Archive of February 14, 2008

Cardinal Brady intervened in Irish sex abuse documents dispute, reports say

Dublin, Ireland, Feb 14, 2008 (CNA) - The retired Archbishop of Dublin withdrew his objections to disclosing sexual abuse documents to a government inquiry after being visited by Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, The Irish Times reports.

On January 31 Cardinal Desmond Connell, the retired archbishop of Dublin, sought a judicial review to prevent 5,586 documents related to sexual abuse cases from being considered by the Dublin Archdiocese Commission of Investigation.  The cardinal claimed the documents were privileged information.

Cardinal Seán Brady is understood to have visited Cardinal Connell on Saturday at the north Dublin nursing home where Cardinal Connell is recovering from a fall he took in Rome.  Cardinal Brady is reported to have told Connell that the legal action was damaging towards victims of clerical child sexual abuse and towards the Catholic Church itself.

Earlier this week Cardinal Connell’s legal council withdrew its objections to providing the documents to the commission, which is investigating clerical child abuse allegations between January 1, 1975, and May 1, 2004.  The documents had been submitted to the commission by the present archbishop of Dublin on January 15.

The present archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, also visited Cardinal Connell at the nursing home.  He issued a brief statement concerning the court action, saying that he welcomed the outcome.

"Since its inception, the archdiocese has refrained from making comments on the day to day work of the commission to allow it to carry out that important work. That basic policy remains unchanged," Archbishop Martin said.

"Many victims and family members contacted me during this week. I wish to assure them, as well as priests and parish congregations, of my continued commitment to seeking the truth about the past.

"It is my hope that the common aim of all remains focused on ensuring that an accurate understanding of the truth concerning sexual abuse of children by clergy emerges," he said, according to the Irish Times.


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UCLA researchers confirm new stem cell breakthrough

Los Angeles, Calif., Feb 14, 2008 (CNA) - U.S. scientists have reprogrammed human skin cells into cells with characteristics similar to those of embryonic stem cells, confirming the breakthrough discovery made by a Japanese researcher, according to news reports.

Stem cells are considered to have significant potential for medical treatments including tissue regrowth and transplants.  While some stem cells can be extracted from adult tissue, others are produced through the controversial process of cloning human embryos and destroying them to harvest their cells.  Embryonic stem cells have the ability to become every cell type found in the human body.

Scientists at the University of California at Los Angeles genetically altered human skin cells using four regulator genes, publishing their findings in the February 11 edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences.

Their process produced what are called induced pluripotent cells, or IPS cells, that are almost identical to human embryonic stem cells in function and biological structure.

The lead author of the study was Kathrin Plath, an assistant professor of biological chemistry and a researcher with the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research.  She described the research in a prepared statement. 

"Our reprogrammed human skin cells were virtually indistinguishable from human embryonic stem cells," she said.  "Our findings are an important step towards manipulating differentiated human cells to generate an unlimited supply of patient specific pluripotent stem cells. We are very excited about the potential implications."

The UCLA research confirms the similar work of researchers Shinya Yamakana at Kyoto University and James Thomson at the University of Wisconsin.  Plath said the studies demonstrate human IPS cells can be easily created by different laboratories and could mark a milestone  in stem cell-based regenerative medicine.

The new technique could replace a stem cell harvesting method called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), sometimes called therapeutic cloning.  At present, therapeutic cloning has not been successful in humans. 

The first study author William Lowry, assistant professor of molecular, cell, and developmental biology, also addressed the findings in a statement.

"Reprogramming normal human cells into cells with identical properties to those in embryonic stem cells without SCNT may have important therapeutic ramifications and provide us with another valuable method to develop human stem cell lines," he said.

Like other prominent stem cell researchers, Lowry claimed that embryonic stem cell research was still necessary. 

"It is important to remember that our research does not eliminate the need for embryo-based human embryonic stem cell research, but rather provides another avenue of worthwhile investigation," he said.

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Pro-marriage Hispanics to rally at Democratic National Convention

Washington D.C., Feb 14, 2008 (CNA) - Key Latino leaders will rally at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Denver later this year in support of a national marriage amendment and marriage-friendly policy.

