Chicago, Ill., Oct 9, 2008 (CNA) - Vision Vocation Guide and the VocationMatch.com web site have reported that over the past year more than 6,900 people interested in Catholic religious vocations completed online profiles and requested information from religious communities through the web site.
The web site gathers information from inquirers and matches their profiles against the profiles of religious communities to produce recommendations, similar to the way matches are made at dating sites.
Vision Vocation Guide says in a press release that VocationMatch.com users become “more qualified discerners” who have considered practical questions about a religious vocation, such as whether he or she wants to live in a monastery or a house, live in a large community or a small one, minister locally or overseas, wear a habit or religious symbol, and pray with others once a day or several times a day.
The site reports that the number of reader profiles has jumped from 1,503 to 5,591 in the past year.
"Vision Vocation Match has become an indispensable tool for Catholic religious vocation discernment," said Patrice Tuohy, executive editor of VISION Vocation Guide, which produces the site.
“With fewer Catholics being taught by religious sisters, brothers, and priests, exposure to those living in religious communities has declined but interest in religious life has actually increased in recent years," remarked Tuohy. "The internet has played a significant role in getting the word out about religious life. Now Vocation Match has taken things one step further by assisting discerners in sorting through large amounts of information in a more efficient and accessible way.”
VocationMatch.com has been mentioned in Time magazine and on the CBS Evening News.
Vision Vocation Guide also hosts a Spanish-language version of the site at EncuentroVocacional.com. The company also produces DigitalVocationGuide.org and VocationGuide.org, providing vocation opportunity postings, searchable community listings, lively blogs, quizzes, and statistics on trends, and a new question-and-answer column by author Alice Camille.
Sacramento, Calif., Oct 9, 2008 (CNA) - The California Department of Public Health, which provides marriage-license forms to counties across the state, will again allow couples who contract a marriage to again identify themselves as “bride” and “groom” on their marriage licenses starting in November.
According to the California Catholic Daily, following the California Supreme Court decision imposing same-sex marriages in the state, the vital statistics section of the state health department created new marriage license forms allowing couples only to identify themselves as “Party A” and “Party B.”
The change was strongly protested. Rachel Bird and Gideon Codding of Roseville, California last week sued the state over the elimination of the traditional description.
However, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Health told the Sacramento Bee the new forms were not a response to the lawsuit
“Many Californians have asked to have the option to identify as ‘bride’ and ‘groom’ on their marriage license form,” says an announcement on the Public Health Department’s web site. “The California Department of Public Health has been reviewing how we can provide those options in a way that is consistent with court rulings on marriage. The state will begin using new forms effective November 17th that will include boxes for ‘bride’ or ‘groom.’ Identifying as a ‘bride’ or a ‘groom’ is optional, not mandatory.”
Under the new marriage-license rules, couples may choose “bride” and “groom,” “bride” and “bride,” “groom” and “groom” or leave the section blank, the California Catholic Daily reports.
Melbourne, Australia, Oct 9, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Melbourne opened a crisis pregnancy center on Wednesday, saying the womb had become an endangered area. His action came as a group defending the conscience rights of doctors criticized an Abortion Law Reform Bill pending in the parliament of the Australian state of Victoria which could force medical professionals to take part in abortions.
The group Doctors in Conscience against Abortion Bill recently formed to advocate for the rejection of the bill. Its membership includes almost 200 doctors as well as nurses, psychologists, and pharmacists.
The group represents people of various faiths and people professing no faith.
Some of its members spoke at a conference in Queens Hall at Parliament House in Melbourne on Monday.
Joanne Grainger, who is a lecturer in nursing and a bioethicist, said that if the bill is enacted nurses will be forced to be accomplices in abortion against their reasoned conscience.
"This is completely in opposition to current practice in Victoria and limits nurses’ freedom of thought, conscience and religion," she argued.
Jacinta Le Page, a fifth-year medical student, noted that she was being trained to make life and death decisions while caring for people. Such decisions, she stated, require the integrity and conscience the proposed bill would have her disregard.
