Archive of December 11, 2007

Archbishop Chaput speaks about implications of Colorado shootings

Denver, Colo., Dec 11, 2007 (CNA) - In an exclusive interview with CNA, the archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap., discussed his reaction to the shootings in Colorado, which ended in Colorado Springs’ New Life Church with four victims and their killer dead. 

When asked if the shootings are a reflection of anything in the larger American society, Archbishop Chaput said the events should teach Americans to be less self-centered. “We can't as a country stay on our course of self-absorption, callousness toward the poor and weak, and consumer excess, and then pretend to be shocked when people lose their balance and lash out violently.  The farther away we get from our religious and moral identity, the fewer constraints we have on our choices and behaviors.  Violence happens when we lack the interest and conscience to understand the damage we can do to others.  That's the kind of society we're building.”

The archbishop said he had written to the pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs and to the pastor of Faith Bible Chapel, the Arvada church whose campus hosts the Youth With a Mission dormitory where the shootings began.  He said he assured the pastors of his support and prayers.

CNA asked Archbishop Chaput how the Catholic Church could help those who demonstrate the capacity to commit such shootings. 

“I'm not sure there's any reliable way of identifying these killers in advance, but a tragedy like this reminds all of us to notice the environment around us.  It's important to notice the troubled persons around us and to make them known to medical and, if necessary, law enforcement authorities,” the archbishop replied.

Archbishop Chaput especially addressed the grieving families of the shooting victims.

“The one great advantage these families have is their faith in Jesus Christ.  That doesn't ease the pain of these terrible events, but it provides them with the sure hope of seeing their loved ones again in the presence of God.”

“I know that Catholics across Colorado are joining their prayers to the prayers of these families,” he said.

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USCCB withdraws review of "The Golden Compass"

Washington D.C., Dec 11, 2007 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops have withdrawn their positive review of the fantasy film, “The Golden Compass”, which opened in the United States last weekend.

The movie, which brought in $26.1 million in its full opening weekend, is based on a series of children’s books by British author and outspoken atheist Philip Pullman. 

Director Harry Forbes and staff reviewer John Mulderig of the Office for Film and Broadcasting for the USCCB gave the controversial film a positive review, which was subsequently used to market it to dioceses across the United States. However, it must be noted that the advertisers created an ad which misrepresented Harry Forbes’ review by quoting it out of context.

No reason was given by the USCCB for the withdraw of the review.

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Bishops’ Doctrine Committee corrects theologian for relativistic book

Washington D.C., Dec 11, 2007 (CNA) - The Doctrine Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has examined a work of theologian Father Peter C. Phan, “Being Religious Interreligiously: Asian Perspectives on Interfaith Dialogue.”

Father Phan, a priest of the Diocese of Dallas, Texas, is a professor in Georgetown University’s Department of Theology.  The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith asked the American bishops’ Doctrine Committee to evaluate the book.  The committee asked Father Phan to clarify points of concern over a period of two years.

The committee’s evaluation was presented in a document titled “Clarifications Required by the Book ‘Being Religious Interreligiously: Asian Perspectives on Interfaith Dialogue’.”  The committee said that Father Phan’s book uses “certain terms in an equivocal manner” that “opens the text up to significant ambiguity.” It added that “a fair reading of the book could leave readers in considerable confusion as to the proper understanding of the uniqueness of Christ.”

The committee focused on three areas of theological concern:  Jesus Christ as the unique and universal Savior of all humankind; the salvific significance of non-Christian religions; and the Church as the unique and universal instrument of salvation.

In his book, Father Phan had qualified the uniqueness of Christ, saying that terms referring to Christ as “unique” “absolute” and “universal” “should be removed and replaced by other, theologically more adequate equivalents.”

The committee clarified Catholic teaching saying, “It has always been the faith of the Church that Jesus is the eternal Son of God incarnate as man. The union of humanity and divinity that takes place in Jesus Christ is by its very nature unique and unrepeatable… Because humanity and divinity are united in the person of the Son of God, He brings together humanity and divinity in a way that can have no parallel in any other figure in history.”

According to the committee’s statement, Father Phan’s book questions the Church’s mission to spread the Gospel to all. He states that “non-Christian religions possess an autonomous function in the history of salvation, different from that of Christianity,” and that “they cannot be reduced to Christianity in terms of preparation and fulfillment.”