The event, organized by the Alliance for Marriage, will take place near the Colorado Convention Center where the DNC will hold its meeting.  The Alliance for Marriage will also conduct a public relations campaign, including paid advertisements, to publicize the issue and the event.

Organizers claim that the Colorado political landscape has been transformed from “the very heart of America’s pro-marriage and pro-family movement” into a “home front for radical activists.” As an example of this upheaval the Latino leaders singled out Colorado billionaire and former software magnate Tim Gill, who has funded homosexual activist causes.

The Alliance for Marriage plans to mobilize the Hispanic vote to bring about renewal “within both national political parties, but especially the Democrat party”. Citing the influence of millionaire activists, the organizers see Latino support for the family as the “only chance of pushing back the forces of Gill and others.”

“For far too long the votes of Latinos have been taken for granted,” said Rev. Sam Rodriguez, Jr., President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and Advisory Board Member of the Alliance for Marriage Foundation.  “As our numbers grow, our influence is growing, and it is time for leaders of both parties to put protecting marriage and strong family values at the center of their agenda.  Candidates like to tout ‘family values’ on the stump, but then toss our values aside when they get to Washington.  We’re not going to tolerate that any more.”

Final details will be made public in the weeks leading up to the convention.

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Mexican bishops call drug traffickers to conversion

Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 14, 2008 (CNA) - In a statement released for the season of Lent, the Bishops’ Conference of Mexico called for the season of conversion be an occasion for rejecting organized crime and a time for drug traffickers abandon their practices.

“We have begun the liturgical season of Lent, which invites us to recommit ourselves to the Christian life and prepares us to celebrate Easter,” the bishops said.

“In Mexico,” they said, “as throughout the world, we suffer the ravages of certain phenomenon caused by the overpricing of material goods and this impacts most cruelly those who have the least.  Among these phenomena are corruption, the search by the powerful for more power, monopolies that widen the gap between rich and poor, and most especially, the scourge of drug trafficking, which has caused so much death and destruction in our country.”
“If these social sins are hurting us in Mexico, it is because we Catholics are committing one of the most serious errors of our time: a separation between the faith we profess and our daily lives,” the bishops added.

The bishops called on all Mexicans to be a part of the solution, and implored those involved in “these absurd situations of drug trafficking to take advantage of the season of Lent to begin a path towards conversion and sincere return to God; only He can open your hearts and move your wills to a total change of life.  As pastors, we are dedicated to striving for everyone to experience a personal encounter with the living Jesus Christ. May he bring us to personal conversion and to a complete change of life, in order to become missionary disciples.”

“This Lent offers all Mexicans the chance to continue supporting our brothers and sisters who are most in need and to renew our commitment to a culture of life, reaffirming our absolute ‘No’ to the scourge of drug trafficking and to the suffering and death that accompanies it,” the bishops said.

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Benedict XVI may visit Germany in 2009, says nuncio

Berlin, Germany, Feb 14, 2008 (CNA) - The Apostolic Nuncio to Germany, Archbishop Jean-Claude Perisset said this week Pope Benedict XVI may visit the country in November of 2009 on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The possible papal visit on the historic date could serve as a sign for German unity and an impulse for ecumenical dialogue in Berlin, where Catholics have been reduced to a minority.

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Beatification process for Sister Lucia opened, new writings to be published

Coimbra, Portugal, Feb 14, 2008 (CNA) - The prefect for the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, announced this Wednesday in Coimbra, Portugal, that Pope Benedict XVI has authorized the opening of the cause of beatification of Sister Lucia, the Fatima visionary, and he revealed that she left a series of important unpublished writings.

“Since the death of Sister Lucia, it has been obvious how much the reputation of holiness of this humble nun has spread throughout Portugal and the rest of the world,” the cardinal said, explaining the Pontiff’s decision to suspend the five year waiting period before beginning the process of beatification.

Cardinal Saraiva made the announcement during a ceremony celebrated in Coimbra marking the third anniversary of Sister Lucia’s death.

