Archive of May 15, 2008

Archbishop orders end to lay preachers at Mass

Minneapolis, Minn., May 15, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop of Minneapolis and St. Paul Harry Flynn has ordered an end to lay preaching at parishes in the archdiocese, saying the practice was more widespread than he had realized.

The Catholic Spirit reports that over the past 25 years as many as 29 parishes in the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul have used lay preachers at Mass.

In a letter to pastors in January, Archbishop Flynn ordered them to end the practice.  He cited the 2004 Vatican instruction “Redemptionis Sacramentum,” which called lay preaching a liturgical abuse.  In lay preaching, a non-ordained person reflects on the Gospel reading at the place in Mass reserved for a homily delivered by a priest or a deacon.

Archbishop Flynn said only an ordained man should preach after the Gospel at Mass.  He had set his retirement date, May 2, as a deadline for parishes to develop a “pastoral plan” to end lay preaching at Mass.

Patricia Hughes Baumer, who co-founded the lay preaching training organization Partners in Preaching with her husband Fred in 1997, said many lay preachers have expressed “grief and anger” over the archbishop’s directive to stop the practice. 

Proponents of lay preaching, The Catholic Spirit says, claim that the practice is allowed by canon law and argue both the congregation and the pastors benefit from hearing Gospel reflections from diverse voices.

Some have speculated that Archbishop Flynn wanted to “clean house” before Archbishop John Nienstedt assumed leadership of the archdiocese, though Archbishop Flynn said that was not the case.

Archbishop Flynn told the Catholic Spirit that local leaders in the lay preaching movement were aware of his disapproval.  Though he knew that a few parishes used lay preachers, he wrote his January letter only after realizing a larger number of parishes were engaged in the practice.

The archbishop said he had told Baumer on two occasions why the practice cannot be promoted.  He said that canon law forbids the practice and insisted that the education, formation, and ordination of priests and deacons make them uniquely suited to preach during Mass.

"There has to be that kind of training and theological background that even a person with a master's degree in theology would not have," he said, according to The Catholic Spirit. "The church does not want people just standing up there and giving opinions or even things they've read in books, but [rather]: What is the clear teaching about this mystery of our faith?”

He said that allowing a non-ordained person to preach would interrupt the action of the Mass.  The Scriptures, he said, make it clear that it was the role of presbyters to preach.

“To preach the Gospel is an extremely important part of the mission of any priest - I cannot overemphasize its importance," Archbishop Flynn said. If he did not preach, he said, "I would feel deprived, because this is my vocation to preach the Gospel.”

He said that priests should pray and spend more time preparing their homilies because that is their work.

If a layperson must speak or preach at Mass, the archbishop said, it would be appropriate to do so after the prayer after Communion.

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U.S. Coast Guard officer wins exemption from abortion-derived vaccine

Washington D.C., May 15, 2008 (CNA) - A U.S. Coast Guard officer who refused to be injected with a vaccine derived from the remains of an aborted child has been granted an exemption from the required vaccination. 

In May 2006 the Coast Guard ordered all active-duty personnel to receive one of two vaccines against Hepatitis A or show proof of immunity.  The vaccines are derived from lung tissue taken from a child who was aborted at 14 weeks-old and then dissected.

Though the Coast Guard allows religious exemptions for those who hold a “religious tenet or belief contrary to immunization,” officials initially refused to grant an exemption for Lt. Cmdr. Joseph J. Healy, who is Catholic.

Healy, in compliance with Coast Guard requirements, submitted a memo requesting a religious exemption because of his Catholic faith and strong opposition to abortion.  A higher-ranking officer denied the request, claiming that Catholic teaching “does not state that these immunizations are against the religious tenets of the Catholic Church.”

On Friday the Coast Guard notified the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that it will grant Healy a religious exemption.

Attorneys for the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), which represented Healy, said they plan to file a motion to dismiss their January 2 lawsuit seeking the exemption.

