Archive of February 12, 2008

Catholic officials plan “exorcism center” in Poland

Washington D.C., Feb 12, 2008 (CNA) - A retreat center that some have billed as Europe’s only center dedicated to performing exorcisms is being planned to be built in a village in the northwest of Poland, the Washington Post reports.

Father Andrzej Trojanowski, the priest leading the project, says he plans to build a “spiritual oasis.”

"This is my task, this is my purpose -- I want to help these people," said Father Trojanowski, who has worked as an exorcist for four years, according to the Washington Post. "There is a group of people who cannot get relief through any other practices and who need peace."

"This is a service which is sorely needed," said Jankowski, who holds a doctorate in spiritual theology. "The number of people who need help is intensifying right now."

Father Wieslaw Jankowski, a priest with the Institute for Studies on the Family near Warsaw, will also serve the new center.  He said that priests at the institute realized they needed an excorcist on staff after they encountered an increase in people suffering from  evil. 

Father Jankowski said typical cases included people who turned away from the Church, embracing New Age therapies, alternative religions, or the occult.  He said internet addicts and yoga devotees were also at risk.

According to Father Trojanowski, he sees as many as 20 people a week who are under the influence of evil.

"My remedy is based on spiritual means, which cannot be replaced by any pharmaceutical remedies," said Father Trojanowski. "I do not stop at the level of just treating symptoms. I'm very much interested in the soul of a person. As a priest, I keep asking questions a doctor will never ask."

Exorcists consider only a small fraction of people to be completely possessed by demons, displaying supernatural strength or revulsion towards sacred objects and speaking in exotic languages.  Such cases require a direct confrontation with demons.

Usually, priests perform “soft exorcisms,” praying to rid people of evil influences controlling their lives.  They are also careful not to treat people suffering from mental illness, regularly consulting with psychologists and physicians.

The center is to be built on church land in Poczernin, a village twenty miles outside the town of Stettin.  There, afflicted people could check in for a few days and receive care.

Local residents worried the center would not have adequate security.

"People are worried about the potential for crazy people coming here," said Ksawery Nyks, 50, a longtime resident, the Washington Post reports.

Romnalda Banach, 46, said she didn’t think the center would harm the village.  "Every person, if he or she needs help, should be able to get it somehow," she said.

Father Trojanowski suggested newspaper reports sensationalized the center, which is still in its planning phase.

"The media call it an exorcism center, I call it a spiritual retreat," he said, according to the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza.

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Irish cardinal ends legal dispute over sex abuse documents

Dublin, Ireland, Feb 12, 2008 (CNA) - Cardinal Desmond Connell, former archbishop of Dublin, has withdrawn his attempt to prevent a government sexual abuse inquiry from examining documents provided by his successor, the Irish Times reports.

Cardinal Connell’s lawyers had previously secured a temporary order blocking the release of the files.  They claimed the documents were privileged or protected by lawyer-client confidentiality. 

Diarmuid Martin, the present Archbishop of Dublin, had provided the documents in obedience to an order from the Commission of Investigation into Sexual Abuse.  The documents dated from 1975 to 2004 and related to claims of child abuse against a representative sample of 46 priests in the archdiocese.
Lawyers for both bishops agreed to seek resolution, avoiding a potentially bitter court fight.

According to RTÉ News, a source close to Cardinal Connell speculated that fellow retired clergy in Rome may have persuaded him to end his objections.

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Philippines bishops endorse “communal action” against government corruption

Manila, Philippines, Feb 12, 2008 (CNA) - Recent exposure of government corruption in the Philippines has prompted the country’s Catholic Bishops’ Conference (CBCP) to call for non-violent “communal action” to spur political reform.

A former environmental official, Rodolfo Lozada, has in recent testimony before the country’s senate exposed alleged corruption at the highest levels of government.  Jose de Venecia, Jr., an ousted House speaker, has also added his testimony to the public inquiry into corruption.

Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, president of the CBCP said Lozado’s and de Venecia’s actions could save people from being “hostage to scandalous and shady government deals.”  While noting they somehow had involvement in the corruption they were exposing, he said their exposure of the matter may yet be called “courageous.”

Though their testimony could affect their political careers, Archbishop Lagdameo affirmed the virtue of their actions.  “Truth hurts. But the truth must be served. The truth will set our country free,” he stressed.

“We have to confess that corruption is in truth our greatest shame as a people,” said Archbishop Lagdameo.
Archbishop Oscar Cruz of Lingayen-Dagupan said the call for communal action was “open-ended” and directed to all people seeking genuine governmental reform.

“One thing is clear, it will be an act against the present administration but as to how and who will answer to it it’s up to the people,” Archbishop Cruz said.

The archbishop said the bishops would support legitimate, non-violent actions of the majority of the people.
“As long as there will be no bloodshed and it remains constitutional, we will support it,” he said.

Responding to those who challenged the CBCP to call for the resignation of Philippines President Gloria Arroyo, Archbishop Cruz said the bishops’ conference “is not the sovereign Filipino people.” 

He added, “It would be a big mistake to expect the Church to make or unmake a government.”

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American Life League video yanked by YouTube

CNA STAFF, Feb 12, 2008 (CNA) - On Monday morning, American Life League (ALL) was informed by YouTube that one of its exposé videos on Planned Parenthood was evicted from their for its “inappropriate nature.” Strangely enough, the ad that the ALL was criticizing remains on YouTube.

The banned report explains how a Planned Parenthood commercial helps encourage recreational sex, which ALL’s Michael Hichborn told CNA, “helps their bottom line”.

“All we did in our video report was show a couple of clips from Planned Parenthood’s ‘Mile High’ ad and illustrate how it was nothing more than a part of Planned Parenthood’s effort to encourage recreational sex,” said Jim Sedlak, vice president of American Life League. “If there was anything inappropriate in our report, it came from Planned Parenthood’s ad, and yet their ad remains while ours is removed.”

The "Mile High” ad features a homosexual flight attendant named Stephen who cruises the aisles, showering young passengers with contraceptives. The commercial closes with the cabin lights dimming, party music blaring, Stephen sitting on the pilot's lap and saying, “On behalf of Planned Parenthood airlines you are now free to make sweet, sweet love.”

The e-mail sent to American Life League said, “After being flagged by members of the YouTube community and reviewed by YouTube staff, the video below has been removed due to its inappropriate nature.”

“Our video didn’t contain anything even remotely close to YouTube’s guidelines for inappropriate material,” said Sedlak. 

According to YouTube’s Community Guidelines, videos that contain “pornography or sexually explicit content, animal abuse, drug abuse, bomb making, graphic or gratuitous violence, accidents, dead bodies, or speech which attacks or demeans a group based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, and sexual orientation/gender identity” are considered inappropriate material. 

Mr. Sedlak claims that since their video does not meet any of these requirements, its removal “is a clear-cut case of censorship!”

However, Sedlak does not think that the fault lies with YouTube alone, “Obviously, Planned Parenthood’s attack dogs flagged our video to hide the truth, and YouTube caved to their pressure,” he asserted.

Planned Parenthood has engaged in these types of organized campaigns in the past.

Most recently, the Golden Gate chapter of Planned Parenthood ran an e-mail campaign to have radio spots created by the U.S. Bishops promoting marriage taken off the air. The same radio ads were targeted in San Francisco and Seattle by the abortion provider.

American Life League’s video, “Planned Parenthood Sells Sex” can be viewed at

The titles of the Planned Parenthood videos that remain on YouTube are “Mile High”, “Safe is Sexy” and “Angel”.

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Benedict XVI appoints coadjutor bishop of Lancaster, England

Vatican City, Feb 12, 2008 (CNA) - Today the Holy Father appointed Fr. Michael Gregory Campbell O.S.A. as the coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Lancaster, England.