The Doctrine Committee said the book’s argument leads to the conclusion that there is some kind of moral obligation for the Church to refrain from evangelizing and people of other religions.  Father Phan’s book says that religious pluralism “may not and must not be abolished” by conversion to Christianity.

The Committee noted that “[t]his call for an end to Christian mission is in conflict with the Church’s commission, given to her by Christ Himself: ‘Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…’”  It was “incoherent” to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God made man, but still argue that it would be better if people did not know this important truth.

Father Phan’s book also asserts that the Church’s claim to uniqueness and universality “should be abandoned altogether” because of the Church’s human failings and her historical entanglement with sin and injustice.  While acknowledging the sinfulness of Church members, the Doctrine Committee affirmed “the holiness of the Church is not simply defined by the holiness (or sinfulness) of her members but by the holiness of her head, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The committee declared that because all grace flows through Jesus, that grace must be seen in relationship to the Church, the “universal sacrament of salvation.”

The full text of the Doctrine Committee’s statement is available at

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Romney calls support for abortion “biggest mistake,” but is in favor of some embryonic stem cell research

, Dec 11, 2007 (CNA) - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney declared his support for legalized abortion his “biggest mistake” and shunned federal funding for controversial embryonic stem cell research programs.

CBS News’ Katie Couric last week interviewed the former Massachusetts governor, asking him what his biggest mistake was.

“Well, I think from the political perspective, the biggest mistake I made was believing that my personal disagreement with abortion and my view that abortion was wrong, that somehow I could accommodate my personal view that abortion was wrong with a public view that other people should be able to make up their own mind, and the government wouldn't play a role. That, in my view, was a mistake,” Romney answered.

Governor Romney said his mistake became apparent to him when the Massachusetts legislature sent an embryonic cloning bill to him for approval.

The governor explained his ethical conversion, saying “what I recognized is that in a civilized society that there has to be a respect for the sanctity of life - that if you put that aside, if you say, ‘We're gonna start creating life and then destroying it,’ you're, in effect, playing God. And I think a civilized society has certain rules of conduct that it live by and one of those is to respect the sanctity of life.”

Romney said that he realized his personal opposition to abortion was inconsistent if he also supported “laws which permitted and permit the destruction of life throughout our society.”

Governor Romney did voice a strong opposition to certain kinds of embryonic research, saying, “…creating new embryos through embryo farming or through cloning, I find to be unethical and I would not pursue that course of stem cell research.”

However, he did not have ethical objections to all research destructive of human embryos.  Though he did not want to fund such experimentation with taxpayer monies, he supported using for research those embryos left over from fertility treatments.

“…if a parent decides they would want to donate one of those embryos for purposes of research, in my view, that's acceptable. It should not be made against the law. I wouldn't finance that with government money because it represents a moral challenge for a lot of people and I think we're better investing in places where the prospects are much better.”

Romney did declare his support for funding alternative methods that could provide useful sources of stem cells while possibly avoiding ethical objections.  He said one better prospect was “something known as alter[ed]-nuclear transfer where you create new embryo-like entities, but they're not human embryos. And you can take stem cells from those.”

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Environmentalist proposes “baby tax,” financial disabilities for large families

Adelaide, Australia, Dec 11, 2007 (CNA) - An Australian professor of obstetrics has proposed both a $5,000 “baby levy” to be imposed on parents upon the birth of their children and an annual carbon tax of up to $800 per child, The Advertiser reports.

The professor’s scheme especially targets large families.

Barry Walters, a clinical associate professor of obstetric medicine at the University of Western Australia, outlined his proposals in Monday’s Medical Journal of Australia.  Professor Walters said every couple with more than two children should be taxed to offset carbon emissions each child would generate over his or her lifetime.

"Every newborn baby in Australia represents a potent source of greenhouse gas emissions for an average of 80 years, not simply by breathing but by the profligate consumption of resources typical of our society," he wrote.

"Far from showering financial booty on new mothers and rewarding greenhouse-unfriendly behaviour, a 'baby levy' in the form of a carbon tax should apply, in line with the 'polluter pays' principle," Professor Walters continued.

Professor Walters, who is also affiliated with King Edward Memorial Hospital in Perth, implied that the $4,133 “baby bonus” now granted to new parents by the Australian government should be abandoned.  He also implied population control programs like those in India and China should be considered.  Under his plan, condom purchases and sterilization procedures would earn people “carbon credits,” which are part of an informal exchange system that encourages polluters to pay for environmentalist programs.

