Archive of May 14, 2008

Archdiocese of Indianapolis sues Facebook over fake profile of high school dean

Indianapolis, Ind., May 14, 2008 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Indianapolis is suing Facebook because of an archdiocesan school administrator’s allegation that his identity has been stolen on the popular social networking site.

According to Channel 13 WTHR, Tim Puntarelli, dean of students and assistant football coach at Roncalli High School, has claimed that someone has created a Facebook page using his name without his knowledge or consent.  He says he became aware of the profile last month.

The lawsuit alleges identity deception, stalking, and harassment after someone used Puntarelli’s name and information to set up an account and to send electronic messages to students in his name.

According to court documents obtained by WTHR, postings included invitations to dozens of students to become Puntarelli’s Facebook friends, a message to a student suggesting the dean may take disciplinary action against him, and other pictures and messages deemed inappropriate.

Facebook had refused to provide to school administrators the identity of the person who created the fake Facebook profile.  The company said it must receive a valid subpoena or court order, and could be unable to provide the information because of technical constraints.

The archdiocese filed for and was granted an emergency restraining order after the social networking site refused to identify the user who created the page.  After a request from the school, Facebook eventually removed the web page.  A judge has ordered the web site to provide any identifying information about the impersonator.

"The archdiocese hopes to resolve the issue as quickly as possible in order to restore damage done to Mr. Puntarelli's reputation and to prevent this type of identity theft from happening again," the archdiocese said in a statement.

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S. Dakota Catholic college cancels commencement speaker due to pro-abortion views

Aberdeen, S.D., May 14, 2008 (CNA) - Presentation College in Aberdeen, South Dakota has withdrawn an invitation to a commencement speaker because of her views on legalized abortion.

State Senator Nancy Turbak-Berry was scheduled to deliver the commencement address at the college on Saturday.  According to the Associated Press, she said she was told on Friday that she could not speak there because of her views on abortion. 

She had accepted the invitation to speak in January.

College officials reportedly said they had made an “administrative decision” to withdraw the invitation because her pro-abortion views were incompatible with Catholic teaching.

“I was told I was not welcome to speak because I do not share the Catholic Church’s position on the proper role of government in decisions about reproduction,” Turbak-Berry said. “While not an especially defining issue for me, I have always been candid about my view that government should have a limited role in what I consider to be very personal decisions.”

Bishop of Sioux Falls Paul Swain replaced Turbak-Berry as the speaker.

“The college made an administrative decision to withdraw the invitation,” said JoEllen Lindner, Presentation’s vice-president for enrollment and student retention services.

Patrick J. Reilly, President of the Cardinal Newman Society, praised the decision, saying in a press release, “Presentation College has honored its Catholic identity and has demonstrated respect for the dignity of human life by reversing its selection of a vocal abortion advocate for public honor.  Faithful Catholic students, parents and alumni across the country are grateful to [Presentation College President] Sister Lorraine Hale for withdrawing Senator Berry's invitation.”

More than 1,000 people attended the commencement for the 171-member graduating class.

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Controversial retired Australian bishop reprimanded for his book

Sydney, Australia, May 14, 2008 (CNA) - The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has issued a statement responding to a controversial retired bishop for his new book that doubts Catholic teachings.

In 2007 Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, retired Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Sydney, published a book titled “Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church: Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus.”  According to The Age, Bishop Robinson argued in his book that the Church’s refuses to examine Catholic teachings on extramarital sex, women priests, homosexuality, and papal power this means the Church is not serious about responding to clerical sexual abuse but is only “managing” it.

The 71-year-old Bishop Robinson headed the Australian church’s efforts to address sexual abuse for a decade.  The bishop, who says he was a victim of abuse as a child, retired in 2004 because he was reportedly disillusioned by his work.

He is presently in the United States on a lecture tour for the activist group Voice of the Faithful, which formed in response to the clerical sexual abuse scandal in Boston.  His book has sold more than 8,000 copies in Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

At the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, the 38 bishops in attendance issued a May 8 statement regarding Bishop Robinson.  It is their first official response to his writings.