Christians shouldn’t be punished for abiding by their beliefs against abortion.  The Coast Guard has done the right thing in recognizing that those who lay their life on the line to defend our shores are entitled to the same freedom as anyone else not to have their particular beliefs disregarded," ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman said in a press release.

"Members of the U.S. military should never be forced to make an unconstitutional choice between honoring their country and adhering to the belief that health and medicine can prosper without exploiting the killing of preborn children," Bowman said.

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Philippines archbishop posts bail in libel case

Manila, Philippines, May 15, 2008 (CNA) - Facing an arrest warrant on charges of libel for his comments about a gaming corporation’s employees, Archbishop Oscar Cruz posted a bail of $235.

Archbishop Cruz said he is certain the case will be dismissed.

The libel charges resulted from complaints made by twenty women employed by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor), a government-owned gambling company. 

Archbishop Cruz had criticized a 2004 birthday party held in Malacañang for First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, who is the husband of Philippines President Gloria Arroyo. 

In his critical remarks, the archbishop referred to the women working at the party as “pitiful GROs.” A “GRO,” which stands for guest relations officer, is similar to an escort in the United States.

The women said they were hurt that the prelate had depicted them as GROs and demanded an apology.

Archbishop Cruz is a staunch critic of the Arroyo administration and also heads the People’s Crusade Against Gambling.  He accused the administration of supporting the libel suit, saying a Manila prosecutor had dropped the case in 2004.

“This is their way of getting back against me,” he said.

Archbishop Cruz insisted he did not intend to offend the Pagcor employees, saying he was trying to defend them.

He also said he was willing to go to jail if only to call attention to what he called the “evils of Pagcor.”

After bail was posted, a Manila Regional Trial Court granted temporary liberty to the archbishop.  Arraignment of the case is scheduled for June 17.

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Virgins gather in Rome, receive encouragement from Pope

Vatican City, May 15, 2008 (CNA) - On May 14, five hundred women from around the world arrived in Rome for the beginning of the second International Congress-Pilgrimage for consecrated virgins. The consecrated women, who belong to Ordo Virginum, were addressed on Thursday morning by Benedict XVI, who encouraged them to be witnesses of the industrious hope, of joy, and of peace that comes from their total gift of self.


Although the Order of Virgins exists in the Church now, Benedict XVI noted that it wasn’t until Vatican Council II that this way of life resurfaced in the Church. "However, it has ancient roots that go back to the beginnings of evangelical life when, in an unprecedented novelty, the hearts of certain women began to open to a desire for consecrated virginity: in other words, the desire to give one's entire being to God, which had had its first extraordinary fulfillment in the Virgin of Nazareth and her 'yes'," he said.


"Your charism must reflect the intensity, but also the freshness, of its origins," said Benedict XVI noting how, "when it came into being, the charism did not involve a particular way of life. Little by little, however, it was institutionalized, finally becoming a full public and solemn consecration conferred by the bishop through an inspirational liturgical rite that made the consecrated woman 'sponsa Christi', an image of the Church as bride."


Consecrated virginity also has its own uniqueness that “is profoundly rooted in the particular Church to which you belong. ... From the diocese, with its traditions, its saints, its values, limits and difficulties, you open up to the scope of the Universal Church, sharing particularly in her liturgical prayer,” he said.


When virgins join themselves to the Universal Church in this way, the Pope explained that their “prayerful 'I' progressively broadens out, until in the prayer there is nothing more than a great 'we'. ... In your dialogue with God, open yourselves to dialogue with all creatures."


"The choice of virginal life," the Holy Father concluded, "is an allusion to the transitory nature of earthly things and an anticipation of future good. Be witnesses of vigilant and industrious hope, of joy, of the peace that belongs to those who abandon themselves to the love of God. Be present in the world, yet pilgrims on the journey to the Kingdom."


This year’s meeting of the Order of Virgins is only the second time that the women have met. The first congress was held in May of 1995 and attended by 330 consecrated virgins.


