Denver, Colo., Jul 23, 2008 (CNA) - Pro-life groups have asked the City of Denver to permit them to conduct a prayer vigil at the Pepsi Center on August 23, two days before the Democratic National Convention meets at the venue. However, the groups say a lawsuit could be necessary to overcome the delayed response from the city government that has hampered planning for the vigil.
The Christian Defense Coalition (CDC), Survivors, Operation Rescue, and other national groups are planning the event, which they call “A Prayer for Change.”
CDC President Rev. Patrick Mahoney wrote an e-mail to Denver Attorney David Fine asking the city to approve the prayer vigil, which he said will include hundreds of Christians peacefully kneeling in prayer and leaving roses symbolizing aborted children.
He argued that the delay is creating “major hardship” for the pro-life groups and limits their ability to plan to exercise their First Amendment rights.
“Sadly, this delay is no different than denying our free speech rights,” he wrote.
He said the groups’ legal team has been instructed to file suit in federal court on Friday if the city does not take action.
“We hope we do not have to go into federal court to settle this matter, but we certainly will do so if we cannot reach an agreement with the City,” he said in a press release.
Speaking in a phone interview, Mahoney told CNA that the groups’ attorney Brian Chavez-Ochoa has been in contact with City Attorney David Fine throughout Tuesday, but there had been no further developments by 3 p.m. Eastern time.
Mahoney said that the city has not denied permission for the vigil, but it “has not said definitively that we can hold the prayer vigil.”
“We think we’ve been more than fair with the City of Denver for them to get a security plan in place and for them to negotiate with us to have our peaceful prayer vigil at the Pepsi Center,” he stated.
He reported that the CDC has been working with the city since September 2007 on several events planned for the convention period. All other Denver sites the groups wished to use have been approved.
“We don’t want to have to litigate,” he said, but if the groups’ concerns are not answered “we’ll definitely be in federal court on Friday.”
Rev. Mahoney said the pro-life groups wanted to have people pray “that this tragic war on children called abortion would end.” Claiming that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama would be “the most pro-abortion president in history,” he said the demonstrators would especially be praying for Obama.
Attendees at the pre-convention prayer vigil would leave 1,400 roses for “children and women who have been diminished through abortion.” Mahoney explained that the number 1,400 was chosen because it is the number of African-American babies killed in abortions each day.
Mahoney will arrive in Denver on Thursday and on Monday will participate in a local interfaith pro-life demonstration, where he will join pro-life speaker Dr. Alveda King.
More information on the planned pre-convention vigil is available at the website http://aprayerforchange.com .
Morris, MN, Jul 23, 2008 (CNA) - The University of Minnesota has told CNA that disciplinary action has not been taken against Professor Paul Zachary Myers, a biology professor at the school’s Morris campus who threatened to acquire and desecrate a consecrated Host on his popular science blog Pharyngula. However, impeachment proceedings have begun against the University of Central Florida student senator who took a Host from a Catholic Mass in the incident which inspired Myers to make his threat.
Daniel Wolter, the News Service Director in the Office of University Relations at the University of Minnesota, reiterated in an e-mail to CNA that Professor Myers’ views “do not reflect the views of the University of Minnesota.”
“We appreciate the Catholic League's making us aware of the improper link to Myers' blog that was on the University website,” Wolter wrote. “That link has been removed as it was a violation of University web policy.”
The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights had criticized Myers’ threat in a July 10 press release, calling for those who oversee Myers to “act quickly and decisively.”
Wolter said in his e-mail that “no disciplinary action has been taken against Professor Myers.”
He referred CNA to Chancellor Jacqueline Johnson’s message to the University of Minnesota at Morris community for further comment.
In her statement, Chancellor Johnson said:
“I deeply regret that the postings have been so upsetting to so many people and that this has, in turn, caused some individuals to question the values of civility, respect, academic inquiry and critical thought that are the hallmark of this institution.”
She said personal and intellectual engagement at the school is done in “in the framework of intellectual and critical inquiry, not from a platform of name-calling and derogation.”
In her message, Chancellor Johnson voiced her expectation that faculty and staff “interact and engage in a civil and respectful way in the workplace, and it is my hope that this demeanor would extend beyond the boundaries of their University responsibilities and commitments.”
The outcry surrounding Professor Myers stems from his threats to acquire and desecrate the Eucharist in a July 8 posting on his scienceblogs.com blog Pharyngula. In that post, in which he derisively called the consecrated Host a “cracker,” Myers wrote:
“Can anyone out there score me some consecrated communion wafers?” Myers wrote. “…if any of you would be willing to do what it takes to get me some, or even one, and mail it to me, I’ll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare. I won’t be tempted to hold it hostage… but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web.”