The bishops said they were grateful for Bishop Robinson’s contributions to the life of the Church. 

“We are deeply indebted to him for his years of effort to bring help and healing to those who have suffered sexual abuse and for what he has done to establish protocols of professional standards for Church personnel in this area,” the statement said.

Despite Bishop Robinson’s contributions, the statement said, “people have a right to know clearly what the Catholic Church believes and teaches,” and that they as bishops had the duty to teach such belief.

The bishops’ statement said that “doctrinal difficulties remain” even after correspondence and conversation with the retired bishop.  A central difficulty, according to the statement, was Bishop Robinson’s questioning of the authority of the Catholic Church “to teach the truth definitively.”

This questioning, the statement said, is connected to Bishop Robinson’s “uncertainty about the knowledge and authority of Christ himself.”

The doubts expressed in Bishop Robinson’s book, the statement said, lead to Robinson’s other doubts about the nature of Tradition, the inspiration of Holy Scripture, the infallibility of Church Councils and the Pope, the nature of the priesthood, and “central elements” of the Church’s moral teaching.

“The authority entrusted by Christ to his Church may at times be poorly exercised, especially in shaping policy and practice in complex areas of pastoral and human concern. This does not, in Catholic belief, invalidate the Church’s authority to teach particular truths of faith and morals,” the statement said.

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Holy Father prays for the support of Chinese earthquake victims

Vatican City, May 14, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict made an appeal on Wednesday for the victims of the devastating earthquake which hit a number of provinces in China on Monday. The Holy Father said his thoughts were with all those affected by the disaster that has caused grave loss of human life, left many displaced and caused incalculable damage.

The Holy Father added that he is spiritually near to all those who have been affected by the earthquake and is offering prayers asking God to relieve their suffering.
"I invite you to join me in fervent prayer for those who have lost their lives. I remain spiritually close to the people suffering from such a devastating calamity; and we implore God to grant them relief in their suffering." The Pope concluded his appeal by asking the Lord "to give support to all those involved in meeting the immediate needs" of the victims.

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Pseudo-Dionysius helps Christianity dialogue with Eastern religions

Vatican City, May 14, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict dedicated his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square to the teachings of the figure Pseudo-Dionysius, the Aeropagite, who is “a greater mediator in the modern dialogue between Christianity and the mystical theologies of Asia.”

"In today's catechesis we return to the teaching of a sixth century author whose writings have been attributed to the first century disciple of St. Paul, Dionysius the Aeropagite," the Pope began.

Pseudo-Dionysius used Greek polytheism "to show the truth of Christ and transform the polytheistic world into a cosmos created by God" in which "all creatures together reflect the truth of God."

"Because the creature is a glorification of God, the Pseudo-Dionysius' theology becomes a theological liturgy. God is found, above all, by praising Him and not just through reflection."

The Holy Father explained that Pseudo-Dionysius’ “two principal works, the Divine Name and Mystical Theology strive to present a knowledge of God which surpasses rational understanding and culminates in spiritual perfection and transforming contemplation.”

This Father of the Church created the first "great mystical theology. ... With him the word 'mystical' took on a more personal and intimate meaning: it expresses the soul's journey towards God. ... The Pseudo-Dionysius shows that at the end of the road to God is God Himself, Who comes close to us in Jesus Christ."

"Today Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite assumes fresh relevance", said the Holy Father. "He appears as a greater mediator in the modern dialogue between Christianity and the mystical theologies of Asia, the well-known characteristic of which lies in their conviction that it cannot be said who God is, that He can be spoken of only in negative terms, ... and that only by entering this experience of 'no' can He be reached."

Pope Benedict also mentioned Pseudo-Dionysius’ influence on other prominent saints. “In the West, Dionysius' writings influenced the early scholastics and Saint Thomas, as well as Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross.  His vision of a great cosmic harmony reflecting the beauty of the Creator and the love freely bestowed on us in Christ, can also inspire our efforts to work for unity, reconciliation and peace in our world."
Before bestowing his apostolic blessing on all those gathered, the Pope greeted all those English speaking pilgrims who had made it to Saints Peter's square.