Australian Family Association spokeswoman Angela Conway derided the proposal. 

"I think self-important professors with silly ideas should have to pay carbon tax for all the hot air they create," she said. "There's masses of evidence to say that child-rich families have much lower resource consumption per head than other styles of households.”

Garry Egger, a high-profile doctor in Australia, favored the proposal.  "One must wonder why population control is spoken of today only in whispers," he wrote in a response article for the Medical Journal of Australia.

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Whoever attacks the family undermines the peace of the world, says the Pope

Vatican City, Dec 11, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI called upon the international community today to protect the family at all costs because it is “the first and indispensable teacher of peace.” He also insisted that whoever undermines the family, attacks peace in the entire community.

The Holy Father’s message was made public in preparation for the upcoming 41st World Day of Peace, which will be celebrated on January 1, 2008.

Before launching into his explanation of why the family must be protected, the Pope defined the family saying that it is “’a divine institution that stands at the foundation of life of the human person as the prototype of every social order'."

Benedict XVI insisted that, "the family is the first and indispensable teacher of peace," and it is also, "the foundation of society ... because it enables its members in decisive ways to experience peace. It follows that the human community cannot do without the service provided by the family," the Pope emphasized.

Referencing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Pope Benedict reminded everyone that the family is entitled to protection from society and the State.

“Consequently,” the Pope said, "whoever, even unknowingly, circumvents the institution of the family undermines peace in the entire community, national and international, since he weakens what is in effect the primary agency of peace.”

The Holy Father also stressed that “[e]verything that serves to weaken the family based on the marriage of a man and a woman, everything that directly or indirectly stands in the way of its openness to the responsible acceptance of a new life, everything that obstructs its right to be primarily responsible for the education of its children, constitutes an objective obstacle on the road to peace."

While some people live with the attitude that mankind lives alongside one another purely by chance, the Pope explained that the Christian worldview is one in which society is “progressing along a common path as men and women, and thus as brothers and sisters.” Without the family, Benedict said, “society is a mere aggregation of neighbors, not a community of brothers and sisters called to form one great family."

Needs of the Family Must be Protected

The earth is the home of the human family, says the Holy Father, highlighting the need "to care for the environment" which "has been entrusted to men and women to be protected and cultivated with responsible freedom, with the good of all as a constant guiding criterion.”

The Pope was careful to explain that, contrary to the attitude of some environmentalists, “[h]uman beings, obviously, are of supreme worth vis-a-vis creation as a whole.” “Respecting the environment does not mean considering material or animal nature more important than man," the Holy Father said.

Out of concern for those countries that struggle to afford protecting the environment, Pope Benedict said, “[i]f the protection of the environment involves costs, they should be justly distributed, taking due account of the different levels of development of various countries and the need for solidarity with future generations."

Critiquing unbridled capitalism, the Holy Father said that “the moral obligation to ensure that the economy is not governed solely by the ruthless laws of instant profit,” must be noted.

Natural Law Must Become the International Norm

Benedict XVI writes: "A family lives in peace if all its members submit to a common standard: this is what prevents selfish individualism and brings individuals together, fostering their harmonious coexistence and giving direction to their work. ... For the sake of peace, a common law is needed, one which would foster true freedom rather than blind caprice, and protect the weak from oppression by the strong. ... Power must always be disciplined by law, and this applies also to relations between sovereign States."

This law, the Pope suggested, should be “the moral norm grounded in nature itself."  He also insisted that knowledge of this natural moral norm is possible if men strive to reflect on the “deepest inclinations present in their being.”

Pope Benedict XVI explained that in the increasingly globalized society of today, establishing an international moral law depends on “a constant commitment to strengthen the profound human content of international norms, lest they be reduced to mere procedures, easily subject to manipulation for selfish or ideological reasons."

We Must Respond to Difficult Times

"Humanity today is unfortunately experiencing great division and sharp conflicts which cast dark shadows on its future," the Pope observed.

In this context, the Pope underlined how "the danger of an increase in the number of countries possessing nuclear weapons causes well-founded apprehension," while in Africa there are still "many civil wars" and "the Middle East is still a theatre of conflict and violence, which also affects neighboring nations and regions and risks drawing them into the spiral of violence. On a broader scale, one must acknowledge with regret the growing number of States engaged in the arms race."

