Rome, Italy, Aug 23, 2008 (CNA) - The L'Osservatore Romano (LOR) reported this week that hundreds of priests, religious and laity gathered on Thursday to offer Mass for the repose of the soul of Father Thomas Pandippally, a Carmelite priest of Mary Immaculate who was killed by Hindu extremists last Saturday.
The Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Joji Marampudi of Hyderabad, together with the superiors of the Carmelite order within the archdiocese. In addition, 150 priests, another 100 religious and numerous lay people were present.
During the homily, the superior of the Provincial House of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate in Balampilly remembered the slain priest as a man “who dedicated his religious mission to proclaiming the Gospel of Christ among the poor, to the point of sacrificing his own life.
He said Father Pandippally’s sacrifice “will bring new and abundant fruits to the small and heroic Catholic Church in Hyderabad, making Father Thomas one of the martyrs for Christ.”
On the other hand, the Council of Catholic Bishops of Kerala, which brings together 29 Catholic bishops from three different rites, condemned the brutal homicide and demanded that those responsible be identified and brought to justice.
The council’s vice secretary, Father Stephen Alathara, said the murder of Father Thomas in the diocese of “Hyderabad in India is only the most recent in a series of violent attacks against Catholic missionaries in India by extremists of different denominations.
San Diego, Calif., Aug 23, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, the newly appointed Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura and former Archbishop of St. Louis, recently discussed in an interview the topic of respect for the Holy Eucharist and its pastoral aspects of canon law. Reiterating that the Church has the right and the duty to tell someone who persists in public grave sin that he or she may not receive Communion, Archbishop Burke suggested that laxity among Catholics regarding respect for the Blessed Sacrament has resulted from a lack of Eucharistic Adoration and a felt connection between the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance.
Speaking in an interview with Thomas J. McKenna, president of the San Diego-based group Catholic Action for Faith and Family, the archbishop noted that an “alarming” percentage of Catholics do not believe the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ and a similarly alarming percentage do not participate in Sunday Mass.
Endorsing Eucharistic Adoration, he said “Without devotion to the Blessed Sacrament people quickly lose Eucharistic faith.”
In the interview, Archbishop Burke criticized rhetoric that presents receiving Holy Communion as a “right.”
“Who could claim that he has a right to receive the Body of Christ? This is all an act of God’s immeasurable love Our Lord makes Himself available to us in His Body and Blood for Holy Communion. But we can never say that we have the right to Him, that we can demand to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion. Each time we approach, we should approach with a profound sense of our own unworthiness.”
The archbishop said that Catholics have lost the sense of their unworthiness to receive the Sacrament and their need to confess their sins and repent in order to receive Holy Communion worthily.
Discussing Canons 915 and 916 of Church law, which concern worthy reception of the Blessed Sacrament, Archbishop Burke explained that the Church has those laws in place not to be mean and imposing, but to help the faithful reach salvation and to warn people who are in the state of mortal sin.
“It is the greatest act of charity to prevent somebody from doing something that is sacrilegious that is, to warn them, and then actually refuse to be party to a sacrilege… the Church, in Her love, prevents people from doing things that are gravely offensive to God and gravely damaging to their own souls.”
Often, the archbishop said, our serious sins are known only to ourselves and maybe one or two other people, in which case “we have to be the one to monitor the situation and discipline ourselves not to approach to receive Holy Communion.”
In cases where people are committing grave sins “knowingly and publicly,” such as a government official who publicly promotes procured abortion, they should be admonished not to receive Holy Communion until they have reformed their lives. If such a person persists in serious or mortal sin in a public way, Archbishop Burke said “the minister of Holy Communion has the obligation to refuse Holy Communion to that person.”
This refusal is necessary both for the good of the public sinner but also for preserving the whole Church from scandal, which the Catechism defines as “an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil.”
If the Sacrament is not refused, the archbishop explained, “People would be led to think it is alright to be in the state of mortal sin and to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion,” or it could lead people to believe “that the public act which this person is committing, which everyone thinks is a serious sin, must not be so serious because the Church permits that person to receive Holy Communion.”
While noting that Catholics must follow their conscience, Archbishop Burke emphasized that the conscience has to be properly formed:
“Conscience is not some sort of subjective reality where I make up for myself what is right and good. Rather, it is an objective reality where I conform my own thinking to what is true.”