The current episcopal vicar and pastor of the parish of St. Augustine in the Diocese of Westminster, England was born in Larne, Northern Ireland in 1941 and ordained a priest in 1971.  The bishop-elect, is an Augustinian Friar and will become the sixth bishop of Lancaster.

Upon hearing of his appointment, Campbell said, “I feel humbled and deeply touched by my appointment by Pope Benedict XVI as Coadjutor Bishop of Lancaster.  It was in the Lancaster Diocese that I was ordained priest and have the happiest memories of the ten years I spent working in the diocese with the late Bishop John Brewer.  I have always found the clergy, religious and people of the Diocese of Lancaster warm and friendly.  In a sense I feel I am coming back home and I greatly look forward, with God’s grace, to working with Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue and serving the diocese as a bishop.”

Father Campbell will serve 124,256 Catholics and 179 priests in the Diocese of Lancaster. As the coadjutor, Bishop-elect Campbell will take over leadership of the Lancaster Diocese once Bishop O’Donoghue retires.

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Pope Benedict praises the dignity of women

Vatican City, Feb 12, 2008 (CNA) - On Saturday morning Pope Benedict XVI received participants in an international congress on the theme: “Woman and man, the ‘humanum’ in its entirety.” During his reflections, the Holy Father called on Christians to promote “a culture that grants women, in law and in everyday life, the dignity that is theirs by right.”

The congress, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, takes place in the twentieth anniversary year of Pope John Paul II’s apostolic letter on the dignity and vocation of women, “Mulieris Dignitatem.”

Speaking to the participants, Pope Benedict said that the relationship between men and women is a question central to contemporary culture.  The Pope noted the various documents the Church has dedicated to the topic, including “Mulieris Dignitatem,” Pope John Paul II’s 1995 “Letter to Women” and a Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith  document titled “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World.”

Man and woman’s equal dignity, their unity, and their reciprocal and complementary vocations, the Pope said, rest on their being created in the image and likeness of God, “Who 'created them male and female' avoiding indistinct uniformity and flat and impoverished equality, as well as massive and confrontational difference.”

Pope Benedict said that when men and women seek complete self-sufficiency and autonomy, they confuse freedom with the overcoming of all natural, social and religious barriers.  This confusion “reduces them to a state of oppressive solitude," the Pope said.

The Pope called for new research based on the Christian tradition to combine scientific progress and modern cultural sensibilities.  This research, he said, would contribute to a deeper understanding of both female identity and male identity, “which is also not infrequently the subject of partial and ideological studies.”

Criticizing male chauvinism, discrimination against women, and the undervaluation of women, he called for Christians to promote “a culture that grants women, in law and in everyday life, the dignity that is theirs by right.”

The family, the Pope said, is a specific, God-given vocation and mission for men and women.   It is "a community of love open to life, the fundamental cell of society" in which man and woman together play an indispensable role.

He further addressed the place of children in the family, saying, “From their conception, children have the right to a father and mother to take care of them and accompany them as they grow.”  He called for the state to support and promote the stability and unity of marriage, the dignity and responsibility of the spouses, and parents’ right to educate their children.

Pope Benedict ended his speech with a prayer asking the Virgin Mary to help women in their vocation and mission to both ecclesial and civil communities.

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Superior General of Jesuits selects his American assistant

, Feb 12, 2008 (CNA) - The Jesuits’ Father General, Adolfo Nicolás S.J., announced the names of his ten Regional Assistants during the meeting of the General Congregation on Tuesday morning, February 12, 2008. Among the new assistants is an American, Fr. James Grummer, who held the same position under the previous Father General, Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach.

The new counselors were chosen from lists of three names that each one of the world’s regions (called “Assistancies”) prepared for the superior general last week. The job of the assistants is to advise the leader of the order on matters dealing specifically with the Jesuits in their region.

