Archive of August 24, 2008

Vandalized churches unbowed: St. Michael’s in Georgetown re-sanctified after desecration

Wilmington, Del., Aug 24, 2008 (CNA) - By Mike Lang, The Dialog

Pastors at two parishes in Delaware said recent vandalism at their churches was disappointing but the congregations are eager to move on.

Father Dan McCloskey, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Church in Georgetown, was the main celebrant at a Mass of Reconciliation on Aug. 14 to rededicate the church after the tabernacle was removed and several items stolen during an early morning burglary Aug. 8.

He said the gravity of the situation first hit him when he saw the damage and again at the Mass, attended by approximately 100 parishioners. “Some were really emotionally touched by the whole thing,” said Father McCloskey, who will mark his 10th anniversary at St. Michael’s this October. “I felt empowered by the congregation being there because it’s not something you do every day. You want to say, ‘We’ll go on. It’s not going to stop us.’”

The damage was less severe at St. Polycarp’s in Smyrna but the feelings were much the same, said the pastor, Father Tom Flowers. St. Polycarp’s was vandalized sometime after
1 a.m. Aug. 15. The sacristy was ransacked, donation boxes emptied and items taken from the parish kitchen.

Police do not believe the two crimes are related. “Everything was so disheveled,” Father Flowers said. “Thank God the tabernacle wasn’t touched, but you feel violated.”

A Smyrna man, 32-year old Brian Morris, was charged with burglary, attempted theft, criminal mischief and possession of burglary tools after he allegedly entered through a kitchen screen. Morris, a St. Polycarp parishioner, is accused of trying to steal a chalice, a  pyx (a vessel that holds Communion that is taken to the sick), a portable microphone,  hearing devices for the impaired, holy water, Father Flowers’ rosary, sugar packets, peanut butter and coffee.

St. Michael’s is re-sanctified

At St. Michael’s, the tabernacle was removed from the church and consecrated hosts were scattered on the ground outside, causing the diocese to declare the church desecrated. A gold-plated chalice was stolen, along with two ciboria and a luna, which is a holder inside the monstrance.

The Catholic Encyclopedia defines desecration as “the loss of that peculiar quality of sacredness.” Material objects designed for the purpose of worship assume a sacred and inviolable character.

When that character is markedly changed, those objects are unfit for use until they are rededicated.

Also, in that case, according to Canon Law 1211, the church is not to be used for worship until the spiritual, if not physical, damage is repaired by a penitential rite. Fortunately, said Msgr. Joseph Rebman, the diocesan vicar for pastoral services, the instances of vandalism at churches in Delaware and on the Eastern Shore are so rare that he had to research the rite known as the Reconciliation of a Church.

While St. Michael’s celebrated a Mass, the parish could have had a quiet, private ceremony, Msgr. Rebman said. “It’s a very short service,” he said. “In fact, we had to put it together because it’s so rare that we have to use it.”

The bishop or a priest designated by him stands outside the church and blesses the doors and front walls with holy water. After a prayer, he enters the church and processes to the altar, where he recites a litany of the saints. He then sprinkles the walls of the church, significant interior furnishings and the location where damage was done.

The hosts found outside on the ground were wrapped in a cloth and buried under a statue on the parish grounds, Msgr. Rebman said. This ensured that no one would step on the buried hosts. Hosts that fall on the ground are normally dissolved in water and poured into a sacrarium, a sink that empties under a church, but the number of hosts involved at
St. Michael made that impractical.

Joan Ilgenfritz, the administrative assistant at St. Michael’s and also a parishioner, said she took the damage personally. “It’s as if your home or something very personal to you has been desecrated,” she said.

Ilgenfritz said other items damaged included a broken door, ripped screens and a broken door handle on a reconciliation room.

Father McCloskey said the reconciliation service was a morale booster.

“It was uplifting for me, lifting me out of my doldrums. It was powerful to realize for one moment the sacredness of all that we do,” he said.

Security system pays off

The break-in at St. Polycarp was captured on the parish’s four-month-old security system cameras, something Father Flowers had installed after several minor incidents over the
past few years.

“That, unfortunately, is the deck we’ve been dealt. It’s to protect the people and to protect the sanctity of the Eucharist,” he said.

Some parishioners who attended Mass on Friday for the Assumption were in tears upon hearing the news. That is understandable, he said, because parishioners see the parish as their home and because it is a “special and sacred place.”