"I welcome all the English-speaking visitors present today, including the groups from England, Ireland, Japan, The Philippines, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States of America.  May your visit to Rome be a time of deep spiritual renewal.  Upon all of you I invoke God's abundant blessings of joy and peace."


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Recordings of Rosary led by Pope Benedict now available

Vatican City, May 14, 2008 (CNA) - Catholics can now pray the Rosary with Pope Benedict XVI thanks to Vatican Radio, which has released a 4-CD set with all twenty mysteries.

Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See’s Press Office, said on Vatican Radio that the idea for the Rosary CDs came as a response to interest from listeners who were accustomed to praying the Rosary with the Servant of God Pope John Paul II.

“During his last years,” he continued, “Pope John Paul II was not able to pray the Rosary live, but since there were various recordings, the listeners, the faithful, could use their cassettes of the Rosary led by the Pope, thus facilitating their prayer and devotion.”

Father Lombardi said that “with the new pontificate, there was renewed interest in praying the Rosary with the Holy Father,” and the CDs are an effort to respond to that interest.

He explained that the Pope decided to record the CDs in Latin because “we have received requests not only from Italy but from places such as Germany and other countries.  So we have used this language for the Rosary which everyone understands easily and because it is the universal language of the Church.”

Father Lombardi also underscored that Benedict XVI has a “profound Marian devotion.  He prays the Rosary every day with his secretaries while walking, and thus he invites us to us this prayer: simple, humble, daily, which everyone can pray with devotion and which helps us also to meditate on the mysteries of the life of Christ together with Mary, who is obviously the person closest to Christ.”

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Cardinal Bernardin Gantin passes away at 86

Paris, France, May 14, 2008 (CNA) - Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, a native a Benin and one of the most beloved collaborators of Pope John Paul II, died Tuesday in Paris at the age of 86.

Cardinal Gantin was born in Toffo in the Diocese of Cotonou, Benin, on May 8, 1922.  He was made a cardinal by Pope Paul VI on June 27, 1977.  He spent more than 30 years working in the Roman Curia as prefect for the Congregation of Bishops, president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and Dean of the College of Cardinals.

In 2002 he asked Pope John Paul II for permission to return to Benin to work as a pastor and missionary. The Pope granted his request in a letter in which he expressed his affection and admiration for the fidelity of Cardinal Gantin as well as his pastoral zeal that led him to retire from the Curia and return to his homeland.

Because of his declining health he was forced to go to Paris to receive more adequate medical treatment.

Upon hearing of the cardinal's death, Pope Benedict sent his condolences to Benin. He said in the telegram:

"I ask God the Father, from Whom all mercy comes, to welcome into His light and peace this eminent son of Benin and of Africa who, universally esteemed, was animated by a profound apostolic spirit and by an exalted sense of the Church and her mission in the world. ... In sign of consolation, I send an affectionate apostolic blessing to the priests, religious, catechists and all the faithful of Benin, and to those who will participate in his funeral."

Benin's government secretary-general Victor Topanou, speaking from the capital Cotonou said, "We have just lost one of the great sons of our country and of the entire continent of Africa.”

The government had sent a minister to Paris to accompany the remains back to his native country for burial, Topanou said.

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Mexicans to hold massive protest for life on May 25

Mexico City, Mexico, May 14, 2008 (CNA) - Luis Mauricio Saldaña Ayala, executive secretary of the Mexican Bishops’ Committee on the Laity, announced this week that all dioceses in the country would be promoting a nation-wide pro-life protest on May 25.

Plans for the protest were drawn up during the National Gathering of Diocesan Lay Councils, which took place April 4-6 in the city of Cuernavaca.  “During those days of work and reflection, we focused on issues of national interest, such as the right to life from conception to natural death,” Ayala said.

