invite bishops from other dioceses to my ordination," Father Gan was quoted as saying.

His ordination to the episcopacy is likely to take place on December 3.

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As vote on constitutional reform looms, seminarians in Venezuela express fidelity to bishops

Konigstein, Germany, Nov 23, 2007 (CNA) - As a December 2 referendum on constitutional reform that the bishops of Venezuela have called “morally unacceptable” draws near, seminarians have sent a letter to the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference expressing their fidelity “in this decisive moment in the history of the country.”
According to Aid to the Church in Need, the seminarians said in their letter that the constitutional reform, in addition to being “morally unacceptable,” is “"irreconcilable with the Christian Faith and its view of man and society". They thanked the bishops for having warned "emphatically and without hesitation" of this danger.

The seminarians later affirmed that they fear this constitutional reform will lead “to a "curtailment of human dignity and human rights". And as "future pastors and Venezuelans" they speak of their "concern" for the future of the country, a concern in which they are more than ever at one with the bishops. The letter goes on to spell out it out: "We know from history of the tragic fate of countries that have lived under a Socialist regime where the state holds absolute sway over the individual." The letter continues: "We support all those who peacefully uphold their legitimate rights and give public expression to them, in accordance with their consciences. By contrast we regard it as a threat to democracy when violent physical or verbal means are used against those who express their views openly."

The seminarians said they were motivated to write their letter by a spirit of pastoral zeal” and ecclesial conscience.”

Javier Legorreta, an expert on Latin America at Aid to the Church in Need, called it “a hopeful sign to see just how strongly these young seminarians are committed to the future of their country and to the Church. The Church in Venezuela is under attack, but she is strong and courageous."

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Vatican expert praises discovery of new stem cell technique not involving embryos

Rome, Italy, Nov 23, 2007 (CNA) - The chancellor of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Msgr. Ignacio Carrasco, described as “very positive and important” the discovery of a new technique for obtaining stem cells that does not involve the destruction of a human embryo.

Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka of the University of Kyoto and American scientist James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin, published the results of their discovery in the magazines Cell and Science.

Both were able to obtain stem cells using human skin cells.  Scientists are calling the discovery revolutionary as it would allow doctors to create stem cells with a specific patient's genetic code, eliminating the risk that the body would reject transplanted tissues or organs.

Speaking to Europa Press, Msgr. Carrasco said that in addition to being “an important scientific step,” the discovery also shows that many scientists have “taken seriously” the “ethical objections” to the cloning of human embryos.

In this sense, the fact that two different groups of scientists have embarked on this project shows that “researchers also have a conscience,” Msgr. Carrasco said.

However, he noted with concern that the controversy over research with human embryos “would continue,” since therapeutic cloning “was only a justification” and interest in the manipulation of embryos continues, especially from an economic point of view.

Professor Lukas Kenner of the Institute of Clinical Pathology at the University of Vienna and until recently a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said this discovery confirms that “research with embryos has no future,” and that those who “insist on continuing down this road have other motives.”

Ideological and economical motives

In an interview with the Italian daily Avvenire, Kenner pointed to “ideological motives” behind the push for embryonic stem-cell research.  “It must be made clear that any attempt to create life apart from the fusion of the sperm and the egg is not justifiable from the biological point of view. On the contrary, to separate the attribution of human dignity from the beginning of biological life is bio-ethically explosive,” he said.

Kenner also pointed out the economic interests that exist behind the support for embryonic stem-cell research, especially since experimentation with animals “is much more costly.”  “Liberalizing research with embryos would mean huge economic savings for research labs,” he said.

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Pontifical University of Rome to present new edition of encyclical against modernism

Rome, Italy, Nov 23, 2007 (CNA) - On November 27, the Angelicum Pontifical University of Rome will present a new edition of the encyclical against modernism by Pope St. Pius X, “Pascendi Dominici Gregis,” during an event promoted by the International Society of Thomas Aquinas.

The new edition of the encyclical that the Pope wrote against the influences of modernism in theology and Catholic thought is being published by Cantagalli with an updated Italian translation, making the hundred year-old document easier to read.

The new version also includes an introduction by Professor Roberto de Mattei of the European University of Rome explaining not only the historical context of the encyclical but also the relevancy of the document to the growing “dictatorship of relativism” denounced by Pope Benedict XVI. 

The new edition will be presented by Professor De Mattei and by Bishop Luigi Negri of San Marino-Montefeltro, who said a re-reading of the famous encyclical would be an excellent opportunity reflect on the responsibility of an evangelization capable of dialoging with the modern world.

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United Nations admits to having exaggerated statistics about AIDS in the world

, Nov 23, 2007 (CNA) - After using exaggerated statistics not in accord with reality, the United Nations Program for the fight against AIDS (UNAIDS) has finally admitted to having distorting and inflating data.

