Archive of February 26, 2008

Denver Archbishop decries “coercion” of Catholic hospitals in merger dispute

Denver, Colo., Feb 26, 2008 (CNA) - Charles J. Chaput, Archbishop of Denver, is pointing to coercion by pro-abortion groups and some state legislators in a local controversy over the merger of non-Catholic hospitals with a Catholic health care system run by the Sisters of Charity.

The arm twisting by the various opponents of the merger would have the effect of forcing Catholic hospitals into offering procedures that violate both human dignity and the hospitals’ religious mission, according to Archbishop Chaput.

The Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System is seeking to buy two hospitals in the Denver area.  If the purchase is completed, the hospitals will follow Catholic ethical guidelines. 

Some have complained that the Catholic ethics code forbids contraceptive distribution and procedures such as sterilizations.  The code of ethics would also end the practice of medical abortions at the hospitals, which perform fewer than a dozen such abortions per year.

Critics of the merger have proposed two bills in the state legislature to hinder it.

In his February 22 letter, Archbishop Chaput defended the merger against its critics.

He noted that Catholic hospitals had served Colorado for more than a century.  He suggested that some critics, ignorant of this history, lacked both “memory and common sense.”  The hospital merger, the archbishop said, had sparked “unreasonable resistance” that should concern all Catholics.

In the archbishop’s view, the resistance to the merger centered on the two issues of financial control of the hospitals and distrust of hospitals with a Catholic identity. “The former is a matter for the Sisters and their attorneys.  But the latter is an issue that should trouble all Colorado Catholics,” Archbishop Chaput said.

He said that the health care provided in Catholic hospitals was inseparable from Catholic ethical beliefs. 

“The Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth got into the healthcare business because of the Gospel; because of their Catholic vocation to serve the sick, poor and suffering. They can't compromise their Catholic beliefs without undermining their whole mission,” the Archbishop said.

Chaput summarized the Ethical and Religious Directives (ERDs), issued by the Catholic bishops of the United States, that describe the duties Catholic healthcare owes to patients and families.  The directives also prohibit abortion, physician-assisted suicide, direct sterilization, the withholding of food and water from patients, contraceptives, and some other procedures and treatments.

“These are not ‘new’ ideas. They've been part of the overall Catholic healthcare apostolate from the beginning,” Archbishop Chaput said.  “What's new in current debates about Catholic hospitals is the pressure from abortion and other activist groups, and some lawmakers, to coerce Catholic healthcare into offering procedures that violate its religious mission and basic human dignity.”

The archbishop emphasized that none of the Denver-area Catholic hospitals was owned by the archdiocese, saying he has no authority over hiring, firing, business strategy, board appointments, or routine internal policies. 

However, Archbishop Chaput said, “the local bishop does have the obligation to ensure that Catholic hospitals act in accord with their Catholic identity. Reasonable people will see very quickly that there is no such thing as ‘strictly’ or ‘loosely’ following the ERDs -- any more than a person can be strictly or loosely faithful in a marriage.  A husband is faithful, or he isn't.”

Archbishop Chaput concluded his letter with praise for Catholic healthcare and a caution against counterproductive legislation.

“There's a particularly dark irony in punishing the ministry of Catholic women religious in the name of ‘services,’ including ‘women's services,’ that destroy or prevent life,” the archbishop said.  “The Catholic identity of Catholic healthcare has always been the key to its heroic public service, both nationally and locally. If certain Colorado lawmakers now choose to interfere with that -- even indirectly -- through unwise and obstructive legislation, they'll be hurting no one but the people of Colorado.”

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Government to investigate English Catholic schools after bishop encourages orthodoxy

London, England, Feb 26, 2008 (CNA) - A committee in the British House of Commons will investigate Catholic schools following the Bishop of Lancaster’s instructions to schools to place crucifixes in every classroom and stop “safe sex” education, the Independent reports.

Patrick O’Donoghue, Bishop of Lancaster, had circulated a 66-page booklet instructing Catholic schools to stop “safe sex” education.  Bishop O’Donoghue wrote, "The secular view on sex outside marriage, artificial contraception, sexually transmitted disease, including HIV and AIDS, and abortion, may not be presented as neutral information."

Additionally, he told the schools not to support charities that support abortion.  He singled out Amnesty International, which recently renounced its neutrality on abortion and now favors the abortion of children whose mothers were raped in war zones.

The government’s investigating committee is chaired by Labour Party member Barry Sheerman, who is reportedly concerned the Church is adopting a “fundamentalist” line.

"A lot of taxpayers' money is going into church schools and I think we should tease out what is happening here," he added. "We seem to have a shift in emphasis on the ground despite what the reasonable voices of the leadership are saying,” Sheerman said.

"Two years ago, it was possible to set up an inter-faith academy in Liverpool (jointly run by the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England)," Sheerman recalled.