People who cite following their own conscience as a reason they should receive Holy Communion ignore that the minister of the Sacrament also has a duty in conscience to ensure the Sacrament is properly received, he noted.
In all this, the archbishop said, we must remember the great importance of the Sacrament.
“The first thing that needs to be said is that the Body and Blood of Christ is a gift of God’s love to us. It is the greatest gift, a gift beyond our ability to describe,” he said. “…A gift is freely given out of love and that is what God is doing for us every time we are able to participate in Mass and approach to receive Holy Communion.”
Washington D.C., Aug 23, 2008 (CNA) - On Thursday the Bush administration announced plans to implement a regulation that would protect doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers from being forced to provide services that violate their personal, moral, or religious beliefs. Under the regulation, which one pro-life leader called “badly needed,” federal officials may pull funding from hospitals, clinics, health plans, doctors’ offices, and other entities which do not accommodate employees with conscientious objections to such services.
"People should not be forced to say or do things they believe are morally wrong," Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said, according to the Washington Post. "Health-care workers should not be forced to provide services that violate their own conscience."
Leavitt explained that he requested the new regulation after hearing reports that healthcare workers were being required to perform duties they found repugnant. As examples, he cited two professional organizations for obstetricians and gynecologists which he said might require doctors who object to abortions to refer patients to physicians who would procure them.
According to Leavitt, there is nothing in the regulation that would “in any way change a patient’s right to a legal procedure.”
The regulation, which could go into effect after a 30-day comment period, drops the language in a draft version that would have explicitly defined abortion a federal law or regulation as anything that interfered with a fertilized egg after conception. The rule reportedly remains broad enough to protect pharmacists and healthcare workers from providing birth control pills, “emergency contraception,” and other forms of contraception, and explicitly allows them to withhold information about such services and to refuse to provide referrals to patients.
The Washington Post reports that the regulation, which could cost more than $44 million to implement, aims at enforcing several federal laws passed in the 1970s which protected doctors and nurses who did not want to perform abortions after the Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion nationwide.
Critics said the regulation was too wide-ranging in scope, especially its coverage of “participating in any activity with a reasonable connection to the objectionable procedure, including referrals, training, and other arrangements for offending procedures.”
Cecile Richards of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America claimed the regulation “poses a serious threat to women's health care by limiting the rights of patients to receive complete and accurate health information and services.”
She charged that the regulation risks having “politics and ideology” compromise “women's ability to manage their own health care.”
Others welcomed the regulation, the Washington Post says.
“I think this provides broad application not just to abortion and sterilization but any other type of morally objectionable procedure and research activity," said David Stevens of the Christian Medical and Dental Association. "We think it's badly needed. Our members are facing discrimination every day, and as we get into human cloning and all sorts of possibilities, it's going to become even more important."
Sacramento, Calif., Aug 23, 2008 (CNA) - The California Supreme Court’s unanimous Monday decision against two doctors who declined to artificially inseminate a lesbian could have significant implications for religious freedom in the United States. Critics have attacked the decision, which said religious freedom and free speech guarantees do not exempt the doctors from complying with anti-discrimination laws protecting sexual orientation.
Drs. Christine Brody and Douglas Fenton had claimed the First Amendment’s protections of freedom of religion and free speech shielded them from a lawsuit filed in 2001 by Guadalupe Benitez, a lesbian who had asked them to provide artificial insemination services, Cybercast News Service reports.
The two doctors, who work at North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group in Vista, Calif., told Benitez they were not comfortable providing the service and advised her to find another doctor.
Benitez claimed the doctors refused service because she is a lesbian while the physicians, who are Christians, deny the allegation. They claim they don’t inseminate any unmarried women.
Speaking for the California Supreme Court, Justice Joyce Kennard decided the case in Monday’s decision, writing:
“Do the rights of religious freedom and free speech, as guaranteed in both the federal and the California Constitutions, exempt a medical clinic’s physicians from complying with the California Unruh Civil Rights Act’s prohibition against discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation? Our answer is no.”
California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, enacted in 1959, says:
“All persons within the jurisdiction of this state are free and equal, and no matter what their sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, or medical condition are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.”
Legal protections for sexual orientation, gender, and marital status were added to the Unruh Civil Rights Act in 2005.
Gary McCaleb, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), argued that the court let anti-discrimination law trump constitutional protections for freedom of conscience.