According to a report on, this strategy was seen to “benefit the massive AIDS industry's constant demands for large funds.  Last Tuesday, UNAIDS presented its annual report, in which it “admitted the world body has sharply reduced its estimates of the global HIV/AIDS pandemic because of strong evidence from AIDS scientists that the agency's methods for measuring and predicting the course of the epidemic were flawed.”

Dr. James Chin, former head of a World Health Organization Global Programme on Aids unit from 1987-1992 and Drs. Edward Green and Daniel Halperin, formerly with AIDS units of USAID, accumulated and publicized much of the evidence that eventually forced the UN to publicly admit the serious flaws with its AIDS numbers, the reported.

The Washington Post reports that Dr. Chin has responded that the UN's revisions are still too high. Chin estimates the current number of AIDS cases worldwide to be 25 million whereas the new UN figures are 8 million above that. Chin told the Post "If they're coming out with 33 million, they're getting closer. It's a little high, but it's not outrageous anymore".

Much of the reduction, says UNAIDS, is due to revised information from India, where the numbers have been cut in half from six million cases to about three million, and from new data from several countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Helen Epstein, author of a recent book on the AIDS fight, told the Washington Post that within the UN, "There was a tendency toward alarmism, and that fit perhaps a certain fundraising agenda".

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Marriage reform proposed to lower divorce rate by half

Evansville, Ind., Nov 23, 2007 (CNA) - A reform of marriage laws and better marital counseling programs have been proposed as ways to lower the divorce rate and improve the quality of marriages.

Michael McManus, president of Marriage Savers, has been advocating a "Community Marriage Policy"(CMP) to help create lasting marriages.  The policy, which helps churches prepare, enrich, or restore marriage has been implemented in 220 cities.

The Catholic Bishop of Evansville Gerald Gettelfinger has thanked Marriage Savers in a letter for helping his area cut divorce rates by twenty percent while raising marriage rates sixteen percent.

A study comparing cities and counties that had instituted a Community Marriage Policy with cities and counties that had not instituted the policy indicated CMP localities had a larger drop in their divorce rate. 

Paul Birch and Stan Weed of the Institute for Research and Evaluation compared the divorce rate of the first 114 CMP counties to the rate in similar counties without the policy.  While the divorce rate fell by 9.4 percent in the non-policy counties, counties that had enacted the Community Marriage Policy fell 17.5 percent over the same seven-year period.  Birch and Weed estimated that between 31,000 and 50,000 marriages were preserved in the CMP counties.

Between 1990 and 2000, cohabitation rates also fell 13.4 percent in CMP localities, while they rose by 19.2 percent in counties without the policy.

In a proposal to the National Association of Evangelicals, Michael McManus has suggested three policy changes that could supplement and spread the beneficial effects of the Community Marriage Policy.

One proposal is to mandate that states spend between two and five percent of their welfare reform surplus on so-called "Health Marriage Initiatives," which could include instituting CMPs in a state. 

McManus also proposes replacing no-fault divorce laws with mutual consent laws.  "What was entered into by two people willingly should not be terminated by one person who alleges the couple is incompatible," he wrote in a letter to Catholic News Agency.  He suggested there are constitutional problems with no-fault divorce, since the proceedings always result in a judgment favorable to the spouse who started the divorce proceedings.  This could violate the guarantee of due process in the Fifth Amendment.

A change of child custody laws could also help children after a divorce or strengthen spouses' desire to preserve their marriage.  Sole custody, the legal arrangement in which guardianship of children is awarded only to one parent after a divorce, could be changed to favor joint custody or shared parenting arrangements. 

McManus' proposal, he claims, could slash divorce rates by fifty percent.  "That would be enough to save 500,000 marriages a year from divorce, and enable 500,000 kids a year to avoid the turmoil of a parental divorce, or 5 million in a decade," McManus said.

Marriage reform could be implemented through state legislatures, but McManus was not optimistic about that route.  Legislatures have an overrepresentation of lawyers, some of whom are divorce attorneys.  This provides a strong disincentive for them to block the reform of divorce laws. 

Change on the federal level could better implement marriage reform.  Congress could require states to spend some welfare dollars on marriage initiatives.  The constitutional question of possible due process violations could also provide congress authority to intervene.

But McManus sees marriage reform as potentially a strong issue for a Republican presidential candidate.  "It would give him a fresh issue to champion to awaken his base," he said. 

The National Association of Evangelicals will revisit the Marriage Savers' proposal at its meeting in March.

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Bishop of Arabia responds to Muslim scholars' letter

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Nov 23, 2007 (CNA) - The Catholic Bishop of Arabia has published an article examining the call to dialogue made by 138 Muslim scholars in an open letter to Christian leaders worldwide.

Swiss-born Bishop Paul Hinder, based in Abu Dhabi, has responsibility for Catholics in the entire Arabian Peninsula.  He has called for more freedom and security for minority Christians in Saudi Arabia and more freedom for foreign priests to enter the country to administer to them. 

There are about 1.2 million Christians in Saudi Arabia, most of them Catholic Filipino migrant workers.