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Church must protect migrant families, strengthen marriage, Holy Father maintains

Vatican City, May 15, 2008 (CNA) - Today the Pope received participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples to reflect upon the theme: "The emigrant and itinerant family."  He called on them to continue caring for migrant families, but also used the opportunity to emphasize the importance of marriage and family.

While reaffirming that the Church's care for “emigrant families does not diminish her concern for itinerant families," he also stressed that all families “represent the original cell of society” and it “must not be destroyed but courageously and patiently defended.”  This must be done because the family is where “we are formed to adore and love God, learning the grammar of human and moral values, and discovering how to make good use of freedom in truth,” the Pope said.  He also acknowledged that this is not an easy task, especially “in cases of people affected by the phenomenon of human mobility.”

Pope Benedict then turned his attention to the "profound bond" between the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Marriage. In particular, he focused on how the Sacrament of Marriage takes place at the heart of the celebration of the Eucharist. Couples, the Pontiff said, “must draw inspiration for their behavior from the example of Christ Who 'loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.'"

"This supreme gesture of love is presented anew in each celebration of the Eucharist; and it is appropriate for the pastoral care of families to refer back to this sacramental fact as a reference point of fundamental importance,” explained the Pontiff.

"People who go to Mass …find in the Eucharist a powerful allusion to their own family, their own marriage; and they are encouraged to live their lives from the point of view of faith, seeking in divine grace the strength to succeed," the Pope underscored.

The Holy Father concluded by pointing out that "human mobility represents, in today's globalized world, an important frontier for new evangelization." In this regard, he encouraged the members and consultors of the pontifical council "to continue your pastoral commitment with renewed zeal."

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Half a million signatures in Ecuador to defend life and family in new Constitution

Quito, Ecuador, May 15, 2008 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Ecuador presented on Wednesday the signatures of 636,417 people—5% of the country’s population—supporting efforts to protect the family and human life in the Constitutional Assembly that is drafting a new constitution for the country.


Archbishop Antonio Arregui Yarza of Guayaquil gave a letter from the bishops and the signatures to Alberto Acosta, the president of the Assembly.


In their letter, the bishops note that on April 1, representatives of the bishops’ conference met with Acosta to discuss the need to “recognize the right to life from conception to natural death, to recognize and protect the family made up of a man and a woman, to guarantee the rights of families especially in the education of their children according to their own convictions.”


The letter reiterates “the inappropriateness of putting forth a special law for same-sex unions”, since any legal situations they might encounter “are protected by common law.”


“Mr. President, we present to you the 636,417 signatures of Ecuadorians who support our requests and with the number increasing every day.  People throughout the country have signed their names freely and with full knowledge, with no cost whatsoever,” the bishops said. “We hope to be heard and recognized in the new constitutional text,” they added.  “Some have protested against mentioning the name of God in the preamble, but doing so is fully compatible with a healthy secularism of the State.  Secularism is not atheism,” the bishops stressed.


They also expressed their concern over the approval of clauses that would guarantee the “right” to sex changes, the right “to have children whenever one wants,” and the lack of protection for human life, with no mention of when human life begins and ends.


This would “leave the door open for legalizing abortion,” the bishops said.  They urged the Constitutional Assembly to take into account “the convictions and sensibilities of hundreds of thousands of signers.”

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Ban on homosexual marriage in California dissolved

San Francisco, Calif., May 15, 2008 (CNA) - Marriage and the family were dealt a blow today by a 4-3 California Supreme Court decision striking down the state’s law preventing homosexuals from being recognized as married. Advocates of marriage pledged to fight back with a ballot initiative aimed at amending the state’s constitution to define marriage as between a man and woman.

Chief Justice Ron George wrote in the majority opinion that domestic partnerships are not an adequate substitute for marriage.

"Our state now recognizes that an individual's capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual's sexual orientation," the court wrote.