However, a similar attempt in the area that Sheerman represents was abandoned after a letter was read in all area parishes before a meeting dedicated to discussing whether politicians were trying to dilute Catholic education.

“I just want to know why it is not now possible to set up an inter-faith school," Sheerman said.

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Philippines bishops to convene special meeting to respond to government corruption

Manila, Philippines, Feb 26, 2008 (CNA) - The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) will hold a special plenary meeting on Tuesday to discuss its position on a recent government corruption scandal involving the president of the Philippines, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reports.

The CBCP normally holds plenary sessions twice a year, in January and June.  The special meeting will take place because of differing interpretations of CBCP president Archbishop Angel Lagdameo’s recent call for “communal action” and a “new brand of people power.”

Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and certain cabinet members have faced allegations of corruption in a now-canceled program to build a national broadband network.

Rodolfo Lozada, a former government consultant, testified before a Senate committee on February 8, claiming that a $329 million broadband service contract with a Chinese telecommunications company contained $130 million in kickbacks.  Among others, Lozada implicated the former head of the election commission, Benjamin Abalos Sr., and President Arroyo’s husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo.

Bishop Pedro Arigo of Puerto Princesa has called for President Arroyo’s resignation, while another bishop has called for the resignation of her cabinet.  Other bishops support President Arroyo completing her term.

Some laity have interpreted the call to mean the bishops would lead street demonstrations against Arroyo in a “people power revolt” similar to the protests that toppled Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and Joseph Estrada in 2001.

Bishop Socrates Villegas, a protégé of Cardinal Jaime Sin, the cleric who lead previous anti-corruption demonstrations, decried a “culture of indifference” that aided corruption in the country.  He said the revolts were like “shots of opium” that gave people a “temporary high and nothing more.”  Political reform, he said, had to start with individuals.

“Each and everyone must be the reformed Filipino that we want our public officials to become. We must change ourselves so that society and government will change,” he said.

“We must not demand repentance and reform from our leaders if we are not even willing to repent of our personal sins as dishonest and uncaring ordinary citizens.”

“The EDSA [People power] spirit is not just about political change. It is primarily about a change of heart and soul,” Bishop Villegas continued.

"Let us not invoke the EDSA spirit for political change if we are not even open to moral and spiritual reform individually. The change we seek must come from within.”

After the special session of the bishops’ conference, there will reportedly be a meeting between bishops and legislators on February 27.

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Vatican’s Secretary of State to visit Armenia and Azerbaijan

Vatican City, Feb 26, 2008 (CNA) - Today the Holy See Press Office announced that Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone will visit Armenia and Azerbaijan to meet with the government authorities and “to express the closeness of the Holy Father Benedict XVI to the Catholic faithful in those countries.

The Vatican’s Secretary of State will first visit Armenia from March 2 to 6.  "Cardinal Bertone will be received by His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, to whom he will give a letter from Pope Benedict XVI. In the letter, the Holy Father expresses his regards and his desire for the Catholic Church to continue its ecumenical journey alongside the Armenian Apostolic Church.”

Following his visit to Armenia, Cardinal Bertone will visit Azerbaijan on March 6 to 9 “where he will meet Sheikh Allashukur Pashazade, head of Muslims in the Caucasus, and other religious leaders, to tell them of the Catholic Church's desire to collaborate in the joint commitment to peace, harmony between peoples and the good of the human family.”

In Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital city, “Cardinal Bertone will attend the inauguration of a new Catholic church built on land donated to Servant of God John Paul II by President Heydar Aliyev, father of the current head of State.”

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Pope sends aid to Ecuador after flooding and volcanic eruption

Vatican City, Feb 26, 2008 (CNA) - This morning, the Pontifical Council Cor Unum sent financial aid from the Pope for the people of Ecuador who have been affected by recent flooding and the eruption of the volcano Tungurahua.

A communiqué issued by the Vatican Press Office today announced that the Holy Father has “sent a first consignment of emergency economic aid to the 11 Ecuadorian dioceses affected by recent flooding.”

This past Sunday, after reciting the Angelus, Pope Benedict appealed for help for the Ecuadorians by "inviting everyone to show fraternal solidarity so that the people of these areas - who are experiencing moments of anguish and tribulation in the wake of devastating floods and the eruption of the Tungurahua volcano - may, as soon a possible, return to the normality of everyday life". 

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Cardinal Bertone to meet with Raul Castro on Tuesday “after lunch”

Havana, Cuba, Feb 26, 2008 (CNA) - Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, will meet this Tuesday “after lunch” with the new president of Cuba, Raul Castro, becoming the first international leader to meet with Fidel Castro’s successor.