The Pope authorized the opening of the cause on December 17, but he requested the announcement be made by Cardinal Saraiva in his role as prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.

The other two Fatima seers, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, cousins of Sister Lucia, were beatified on May 13, 2000, by Pope John Paul II.

Cardinal Saraiva noted that during the last decade there have only been two cases in which the five-year waiting period has been waivered.  They involved Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and Pope John Paul II.

The prefect explained that neither the apparitions at Fatima nor the three secrets will have any bearing on the process of beatification of Sister Lucia, which will instead focus on the heroism of her virtues and the required miracle obtained through her intercession.  Sister Lucia died on February 13, 2005, at the age of 97 in the convent of Coimbra.

The Portuguese cardinal confirmed that Sister Lucia left behind “other important unpublished works” which he hoped would “soon be published, as they are a spiritual treasure.”

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How and why the Roman Curia holds Spiritual Exercises

Vatican City, Feb 14, 2008 (CNA) - As Pope Benedict XVI and the members of the Roman Curia take part in Lenten Spiritual Exercises under the direction of Cardinal Albert Vanhoye, the L’Osservatore Romano published an article explaining the origin of this practice at the Vatican.

According to the article, the practice of conducting the Spiritual Exercises during Lent has its roots in the traditional Advent and Lenten preaching presented by the Preacher of the Papal Household, traditionally a post held by a Capuchin friar—currently, Father Raniero Cantalamessa.

However, it was Pope Pius XI who began the practice of the Spiritual Exercises.

In fact, a few months after his election to the papacy, on July 25, 1922, Pius XI proclaimed St. Ignatius of Loyola patron of the Spiritual Exercises, and on December 20, 1929, the day of his priestly jubilee, he published an encyclical on the Spiritual Exercises, “Mens Nostra”, in which he explained his decision to carry on the practice annually.

According to the Vatican daily, “since 1929, with only a few exceptions, the Spiritual Exercises have taken place each year in the first week of Advent.  Paul VI moved them to the first week of Lent.”

They were suspended in 1950 because Pius XII did not want to interrupt the celebrations of the Holy Year, in 1962 when Blessed John XXIII preferred to have a personal retreat, and in 1963 when Paul VI did not want to interrupt the second session of Vatican II. It was then that he decided to move them from Advent to Lent.

“The preacher of the Spiritual Exercises is received in a private audience with the Pope at the beginning and at the end, and the preaching generally does not last longer than half an hour,” the article indicated, revealing an interesting anecdote. Once, a Jesuit preacher continued on for several minutes past the allotted time, getting the attention of a friendly Pius XII, who not only asked him to finish but also told him that brevity was important in order not to compromise the efficacy of the discourse, in accord with the recommendations by St. Ignatius himself.

The Exercises are always held in the chapel on the second floor of the Apostolic Palace. Until 1988, it was called the “Matilde” chapel, but during the Marian Year of 1987-1988, Pope John Paul II re-named it the “Redemptoris Mater” chapel.

Between 1997 and 1999, the retreats took place in the Clementine Hall while the chapel was being renovated.  L’Osservatore Romano explained that in Redemptoris Mater, “on the right side of the altar is the small San Lorenzo oratory, which is accessible from the Pope’s apartment.  The Pope attends the Exercises seated in the oratory and out of view from the rest of the participants, for reasons of discretion and to simplify the ceremonials.”

Only at the conclusion of the Exercises does the Pontiff enter the chapel and address a few words to those present.


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Healing of religious would be first miracle attributed to Our Lady of Lourdes for a Latin American

Bogotá, Colombia, Feb 14, 2008 (CNA) -

The inexplicable cure of a Colombian religious—whose identity remains a secret—would be the first miracle attributed to the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes and officially recognized in Latin America.

Up to now, there are no Latin American or Spanish cases among the 67 people whose cures have been recognized as a miracle of Lourdes by the Catholic Church.

According to chaplain Teotimo Gonzalez, coordinator of Spanish-speaking pilgrims in Lourdes, a Spanish woman and a Colombian nun are among those who have begun the process of having their cures recognized as miraculous during this year’s  150th anniversary celebrations.