Some of the items Morris allegedly placed into a bag he picked up in the sacristy have special meaning for Father Flowers. His mother gave him the chalice, and Pope John Paul II blessed his rosary. He said he reblessed them even though they were not desecrated “just so that I could use them again without getting the willies.”

Ironically, St. Polycarp had intended to hold a prayer service last Friday for the people of St. Michael’s.

“We didn’t expect we’d be quite so much in solidarity with them,” Father Flowers said.

Printed with permission from the Dialog, newspaper for the Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware.

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There is still time to avoid an abortion disaster in Mexico, pro-life leader warns

Mexico City, Mexico, Aug 24, 2008 (CNA) - The director of the International Office of the Life Foundation, Paulina Sada, addressed a message to the members of Mexico’s Supreme Court, calling on them to avoid the consequences of an “abortion disaster” in the country.  “Your honors, there is still time to avoid the disaster of abortion in Mexico,” she said.
Sada said that in addition to the problem of population replacement levels, there are also economic problems, the loss of potential workers and consumers, and health problems, “such as post-abortion syndrome, depression, and possible complications from any kind of surgical procedure.”
She recalled that countries such as Russia, the Czech Republic, Cuba and Sweden are seeking to soften the consequences of legalized abortion.
Because of abortion, Sada said, Russia foresees that “by 2050 it will have lost one-third of its population.  Officials have already outlawed the advertising of abortion in state-media and the closing of all private abortion clinics is under consideration.”
“In the Czech Republic, where the birth rate has fallen to 1.22 children per woman, well-below what is needed for replacement, politicians have already begun implementing reforms to reduce the number of abortions.”
In Cuba, she continued, official studies show that “by 2025, 25% of the island will be 60 or older, thus provoking an unsustainable situation for the country’s economy.”
Sada warned that in Sweden, teen abortion has increased by 60%, which is impacting country’s health.  Sweden already has the highest number of people suffering from depression in the world and one of the highest suicide rates,” she said.

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New World Health Organization initiative promotes abortion method

Dhaka, Bangladesh, Aug 24, 2008 (CNA) - Critics have charged a World Health Organization (WHO) initiative with providing the “menstrual regulation” abortion method in countries where abortion is otherwise illegal.

Menstrual regulation, also known as "menstrual extraction," is used by women who missed their regular menstrual period and suspect that they are pregnant but cannot or do not want to wait for the results of a pregnancy test. If the woman is pregnant at the time the menstrual extraction is performed, an abortion results. The evidence of an abortion is either destroyed during the procedure or is easily disposed of, the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute reports.

Since there may not be a pregnancy to terminate, menstrual regulation is sometimes available in countries that prohibit abortion. The procedure is sometimes regarded as a cross between “foresight abortion” and “hindsight abortion.”

Bangladesh has allowed the procedure since the 1970s, establishing it as an “interim method of establishing non-pregnancy” for a woman who could become pregnant.

A fund of $2.73 million has been established for Bangladesh with funding from the Netherlands Ministry of Development Cooperation in partnership with the government of Bangladesh and other non-governmental organizations. It will support projects over a four-year period starting this year.

Officials say the initiative will help Bangladesh achieve Millennium Development Goal 5, which aims to reduce maternal mortality by three-quarters.

Bangladesh’s maternal mortality rate is decreasing but is still one of the highest in the world.  The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports that an estimated 370,000 of the 2.5 million Bangladesh women who become pregnant each year develop fetal complications beyond the capacities and equipment of the health facilities in the country.

Initiative proponents claim the decreasing mortality rate can be attributed to increased family planning services, including menstrual regulation. They argue making the abortion procedure available reduces maternal deaths and reduces the likelihood a mother would try to procure an unsafe abortion.

Critics say the menstrual regulation will not make deliveries any safer.

According to UNICEF, lack of access to emergency obstetric care, lack of skilled birth attendants, and maternal malnutrition are the primary causes of maternal death in Bangladesh, not unsafe abortion. Half of Bangladeshi women of reproductive age are underweight, and in 2001 only 11.8 percent of deliveries were assisted by qualified medical personnel.

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Pope: Profess faith in Christ ‘who never abandons us’

Vatican City, Aug 24, 2008 (CNA) - Before the recitation of the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI held up St. Peter’s profession of faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God as an example for Christians. Recounting his mission as Pope, bishop of Rome and successor of Peter, he encouraged his audience to support him with their prayers.