Late Monday, after a meeting with Cuban foreign relations minister Felipe Perez Roque, Cardinal Bertone said the release of prisoners is a “positive gesture” and that the Church has not asked the government for amnesty but rather “gestures of reconciliation.”  During a press conference, he said the Holy See is asking for “gestures of reconciliation from all parties, all forces of action here in Cuba.”

The cardinal said spiritual care is needed for “prisoners of every kind,” including political prisoners, and he added that this “is not a political problem for us; it is a humanitarian one, a problem of spiritual care.”

He went on to say that the new members of the National Assembly and the Council of the State “are trying to do good,” but he stressed, “Doing good is listening to the aspirations of the people, especially of the youth, and responding with proper and favorable initiatives.”  “The young people are the future of Cuba, of a free Cuba, a developed Cuba that is autonomous,” he added.

The Vatican cardinal said he had the chance “to discuss, face to face, various problems and share various goals” with Communist leaders. 

The meeting with Raul Castro will be the last activity on the agenda of Cardinal Bertone during his visit to Cuba.

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Church in Oceania expects Pope’s visit to bring renewal

Vatican City, Feb 26, 2008 (CNA) - Various bishops from the Oceania region say that the faithful in their churches are looking to Pope Benedict XVI’s visit for World Youth Day as “an event of special grace".

"The entire continent is being mobilised - both in the more socially advanced areas and in less developed regions - to prepare" for World Youth Day 2008, which is due to be held in Sydney, Australia, in July. Various economic initiatives have been organised to help young people from the poorest areas of the continent to participate in the event. "The Day", a communiqué from the bishops relates.

The weight that the prelates give to the Pope’s visit is evident in their description of the upcoming event as “one of the most important events in the history of Australia”. They also note that “interest is growing in the visit of Pope Benedict XVI, as an event of special grace".

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Venezuelan bishop feels “honored” by attacks from Chavez supporters

Caracas, Venezuela, Feb 26, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Ramon Antonio Linares Sandoval of Barinas in Venezuela said this week he felt “honored” by the graffiti that has recently showed up around the city attacking the bishop for his criticism of the attempted military coup of 1992 led by current President Hugo Chavez.

On February 4, Bishop Linares Sandoval refused to celebrate a Mass to mark the anniversary of the failed coup attempt that then-Colonel Chavez led on the same day in 1992. He said at the time that the rebellion, “was against the constitutional order and therefore was a crime that led to the death of a significant number of people,” and therefore it did not merit celebration.

His decision sparked a series of negative reactions by Chavez supporters, who painted graffiti insulting the bishop on walls throughout the city, including on the walls of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Pillar.

“The attacks and the graffiti are the result of my decision,” Bishop Linares Sandoval said, explaining that when military officials in the region requested a Mass be celebrated to honor the uprising, he replied that he was willing to celebrate a Mass at the Cathedral for those who lost their lives on that day, as he had done in previous years.

“My decision,” he explained, “was to preserve the autonomy and independence of the Church, since religion cannot be placed at the service of politics, nor can priests or religious services be placed at the service of an ideology or a leader.”

Bishop Linares Sandoval said those requesting the Mass insisted it be an act of thanksgiving and for this reason he declined the request, unleashing a wave of insults.   He called the attacks against the Church in Venezuela “a policy of the state,” noting that other bishops have been targets, such as Cardinal Urosa Savino of Caracas and the Apostolic Nuncio. 

Cardinal Urosa has been repeatedly threatened with death, while the Nunciature in Caracas has been attacked with explosives on two occasions.

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Brazilian pro-life lawmakers to create commission to investigate clandestine abortions

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Feb 26, 2008 (CNA) - The Parliamentarian Front in Defense of Life has launched a campaign to establish a congressional commission to look into why abortion is not prosecuted by the government when it is illegal in the country.

During the 1st Brazilian Meeting of Legislators and Leaders for Life, Congressman Luis Bassuma said the Front has more than the 180 signatures required for the creation of a commission on abortion.  “Abortion has been considered a crime in the country for forty years, but officials tolerate it,” he explained.

Lawmakers argue the creation of a commission is justified because of statements by Health Minister Jose Temporao, who said in April of 2007 that the government acknowledges the existence of a clandestine abortion network, a black market for the sale of abortifacient products and international interest in financing actions to spread abortion.

The pro-life meeting was celebrated as a preparation for the international meeting that will take place in November of next year, possibly in Sao Paulo.  It was also intended to encourage state governments in Brazil to implement pro-life policies.  Among the projects discussed at the meeting was the creation of a “Pro-Life City” award, to recognized communities that are outstanding in their defense of human life.

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Newly named Argentinean ambassador to Holy See will not accept post

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Feb 26, 2008 (CNA) - Alberto Iribarne, named recently by the government of Cristina Kirchner to be Argentina’s new ambassador to the Holy See, has decided not to accept the post over the impasse the nomination has created with the Vatican because of his status as a divorced and remarried Catholic, a “canonical irregularity” that resulted in the Holy See’s withholding of official approval.