Leaders at the event decided to organize a pro-life march on May 25 and to request the support of all the Mexican bishops.

The purpose of the event is to “publicly and openly” express support for human life, “from the moment of conception and in all of its stages,” as a living and coherent commitment “by those of us who believe in the marvelous gift of human life,” Ayala stated.

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Reform of religious freedom law could be anti-Christian, Spanish bishop warns

Madrid, Spain, May 14, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Tarazona (Spain) has written a pastoral letter in which he points out that the Spanish bishops agree on the need to update the country’s law on religious freedom, but they fear a reform would be an excuse to impose fanatical secularism that would expel all religion from the public square.


In response to plans by Socialist leaders to reform the law on religious freedom, Bishop Fernandez said, “We are not concerned that other religions present in Spain acquire recognition of their civil rights,” because “before the Spanish government said anything, Vatican II proclaimed it to the whole world 40 years ago, and we hope citizens of all countries on earth acquire these rights.”


“There are many places,” he said, “where Christians are still persecuted in the name of a ferocious and outdated atheism or a fundamentalism that rejects any other religion besides its own.”


For Catholics, the bishop continued, “All people have the right to live according to their faith, to educate their children in accord with such convictions and to spread that faith publicly.”  For this reason, he added, the State should exercise a healthy form of secularism, “that is, the autonomy to legislate for all in accord with the common good.  The State is non-sectarian in order to support all religions, not to go against any particular one.”


What the bishops are concerned about, he went on, is that the proposed reforms are inspired by a desire to eliminate all public expressions of faith.  This kind of secularism is contrasted with that which prevails in the United States, he said, quoting Benedict XVI, “where the religious dimension, in the diversity of its expressions, is not only tolerated, but is valued as the ‘soul’ of the nation and the fundamental guarantor of the rights and duties of the human being.”


“If the reform of the law on religious freedom is based on this healthy secularism, there is nothing to fear,” Bishop Fernandez stressed.  “But if it is based on a radical secularism, we fear the majority in parliament will trample upon the fundamental rights that our Constitution recognizes, and we will take a step backwards in the area of freedoms.”

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Pope grants indulgence for novena prayer for Church in China

, May 14, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has decreed an indulgence for Catholics in Hong Kong who join a novena to Our Lady, Help of Christians asking for special prayers for the Church in China.


The novena is a response to the Pope’s call for May 24 to become a World Day for Prayer for the Church in China.  He announced the day of prayer in his June 2007 letter to mainland Catholics and asked that it be dedicated to “the liturgical memorial of Our Lady, Help of Christians, who is venerated with great devotion at the Marian Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai.”


According to UCA News, the Pope offered the indulgence at the request of Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, the Archbishop of Hong Kong.  The indulgence is available to those who join in the diocese’s May 15-23 novena.  Those joining in activities marking the feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians on May 24 and the feast of Corpus Christi on May 25 are also eligible for the indulgence.


Cardinal Zen, writing in a message on the novena, said local Catholics are able to actively respond to the call for prayer “as part of the motherland,” asking God to bless their motherland and asking the Blessed Virgin to protect the Church.


Seventeen Hong Kong churches dedicated to Mary are designated venues for the novena prayers and the celebrations of Our Lady, Help of Christians. 

According to UCA News, the novena will begin with solemn prayer at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.  Diocesan Vicar General Father Dominic Chan, who is also a priest at the cathedral, said he would thank God the diocese is blessed with religious freedom.


Over the nine days of the novena, the designated churches will take turns hosting the daily prayers.  Prayer sessions will include Eucharistic adoration and recitation of the rosary, while the May 24 and 25 celebrations will feature processions.


Writing in a May 9 notice, diocesan Chancellor Father Lawrence Lee Len said a Catholic must attend at least one of the special prayer functions to qualify for the indulgence.  Citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church, he said they must also make a sacramental confession, receive Communion and pray for the pope's intentions with a pure heart


The Catechism defines an indulgence as “a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven.”