Subsequent to posting his request for Communion hosts on his blog, Myers told CNA that he had received hosts from a number of people, both in person and through the mail.
The case of Cook
Myers made the threat in response to an incident at the University of Central Florida (UCF) where student senator Webster Cook had taken a consecrated Host from a June 29 Mass and kept it in his possession for a week despite pleas for its return.
Cook claimed he had received death threats because of his action and filed an official abuse complaint with the UCF student court, alleging that a Catholic leader had forcibly tried to retrieve the Host which Cook had taken back to his seat. His complaint was dismissed.
Cook has also charged UCF Catholic Campus Ministries with violating campus anti-hazing rules governing the coerced consumption of food and has alleged the Catholic group has violated the school’s underage drinking policy by serving communion wine to underage students.
Catholic students had filed a formal complaint against Cook for disrupting the Mass. Cook also faces charges that he represented himself as a student senator in the incident.
On Thursday night after fifteen minutes of deliberation 33 of the 35 UCF student senators voted to impeach Cook on the charge he represented himself as a student senator, the Orlando Sentinel reports. The vote does not remove Cook from office, but instead begins an investigation that could remove him from his Senate seat if he is found to have violated Senate ethics rules.
The impeachment was prompted by an affidavit filed by a student government official, which includes statements from those associated with the Catholic Campus Ministry who confronted Cook at the June 29 Mass.
Cook was not at Thursday night’s Senate meeting, but was reported to have been on a planned family trip.
Myers: It’s about being forced to show respect
This past Sunday, Professor Myers wrote on his blog that he would desecrate a Koran in addition to desecrating a consecrated Host, writing, “Thanks to all who have demanded that I treat that silly book [the Koran] with disrespect, I’ll have to treat both equally.”
Catholic League President Bill Donohue had recently noted that in 2006 Myers had criticized those who published inflammatory cartoons disparaging the Muslim prophet Mohammed. In a Tuesday statement, Donohue said:
“The latest threat by Myers only makes matters worse. Instead of treating Catholicism with the respect he has previously shown for Islam, he now pledges to disrespect Islam the way he pledges to disrespect Catholicism (once again!). This is his idea of equal treatment.”
Donohue argued that Myers had an opportunity to either rebut or sustain claims that there is a “moral vacuity” in Darwinian visions of society, depending on whether or not he engaged in the threatened desecrations.
In an interview with Catholic Radio International, Professor Myers portrayed his threats as the result of what he perceives to be Bill Donohue’s forceful tactics rather than any official actions by the Church.
Myers was asked by radio show host Jeff Gardner if any official representative of the Catholic Church had told him he had to believe in the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. “Well, that’s actually a very good point,” said Myers. “There’s been no official response from the Catholic Church and I would make a deal here, that I would return these wafers to the nearest Catholic church if the Church would come out and disavow the tactics of Bill Donohue and the people who have threatened my job and have threatened my life,” Myers said.
Madrid, Spain, Jul 23, 2008 (CNA) - The organization Professionals for Ethics reported this week that courts in Spain have now issued 18 rulings supporting the right to conscientiously object to the school course Education for Citizenship and reaffirming the right of parents to choose the kind of moral education their children receive.
Jaime Urcelay, president of Professionals for Ethics, said, “At this point the legal support for those who object to the course is unquestionable and has set legal precedent.” He said more rulings of a similar nature are expected in the near future.
Urcelay said it was time the federal and local governments took steps “to resolve this conflict that has resulted precisely from a lack of dialogue and consensus.”
Vatican City, Jul 23, 2008 (CNA) - As part of an effort to bolster Iraq’s diplomatic relations in Europe, Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki is making stops in Germany and Italy this week. On Friday he will pay a visit to Pope Benedict XVI to brief him on efforts to protect the Christian community in Iraq and to promote values of equality, justice and reconciliation.
Al-Maliki began his stop-over in Germany on Monday by meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel and German business leaders. At a press conference, the Iraqi leader addressed the plight of Iraqi Christians saying, "there is no discrimination between Christians and Muslims" and said that "we will do our best so that Christians also return to Iraq."
On Thursday, Al-Maliki will travel to Italy to meet with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Friday will see the Iraqi PM head south of Rome to speak with Pope Benedict XVI. According to Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabagh, Al-Maliki will update the Pope on “the steps taken by the Iraqi government to spread the values of tolerance, equality, justice, and national reconciliation among all Iraqis and its efforts to build a democratic Iraq.”
A meeting with the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, will also take place following the audience with the Pope.
Iraq is home to the Chaldean Catholic Church, which is part of the Eastern Rite. The Chaldean Church is one of the oldest Christian Churches in the world.