"In difficult times such as these…At a time when the process of nuclear non-proliferation is at a stand-still, I feel bound to entreat those in authority to resume with greater determination negotiations for a progressive and mutually agreed dismantling of existing nuclear weapons," Benedict XVI exhorted.

Pope Benedict concluded his message by recalling three special anniversaries: "Sixty years ago the United Nations Organization solemnly issued the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. ... This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the Holy See's adoption of the Charter of the Rights of the Family and the 40th anniversary of the celebration of the first World Day of Peace."

"In the light of these significant anniversaries, I invite every man and woman to have a more lively sense of belonging to the one human family, and to strive to make human coexistence increasingly reflect this conviction, which is essential for the establishment of true and lasting peace. I likewise invite believers to implore tirelessly from God the great gift of peace," the Holy Father said.

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Congregation for Clergy launches website on the Bible

, Dec 11, 2007 (CNA) - “Reading the Word of God with the Church” is the slogan for the Congregation for the Clergy’s new website, which was developed to make the books of the Bible available online in nine different languages, with theological and exegetical commentaries.

The content of the website can be easily downloaded and is even available on CD for those who do not have access to the internet.  The Congregation has already sent the material to over 140,000 priests and deacons on all five continents.

The new website coincides with the ninth anniversary of the website, which offers a vast electronic library for research, study, formation, liturgy and spirituality.

The new website can be found in English at:

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Progress without God benefits few and oppresses many, says Spanish cardinal

Madrid, Spain, Dec 11, 2007 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Valencia, Cardinal Agustin Garcia-Gasco, said this week that the ideologies of modern times, especially of the 20th century, “seek to build a perfect society by radically rejecting God,” and they hold that “the path to the future entails the expulsion of God from the human city.”

“This craziness only leads to new attacks against humanity, especially against those who are most defenseless: genocide, terrorism, nuclear weapons, torture, the killing of the unborn, genetic manipulation, etc,” the cardinal said during Mass on the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

“When human progress aspires to expel God, it ends up being the ‘progress’ of a few and the oppression of many.  It’s a fraud,” he said.

“Man needs God,” he said, “otherwise he is left without hope.”  “Science can contribute much to the humanization of the world and of humanity” but “it needs friendship with God in order to continue giving human meaning to progress.”

But science can also “destroy man and the world if it is not guided by external forces.  Man is not redeemed by science.  Man is redeemed by love,” the cardinal emphasized.

Likewise, Cardinal Garcia-Gasco encouraged the faithful to “give brave and humble witness to the love of God that leads to the hope of a full and happy life,” and he prayed that the Virgin Mary would help believers to “say no to the deceptions of power, money and pleasure and to corruption, hypocrisy, selfishness and violence.”

The feast of the Immaculate “helps us to discover the error and malice of those seek to introduce into humanity distrust of friendship with God” and “foster the false pretension of learning about the world while disregarding God,” he added.

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Abortion promoters see man as just an animal, Spanish bishop warns

Madrid, Spain, Dec 11, 2007 (CNA) - Bishop Jose Ignacio Munilla Aguirre of Palencia warned this week that the recent arrests of personnel at various clinics in Barcelona where illegal abortions up to the eighth month were being performed confirms that the defenders of abortion see man as just an animal.

“When we answer the question about what man is, we must make a choice with our response: either we consider him to be a merely material being, a simple animal—albeit more evolved than anything else—or on the other hand we discover in him a spiritual principle that makes him essentially different from any animal species.  Undoubtedly the defenders of abortion are in the first group,” the bishop warned in article entitled, “Little Angels for Heaven.”

“Of course, they will claim that ‘that’ is nothing more than a piece of flesh, and not a person. If we take abortion to its ultimate consequences, we are left with the question of the spirituality or materiality of man.  Does the human soul exist?” the bishop stated.

Bishop Munilla noted that the reports about the abuses at the clinics in Barcelona have been very disturbing to many people.  “The blender connected to the drain pipe, the falsified scans to cover up abortions in the seventh or eighth month of pregnancy, etc, were just too bloody to be ignored.  However, in this age of media impact, there is a risk that the issue of abortion will be limited to the size of the fetus or the clandestine mafias of this ‘industry.’  It seems like the question of the good or evil of abortion depends on the respect of determined limits,” the bishop said.