She appealed to members of parliament, urging: “Do not strip us of our freedom to exercise our deepest commitment to practicing medicine – saving and improving quality of life.”
As debate on the proposal began in Victoria’s Upper House, Archbishop of Melbourne Denis J. Hart opened a pregnancy assistance center in Frankston, a town south of Melbourne.
The center is a not-for-profit incorporated charity and the initiative of parishioners drawn from a number of parishes in the Mornington Peninsula Deanery, CathNews reports.
The storefront center was crowded by supporters and dozens of spectators lined the pavement outside to welcome the archbishop.
Archbishop Hart said he was “particularly delighted” to be asked to open the center, which he credited to the “persistent efforts” of some “determined local mothers.”
“It will fill a critical gap on the Mornington Peninsula and beyond, especially for young and needy people who've been seeking information and resources about the various challenges of pregnancy.”
The archbishop said that free pregnancy tests will be offered at the center along with services for financial, family, and relationship support.
The volunteer-staffed center consists of mothers, aunts, and grandmothers who have all “volunteered to pool and share their own wealth of experience that have helped them survive personal difficulty, or trying circumstances,” Archbishop Hart said.
The Australian prelate also used the occasion to warned of the consequences of passing the proposed Abortion Bill. "At a time when our state parliamentarians are debating changes to our abortion laws, communities will welcome the establishment of centers such as these which very much identify with the anxiety of single mothers, mums with several young children and those who've also been abandoned by partners or families. One may be forgiven for suggesting that to live in the womb or old age should be considered endangered areas.”
"Unplanned pregnancies don't have to be regarded as crises to trigger alarm or despair. Environments like this will provide emotional support, assistance and advice without pressure. Women and girls in such distress, and their partners, will be particularly welcomed here," he concluded.
Phoenix, Ariz., Oct 9, 2008 (CNA) - Last week Bishop of Phoenix Thomas J. Olmsted, introduced a revised second edition of his nationally distributed booklet titled, "Catholics in the Public Square." In this edition, the prelate explains how Catholic should seek to influence the nation and the political process, in light of their faith.
Originally written in 2006, the new edition, published by Basilica Press, is part of the Shepherd's Voice series. Although the publication is being released nationally, over 100,000 copies will be distributed locally to Catholic parishes throughout the Diocese, including 7,500 copies in Spanish.
The booklet discusses today's secular world, how Catholic's can contribute to politics and the "non-negotiables" --issues for Catholics involved in politics.
This edition also includes questions relating to the responsibilities of Catholic institutions and business people, immigration concerns, and other matters.
Sacramento, Calif., Oct 9, 2008 (CNA) - A recent poll shows that over the past eleven days, support for Proposition 8 is continuing to grow among young voters in California. Proposition 8, a California initiative that would reinstate the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman, has gained support after San Francisco Mayor, Gavin Newsom appeared in a TV ad proclaiming that same-sex marriage is here to stay "whether you like it or not."
Previous polls by CBS 5 had shown nearly a five-point margin in favor of the measure's defeat as recently as eleven days ago. However, the latest study shows a shift in opinion with voters in California overall favoring the passage of Proposition 8 by 47 percent to 42 percent.
A closer look at the overall picture shows that the only demographic group containing voters who significantly changed their views during this period were younger voters. This group is often found to be the most difficult to poll and also the most unpredictable.
It should also be noted that the poll, conducted statewide Oct. 4 and 5 among 670 likely voters, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percent, making the race too close to call. "Polling on ballot measures in general is an inexact science, and polling on homosexuality in general is a tricky business. So, not too much should be made of the 5 points that separates 'Yes' and 'No' today," concluded a summary of the results prepared by SurveyUSA.
Looking at geographic results, the poll showed that those living in the Inland Empire and the Central Valley continue to back the initiative, while those in the Bay Area remain opposed. Also divided are those living in the greater Los Angeles area.