Reaction to the ruling by homosexual marriage supporters took place in front of the courthouse with some crying and others cheering, according to the Associated Press.

The case which the Supreme Court ruled on today originated from a lawsuit filed by the City of San Francisco in protest of a previous injunction issued by the Supreme Court that halted the city’s March 2004 granting of same-sex marriage licenses.

However, the battle over the meaning and definition of marriage cannot be presumed a done deal.

A coalition of religious and social conservative groups is attempting to put a measure on the November ballot that would secure California's current laws banning gay marriage in the state constitution. 

The Secretary of State is expected to rule by the end of June on whether the 1.1 million signatures gathered by the coalition qualify the constitutional amendment to be placed on the November 2008 ballot.

Upon hearing the news of the California Supreme Court decision, the Alliance for Marriage (AFM) issued a call to Californians to lend their support to their state’s marriage amendment and called on the U.S. Congress to pass an AFM-drafted federal Marriage Protection Amendment.

AFM president Matt Daniels reacted to the California ruling by saying he believes it will “galvanize” the efforts to defend marriage. Within the Catholic community, Daniels explained that Latino support will be “critical” to defending marriage in California.

Nevertheless, Daniels was quick to point out that “the national battle continues to rage, and I guarantee you that the outcome in California has national significance.”

According to Daniels, “If the court decision in California stands, then marriage in every state in the country is going to be in peril because California is going to become a launching pad for challenges from other states.”

Bill May, the chairman of Catholics for the Common Good, added that this ruling will have “an impact on children, and their interests in having a married mother and father.”

He asserted that, “The court just considered the interests of and benefits for adults. And it was surprising that they found no compelling reason to restrict marriage to people who engage in reproductive acts, i.e. men and women.”

Maggie Gallagher, the president of Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, went a step further by commenting, "California's supreme court has just ruled that the 62 percent of Californians who voted for marriage as the union of husband and wife are just bigots. But thanks to the 1.1 million Californians who signed petitions to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot this November, activist judges will not have the last word in California, California voters will."

She added that, "Most Americans understand that marriage is not bigotry. It is common sense -- unions of husband and wife have a unique status in law and culture because they really are different from other kinds of unions including in this way: they are uniquely necessary because they are the unions that both make new life and connect those children to their own mother and father."

The Catholic bishops of California also emphasized the need to defend the family, writing, “Catholic teaching maintains that marriage is a faithful, exclusive and lifelong union between one man and one woman joined in an intimate partnership of life and love — a union instituted by God for the mutual fulfillment of the husband and wife as well as for the procreation and education of children."

California’s bishops expressed their “disappointment in the California Supreme Court decision.”

“That statute reflected the wisdom of the voters of California in retaining the traditional definition of marriage as a biological reality and a societal good. Unfortunately, today, the Court saw fit to disregard the will of the majority of people of California,” the bishops said.

Noting that domestic partnerships are already legal in California, the bishops said that, “Today’s decision of California’s high court opens the door for policymakers to deconstruct traditional marriage and create another institution under the guise of equal protection.”


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Church in Ecuador opposes attempt to legalize homosexual “marriage”

Quito, Ecuador, May 15, 2008 (CNA) - Amidst debate in the Ecuadorian Constitutional Assembly over a proposal to grant homosexuals the right to “marry” and adopt children, the president of the Ecuadorian Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Antonio Arregui Yarza, called the proposal legally unnecessary and said its only effect would be to destroy the family as the basic unit of society.

In a letter to the faithful of the country which was read in all parishes, Archbishop Arregui said the Church decided to speak out because it is her duty “to promote and protect the dignity of the human person in light of the Gospel and right reason.”

“During the debates on the new Constitution, and even before, certain proposals have been made that would make same-sex unions equivalent to marriage and the family,” he said. The bishops of Ecuador “have put forth a common teaching in the sense that we cannot speak of marriage and family with respect to unions formed by homosexuals,” the archbishop explained.