The cases are examined by a committee of doctors who determine whether or not there is a scientific explanation for the cures.

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Study finds Catholics who attend Mass are less likely to divorce

Washington D.C., Feb 14, 2008 (CNA) - A poll commissioned by the USCCB Subcommittee on Marriage and the Family Life and conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate has found that Catholics who attend Mass frequently are less likely to get divorced and are more likely to have large families, reports Lifesite News.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, the chairman of the subcommittee summarized the poll’s findings, "Not surprisingly, the study paints a mixed picture. It gives us reasons to be grateful and hopeful. It also raises concerns and presents us with challenges.”

Kurtz noted one distressing point – the fact that Catholics “are just as likely as the overall population to obtain a divorce.”

However, the archbishop pointed out, Catholics who go to Mass frequently, and demonstrate a higher level of commitment to the faith, generally have lower rates of divorce and are more familiar with the Church's teachings on marriage. Those who rarely or never go to Mass are significantly more likely to obtain a divorce.

Kurtz stressed a number of other areas of concern.  The study showed that only two-thirds of married Catholics have been married in the Church, and twenty-three percent of adult Catholics have gone through a divorce. Eleven percent of Catholics are divorced and remarried or are living with someone else, though the Church strictly opposes this practice.

There were also significant differences in terms of the age of the respondents, with younger Catholics generally demonstrating a lesser knowledge of Catholic teaching, and a smaller degree of commitment to the faith 

"Older Catholics, especially those who came of age prior to Vatican II, are typically more involved in Church life and more frequently attend Mass than younger generations of Catholics,” stated the executive summary.

However, the study found that agreement with Catholic teaching is highest amongst older (born before 1943) and the much younger (born after 1981) Catholics, with the least agreement with Church teachings found in the middle generation.  
In conclusion, Archbishop Kurtz said that the poll has given the Catholic Church an idea of which teachings are least understood.

"This new research on Catholics and marriage confronts us with a sense both of urgency and opportunity. It identifies strengths and accomplishments on which we are eager to build. It shines a light on challenges and difficulties which we must address."

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Catholics should give public witness unashamedly, says Cardinal Carles

Madrid, Spain, Feb 14, 2008 (CNA) - In an opinion piece published by the Spanish daily La Razon, Cardinal Ricardo Maria Carles, Archbishop Emeritus of Barcelona, said Catholics should not be fearful of bearing witness to the faith in the public square.

“To give witness to the faith, without false hang-ups, has always been the fruit of the virtue of fortitude, as a consequence of the undesired, but often unavoidable, confrontation of the Gospel with the world, in a pejorative sense,” the cardinal writes.

“Fortitude is need to confess the faith in many places, without hiding it, especially when the glory of God or the good of neighbor demand it,” the cardinal explained, pointing out that this testimony is evident when one lives “with simplicity, but with heroism, in love, joy and peace”.

“When our lives have Christian relevance, they are convincing and attractive.  They are more convincing than words, as you bear witness to what is inside,” Cardinal Carles stated.

“The desire for holiness is the reflection of the transformation of man and society proclaimed by Christ, which we Catholics cannot renounce out of fidelity to God,” he said.

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YouTube apologizes, restores pro-life video

Washington D.C., Feb 14, 2008 (CNA) - After media coverage and numerous protests for removing a pro-life video report critical of a Planned Parenthood advertisement, the video-sharing site has apologized and restored the video to its site.

In its apology, YouTube blamed the video’s removal on a “technical malfunction.”

The video in question criticized Planned Parenthood’s “Mile High” advertisement that used an airplane setting to encourage recreational sex and contraceptive use.  The American Life League (ALL) video displayed clips of the risqué advertisement, which is also posted on YouTube.

On Monday morning, the ALL received an e-mail from YouTube saying their video had been removed.  "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," the e-mail said.

Michael Hichborn, the director of media relations for ALL, told Catholic News Agency that more than 64 news sources and weblogs covered the banning, including Yahoo News, EWTN, News Busters, and the Inside Catholic blog.