In 2005, Fr. Grummer was appointed as the regional assistant for the United States to the previous Father General, Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach.

Prior to being the regional assistant, Fr. Grummer was the provincial of the Wisconsin Province, which consists of a seven-state region that includes Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Wyoming, Wisconsin, and North and South Dakota. He held the post from 2001 until he was reassigned to Rome as the U.S. assistant in 2005.
Fr. Grummer’s educational background is quite extensive. He earned a bachelor's degree in history from Iowa State University and a master's in history from St. Louis University. He also holds master's degrees in divinity and theology from The Weston School of Theology and a doctorate from the University of Notre Dame.

He also taught history at Creighton University from 1989-95, where he served as rector and minister of the Jesuit Community. He became province socius (chief of staff for the provincial) in 1995 and was named provincial in December 2000.

The full list of regional assistants for Father General Adolfo Nicolás is as follows:
    * Fr. Jean-Roger Ndombi (Eastern Africa) Assistant for Africa
    * Fr. Marcos Recolons (Bolivia) Assistant for Latin America  (Central)
    * Fr. Gabriel Ign. Rodriguez (Colombia) Assistant for Latin America (South)
    * Fr. Lisbert d’Souza (Bombay) Assistant for Central Asia
    * Fr. Daniel Huang (Philippines) Assistant for Easte Asia-Oceania
    * Fr. Adam Zak (Poland) Assistant for Central and Eastern Europe
    * Fr. Joaquín Barrero (Castille, Spain) Assistant for Southern Europe
    * Fr. Antoine Kerhuel (France) Assistant for Western Europe
    * Fr. James Grummer (Wisconsin) Assistant for the United States


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Sale of relics “unacceptable business,” says Vatican cardinal

Vatican City, Feb 12, 2008 (CNA) - The prefect for the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, said this week the sale of relics of the saints on eBay is “totally unacceptable business.”

In an interview with the Italian daily La Stampa, the cardinal explained that canon law prohibits the sale of relics.

He said the online auctioning of pieces of bones and clothing are for the most part of doubtful origin and maybe even were stolen, adding that only the objects of devotion of saints and blesseds that have Church approval could be considered authentic.

Cardinal Saraiva also warned that the relics offered on the site could end up being used for satanic purposes.

The online auction site eBay has said that its staff members work to ensure that such objects are not put up for sale. On the other hand, a spokeswoman for eBay issued a note of caution, “With nearly 7 million new items being listed every day …we may not immediately identify infringing items, but if concerned individuals bring them to our attention we will promptly take action.”

Relics of saints or blesseds are intended to help the faithful increase their devotion and draw close to God. A relic can consist of a piece of a saint’s body, clothing they wore, or cloth that was touched to the saint’s body. These objects are usually secured in altars or reliquaries inside churches.

The Catholic Church’s teaching against the selling of relics is drawn from Acts 8:20 where St. Peter confronts Simon the Magician who wishes to buy the power to perform miracles.

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Catholics should give reasons why life must be defended, says Brazilian cardinal

Sao Paulo, Brazil, Feb 12, 2008 (CNA) - During the International Congress in Defense of Life in Aparecida, Brazil, the Archbishop of Sao Paulo, Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer, said Catholics must “communicate the reasons” why they defend life so that the world understands the importance of doing so.

The cardinal noted that the Brazilian bishops’ traditional Lenten campaign this year has as its theme the defense of life.

He emphasized that the Church is on the side of life and therefore must proclaim this message.  “It’s not enough to say ‘thou shalt not kill.’ We must communicate the reasons for which we have this position, so that it will be firmly approved by the State,” he said.

Cardinal Scherer reiterated that the Church will never support killing and that human life is the first and foremost right.  The State, he stressed, cannot do away with some lives for the benefit of others.

He called on participants at the Congress to spread its message to all places in society.  “The issue of the defense of life is not a question of religion, but rather of ethics, dignity, human rights and civilization,” the cardinal said.

