Thornwood, N.Y., Mar 12, 2008 (CNA) - Catholic News Agency is pleased to announce that it has added Fr. Thomas Berg, LC, as one of our featured weekly columnists. Fr. Berg’s column, “With Good Reason”, addresses a variety of issues at the intersection of ethics and culture. Here is how Fr. Berg describes his column, and why he calls it, “With Good Reason.”
“It’s no secret to most readers that public discourse today—on virtually any topic—is too often vitiated by poor reasoning. From the pages of the New York Times, to the blogosphere, to the nightly news, to conversations at the grocery store, it does not take long for the attentive ear to identify the lack of sound reasoning that is pervasive of our culture. So, I think it’s very healthy to call people's attention to this fact. The American democratic experiment cannot long survive awash in a cultural Kool-Aid of poorly reasoned assertions about morality, politics, and culture that lead to poorly reasoned (or unreasoned) behavior. Who we vote for, what we complain about, the clothes we buy, the number of children we decide to have, the career choices we make, our religious commitments and the faith we profess cannot be, must not be the result of more or less passion-based, emotivistic responses to cultural stimuli that either threaten or promise to promote one's egotistical preferences in life. Such a culture will not sustain a thriving and well-ordered democratic way of life. Our click-for-an-emotion culture of text-messaging, chat-rooming and MySpace deadens the very capacity for reasoned reflection in the lives of millions of American teens, twenty and thirty-somethings.”
“I would suggest that if international Jihad doesn't do us in, this particular cultural crisis will. Consider this weekly e-column as one small contribution toward averting the latter. I sincerely hope that what I write will be thought and said with good reason. And I hope it will be worth your while. I can't guarantee that, of course, but I'll do my best.”
You’ll find Fr. Berg’s columns featured here.
Sydney, Australia, Mar 12, 2008 (CNA) - An independent study claims that World Youth Day 2008 will bring $231 million into the Australian economy.
The Sydney Chamber of Commerce report took into account anticipated tourism earnings, business opportunities, global brand positioning, and cultural exchanges. Pilgrims’ expenditures on food, accommodation, transportation, and retail sectors are expected to top $231 million.
“This study reinforces the view of many that WYD08 will not only deliver social benefits to Australia but will also inject substantial immediate benefits into Sydney’s tourism, hospitality and retail businesses,” said World Youth Day 2008 Chief Operating Officer Danny Casey.
Casey said that World Youth Day will draw 125,000 pilgrims to Sydney for the event, which will take place between July 15 and 20.
“WYD08 will further project Sydney as a leading global city and further boost the cultural credentials of our great city,” said the Hon. Patricia Forsythe, Executive Director, Sydney Chamber of Commerce.
Though the event is held primarily in Sydney, in the week prior to the event tens of thousands of pilgrims will visit parishes in other parts of the country under a program called Days in the Dioceses.
The event will mark Pope Benedict XVI’s first papal visit to Australia.
Manila, Philippines, Mar 12, 2008 (CNA) - Bishops, priests, and religious on the island of Jolo in the Philippines are now under military protection following a series of murders and kidnappings committed by Muslim militants targeting Church personnel, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) reports.
Bishop Angelito Lampon, the Apostolic Vicar of Jolo, spoke to ACN about conditions on Jolo, an island in the Sulu Archipelago in the southwest Philippines.
Bishop Lampon said that he had to build a guardhouse in front of the gate of his episcopal residence because of the security concerns. He cited the murder of Father Rey Roda, who was shot dead by armed Muslim men this past January, as an example of the worsening security situation.
The islands of Jolo and Basilan are considered strongholds of the Abu Sayaff (Bearers of the Sword) guerillas, an Islamic jihadist group that the international community and the Filipino people consider to be terrorists
Though there are sometimes serious acts of violence, there are also many minor daily acts of hostility. Bishop Lampon said that a Muslim mother might sweep her yard, but dump the rubbish in front of the door of her Christian neighbor. The bishop also related how he has been abused and spat upon in the street when he was in clerical dress.
The bishop said that political leaders have "no interest in the common good in their hearts." He said only a handful of people have broken through the entrenched individualistic and clannish attitudes of the region.
Despite the violence and hostility, Christian charity work continues in Jolo. Bishop Lampon said that Christians have been commanded to "to forgive seventy times seven times" and to reach out to others with "a hand of friendship and reconciliation."
The Catholic Church in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi has initiated numerous projects to benefit the population, which is 97 percent Muslim. The Church helps provide education, housing, healthcare, and micro-finance programs for the poor. On the island of Jolo, a Church initiative has built over 3,000 low-cost housing units for the poor.
Bishop Lampon stressed that the Church’s faith in Jesus Christ makes her determined to hold out in Jolo. It is good that the Church could provide humanitarian aid, but this alone is not enough to justify her continued presence here, the bishop explained. He said that Catholics in Jolo pray for peace and reconciliation at every Mass after Holy Communion, drawing hope above all from their belief that “evil will not have the last word.”
Catholics on the island also hope that the life of Bishop Lampon’s predecessor, Bishop Ben de Jesus, will continue to bear good fruit. Bishop de Jesus was murdered in front of his cathedral on February 4, 1997. Catholics pray that "the noble sacrifice of his life and death inspire the political leaders, the people of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi and the entire nation to fight, to work and to pray for peace."
Bishop Ben de Jesus had died "so that we could live in peace," said Bishop Lampon. He said that Catholics offer up everything they have for unity and for the healing of divisions between members of various religions, cultures, and tribes.
Little Rock, Ark., Mar 12, 2008 (CNA) - A Catholic leader in Arkansas has apologized to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation for warning Catholics that fundraising activities for the breast cancer charity sometimes support Planned Parenthood.
Though the apology said the warning was based on an error, one pro-life group contended that the initial warning was necessary and that the apology ignored several problems with the charity.
Last month Monsignor J. Gaston Herbert, the administrator of the Diocese of Little Rock, said in a letter to parishes and Catholic schools that many affiliates of the Komen foundation contribute some of their funding to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading abortion provider. He also said that the foundation supports embryonic stem cell research and refuses to acknowledge a link between abortion and breast cancer.
On Thursday Monsignor Herbert met with foundation officials and issued an apology saying that the national Komen foundation and its Arkansas affiliates do not give grants to Planned Parenthood. He said a small number of affiliates give some grants directly to Planned Parenthood for breast examinations, treatment, and education.
“The position statement issued on Feb. 7 was based upon unintentional error,” Hebert said in a statement released by the diocese. “To let the statement stand would be an act of injustice. With apologies to Komen, to those fighting breast cancer and to the survivors, to the Catholic clergy and faithful who were embarrassed by this mistaken policy, I rescind the position in its entirety.”
Monsignor Herbert also said that the National Cancer Institute states that there is no link between abortion and breast cancer. “The preponderance of scientific research states that no such link exists, but there is a minority opinion that insists that such a link exists," the priest wrote.
The Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation holds two races in the state every year to raise money for breast cancer research.
Sherrye McBryde, executive director of the Arkansas affiliate of the Komen foundation, said on Friday that she was pleased with the meeting and the apology, according to the Arkansas News Bureau.
“This misinformation has not just been a part of this diocese,” McBryde said. “It keeps popping up around the country, but this is the first time that a diocese has been willing to sit down with representatives from Komen and truly iron out the situation.
“We think this is groundbreaking and hope it will have an impact across the country.”
According to McBryde, at least five other Catholic dioceses in the United States have urged parishes and Catholic schools to stop supporting Komen foundation fundraising activities for the same reason.
Douglas R. Scott, Jr., president of the pro-life group Life Decisions International (LDI), criticized the apology.
"Despite the efforts of some to make this issue sound complicated, the facts are clear," Scott said. "The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation allows its chapters to fund Planned Parenthood and several of them do so. The Diocese of Little Rock has essentially said it is acceptable to be associated with a group that funds an abortion-committing goliath so long as local dollars are not going to the group. This kind of disconnect is exactly what Komen officials were hoping to achieve and they clearly succeeded."
Scott said that the issue is not whether the national foundation directly funds Planned Parenthood, but whether the national foundation directly supports a chapter that directly funds Planned Parenthood. "The parent could prohibit funding of Planned Parenthood by its chapters but Komen has steadfastly refused to do," Scott said.
"Much of the statement released by the Diocese of Little Rock will be familiar to pro-life leaders," Scott said, because it is “strikingly similar” to past statements made by the Komen foundation.
“It seems that all Komen had to do to immunize itself from criticism is some smooth talking,” Scott said. “This has resulted in a divided and confused Pro-Life Movement.”
"If Komen had to choose between successful fundraising for the fight against breast cancer or an association with Planned Parenthood, wouldn't it choose the former?" Scott asked. "The charity is apparently not at the point where its leaders feel they must make a choice. And this is largely because they are not feeling enough heat."
Scott also attacked Monsignor Herbert’s discussion of research denying a link between breast cancer and abortion as a position identical to that of Planned Parenthood.
Alison Levin, executive director of the Ozark Affiliates of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, said she also was pleased by the monsignor’s apology. She said the foundation would continue to “work closely with Catholic charities... helping deliver important breast health information and awareness services to population areas in need.”
Vatican City, Mar 12, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict greeted pilgrims in Paul VI Hall this morning as he held his weekly general audience. Continuing his catechesis on ancient Church figures, he spoke today about Boethius and Cassiodorus, two great Christian writers who lived in Italy during the years following the fall of the Roman Empire.
Boethius, best known for his work “On the Consolation of Philosophy”, was born in Rome in 480, and entered public life as a senator at the age of 25. However, he continued his philosophical and religious studies alongside his public responsibilities, anxious to preserve the heritage of Greek and Roman learning for future generations.
Unjustly imprisoned and later executed by King Theodoric for allegedly plotting to assassinate him, he wrote his greatest philosophical work in prison. In reflecting on the injustice of his situation in the light of biblical Wisdom literature and classical authors, he concluded that true happiness lies in continuing to hope in God, despite adversity.
The Holy Father said, that indeed, "Boethius is a symbol of a huge number of prisoners unjustly condemned throughout all times and across all latitudes. His life is in fact a place to enter into the contemplation of the mystery of the Crucifixion of Golgotha."
Speaking of Cassiodorus, Boethius' contemporary, Pope Benedict said, "Indeed, harsh fortune helps us to distinguish true friends from false ones, and there can be few greater consolations than that of true friendship."
Cassiodorus also sought to preserve the heritage of Greek and Roman learning and devoted much time and energy to promoting the monastic movement. He did so because he believed that monks were the people best placed to preserve and hand on the heritage of Classical Christian culture.
He conceived the idea of entrusting to monks the task recovering, preserving and passing on to posterity the immense cultural heritage of the ancients. With this purpose in mind, Cassiodorus founded a monastery, and ensured that monks were trained not only in manual and agricultural labor, but in transcribing and preserving manuscripts.
At the same time, Cassiodorus maintained the monastic spiritual ideals of contemplation and charitable service to the poor. Pope Benedict remarked that, "We would do well to take note of his advice to his monks: 'Meditate day and night on the law of the Lord and always focus your attention upon Christ'."
In closing, Pope Benedict invoked his blessing on all the pilgrims present saying, "Upon all of you, and upon your families and loved ones at home, I invoke God's blessings of joy and peace."
Sydney, Australia, Mar 12, 2008 (CNA) - Young people who will be in Sydney for World Youth Day 2008 will be able to venerate the relics of Pier Giorgio Frassati, one of the ten patron saints of the event, at the city’s Cathedral, according to a report by SIR news agency.
The relics are being brought to Australia at the request of Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney. “The idea therefore came from the organizational committee of WYD and therefore we are very happy,” sources told SIR.
The coffin containing his remains will be exposed in the Cathedral in a special area surrounded by the four flowery panels painted by the Bl. Pier Giorgio’s mother and that are normally present at his tomb at the Cathedral of Turin.