Speaking from the balcony of his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, the Holy Father cited the Sunday readings, in particular Jesus' two questions to his disciples: Who do people say the Son of Man is? Who do you say I am?

Pope Benedict said that Peter's words, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God", are repeated by the Church.

Catholics, the Holy Father continued, make this "solemn profession of
faith", with the knowledge that “Christ is the true ‘treasure’ for which it is worth sacrificing everything; He is the friend who never abandons us, because He knows the expectations of our most intimate heart.”

He expounded, "Jesus is the ‘Son of the Living God,’ the promised Messiah, come to earth to offer salvation to humankind and to satisfy the thirst of life and love that is in every human being."

Pope Benedict recalled Jesus' reply to Peter: "You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven."

This was the first time that Jesus mentioned the Church, whose mission is to unite humanity in him, the Pope said. From this mission, the Holy Father said, comes the mission of Peter and his successors: “to serve the unity of the Church of God, made up of Jews and pagans; his ministry is essential to ensure that the Church does not ever identify with a single nation, with a single culture” and to bring “the peace of God and the renewing power of his love” to a divided mankind.

Pope Benedict concluded his words by asking for prayers from the faithful and by invoking the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church and Star of Evangelization.

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Climate of trust and collaboration between nations must be restored, says Pontiff

Vatican City, Aug 24, 2008 (CNA) - After praying the Angelus on Sunday, the Pope Benedict described his preoccupation with the global rise in tensions and called for the restoration of a climate of trust and collaboration" in international relations.

Pope Benedict noted how recent events have weakened the faith of many that such tensions are definitely confined to the past. But, he added, "It is not necessary to succumb to pessimism!" Instead, nations must actively engage in rejecting “the temptation to meet new situations with old systems.”

Insisting that violence be repudiated, Benedict XVI pointed to the moral force of law and  fair and transparent negotiations to resolve disputes.

Without specifically naming the conflict between Georgia and Russia, the Pope said that disputes relating to “the relationship between territorial integrity and the self-determination of peoples” require a loyalty to their word and a search for the common good to be resolved.

The Holy Father closed with asking his audience to pray that the members of the international community will work generously to restore peace and justice. The Pontiff also prayed, “Mary, Queen of Peace, intercede for us!”

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Despite losing among Catholics, Obama chooses pro-abortion vice president

Denver, Colo., Aug 24, 2008 (CNA) - Recent polls show that Sen. Barack Obama is trailing in support among white Catholic voters by 11 points. On Saturday morning, Sen. Obama announced that he had chosen Sen. Joseph Biden as his running mate, even though the senator from Delaware has a record of supporting abortion, which the Catholic Church opposes.

The Obama campaign finds itself battling for the Catholic vote with a Zogby/Reuters poll from last week showing Obama garnering support from 36 percent of white Catholics. ABC News’ most recent polling shows McCain beating Obama among registered white Catholic voters 50 to 39 percent.

As CNA reported earlier this month, Zogby analyst Fritz Wenzel attributes this gap to the two candidates’ positions on social issues. “Catholics vote largely on a set of conservative values and on social values,” said Wenzel. “On social values McCain has a natural advantage because of his pro-life stance, compared to Obama’s pro-choice stance.”

Nevertheless, Obama has picked Joe Biden, a self-described strong supporter of Roe v. Wade, as his vice presidential candidate.

Biden’s voting record includes a 2004 vote against penalties for someone attacking a pregnant woman and harming her unborn child while committing a separate crime, a vote in 2000 against maintaining a ban on abortions on military bases and a 2006 vote against notifying parents of minors who get out-of-state abortions.

In contrast to these votes is a statement made by Sen. Biden on Meet the Press in April 2007 when he was asked about when life begins. “Look, I'm a practicing Catholic, and it is the biggest dilemma for me in terms of comporting my religious and cultural views with my political responsibility.” … “I am prepared to accept my church's view. I think it's a tough one. I have to accept that on faith.”  

When it comes to embryonic stem cell research and cloning, Joe Biden has voted in favor of expanding embryonic research efforts and against a ban on cloning.

In an April 2007 Democratic primary debate, Sen. Biden also explained his stance on a litmus test question about Roe v. Wade for Supreme Court judicial nominees. “I strongly support Roe v. Wade. I wouldn't have a specific question but I would make sure that the people I sent to be nominated for the Supreme Court shared my values; and understood that there is a right to privacy in the United States Constitution.”

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