As expected, support for a gay marriage ban was strongest among those who considered themselves conservatives and identified themselves as regular churchgoers. Opposition was strongest amongst liberals and those who are less religious.
Madrid, Spain, Oct 9, 2008 (CNA) - The National Association for the Defense of the Right to Conscientious Objection said this week the proposed “Death with Dignity Law” in the Spanish region of Andalusia raises questions “that were already resolved in previous laws and norms” and instead “creates a suspicious environment against health care professionals.”
Maria Dolores Gomez Armenteros, a lawyer with the association, said human dignity is inherent in every person, and the term “death with dignity” is being used for ideological reasons.
The association said the proposed law does not provide any solutions to questions facing patients or doctors, nor does it provide healthcare facilities with funding to implement the benefits it would supposedly bring.
It also criticized the measure for a mere “indirect reference to the right to conscientious objection of doctors and other healthcare workers.” The proposed law would do nothing but “cause great insecurity among doctors and many lawsuits,” the association claimed.
San Salvador, El Salvador, Oct 9, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle of San Salvador has called on the presidents of Latin America to include the issue of human values when they hold a discussion on a project about the rights of young people in late October.
The 18th Latin American Summit of Heads of State will take place in San Salvador October 29—31 and will focus on the issue of “Young People and Development.”
“It is very important that at the Latin American level there be agreement about policy, about the guidance being given to young people, and therefore this Summit is positive,” Archbishop Saenz Lacalle said. The leaders “should include in their discussions the defense of human values and concretely there should be a special reference to the family.”
In addressing plans for a “sexual and reproductive education” program, he said, the leaders “should opt for true education and not perversion, which could occur.”
Vatican City, Oct 9, 2008 (CNA) -
Pope Benedict XVI commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Servant of God Pope Pius XII on Thursday at a Mass concelebrated with several cardinals. He described his predecessor as one who, during a time of totalitarian ideologies, proposed the ideal of sanctity to "everybody."
The Mass reading from Sirach, Pope Benedict said in his homily, reminds those who follow the Lord that they must be prepared to face “difficult trials and sufferings.” The reading also provides a way to examine the earthly life of Pope Pius XII.
According to the Vatican Information Service, the Pope noted how Pius XII’s service to the Church began under Leo XIII in 1901 and continued under St. Pius X, Benedict XV, and Pius XI.
Pope Benedict XVI said Pius XII’s service as apostolic nuncio in Germany until 1929 left “grateful memories,” especially his collaboration with Benedict XV’s attempts to stop the “useless massacre” of World War I.
Pius XII also “understood from the start the danger of the monstrous national socialist ideology with its pernicious anti-Semite and anti-Catholic roots.”
Pope Benedict XVI called him the “faithful collaborator” with Pius XI in a period of “various forms of totalitarianism.”
The most difficult part of Pius XII’s papacy, Pope Benedict said, came when, aware that “all forms of human security were giving way,” he felt the “powerful need” to remain with Christ.
The Word of God “illuminated his journey,” during which “he had to console the displaced and the persecuted ... and weep the countless victims of the war.”
Pope Benedict quoted Pius XII’s radio message of August 24, 1939, in which he said “The danger is imminent, yet there is still time. Nothing is lost with peace. Everything may be lost with war.”
Pius XII’s love for his “adored Rome,” Pope Benedict remarked, was made manifest in “the intensity with which he promoted works of charity in defense of the persecuted, with no distinction of religion, ethnicity, nationality or political views.”
Benedict cited his Christmas radio message of 1942, where Pius XII deplored “the hundreds of thousands of people who, with no individual blame, are sometimes, because of their nationality or race, destined for death or progressive exploitation.”
This was a “clear allusion” to the deportations and exterminations targeting Jews, Pope Benedict added.
Pius XII "often acted secretly and silently because, in the real situations of that complex moment in history, he had an intuition that only in this way would he be able to avoid the worst, and to save the largest possible number of Jews," Pope Benedict continued.