“It really is as if California has banned its citizens from having moral consciences,” he said, according to Cybercast News Service. “You must merely obey what the state says, you have no right to follow your own moral guide.”
McCaleb said the case was “not an emergency situation.”
“These were doctors who did not feel right morally about performing the procedure. They actually treated the lady in many aspects but at a certain point said, ‘No, we can’t participate in this for moral reasons, because the person is not married,’ and referred her to another doctor who would have provided the treatment but just couldn’t do it immediately.”
University of Wisconsin law professor, speaking to Cybercast News Service, said not every state has a law similar to the California law, which specifically protects people from discrimination and differential treatment on the grounds of sexual orientation.
“It really is a rather unique situation nationally,” she claimed.
However, she continued, religious people are not exempt from generally applicable laws and licensed professionals like physicians have a legal obligation to offer their services in a “nondiscriminatory way.”
She said religious exemptions can cloud the issues, citing a case in Minneapolis where Muslim taxi drivers from Somalia were refusing to pick up passengers who carried duty-free alcohol because the consumption alcohol violates their religious beliefs.
In another example, she added, “Imagine somebody who runs a store for maternity clothing who refuses to serve single women or gay women, because the owner believes that it is immoral for such a woman to have had sex, let alone to have a child.”
UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh said that even if the case is appealed it may not arrive at the U.S. Supreme Court, and it is not clear that the court would side with the doctors’ religious freedom arguments.
“Up until the 1960s, the court’s general view was that the Free Exercise (of religion) clause (in the U.S. Constitution) does not give anybody the right to exemption,” Volokh told Cybercast News Service. While some theoretical right to exemption was acknowledged between 1963 and 1990, recent jurisprudence has returned to the earlier model.
Current jurisprudence, he explained, only defends First Amendment protection against laws that single out religion for “special burdens.”
Dr. David Stevens, CEO of the Christian Medical Association, assailed the decision, saying it is “discrimination against healthcare professionals on the basis of their sincerely held ethical standards.”
He also warned of the decision’s lasting consequences, saying “This decision reaches beyond the medical profession. Taking away the First Amendment rights of healthcare professionals puts at risk the rights of every working American.”
Denver, Colo., Aug 23, 2008 (CNA) - With the fate of the traditional family hanging in the balance, Catholic and Evangelical leaders from around the country are meeting in Denver ahead of the Democratic National Convention to show their support for marriage and the family.
The event, dubbed “Viva La Familia!” will feature Latino leaders and entertainers from Colorado, California and Arizona, and is being organized by the Alliance for Marriage Foundation (AFM).
One of the leaders who will speak at the rally, Rev. Sam Rodriguez Jr. explains that, "Marriage and family are central to Hispanic Americans." Rodriguez, one of the featured speakers, added, "It is the driving engine of our growth and success as a community."
Organizers say that they will also take the opportunity to launch a national coalition of Catholic and Evangelical Latino leaders in support of marriage and family.
According to a press release from AFM, both the Republican and Democratic Parties may be working to garner the support of Latinos, but they have done so while ignoring their strong support for marriage and the family. The non-partisan coalition will aim to make Latinos’ concerns about these two societal pillars known to politicians.
The coalition’s leaders also point out that “the population of Latinos in America ‘will triple in size’ in the next four decades, according to the Pew Research Center. This makes them a sizeable voting bloc in the coming years.
The rally in support of marriage and the family will feature speakers such as, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, Jr., President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Alejandro Bermudez, Director of the Catholic News Agency and the Catholic Information Agency ACI-Prensa, the most read Spanish language Catholic web site in the world, Rev. Eve Nunez, President of the Arizona Latino Commission, and Luis Soto, Executive Director of the Denver-based Centro San Juan Diego, which is run by the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver.
"Viva la Familia! Event, wants to remind us all that the most important social institution is the family," said Luis Soto. "The family formed when a man and woman marry for their common good and for the procreation and education of their children. It is this spirit of celebrating and growing as Hispanic families that we will gather."
Eduardo Verástegui, the star of the recently released movie “Bella” will also deliver a message on marriage and family to attendees of the event via satellite from Mexico City.
Entertainment will be provided by the renowned Mexican clown Cepillín, who was for many years a great TV star in more than 18 countries. The event will also feature the Catholic recording artist Ge'La.
The rally will take place at Ninth Street Park on the campus of the University of Colorado’s Denver location at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday.