Archive of April 1, 2008

Social commentator calls on McCain to advocate traditional values

Washington D.C., Apr 1, 2008 (CNA) - Social commentator Star Parker has written an open letter to John McCain asking him to promote traditional values to combat crime and family breakdown.

Parker said that though she was deeply concerned about the threats from terrorism and radical Islam, she did not agree with the senator that either constituted a “transcendent threat.”

Instead, she suggested that the breakdown of the American family was a true “transcendent threat,” since almost 40 percent of children are now born out of wedlock.  She suggested that the prospective bankruptcy of Social Security and Medicare, which face a $50 trillion deficit, also constituted a “transcendent threat.”
Parker said she appreciated McCain’s concern for the Guantanamo detainees, but asked that he consider the 2.3 million people imprisoned in the United States.  She said that ten percent of black men between 20 and 34 were in prison or jail.

A vigorous advocacy of social conservatism, Parker proposed, would help ameliorate the conditions of the poor.

“If millions of low-income Americans would hear a genuine and aggressive message from our leadership about how conservative and traditional values address their problems, they'd be less susceptible to destructive illusions peddled by those like the Rev. Jeremiah Wright,” she said. 

Wright, the former pastor and spiritual advisor of presidential candidate Illinois Senator Barack Obama, became the center of a controversy after videos of him condemning America were posted to the internet.

McCain’s foreign policy proposal of a League of Democracies, Parker said, could not succeed because of a lack of shared values.  She cited the relative lack of religious observance in Europe compared to the United States.  Another indication of different values was the E.U.’s rejection of an Italian nominee for its justice minister because of his open Chiristianity and his condemnation of homosexuality.

Parker also criticized the Democratic presidential candidates’ opposition to school choice and the partial-birth abortion ban,

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Archdiocese of Baltimore bicentennial to begin during Pope’s visit

, Apr 1, 2008 (CNA) - Beginning next month the Archdiocese of Baltimore will celebrate its bicentennial, with some events coinciding with Pope Benedict XVI’s first papal visit to the United States, the Baltimore Sun reports.

Archbishop of Baltimore Edwin F. O’Brien said the Pope is expected to acknowledge the archdiocese as the nation’s first.

"During his visit, our Holy Father will commemorate an important date in the history of our local church and the church in the United States: April 8, 1808," Archbishop O'Brien said at a news conference outlining the events for the bicentennial. "The Archdiocese of Baltimore will be represented in Washington and New York when the Pope honors this important anniversary."

The Archdiocese of Baltimore provided to Baltimore-area Catholics 2,500 tickets for the April 17 Mass in Washington, D.C., and 1,000 tickets for the April 20 Papal Mass in New York City.

Pope Benedict did not accept an invitation to visit Baltimore on his U.S. trip due to his age and the already lengthy schedule.

Archbishop O’Brien described his own expectations for Pope Benedict’s visit, saying, "I think we'll get a good read on our faith and culture in the United States of America from a very perceptive outsider."

The Archdiocese of Baltimore is planning other events to mark the anniversary.  The archdiocese will hold a groundbreaking for a new prayer garden on April 11, while on the next day an exhibit about the archdiocese’s 200-year history will be presented at St. Mary’s Seminary in North Baltimore.

On April 13, Archbishop O’Brien will celebrate a bicentennial Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, after which he will dedicate a bust of his predecessor Cardinal William H. Keeler. 

Musical performances at the Basilica are planned for April 13 and June 1.  A lecture series is planned for April, May, and June.  The lectures will discuss the founder of the archdiocese, Bishop John Carroll, papal history, and young adults’ relationship to the Church.

The Diocese of Baltimore was founded in 1789.  It was elevated to an archdiocese in 1808.

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Scientist removed from screening of “Expelled” Intelligent Design documentary

Los Angeles, Calif., Apr 1, 2008 (CNA) - After being accused of sneaking into the presentation, a biologist and science writer was removed from a private, invitation-only screening of a movie that examined controversies over evolutionary research.

“Expelled,” a documentary-style movie by the economics and political commentator Ben Stein, claims that academic proponents of Intelligent Design theory are being suppressed due to their doubts about the accuracy of the Darwinian model of evolution. 

At a recent screening of “Expelled”, a security guard removed P.Z. Meyers, an outspoken atheist and an associate professor of biology at the University of Minnesota, Morris from the movie theater.  Meyers, author of the science blog “Pharyngula,” was interviewed for the movie. 

A press release from the filmmakers claimed Meyers has “apparently been asking supporters to sneak into the private screenings,” which are conducted by the marketing company Motive Entertainment.

Myers’ friend Richard Dawkins, a science writer and atheist polemicist, was also at the screening.  He asked movie producer Mark Mathis why Meyers had been “expelled” from the screening. 

Mathis replied that the producers would let Meyers screen the film only when he paid to see it after its general release.

Writing in a March 21 entry on his blog “Pharyngula,” Meyers said that he, his family, and his friends had followed the proper procedures to acquire seats for the screening.  Meyers called one audience member’s account of his removal a “complete fabrication.”

In a press release, Mathis said Dawkins and Meyers “applaud the fact that throughout the nation, professors are fired from their jobs and permanently excluded from their profession for questioning Darwinism.”

"I hope PZ's experience has helped him see the light,” Mathis said.  “He's distraught because he could not see a movie.  What if he wasn't allowed to teach on a college campus or was denied tenure?  Maybe he'll think twice before he starts demanding more professors be blacklisted and expelled simply because they question the adequacy of Darwin's theory."

“Expelled” will be released to general audiences on April 18.

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Pope Benedict’s prayer intentions for April published

Vatican City, Apr 1, 2008 (CNA) - The Vatican’s press office released Pope Benedict XVI’s prayer intentions today for the month of April.

Pope Benedict's general prayer intention is: "That Christians, even in the difficult and complex situations of present-day society, may not tire of proclaiming with their lives that Christ's resurrection is the source of peace and of hope".

His mission intention is: "That the future priests of the young Churches may be constantly more formed culturally and spiritually to evangelize their nations and the whole world".

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Msgr. Michael Duca appointed as bishop for Diocese of Shreveport

Vatican City, Apr 1, 2008 (CNA) - The Diocese of Shreveport, Louisiana, home to around 40,000 Catholics, received a new bishop today. Monsignor Michael Duca from the Diocese of Dallas will be the new shepherd of Shreveport, Archbishop Pietro Sambi the Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S. announced this morning. 

Msgr. Michael Duca will become the second bishop of Shreveport, filling the seat left vacant when Bishop William Friend retired in December 2006.

In response to his appointment Bishop-elect Duca said, “I am humbled and honored by the Pope’s decision to appoint me as Bishop of the Diocese of Shreveport. It is an incredible blessing that I look forward to, but not without some mixed emotions. My 30 years as a priest in the Diocese of Dallas have been a very enriching experience. The opportunity to serve in parishes and to work with the future priests of our diocese as rector of Holy Trinity Seminary has helped me to grow as a minister and person.”

Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas also had words of congratulation for Bishop-elect Duca, “I am delighted and thrilled for Bishop-elect Duca. The diocese has benefited from his ministry, his leadership and his many other talents. I will miss his support here but I am pleased the Diocese of Shreveport is getting such a strong and capable spiritual leader. We will pray for his success and happiness.”

Duca, 55, is a Dallas native and attended Holy Trinity Seminary in Irving, Texas, where he is now the rector. Ordained in 1978, he has also served as vocations director for the diocese, campus minister at Southern Methodist University and associate pastor at several Dallas churches.

Bishop-elect Duca’s appointment comes just one month away from his 30th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood.

The ordination and installation has been tentatively scheduled for May 19, according to the Diocese of Dallas.

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“Rapid divorce” results in broken families in Peru, warns archbishop

Lima, Peru, Apr 1, 2008 (CNA) - In a statement issued this week, the president of the Bishops’ Conference of Peru, Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos rejected the new “rapid divorce” law passed by Congress, saying it “does nothing to strengthen and fortify the family; on the contrary, it weakens it and results in its rupture or separation.”

The archbishop recalled that everyone has the duty to “strengthen and fortify” the family “in harmony with the norms and principles proclaimed in Peru’s constitution.”

“We cannot forget that our constitution consecrates the defense of the human person and respect for his dignity as the supreme end of society and of the State; but the natural environment for the development of the person and his dignity will always be the family, which the State is committed to strengthening,” he said.

Archbishop Cabrejos noted that civil marriage in Peru is a “contractual act” that must be strengthened before it is allowed to be dissolved, and therefore “the Public Ministry is part of the judicial process of conventional separation, because its purpose is to defend marriage as a stable institution and therefore it opposes these processes.”

“The proposed norm, therefore, goes against the Constitution because it does not strengthen marriage and the family but rather weakens it, and no thought is given to the psychological and emotional damage to the children,” he said.

Therefore, he went on, “true marriage is based not only on human norms that are changeable but on something transcendent that is: ‘conjugal love’.  What is this conjugal love? It is not only an emotion, a sentiment, but rather a personal, specific relationship between a man and a woman that requires surrender and reciprocal donation throughout life.”

“People need to be conscious that entering into marriage and establishing a family is a very serious act of great responsibility, for which they should be dully prepared, keeping in mind that that marriage should be stable and lasting,” the archbishop stated, adding that leaders must guarantee the stability of the family and of marriage.

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Pro-life group warns against attempt to legalize drugs in Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Apr 1, 2008 (CNA) - Pro-Life Argentina has issued an alert against a plan to legalize drugs in the country to make their consumption “totally free for all those who want them.”

In a recent press release, Roberto Castellano, president of Pro-Life, noted that even without this new plan, Argentina leads Latin America in the number of high school teens who use drugs.  “Imagine how bad it could be if the State were to renounce even further its punitive power,” he said.

Castellano stressed that teens are already battling alcohol use, which is promoted in TV ads and at nightclubs. 

“It’s not the norms that are failing us,” he said.  “That’s just the excuse of those who lack the ability or the will to enforce them.  The duty of the State lies precisely in using its strength to prevent the destruction of the community and of life.  If it cannot ensure the minimum, something is wrong,” Castellano stated.

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Vatican report moves Pope John Paul II closer to beatification

Vatican City, Apr 1, 2008 (CNA) - The postulator of Pope John Paul II’s cause of beatification has announced that the report documenting the heroic virtues of the Pope is nearly ready, according to a Monday announcement on the official website for the cause of the Pope’s beatification.

The announcement comes just two days before the third anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s death.

The report is a necessary step in the beatification process.

Monsignor Slawomir Oder, the postulator of the Pope’s beatification cause, told Vatican Radio "In recent days, I have turned in a nearly definitive draft of the 'positio,' the report that collects all of the documents ordered in a systematic and organized way about his pontificate."

"We're dealing with some 2,000 pages that need to be edited, but that overall can be considered completed," he said.

Monsignor Oder said the relator of the cause, Father Daniel Ols, OP, at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, now must approve the official presentation after examining the material.

"For the time being, it's premature to announce a definitive date for the final turning in," Monsignor Oder said.

Cardinal José Saraiva Martíns, the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, said on March 25 to Vatican radio that he guaranteed the “positio” would be studied immediately “without losing a moment.”

“Obviously this dicastery desires that John Paul II arrives as soon as possible to the altars,” Cardinal Martíns said.  He said the quick reaction to the report would be a response to the cries of “santo subito” from those at the funeral of Pope John Paul II. 

“Santo subito” means “sainthood now.”

“If that reputation for holiness did not exist, a cause for beatification could not even begin,” the cardinal said.

If the document is approved, Pope Benedict XVI could then issue a decree recognizing his predecessor’s heroic virtue.  This would allow Pope John Paul II to be proclaimed venerable.  To be beatified, a miracle would need to be attributed to his intercession.

Pope Benedict has already waived the five-year waiting period to consider a person’s cause for sainthood.  The last case this waiting period was waived was that of Mother Theresa of Calcutta, whose cause was begun in 1999, only two years after her death.  She was beatified in October, 2003.

Pope Benedict will celebrate Mass on April 2 to commemorate the third anniversary of Pope John Paul’s death.

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Humanity harmed by abortion, euthanasia, genetic manipulation and attacks on the family, says cardinal

Toledo, Spain, Apr 1, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Toledo, Cardinal Antonio Canizares, warned during Mass on Monday that humanity today “is being stalked by new dangers that attack the beginning and the end of life,” such as abortion, genetic manipulation, euthanasia and the weakening of the family.

In a story published by the newspaper ABR, Cardinal Canizares said, “At times man today lives as if God did not exist and even puts himself in God’s place,” deciding for himself about human life and death.

In addition, he also warned against the tendency in today’s society to “eliminate religion both from public and private life,” a tendency that many seek to impose “as the dominant culture, by rejecting the divine laws and moral principles” and that, the cardinal points out, “gravely attacks the family.”

He encouraged the faithful to pray for Divine Mercy, especially in times of trials, suffering and tribulations.

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Magdi Christian Allam attributes conversion to Benedict XVI

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Apr 1, 2008 (CNA) - In an interview with the Argnentinean daily La Nacion, Italian journalist Magdi Christian Allam, the Muslim convert baptized by Pope Benedict XVI during the Easter Vigil, said the Pope played a key role in his conversion despite the fact that prior to his baptism he had never met the Pontiff.

Allam explained that his conversion was “a slow and gradual process.  Since I was little I was aware of the Catholic world because I went to Italian-run Catholic schools in Cairo…and this allowed me to learn about the Catholic religion from the inside in a correct way.”

However, he pointed to two factors that influenced his conversion: the threats he received for questioning Islam, and the person of Pope Benedict XVI.

The threats he began receiving beginning in 2003 led him to reflect not only on the reality of Islamic extremism and terrorism but also on Islam as a religion. “I was forced to analyze the Koran and the works and thoughts of Mohammed, and I discovered that there are profound ambiguities that allow for violence and terrorism to be legitimized.”

“The second factor was having met various Catholics with whom I felt completely in tune, as we shared the same values.  Of course the most influential person in this conversion was this Pope, Benedict XVI, who I had never personally met before my baptism during the Easter Vigil,” he revealed.  Allam says that was the “first and only time” he personally encountered the Pope.

“As a journalist, I followed all of the activities of Benedict XVI and was completely fascinated by this thinking. I completely shared his concept of the indissolubility between faith and reason. I was always fascinated by this Pope because he is not only a great man of faith, but also a great man of reason.  I think that many fear the Pope not because of his faith but because of his reason, his ability to challenge them in the realm of reason,” Allam said.

He stressed that he never asked “to be baptized by the Pope.”  “Last year I spoke confidentially with Msgr. Rino Fisichella, rector of the Lateran University, and I began a journey of spiritual initiation with him in the sacraments of Christianity.  In the course of this journey the chance to be baptized by the Pope came up,” he said.

“That said, I am truly hurt and sad because there are Catholics who reacted saying, ‘Why doesn’t he get baptized at a small parish by any priest?’  What I read between the lines is a criticism of Magdi Allam’s baptism because of how it was done, as if it were an embarrassment, because it could have been done more discreetly and reservedly.  And the attitude of the Pope is considered a provocation.  What I say is I am proud to have converted, to have done so publicly and that I can proclaim it with a living voice,” he said.

According to Allam, there is an effort underway to discredit him and attack the Pope, but he said, having received baptism from the Pope is the greatest gift life could give me and was testimony for many Muslims I know who converted here in Italy, but who live their faith in secret out of fear.”

“I think that what I did—and there was not planning—was just, was a good, and I think the Pope was extremely wise in allowing the reasons of the faith to prevail over diplomatic and political considerations,” Allam added.

“We must distinguish between Islam as a religion and Muslims as people.  If I decided to convert, it is totally obvious that I did so because I developed a negative appreciation of Islam.  If I thought Islam were a true and good religion, I would not have converted, I would still be a Muslim.  But we live in a Europe that is sick from relativism and that is beholden to political correctness.  So we have to say that all religions are equal, no matter what their content is, and we can’t say anything that will hurt the feelings of someone else.  But I reject this because I believe that the exercise of freedom of expression cannot be limited.  And I say what I think,” Allam said.

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Church in Colombia calls for efforts to release all hostages

Bogotá, Colombia, Apr 1, 2008 (CNA) - The secretary general of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Bishop Fabian Marulanda, praised efforts by the French government to secure the release of former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt but stressed that equal efforts should be made to ensure all the hostages held by the FARC are freed.

Speaking to Caracol Radio, Bishop Marulanda said, “This concern, this zeal for the release (of Betancourt) should be directed at the release of all the hostages because in a certain sense it would be inhumane to make the effort for one sole person when there are so many who are living the same painful and inhumane situation.”

Bishop Marulanda noted that Colombians are very sensitive to the issue of the hostages and are unanimous in their desire to see them released, and he stressed that anything aimed at facilitating their liberation must be praised and supported.  Genuine efforts in this direction must not be obstructed, he added.

He said the Church hopes the FARC will respond to calls to release the hostages.  “I hope the same effort that is being made to free Dr. Ingrid will also be made for the release of all the kidnapped” who also deserve “help and pressure from the Colombian people.”
Bishop Marulanda said the Church does not have any additional information about the state of Betancourt’s health besides what has been reported in the media.

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Sen. John McCain also courts Catholic vote

Washington D.C., Apr 1, 2008 (CNA) - Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign is reaching out to Catholics in hopes of winning their votes for the November presidential election, the Dallas Morning News reports.

Catholics, who compose about 25 percent of the electorate, were once overwhelmingly Democratic voters.  In recent decades significant numbers of them have moved towards the Republican Party, turning the Catholic vote into a key swing vote constituency.

The McCain campaign has announced that it enjoys support from a group of 100 prominent Catholics, headed by former presidential candidate and Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas.

Rob Wasinger, Brownback’s former campaign manager, said Senator McCain was “a natural for Catholics.”  Wasinger cited McCain’s pro-life stand and his position against homosexual marriage as reasons for his appeal to Catholics.  Wasinger also said the Arizona senator’s opposition to torture, his moderate views on immigration, and his stand on the environment could help him win Catholics’ votes.

"He's going to have an easier sell with Catholics than with the grass-roots conservative GOP," said Deal Hudson, a McCain supporter who was a key adviser in President George W. Bush’s Catholic outreach efforts.

Though McCain’s support for the Iraq war differed from church leaders’ doubts about the justice of the war, Hudson believed that stand would not be a primary consideration.

"If they get to know his pro-life record, that will offset the Iraq war issues," Hudson said, according to the Dallas Morning News.

McCain also differs from Catholic positions in his support for embryonic stem cell research.

Tensions could result from McCain’s need to court both Evangelical and Catholic voters.  A more moderate agenda could alienate McCain from conservative Evangelicals, while aligning himself too closely with the so-called Religious Right could alienate moderate Catholics.

"If he can get Catholics and evangelicals together in a coalition, that would make him very difficult to defeat," said political scientist Mark Rozell of George Mason University, according to the Dallas Morning News.

"It's a difficult needle to thread," said Matthew Dowd, a former Bush political strategist.

Senator McCain’s endorsement from Texas-based televangelist Reverend John Hagee, who reportedly called the Catholic Church a “false cult system ” and “the great whore,” provoked demands from the Catholic League that McCain renounce the endorsement. 

McCain later repudiated Hagee’s views, but not his support. 

The McCain campaign actively sought the endorsement to boost the senator’s appeal to Evangelicals.  It is thought that the senator’s support from conservative Catholics helped McCain limit the controversy.

Before the Florida primary, McCain devoted ten staffers to the campaign’s outreach to Florida Catholics.  The staffers contacted about 500,000 Catholics statewide.  In the primary election, the Baptist McCain beat his closest rival, Catholic and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, by 15 percent.

"McCain needed help in Iowa to come in at a respectable level. He had to win New Hampshire. And then to close the deal, he had to win Florida. And in each place, the Catholic vote really provided the edge," Deal Hudson said.

Democrat presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are also seeking Catholic voters.  Senator Clinton won the Catholic vote in early primary states, and she presently leads Senator Obama among Pennsylvanian Catholics.  Catholics are a key constituency in Pennsylvania, whose April primary could decide the future of Clinton’s campaign.

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