The historical debate over the wartime Pope “has not thrown light on all aspects of his multifaceted pontificate.” Saying some of Pius XII’s messages and discourses are “still extraordinarily relevant even today,” Pope Benedict noted that Paul VI considered Pius XII “the precursor of Vatican Council II.”
Pope Benedict then examined some of Pius XII’s encyclicals.
Noting also the encyclical Mystici Corporis of June 1943, he said the encyclical Divino afflante Spiritu of September 1943 “established the doctrinal norms for the study of Holy Scripture, emphasizing its importance and role in Christian life. It is a document that gives evidence of great openness towards scientific research into biblical texts.”
The encyclical Mediator Dei, published in 1947, concerned the liturgy. There, Pope Benedict said, Pius XII “promoted the liturgical movement, highlighting the 'essential element of worship', which 'must be the interior element. It is, in fact, necessary', he wrote, 'always to live in Christ, to dedicate oneself entirely to Him, so that in Him, with Him and for Him glory is rendered unto God."
Pope Benedict also mentioned the 1951 encyclical Evangelii praecones and the 1957 Fidei donum, saying Pius XII bestowed a “notable impulse” to the Church’s missionary activity through such writings.
One of his constant pastoral concerns, Pope Benedict explained, was the “promotion of the laity” so the Church could make use of all resources.
"As we pray that the cause of beatification of Servant of God Pius XII may continue favorably, it is as well to recall that sanctity was his ideal, an ideal he did not fail to propose to everybody," the Pope said.
Benedict concluded by noting Pius XII’s proclamation of the dogma of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary during the Holy Year 1950.
“In this world of ours which, as then, is assailed by concerns and anguish for the future; in this world where, perhaps more now than then, the abandonment of truth and virtue by many people gives us glimpses of scenarios without hope, Pius XII invites us to turn our gaze to Mary, assumed in heavenly glory,” he said.
Rome, Italy, Oct 9, 2008 (CNA) - Today marks the 50th anniversary of Pope Pius XII’s passing, an anniversary that raises the hackles of some, but has seen the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, give a fervent defense of the late Pope in L’Osservatore Romano.
Some Jews accuse Pope Pius XII of not having spoken up forcefully enough, but Cardinal Bertone disagrees.
Writing in an introduction for Sister Margherita Marchione’s book entitled, “Pius XII: The Truth Will Set You Free," Cardinal Bertone said, “It was precisely by means of a prudent approach that Pius XII protected Jews and refugees."
Bertone argued that research has shown that Pius "was neither silent nor anti-Semetic. He was prudent."
"If he had made a public intervention, he would have endangered the lives of thousands of Jews, who, upon his directive, were hidden, in 155 convents and monasteries in Rome alone," Bertone contended.
Bertone even warned that extending a “veil of prejudice” over the work of Pius XII during the war is “profoundly unjust.”
Rome’s Chief Rabbi Dr. Riccardo Di Segni sees thing from a different point of view, telling the Jerusalem Post that Pius XII failed to prevent deportations from happening.
"The train to Auschwitz was not stopped," he said. "Seven hundred and fifty Roman Jews were gassed immediately on arrival. Another thousand were deported during the following nine months. In Bulgaria, where the Bulgarian government intervened forcefully, a similar train never left the station," therefore saving his own grandfather, he said.
Pope Benedict XVI, celebrating a Mass for the anniversary of Pius XII’s death on Thursday, did not agree with Rabbi Segni.
Pius XII "often acted secretly and silently because, in the real situations of that complex moment in history, he had an intuition that only in this way would he be able to avoid the worst, and to save the largest possible number of Jews."
Benedict XVI also asserted that the historical debate over the figure of Pius XII "has not thrown light on all aspects of his multifaceted pontificate." In this context he recalled the numerous messages and discourses his predecessor had given to all categories of people, "some of which are still extraordinarily relevant even today, and continue to provide a sure point of reference.”