Bishop Hinder wrote the article responding to the Muslims’ letter in Oasis, a Venice-based multilingual magazine dedicated to Catholic-Muslim dialogue.  His article examined several points the Muslim scholars raised.

The Muslims' letter, titled "A Common Word Between Us and You," sought to build on common ground shared between the Muslim and Christian faiths.  It compared texts from the Bible and the Koran to argue that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.  It said both religions believe in "the primacy of total love and devotion to God," and both value love of neighbor and a peaceful world.

The bishop asked for clarification about whether the love of God and the love of neighbor have the same meaning in both religions.  He linked Christian love of neighbor to the human dignity of each person and his or her right to grow in freedom. 

He noted that for Christians love of neighbor extends to love of enemy, even if that person is of a different religion.

Bishop Hinder linked the questions about love of neighbor to the lack of any Jewish leaders addressed by the Muslim scholars' letter. "I am surprised that it is addressed to Christian leaders only and not also to the Jewish leaders. Is it not a missed opportunity?" he asked.

Further, he emphasized the uniqueness of Christ against Muslim interpretations, which see him as one of many prophets.  "Christians cannot simply see Jesus Christ as one among other prophets, but profess him in his divinity as the living Son of God within the belief in One God in three Persons," he wrote.

Alluding to some of the letter signatories' past words, Bishop Hinder worried the contents of their earlier statements and publications discredited the letter they had signed. 

However, he said he would be "more than happy" if their previous statements instead should be interpreted or revised in light of the recent letter's contents.

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Holy See to present Benedict XVI’s new encyclical next Friday

Vatican City, Nov 23, 2007 (CNA) - Today the Press Office of the Holy See announced that “Spe Salvi” (Saved by Hope), the new encyclical by Pope Benedict XVI, will be presented on Friday, November 30th.

The presentation of the document, the second of his pontificate after “Deus Caritas Est”, will be overseen by Cardinal Georges Marie Martin Cottier O.P., pro-theologian emeritus of the Pontifical Household, and by Cardinal Albert Vanhoye S.J., professor emeritus of New Testament exegesis at the Pontifical Biblical Institute.

Yesterday the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, confirmed the stories that were published in the Italian press about the publication of the pontifical document. During an ecclesial event which took place Thursday, the cardinal indicated that the encyclical would be signed on November 30th, the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle.

“Spe Salvi” was inspired by the letter of St. Paul to the Romans and will be about Christian hope.

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The Rite of Consistory for the creation of new cardinals

Vatican City, Nov 23, 2007 (CNA) - The Holy See announced the fundamental aspects of the Ordinary Public Consistory which will be held this Saturday morning in St. Peter’s Square for the creation of 23 new cardinals.

The consistory will follow the new rite introduced on June 28, 1991, containing the following points:

Following a liturgical greeting, the Pope reads the formula of creation, and solemnly proclaims the names of the new cardinals. The first of these then addresses the Holy Father on behalf of everyone.

This is followed by the Liturgy of the Word, the Pope's homily, the Profession of Faith and the taking of the oath by each cardinal. Each kneels before the pope to receive the cardinal's biretta and to be assigned a title or deaconry.

The Pope places the biretta on the cardinal's head and says: "(This is) red as a sign of the dignity of the office of a cardinal, signifying that you are ready to act with fortitude, even to the point of spilling your blood for the increase of the Christian faith, for peace and harmony among the people of God, for freedom and the spread of the Holy Roman Catholic Church".

The Holy Father hands over the Bull of Creation as cardinal, assigns the title or deaconry and exchanges a kiss of peace with the new members of the College of Cardinals. The cardinals also exchange such a sign among themselves.

The rite is concluded with the Prayer of the Faithful, the recitation of the Our Father and the final blessing.

The next morning, the Holy Father will preside at a concelebrated Mass with the new cardinals, during which he will give them the cardinal's ring, "the sign of dignity, pastoral care and the most solid communion with the See of Peter."

As he places the ring on the new cardinal's finger, the Pope says: "Take this ring from the hand of Peter and know that, with the love of the Prince of the Apostles, your love for the Church is strengthened."

Following the morning's ceremony, the College of Cardinals will have 201 members, of whom 120 are electors. The members of the College, by continent of origin, are divided as follows: 104 from Europe, 20 from North America, 34 from South America, 18 from Africa, 21 from Asia and 4 from Oceania.

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Pope considers receiving Episcopalians and Anglicans into Church

Vatican City, Nov 23, 2007 (CNA) - Today the Pope discussed how to deal with the requests of increasing numbers of Episcopalians and Anglicans who want to join the Roman Catholic Church.

According to Times Online, the Holy Father, who is making the reunification of Christendom a goal of his pontificate, met with cardinals from around the world to consider requests from three US Episcopal bishops and a group of traditionalist Anglicans to be received into the Church.

The meeting in Rome comes on the eve of the consistory to create 23 new cardinals.

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