“On the other hand,” he continued, “Christian morality considers homosexual practice to be a grave moral disorder incompatible with the life of faith, because it contradicts natural law and the commandments of God’s law.  This moral conclusion, at the same time, proclaims the respect we must have for others, for every human person and his free choices. It does not establish unjust discrimination.  The Church embraces men and women with homosexual tendencies with respect, understanding and sensitivity,” the archbishop stated.

However, he stressed, when it comes to legislation, “no law can seek to make these relationships and unions equivalent to the treasure of marriage and the family.”   He argued that there is no need to create special laws to address legal questions related to long-term relationships between homosexuals and that such questions can be resolved under existing law.

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Argentinean government “chastises” Church by suspending Te Deum prayer

Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 15, 2008 (CNA) - The government of Cristina Kirchner has decided to “chastise” Church officials in Argentina for their criticism of its policies by announcing it will cancel a 198 year-old tradition and replace the traditional Te Deum prayer of May 25 at the Cathedral of Buenos Aires with a “multi-religious” ceremony in northern Argentina.

Previously the Te Deum has traditionally been prayed at the Cathedral in Buenos Aires to mark important political changes that took place in the country on May 25, 1810. 

No Argentinean bishop has responded to publicly to the decision by the Kirchner administration, but the president of Campus Ministry for Buenos Aires, Father Guillermo Marco—who until recently was spokesman for the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires—told Noticias Argentinas news agency that the move was in response to criticism of the administration by Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio.

“For a long time the only institution that warned against the dangers of some tendencies in this government and the previous one was the Catholic Church,” Father Marco said.  “This running away from Buenos Aires is due in part to displeasure over the cardinal’s homilies,” he added.
This is not the first time the Kirchners have reacted to criticism from Church officials.  In 2005, President Nestor Kirchner, husband of the current president, broke a long tradition and decided to move the Te Deum celebration to the city of Santiago del Estero and in 2007 he moved it to Mendoza, in response to comments by Cardinal Bergoglio during a Mass in 2006. 

“The Church was the only institution that warned of the dangers that we are now seeing,” Father Marco stressed.  He noted the paradox of the government’s decision to hold the multi-religious ceremony at the Cathedral of Salta. “I don’t know how many representatives of other religions are going to go to Salta, which is one of the most Catholic provinces of the country, about 98% Catholic,” he said.

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White House says 'activist judges' at fault for gay marriage ruling

Washington D.C., May 15, 2008 (CNA) - Following today's ruling by the California Supreme Court which struck down the citizen-approved Proposition 22 banning homosexual marriages, the White House has called the decision an action by "activist judges."

Dana Perino, President Bush's press secretary, responded to news of ruling by saying, "President Bush has always believed marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman."

The press secretary described the ruling as an action by activist judges that usurps the will of the people, saying, "It’s unfortunate when activist judges continue to seek to redefine marriage by court order – without regard for the will of the people."

"Today’s decision by the California Supreme Court illustrates that a federal constitutional amendment is the best way for the people to decide what marriage means. President Bush remains firmly committed to protecting the sanctity of marriage," she said. 

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More aid relief access to Myanmar needed to avert “human catastrophe”

, May 15, 2008 (CNA) - Catholic partners of the global charity Caritatis Internationalis have begun delivering aid to the people of Myanmar suffering in the devastated aftermath of Cyclone Nargis.  Though aid workers in the country report scenes of “death and mayhem,” aid agencies are still pleading with the Myanmar government to allow more aid into the country to avert a “human catastrophe.”

The death toll of the May 3 storm presently stands at 100,000 people and is expected to rise.  At least 1.5 million people have been affected by the cyclone.

In a Caritas Media press release, a Caritas worker who was inside Myanmar during the cyclone’s landfall described the situation as “overwhelming.”

“Nature unleashed an orgy of death and mayhem, wounding an already suffering population,” said the aid worker, who wished to remain anonymous.