Denver, Colo., Jul 23, 2008 (CNA) - Charles J. Chaput, the Archbishop of Denver, has written a new book about Catholic participation in public life, where faith and politics intersect. Titled “Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life,” the book will be published by Doubleday in August 2008.
Explaining that Catholics must bring their convictions into the voting booth, he argues that Catholics’ citizenship must be grounded in religious belief as a moral duty and a gift to American life. Among the issues the archbishop urges Catholics to strengthen their voice on are abortion, the death penalty, immigration, poverty and other social justice issues. The debate on these matters is crucial, and the teachings of the Catholic Church can make a strong contribution to the common good, the archbishop says.
His book reaffirms the close link between personal Catholic faith and public action and also defends the right of religious believers to challenge secular authority in the name of human dignity. “In this sense, the Catholic church cannot stay, has never stayed, and never will stay out of politics,” he writes.
Catholic faith is “always personal, but never private,” he continues. “Citizens serve their country best when they take their moral convictions respectfully, but unapologetically, into public debate… American Catholics are better citizens when they first live as more faithful Catholics.”
The book examines the themes of Catholics and partisan politics, Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life, and pro-choice politicians and Holy Communion. It discusses the separation of Church and State, but also the proper understanding of a well-formed Catholic conscience and the phenomenon of “cafeteria Catholicism.” Pluralism, tolerance, and anti-Catholicism are also featured subjects.
Archbishop Chaput, who is known for his straightforward and honest analysis, also gives a critique of today’s public forum. He writes that the nation has descended into “the land of private appetites” and that “Orwellian” language often is used to manipulate the public discussion. Public leaders whose public choices mock their personal religious convictions, but also those who, lukewarm and self-absorbed, do not escape scrutiny in “Render Unto Caesar.”
“The time for easy Christianity is over. We need to be more zealous in our faith, not more discreet, clearer in our convictions, not muddier, and more Catholic, not less,” he says.
Render Unto Caesar may be pre-ordered on Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/Render-Unto-Caesar-Catholic-Political/dp/0385522282/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1215959015&sr=8-1
Madrid, Spain, Jul 23, 2008 (CNA) - The civil rights watchdog organization Hazteoir.org filed a complaint with Spain’s Attorney General this week against the organizers of a July 5 “gay pride” parade for inciting religious hatred.
The gay pride parade, which took place in Madrid, is renowned not only for its graphic and violent displays of homosexual sex, but also for its open aggression against the Catholic faith. Many participants dress up in clerical or religious garb combined with sexual objects, and others carry signs that insult the Pope, the bishops and Catholics in general.
According to Hazteoir.org, participants also denigrated Catholic images and symbols, which would have been denounced had the target of the attacks been any other religious or social group.
“We are filing this complaint in order to ensure that in Spain you can no longer get off scot-free offending the Church, the symbols and the beliefs of the majority of Spanish society,” the organization’s president, Ignacio Arsuaga said. He explained that the complaint filed with the Attorney General shows that the parade was not a case of freedom of speech but actually promoted hatred and discrimination against Catholics.
Madrid, Spain, Jul 23, 2008 (CNA) - The governor of Madrid, Esperanza Aguirre, has announced that the dates for World Youth Day 2011 will be August 15-21. She also assured the public that local officials would support the event and ensure it would be a success.
“I am sure Madrid will be ready to welcome the Pope as he deserves for the next World Youth Day, which will be held in the Spanish capital in 2011,” Aguirre said in response to the announcement.
She said she shared the sentiments of Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela of Madrid, who said the event would “have important repercussions for the social, cultural and general life of Spain.”
Aguirre said she was “very happy” that Spain was chosen as the host city for the next World Youth Day and that “it will be a great opportunity for the young people of Madrid, whether they are Catholic or not, because the Pope is a worldwide authority.”
Bogotá, Colombia, Jul 23, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Fabian Marulanda, secretary general of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, has called on the rebel group FARC to free all of its hostages because of the “universal clamor expressed in the massive protests” that took place last Sunday in Colombia and other parts of the world.
This past weekend millions of colombians and hundreds of thousands of people in other Latin American cities held protests calling for the release of all those who have been kidnapped. Bishop Marulanda commented on the protests, saying, “I can’t understand how some of the guerrilla commanders don’t have the eyes to see or the ears to hear this universal clamor.”
During an interview on Union Radio, the bishop said the Church saw the protests “as something truly extraordinary, a shot of faith and hope for the Colombian people, because not only were they an expression of rejection of kidnapping and of the demand for the release of all the hostages, but also we clearly felt the support of so many countries where similar rallies were held.”