“The request to have the mortal remains of Pier Giorgio Frassati was not only for WYD but also so that beginning June 15 young people in Australia could learn about and venerate the Italian blessed,” SIR explained.
Pier Giorgio Frassati was born in Turin, Italy, on April 6, 1901. He was raised in a very rich Catholic family. His father was the founder and director of the newspaper La Stampa, which often promoted ideas contrary to the Catholic Church, and his mother was a devout painter.
During his adolescence he cultivated a profound spiritual life and became an active member of Catholic Action, the apostolate of payer, the Eucharistic League and the Association of University Student Adorers.
He decided to study mechanical engineering in order to be close to poor workers and entered the Politecnico University of Turin where he founded a Catholic student club.
He lived an austere live and gave to the poor a large portion of the money given to him by his parents for his personal expenses. He was an intrepid athlete, skier and mountain climber.
When he turned 24 he was diagnosed with a terminal illness which claimed his life in only one week.
He died on July 4, 1925. His funeral was attended by many friends, many of whom were poor. He was buried at the cathedral of Turin.
Pope John Paul II called Pier Giorgio Frassatti the “man of the eight beatitudes.” He was beatified in 1990 and deemed a model of “faith and charity, the true channels of strength of his existence, an active and diligent apostle in his family, school and society, a joyful passionate and enthusiastic apostle of Christ.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 12, 2008 (CNA) - The Apostolic Nuncio to Mexico, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, said this week the Church is not interested in having clerics be elected to political office, “as she wants her priests to be priests and her bishops to be bishops. She does not want them to be directly involved in politics,” he said.
“We are not going to fight to have a priest as mayor, because we have a different mission,” the archbishop said. “The role of priests is eminently religious. There is no reason to waste time on this, we are not going to fight for this; we know exactly what role we have to fulfill.”
Archbishop Pierre made his statements in Chiapas after blessing the first stone of the new Seminary of Holy Mary of Guadalupe.
On Wednesday he is scheduled to meet with victims of the flooding from the Malpaso Dam. The archbishop will also visit the region where five months ago more than three thousand people were evacuated in order to escape the rising waters.
Piura, Peru, Mar 12, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Jose Antonio Eguren of Piura in northern Peru has expressed his solidarity with the Archbishop of Arequipa in response to attempts by abortion supporters to introduce new norms that would allow for abortion in public hospitals, stressing that “an unborn child is not a matter of opinion.”
At the end of his Sunday homily, Archbishop Eguren called for the defense of human life from the moment of conception.
“In the gospel, the Lord Jesus cries at the tomb of his friend Lazarus. But today he cries today as children perish from the unspeakable crime of abortion in the wombs of their mothers. In response to those who push a culture of death by seeking the legalization of abortion in our country, we must say that human life is inviolable from the moment of conception,” he said.
“This is not only a commandment of the Christian faith,” he said, “but a natural law written in the deepest part of every man’s heart and is valid for both believers and non-believers. An unborn child is not a question of opinion, or a fantasy, and much less something to be disposed of or killed. An unborn child is just as human as one that is born,” the archbishop stressed.
“From Piura I send my solidarity and support to my brother bishop Javier del Rio of Arequipa, who right now in that beloved region of Peru is facing powerful economic interests of the international culture of death. We would like to tell him that he is not alone in the fight for life,” Archbishop Eguren stated.
Madrid, Spain, Mar 12, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Toledo and Primate of Spain, Cardinal Antonio Canizares, said this week the Church would continue defending “the values that are in danger” and, concretely, would fight “against the widening of the law on abortion and against euthanasia.”
Canizares made his statements in an interview with the Italian daily Il Corriere della Sera, two days after the Socialist party in Spain carried the day in the country’s general elections.
“We don’t have anything to be sorry over,” as it would be “a betrayal if we renounced defending life, from conception to natural death,” he said in response to a question about the Church’s position on recent legislation.
“We are not against democracy, we are for it,” he said. Whoever denies the right to life is against democracy and leads society towards disaster,” the cardinal stated, warning that at this time, “a cultural revolution is taking place not only in Spain but throughout the West,” in which “the dictatorship of relativism” is reigning, which was denounced by Benedict XVI at the outset of his pontificate.