The denial of the existence of the soul poses a fundamental problem regarding the dignity of the human person, he continued.  “Why does the human being have a dignity that animals do not?  Why do we think it is okay to make an ox suffer by pulling a cart on a farm, but it’s not okay to use or exploit a person?” he asked.

Bishop Munilla pointed out the series of contradictions that occur when the existence of the soul is denied.  “Humans are treated like animals (as in the case of abortion) and animals are treated like humans (salons for dogs, hotels for pets, cemeteries and crematories for animals, etc).  It’s an inversion of values that has as its root the denial of the immortal human soul.”

“Recently I remembered an anecdote that I had almost forgotten.  Once when I was a seminarian, I went into the office of a fellow seminarian and on the table was a family portrait.  It caught my attention because in addition to showing the parents surrounded by their five kids, on the sides there were two angels.  What do those two angels on your family portrait mean? I asked him.  His answer blew me away: ‘My mom had two miscarriages, and they always taught us that we were a family of seven kids and not just five’,” Bishop Munilla said.

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Archbishop Luckert: Don’t be surprised if Chavez starts inventing things against the Church

Caracas, Venezuela, Dec 11, 2007 (CNA) - The vice president of the Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela, Archbishop Roberto Luckert, expressed his solidarity this week with Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino of Caracas, who has been the target of recent attacks on the Church by Chavez supporters.

Speaking on Union Radio, the archbishop criticized President Hugo Chavez for his attacks on the bishops, especially against Cardinal Urosa, who was assaulted last Friday by Chavez supporters as he left his residence.

“I think that violence accomplishes nothing, and I think that what happened to Cardinal Urosa does not add to the government, but rather takes away from it,” Archbishop Luckert said.  He called on Venezuelans to voice their concern over the actions of radical Chavez activists, “paid by the government,” who continuously harass Church officials.”

The archbishop said he was confident that the Venezuelan people would continue supporting the Church despite the threats by President Chavez. “Don’t be surprised if he starts inventing things against the Church,” he added.

Archbishop Luckert called on the government to work for unity and to solve the country’s problems, “and not to engage in so much demagoguery outside the country by trying to resolve problems in Nicaragua, Bolivia and Argentina.”

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“Terri's Day” established in remembrance of Terri Schiavo

, Dec 11, 2007 (CNA) - March 31, the date of Terri Schiavo’s death will mark the newly established “International Day of Prayer and Remembrance for Terri Schindler Schiavo and All of Our Vulnerable Brothers and Sisters.”  The day was created to foster education, prayer and activism regarding discrimination against the disabled. 

The Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation and Priests for Life jointly announced that “Terri’s Day” will advocate for people in situations similar to what Terri and her family faced.

Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life stated, "Those of us who were with Terri will never forget her life and her death. For the sake of all the vulnerable, it is critically important that those who never knew Terri likewise remember the lessons that God taught us through her."

"No family should ever have to witness what my family witnessed, watching a loved one slowly dehydrate to death, added Suzanne Vitadamo, Terri’s sister.  “We want Terri's Day to remind us all that persons with disabilities are never burdens and should be treated with nothing but our unconditional love and compassion."

In the early weeks of 2008, educational and prayer materials will be released to parishes, disability and pro-life groups and all communities to observe Terri's Day.

Terri's Foundation is dedicated to promoting the Culture of Life, embracing the true meaning of compassion by opposing the practice of euthanasia.

Priests for Life is the largest Catholic organization exclusively dedicated to fighting abortion and euthanasia.

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Guatemalan bishops call on Congress to approve adoption law to combat trafficking of children

Guatemala City, Guatemala, Dec 11, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Guatemala, Bishop Alvaro Ramazzini, called on the country’s Congress this week to approve a law on adoptions “that protects the rights of the child and strongly confronts the excesses and immoral attitudes of those who have made a business out of adoption.”

“The people of Guatemala and the Catholic Church hope and desire that the Congress approves this law on adoptions on December 11,” the bishop said in a statement.

He urged Congress to “fulfill its historic responsibility with regard to this issue,” and he noted that in Guatemala, the adoption of children is “a commercial activity that has become very lucrative, thus stripping it of the nobility of giving an abandoned, indigenous, handicapped or unwanted child to a family and a stable home.”

Babies are being treated as “simple merchandise that can be bought and sold,” the bishop decried.  This is just another symptom of the “profound crisis of human and moral values” that is affecting Guatemala, he said.


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