Vatican City, Oct 9, 2008 (CNA) - On Thursday morning the Synod Fathers of the Twelfth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops gathered together at the Vatican for their Sixth General Congregation. Focusing upon biblical formation of seminarians and improved exegesis of the Scriptures, speakers recommended learning the Bible “by heart” and urged that bishops never discourage lay people from becoming “lovers of the Word.”
Addressing the 242 bishops present for the gathering, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, Archbishop of Krakow, noted that sometimes candidates for the priesthood seem to treat the text of the Scriptures as an “object of study” without taking into consideration the “spiritual dimension.”
“For them, the Scripture does not become the Word of their life. The force of the Word, capable of changing man, converting him, is not unleashed by the Scripture. We have to rethink the role of the Word of God in seminary formation and, consequently, in the permanent formation of priests.
“The people of God need priests who are passionate about the Word and service,” he continued. “This is one of the necessary conditions of new evangelization that was so close to the heart of Pope John Paul II."
Bishop Vincent Ri Pyung-Ho of Jeonju, Korea described how, since becoming a bishop, he has been trying to memorize all the biblical passages of the daily Mass readings.
“Most of the time in my preaching, it is enough for me to let the words of God speak by themselves,” he said. “Then my people understand very well and they are so happy to hear directly the Word of God and the Word of God itself saves the people.”
He suggested it could be vital to form present and future priests by requiring a certain amount of learning the Bible by heart.
Bishop Emmanuel Lafont of Cayenne, French Guyana, called the Catholic Biblical Federation a “privileged instrument” which for bishops ensures “the Word remains the source and inspiration of all prayer, all evangelization, all homily, all catechesis, of every episcopal document and of every work of charity.”
“I can testify to the fertility of the Word among the small and the humble,” he remarked.
Though he had received a degree in Sacred Scripture from the Biblical Institute of Rome, Bishop Lafont said, “it was the poor who really opened me up to the force of the Word.”
Calling the poor “profoundly receptive to the Word of God,” he exhorted that the Church “should always read it with them close at hand.”
“I ask that this Synod demonstrate great confidence in the way the humble people and lay persons in general welcome the Word,” he continued. “My greatest fear is not that they make a mistake when they read the Bible, but that they don't read it, and that we may prevent them, by imposing too many precautions, from becoming lovers of the Word."
Denver, Colo., Oct 9, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput and Denver’s Auxiliary Bishop James D. Conley have issued a statement insisting that Catholic teaching holds that human life is sacred from the moment of fertilization, calling claims insisting otherwise, reportedly made by the governor of Colorado, “bad theology and bad public policy.”
Governor Bill Ritter, who is Catholic, on Tuesday commented on the Colorado ballot measure Amendment 48, which would define personhood as beginning at conception.
He reportedly said: “My understanding is that there are things about calling a fertilized egg a person that do not square with Church doctrine.”
“This is false,” Denver’s bishops said in a Wednesday statement. “Catholic teaching holds that human life is sacred from the moment of fertilization, commonly called ‘conception,’ to the moment of natural death.
“Separating a ‘fertilized egg’ from the dignity of human personhood is bad theology and bad public policy. And Catholic public officials should know better,” they wrote.
Archbishop Chaput and Bishop Conley also clarified their approach to Amendment 48, saying it has been “a source of confusion for many Catholics and other members of the Colorado prolife community.”
The bishops said Catholics are free to support or oppose the amendment, calling it a “prudential matter,” adding that the bishops “do not support” the proposal.
They noted that the Colorado Catholic Conference had previously outlined “problems with its strategy,” referencing a June 5 letter from Colorado’s bishops which argued the amendment “does not provide a realistic opportunity for ending or even reducing abortions in Colorado.” The bishops worried the Supreme Court would not hear any legal case concerning the amendment or could even reaffirm the pro-abortion rights jurisprudence of Roe v. Wade.
“Catholics are not required by Church teaching to support Amendment 48. But they are required to respect the personhood of the developing child from life’s earliest beginning,” Archbishop Chaput and Bishop Conley said in their Wednesday statement.
“In that light, Governor Bill Ritter seriously confused the Amendment 48 debate.”