In this context, “Spain represents the most advanced point of this revolution,” especially after the laws passed by the Zapatero government “that deny the evidence of nature and reason, entrust to the State the moral formation of young people, and propose founding a new culture based on a false understanding of freedom,” the cardinal stressed.
Regarding the issue of abortion, Cardinal Canizares explained that the Church would call for “the full application of the current law,” which, if done, “would prevent many of the 100,000 abortions that take place each year in Spain from happening.” He also expressed support for the moratorium on abortion called for by Italian journalist Giuliano Ferrara. “I will fight for the abolition of abortion, which is worst degradation in the history of humanity,” the cardinal said.
, Mar 12, 2008 (CNA) - A Polish priest and physicist who was a friend of Pope John Paul II has been awarded the Templeton Prize, the world’s largest monetary annual award, for his “theology of science,” Canwest News Service reports.
Father Michal Heller, who conducted his research on the origins of the universe and the relation between science and religion while living under Soviet oppression, will be awarded the $1.6 million Templeton Prize by Prince Phillip at a ceremony in May at Buckingham Palace.
"Michal Heller's quest for deeper understanding has led to pioneering breakthroughs in religious concepts and knowledge as well as expanding the horizons of science," said John Templeton, Jr., head of the Templeton Foundation and son of the global investor and philanthropist who started the award.
The Templeton Foundation said Heller’s examination of questions such as “Does the universe have a cause?” has given Christians a “theology of science” in which to consider “the great blueprint of God’s thinking.”
Father Heller, 72, is a professor of philosophy at the Pontifical Academy of Theology in Krakow and an adjunct professor at the Vatican Astronomical Observatory in Italy.
The priest has a religious and academic background that allows him to examine religion, physics, mathematics, cosmology, philosophy, and history.
"It is my little joke that my main drawback is I am interested in too many things," Father Heller told the Ottawa Citizen in an interview. "So my talents, if I have any, are too-easily dissipated into too many things."
The priest-physicist has examined quantum physics, general relativity, the historic interaction between science and religion, the foundations of physics, and the evolution of the universe. His academic work was carried out under the aggressive anti-intellectualism of the Communist regime that governed Poland for most of Father Heller’s life.
Father Heller was born to a religious intellectual family in 1936 in the Polish town of Tamow. He was ordained in 1959 and after serving as a parish priest he returned to academic studies. He was encouraged by the Archbishop of Krakow, Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II. Archbishop Wojtyla would invite Father Heller and other scientists, philosophers, and theologians to his residence to discuss their fields of study.
The future Pope also convinced Polish authorities in 1977 to allow Father Heller to travel to the west to attend conferences and meet foreign experts. Father Heller’s travel requests had been denied for the previous decade.
Father Heller said he plans to use the prize money to create a center for research into science and theology.
John Templeton, Sr., who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1987, deliberately set the value of the Templeton Prize higher than the value of the Nobel because he believed that the benefits of spiritual study outweigh those of other human endeavors. The Templeton Prize has been awarded since 1973.
Erumeli, India, Mar 12, 2008 (CNA) - At least 50 in India have been blinded after staring at the sun in the hope of seeing an apparition of the Virgin Mary, the Telegraph reports.
Devotees have flocked to a hotel manager’s house in Erumeli, near where the apparition is rumored to have occurred. The hotelier claimed that statues of the Virgin Mary in his house had been crying honey and bleeding oils and perfume. The hotelier has since moved, but the house has been the object of attention for months.
Health authorities in the Kottayam district have tried to dispel rumors of a miraculous image in the sun. They warn of the dangers of looking into direct sunlight. Forty-eight cases of sight loss, possibly caused by photochemical burns on the retina, have been recorded at St. Joseph’s ENT and Eye Hospital since Friday.
"All our patients have similar history and symptoms… They have developed photochemical, not thermal, burns after continuously gazing at the sun," Dr. Annamma James Isaac, the hospital's ophthalmologist said, according to the Telegraph.
Clergy have disavowed the apparition after being approached by health officers and doctors.