Father Lee said Pope Benedict desires that the faithful strive for and practice the supernatural virtues of faith hope and charity, and strengthen their unity with the Pope.


Hong Kong’s two bishops will also deliver talks about the Pope’s letter to mainland Catholics.

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Archbishop says Church only supports authentic and complete sexual education

Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 14, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata in Argentina said this week the Catholic Church is not opposed to sex-ed in schools but rather, asks officials to propose programs based on “education in love, chastity, marriage and the family.”

“It is often said that the Church is against sexual education. False,” the archbishop said.  “We oppose teaching a notion of human sexuality in schools that is devoid of any reference to the nature of the person and his acts and that conveys biased information and recommends the dubious security that contraceptives and condoms offer.”

“This kind of incomplete and explicit teaching does not take into account the emotional and relational dimensions, the need for self-discipline and respect for objective values. Such a focus carries with it the risk of encouraging teens to engage prematurely and irresponsibly in sexual activity,” the archbishop said.

According to the Argentinean prelate, “The foundations of this reductionist version of education are found in gender ideology, in constructivist sociology and in the ideas of Michel Foucault, who said that sexuality had been confiscated by the family in order to make it merely an issue of reproduction.  The implicit intention is, then, to liberate Argentinean adolescents from this ‘cultural stereotype.’  With such guidance we should fear for the destruction of the family and the subsequent ruin of society.”

He also warned against recent attempts to promote sterilization in the schools of Buenos Aires, saying such moves merit “the most serious ethical rejection” as they promote mutilation of the body.  The archbishop also criticized officials for trying to silence the Church from speaking out about such practices.  Not only the bishops, he said, but all citizens have the right and the duty to work to prevent the passage of laws that contradict the moral order.

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Colorado Human Life Amendment petition signed by over 130,000

Denver, Colo., May 14, 2008 (CNA) - A Colorado constitutional amendment that would define personhood as “any human being from the moment of fertilization” has collected enough signatures to be placed on the ballot for the November election.

The Denver Post reports that 131,245 voters signed petitions supporting the proposed Human Life Amendment’s presence on the ballot.  State law requires 76,000 signatures for a proposal to be placed on the ballot.

The petition drive was organized by Colorado for Equal Rights, founded in mid-2007 by Kristi Burton of Peyton, Colorado.  The group’s grassroots campaign was able to draw more than 1,100 volunteers and about 500 participating churches.

"The main thing the constitution is supposed to do is to protect us," the 20-year-old Burton said on Tuesday. "But who is that 'us'? There is currently no definition of person in the constitution.”

If approved by voters, the amendment would guarantee every person, whatever their stage of life, the right to life, liberty, and due process under law.  The proposal is believed to lay a foundation for challenging legalized abortion.

The state has 30 days to validate the signatures.  According to the Denver Post, Burton said she expects notification of the number of valid signatures within one or two weeks.

Critics of the proposal argued it is vaguely worded and would have unpredictable consequences. 

"This amendment could make abortion illegal, even in cases of rape, incest, or when the life or health of a woman is at risk," said Toni Panetta, spokeswoman for the group Protect Families, Protect Choice.

"It may encroach on everything from birth control to stem cell research to inheritance rights," she said.

Burton said that any changes to the law would be up to lawmakers and courts, who would have to balance the interests of the unborn with everyone else’s.

Judy Brown, President of the American Life League, welcomed the success of the petition drive. 

“American Life League has worked tirelessly to focus attention on the personhood of the preborn child for the past 30 years,” Brown said.  “It is therefore with the deepest sense of gratitude that we commend the leaders of Colorado for Equal Rights and Kristi Burton in particular, for the historic announcement that was made today.

"We realize that the real struggle in Colorado is just beginning and we hope to be able to assist in educating the public in that state and around the nation, regarding the definition of personhood and the real existence of the human being from the point his life begins regardless of the method of reproduction.”

A similar measure is proposed for the Montana 2008 ballot.  Organizers there need 44,615 signatures by June 20.

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