The worker was in Phyapon, down the Irrawaddy River, when the cyclone hit. 

“The bodies of human beings and cattle were floating alongside our boat. We reached a destroyed village and were the first outsiders to reach them. Cyclone Nargis bombed them, flattened them and left them rattled with their spirit rattled,” the worker said.

“The body of a five year-old boy drifted by, [the] child of a mourning mother somewhere, the boy drifting in an unknown waters, waiting for a burial, unwept and unsung,” the worker continued.

The most crucial needs of people in the disaster area are water, food, and shelter. 

“We witnessed children biting at old coconut shells as we went in,” said the worker.  “Dead people and animals are everywhere.  The people neither have the energy nor the will to bury them. There were many refugees, living in roofless churches and monasteries.  Help has not reached them.”

Caritas Australia CEO Jack de Groot urged the speedy deployment of relief aid teams.

“It is clear the scale of this disaster teeters on becoming a human catastrophe unless we get emergency teams into the most remote and isolated parts of the affected areas – many of which are yet to receive assistance to this point,” de Groot said.

He said that the medical infrastructure in Myanmar is “already at breaking point.”  If cholera or amoebic dysentery breaks out, hundreds of thousands of lives could be lost.

“We plead with the leaders in Burma to please, please, please allow international access to the international community who can offer critically needed assistance in Burma. The need is so urgent for international access. We can still avert a human catastrophe but our window of opportunity is diminishing quickly,” de Groot continued.

Church partners of Caritas Internationalis are providing food and other aid to 10,000 people in Yangon and Irrawaddy.   They expected to increase their volume of relief aid to help 40,000 people by Wednesday.  Church medical staff are also traveling to the worst affected areas to provide treatment to survivors.

At least $1 million has been spent on Caritas International’s relief efforts.  The relief organization is coordinating its 162 national members to respond to the humanitarian crisis.

According to a Caritas Internationalis press release, Archbishop Charles Bo of Yangon said, “As a Church, we are reaching out to the victims with all the means at our disposal. At this hour of darkness, we are encouraged by the show of support by our friends from abroad. There are urgent needs for food, water and shelter. Thousands are in need of medical help.”


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World Youth Day ad campaign in Sydney aims to involve locals

Sydney, Australia, May 15, 2008 (CNA) - World Youth Day 2008 organizers have launched a campaign to Sydney-area residents to inform them that the July event is open to all.

The advertising campaign uses the slogan “World Youth Day - The time of your eternal life.”  It includes a mix of metropolitan and suburban print, radio, online, outdoor, and television media.

“We know that many Sydneysiders are keen to be involved in the largest celebration Sydney has ever hosted and this campaign aims to tap into this goodwill,” WYD08 Chief Operating Officer, Danny Casey said. 

“Catholics are the largest religious grouping in Sydney but many are not regular churchgoers; we want to make sure all are welcome.”

The campaign also includes leaflet drops at doorstops targeting half a million Sydney homes.  The leaflets invite readers to volunteer, to become a host for pilgrims, or to attend events during World Youth Day.

Advertising agency DRAFTFCB developed the campaign.  Jonathan Samengo, Head of Strategic Services at DRAFTFCB Sydney, said the campaign was not only aimed at the broader Christian audience.

“It’s important for the Church that Catholics feel very proud of both the event and how it’s being positioned,” Samengo said.  “It’s like the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics. At the Sydney Olympics organizers not only had to showcase Australia to the world, they had to ensure the event reflected modern Australia and how we really see ourselves.”

Other taglines for the advertising campaign include “Happiness – one souvenir you’ll definitely take home,” “An excellent source of pure joy,” and “Find total serenity in a crowd of thousands.”

The campaign began on April 20 and will continue through mid-July.

The 23rd World Youth Day will take place from July 15 to July 20.  About 225,000 pilgrims are registered to attend the event, which will include a Papal Mass with Pope Benedict XVI.

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