"Once word got out that YouTube had allowed the Planned Parenthood ads our report was based on to remain on their site, while at the same time censoring our report, a flurry of e-mails, blog posts, and complaints from the pro-life community pressured YouTube into reversing their decision," said Jim Sedlak, vice president of American Life League.
Three days after the video was banned, the American Life League received a second e-mail that read:

"This email is to inform you that a video was recently removed from your account due to a technical malfunction. The issue has since been remedied and we appologize[sic] for any inconvenience or distress this may have caused.  The following video(s) have been reinstated and your account has not been penalized."

According to the YouTube user guide, flagged videos are not automatically taken down by the web site.  “If we remove your video after reviewing it, you can assume that we removed it purposefully, and you should take our warning notification seriously,” it reads.

Sedlak welcomed YouTube’s restoration of the video to the site, saying, “We are pleased that YouTube has reversed their decision to remove our video.  Our ALL News Report was neither objectionable nor inappropriate. While it is unfortunate that YouTube chose this tactic in the first place, it is encouraging to note that they corrected their poor decision in a timely fashion.”

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Pius X Society school’s ban on female referees scrutinized

Topeka, Kan., Feb 14, 2008 (CNA) - A K-12 academy run by a traditionalist Catholic breakaway group is attracting attention for an apparent policy that forbids female referees from its basketball games, the Topeka Capital-Journal reports.

On February 2, two referees were to officiate at a basketball game at St. Mary’s Academy, run by the Society of St. Pius X.  Ten minutes before the game started, the school administrator approached referee David Putthoff and asked that the female referee, Michelle Campbell, not officiate.

"He told us women were not allowed to referee there," said Putthoff, who spoke to the Capital-Journal.  Putthoff, who is also director of basketball operations for the Topeka Officials Association (TOA), was asked to work with two male officials who had just finished working at a junior varsity game.

"I was shocked, immediately caught off guard. I said, 'If Michelle has to leave, I'm leaving with her,' and we all walked. As far as I'm concerned, I'm never coming back," he said.

Campbell said if she knew of the school policy, she would not have accepted the officiating assignment.

"This probably would have come up sooner or later, but I just happened to be the one who got involved," she said. "I was dumbfounded when I learned of it.”

"But I've gotten overwhelming support from other officials, and that's helped. Right now I'm trusting that the association will handle it in an appropriate manner. All the facts have yet to be gathered," she said, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.

Putthoff said he plans to ask his TOA board whether to continue to provide officials for St. Mary’s Academy games.  He said he was inclined to ask the TOA to suspend its association with the school.

"I'd be shocked if they remain an approved school," he said.

Father Vincent Griego, principal of St. Mary’s Academy, did not respond to interview requests.

The school generated another sports controversy in 2004, when its eight-man football team refused to play against a team that had a girl on its roster.  They forfeited the game.

St. Mary’s Academy, according to its website, is owned and operated by the Society of St. Pius X, a traditionalist Catholic group.  Generally opposing the liturgical reforms and doctrinal teachings of the Second Vatican Council, the society’s founder and its four present bishops are excommunicated.

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Sky Angel IPTV service includes five Catholic channels

Naples, Fla., Feb 14, 2008 (CNA) - Sky Angel U.S., a national leader in providing Christian TV and radio channels, is including five Catholic channels as part of its new 70-channel Sky Angel Internet  Protocol Television (IPTV) service.
Sky Angel IPTV will feature a large variety of Christian TV and radio channels, plus many popular mainstream family channels, including news and sports.

“Sky Angel sees the inclusion of Catholic programming as a natural fit as we strive to offer the widest variety of Christian channel options,” said Rob Johnson, chief executive officer of Sky Angel.

The Catholic line up features five TV and radio channels: CatholicTV, EWTN TV in both English and Spanish, and the radio channels EWTN Global Catholic Radio and EWTN Radio Católica Mundial.
“Catholic viewers will also benefit from many of the other Sky Angel channels that, due to their faith, family and educational content, make them most appropriate for family viewing,” added Johnson.
Specific dates and times of programs on these channels can be found on

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