Sources quoted by the Argentinean daily Clarin said Iribarne made the decision in order to prevent problems in the relations between Argentina and the Holy See.  Reporter Jose Ignacio Llados of La Nacion explained that the lack of official acceptance from the Vatican is more the fault of the Argentinean government for ignoring the two conditions the Holy See has for accepting an ambassador: that he or she not harbor anti-religious sentiments, and that he or she, if Catholic, not be in a state of canonical irregularity, as in the case of Iribarne.

Llados said the “canonical irregularity” did not refer to Iribarne’s status as divorced but rather to his new marital relation that prevents him from receiving Communion.

However, the naming of Iribarne was also criticized by local Catholics, such as the Corporation of Catholic Lawyers, who called on the government to immediately withdraw Iribarne’s name, as he was also a signer of a controversial anti-discrimination law that was strongly condemned by the Church and by pro-life and family groups.

Lawyers said the law would promote abortion, homosexuality and would alter Church-State relations.

Llados said that while the State has the right to name whomever it wants as ambassador, the receiving State also has the right to accept or decline.

No replacement for Iribarne has been announced yet.

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"Like it or not," Christianity gave Spain its identity, says Cardinal Canizares

Madrid, Spain, Feb 26, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Toledo, Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, said this week that Spain’s memory and identity “like it or not” were forged by the Christian faith.

In a ceremony in which he was named a member of the Royal Academy of History, the cardinal gave a speech in which he pointed out that the Visigoth period saw the creation in Spain of “a heritage, a memory and an identity” that are “inseparable” from and made possible by Christianity.

The cardinal said that reflecting on Spain’s origins helps to understand the past as well as to look towards the future.  Such reflection leads to the question, “Will the Spain of tomorrow be Christian?” he asked.  “She will be if she sticks to her roots, if she keeps her memory and her identity alive,” the cardinal replied.

“We could also ask ourselves just as radically: Will she be Spain if she ceases to be Christian, if she renounces the memory of her origins that gave rise to her existence, that is, if she renounces her roots and Christian foundations,” the cardinal wondered.

He noted that the dominating culture of the moment seeks to relegate the historical truth to oblivion and to ignore it.  “But to forget this history or to distort it, to eradicate it or let our roots die would be to cease to be who we are, to disappear and to therefore lack any future.”

After his discourse, Luis Suarez Fernandez, a scholar at the Royal Academy of History, delivered a response, affirming that in his discourse, the cardinal “discovers the very roots of Spain, a nation to which Europe is greatly indebted.”

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English Catholics celebrate Cardinal Newman’s 207th birthday

London, England, Feb 26, 2008 (CNA) - The Times Online reports that on February 21 Catholics in England celebrated the 207th birthday of John Henry Cardinal Newman, a prominent clergyman whose conversion from Anglicanism to Catholicism shocked Victorian society.

Archbishop of Birmingham Vincent Nichols quoted Cardinal Newman during a homily celebrating both the anniversary of the cardinal’s birth in 1801 and the 40th anniversary of the founding of Newman University College, Birmingham.

At a Mass at the college chapel, Archbishop Nichols commemorated Cardinal Newman’s pursuit of truth.  “Two of the great figures of Catholic education, Augustine of Hippo and Cardinal John Henry Newman, both engaged in a great quest for truth and for freedom,” the archbishop said.

“Throughout his long life, he consistently followed this inner search for the truth of God as the foundation of all his decisions,” the archbishop continued.

Archbishop Nichols said that some of Cardinal Newman’s writings bore directly on contemporary issues.  Newman, the archbishop said, foresaw the challenge of “living in an age which proclaims that really there is no such thing as truth.”

The archbishop quoted an 1879 lecture of Newman, in which he summarized the attitudes of an emerging religious indifferentism:  “there is no positive truth in religion; one creed is as good as another; all are to be tolerated for all are matters of opinion. Rather it is the right of each individual to make religion say just what strikes his fancy.”

Cardinal Newman vigorously protested this culture, the archbishop said, because he believed that freedom was founded in truth.

“Only an understanding of the fundamental unchanging truth about what it is to be a human person can be the foundation of our true freedom. Only with such freedom can we follow the pathway of this search for truth,” said Archbishop Nichols.

The idea that faith undermines education, Archbishop Nichols said, “is a blinkered and often prejudiced point of view. It certainly betrays an ignorance of the true nature of faith, because it casts faith as no more than superstition; and it also betrays an ignorance of what education truly is, because it casts education as no more than the acquiring of competence and skills to serve a technological age.”

The archbishop also thanked God for guiding the college and asked Him to bless the college’s future.

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