Bishop Marulanda added that kidnapping is of no use politically or militarily for the rebel groups and that “today there is a total rejection of this practice, and there is a demand and a cry that all the hostages in Colombia and the world be released.”
He said the protests last Sunday were the best argument that could be made to “a group that is on the fringes of the law to think things over, because the path (of kidnapping) will have no backing or support.”
The bishop also criticized negotiations launched by some countries that do not have as a priority the release of all the hostages but instead focus on the release of a certain group. The Church believes in “asking for the release of all hostages without distinction,” he said.
Rome, Italy, Jul 23, 2008 (CNA) - During an international meeting with the heads of various religious communities, Cardinal Franc Rode, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, said Europe is “moving backwards in the area of religion because legislative bodies on the continent are increasingly moving further away from Christian principles.”
During the meeting organized by the congregation he heads, the Slovenian cardinal underscored that “laws being passed in almost every country in Europe do not coincide with Christian principles,” and therefore religious “superiors have a clear challenge, and at the same time an inescapable task: to root out the subtle forms of internal secularization that have become present in our surroundings.”
These subtle forms of secularization include “language that has lost its religious content, the engaging in social activities to the detriment of more ecclesial ones, the concept of the mission as an agent of social progress and not as a means of evangelization,” he said.
Cardinal Rode later said that the “Church and society need people capable of giving themselves totally to God and to others out of love of God,” and therefore “consecrated persons can and should respond in a credible way to religious indifference, to the loss of the sense of the transcendent and of eschatological hope.”
Castelgandolfo, Italy, Jul 23, 2008 (CNA) -
In Bressanone, a German-speaking town near the Italian border with Austria, the Pope will stay with his brother Father Georg Ratzinger in a medieval seminary from July 28 to August 11. According to ANSA news agency, a grand piano has been installed at the seminary for the two music-loving brothers.
Pope Benedict will also spend time with Milly, the seminary’s cat, who will be cared for by Sister Superior Maria Pieta. Besides Sister Pieta, only rector Ivo Muser will remain at the seminary during the Pope’s visit.
According to the local diocese, Pope Benedict will stay in an apartment decorated in “extremely sober” style and read, play music, and enjoy strolls in the mountains.
He is scheduled to deliver his customary Sunday Angelus from the town square on August 3 and August 10. Bressanone Mayor Alberto Puergstaller will reportedly grant the Pope honorary citizenship on August 9.
The Pope first visited the town with his brother and older sister Maria in 1970 and spent time at the seminary while he was a cardinal.
After his Bressanone visit, Pope Benedict will return to Castel Gandolfo where he will resume regular general audiences. On Friday, August 15 he will hold Mass at the local parish.
He will reportedly remain at Castel Gandolfo through late September, excepting visits to the Italian city of Cagliari on September 7, and a trip to France from September 12 through 15.
Sydney, Australia, Jul 23, 2008 (CNA) - Pilgrims for World Youth Day have all gone their separate ways with the close of the international Catholic youth gathering. Cardinal George Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, took time this past Sunday to reflect on the hospitality of Sydney residents, the enthusiasm of the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, and the “genuine” prayer surrounding the event. With all of this, he said “This is a good time to be Catholic.”
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, he said that “all Sydney has taken the pilgrims into their hearts.” The cardinal observed how Sydney organizations, such as an Islamic school which provided accommodation for an American group, had helped visiting pilgrims.
Praising the “almost perfect” weather, he then declared that the police had done “a great job” and used “common sense and tact” in maintaining order at the events.
The cardinal said that some 500,000 people had shown “wild enthusiasm” during Pope Benedict XVI’s arrival at Sydney Harbor on Thursday and during the Stations of the Cross on Friday. “The prayer was genuine too,” he said. “With immense crowds you can feel the silence of prayer.”
He described in particular the Thursday welcoming ceremony for the Pope.
“Sydney harbor in the sunshine is a magnificent sight,” he recounted. “Vancouver or Cape Town might be sight rivals but as the flotilla of ships carried the Pope to the official welcome, the foreign visitors commented that few cities could offer a comparable approach.
“A young aboriginal man, feeling cold in his traditional dress, explained his story to the Holy Father as we passed huge crowds at Mrs. Macquarie’s Point, Farm Cove and the majestic Opera House.”
Cardinal Pell said he would always remember the World Youth Day Sydney song and also the miles of excited young adults who lined the route of the Pope’s motorcade.
“Nearly everyone near the route seemed to have new cameras, enabling them to check success or failure immediately,” he wrote in the Sunday Telegraph. “A stray flag ruined the hard work of one young man on his mate’s shoulders. I saw another exulting because he had succeeded.”
“This is a good time to be Catholic,” the cardinal said. “They are days to remember.”