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Living together is a pagan way of preparing for marriage, says Cardinal Dziwisz

, Feb 12, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Krakow, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, expressed concern this week over the marriage crisis that is affecting Polish society and warned that the practice of cohabitation popular among young people is a pagan way of preparing for marriage.

In his Lenten pastoral letter, Cardinal Dziwisz—the former personal secretary of John Paul II—said “divorce and separation are a tragedy of wounded love” and he called on Poles to scrutinize the maturity of young people who present themselves for marriage.

The cardinal explained that many young people live together before marriage, often with the approval of their parents.  “We must clarify that Christians cannot prepare for the sacrament of marriage in way that we must call pagan and that alters the natural order of things,” he said.

According to opinion polls, most Poles consider Lent an important period. 80% attend fewer parties during the season and 60% work on their personal conversion.  At least half of those polled said they promise to be better during Lent.

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Archbishop says Chavez should stay out of elections in El Salvador

San Salvador, El Salvador, Feb 12, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle of San Salvador has called on the country’s leaders to prevent other countries from interfering in El Salvador’s future elections.

“We all must be vigilant so that the electoral process is truly clean, transparent and without external influences,” said Archbishop Saenz Lacalle, who called on the left-wing FMLN party to “abstain from making commitments with the Venezuelan government.”

According to a report by the US State Department, President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela may be behind the financing of the FMLN campaign.

The party’s nominee, Mauricio Funes, has denied the party is receiving Venezuelan funds to pay for campaign ads for the 2009 elections.

However, the archbishop of San Salvador has called on the Supreme Electoral Court to ensure “total independence” in the electoral process.

“If there is external political influence, it should kept under control and under vigilance,” he said.

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Cardinal Vanhoye: Spiritual Exercises necessary for renewal of Christian vocation

Vatican City, Feb 12, 2008 (CNA) - In an interview with the Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Albert Vanhoye, former secretary of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and the Pope’s choice to lead the Lenten retreat for the Roman Curia, said the Spiritual Exercises are necessary for renewing one’s Christian vocation.

“The solitude of every retreat is necessary for personal deepening.  To encounter oneself alone before the presence of God facilitates profound reflection.  In solitude man becomes aware of his own intimate aspirations, his weaknesses and of the possibility of getting in tune with God,” the cardinal explained.

The cardinal said a central theme of the Lenten retreat would be “the most amazing aspect of Jesus: the Son of God who became the brother of sinners, without, obviously, the slightest participation in sin.  Nevertheless, he accepted the condition brought about by human sin.  He did not desire for himself an existence separate from common mortals, rather, on the contrary, he sought out a humble existence.”

The Jesuit cardinal stressed that Jesus Christ is the high priest because “he transformed the condemnation to death into the occasion of greatest docility towards the Father and greatest solidarity with mankind.  These are the two dimensions of the sacrifice of Christ that correspond to the two dimensions of the Cross.”

Cardinal Vanhoye revealed that he has centered his entire retreat on the Letter to the Hebrews, “the only book of the Bible which specifically develops the priesthood of Christ.”  He explained that the application of the title “high priest” to Christ is an initiative of the author of the Letter to the Hebrews, who uses the term archierèus, which means “priest-head.” “Applied to Christ, the term indicates perfect fulfillment of the concept of priest in Christ.  Christ is the perfect mediator between God and us. He brings us into his communion with the Father.”

The biblical expert concluded by pointing out that the Spiritual Exercises are a “practice that every Christian community should experience” in order to bring us back into contact with the Lord.  Their purpose is to instill an attitude of readiness and to shed light on which path we must take.  Thanks to this more intense period of contact with the Lord, the person finds his path easier and sees that which he must abandon.”

“The exercises are a sort of vivification of the spiritual life, which is always useful, so that in daily life contact with the Lord is encouraged,” he said.

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