Archive of November 13, 2008

Pope meets Brazil’s president, discusses need to bolster the family

Vatican City, Nov 13, 2008 (CNA) - The President of Brazil had the opportunity to meet with Pope Benedict XVI this morning at the Vatican, where the two heads of state discussed the need to continue promoting the role of the family in combating "violence and social decay."

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil and the Holy Father spent their time discussing the situation in Brazil, especially "social policies that seek to improve the living conditions of the many people." The solution to these difficulties, they agreed, is to "favor the fundamental role of the family," which should lead the fight "against violence and social decay."

The Holy See also expressed its pleasure at the concordat signed between itself and Brazil in May 2007. The new agreement solidifies the juridical status of the Catholic Church in Brazil, addresses the teaching of religion in State schools, canonical marriage and how the Church operates under the Brazilian financial system.

The president of Brazil also met with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., who was accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.

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Man arrested in Florida attempting to steal consecrated Hosts

Jensen Beach, Fla., Nov 13, 2008 (CNA) - A man was arrested in Florida on Saturday on charges of simple battery, theft, and disruption of a religious assembly after he attempted to steal consecrated Hosts from a Catholic Mass, injuring the priest and a parishioner who attempted to stop him.

The 33-year-old John Samuel Ricci, from Canton, Connecticut, is being held on $2,000 bond in the Martin County Jail until his scheduled December 11 court appearance, The Register Citizen reports.

According to the Martin County Sheriff's Office, Ricci was cornered by fellow churchgoers when he grabbed a handful of wafers from the priest during church services on Saturday.

Ricci was the last in the communion line at St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church during its Saturday morning Mass.

One parishioner reported that Ricci put a Host in his pocket. Asked to put the Host in his mouth, he refused and threw the Host on the floor.

"Everyone else was on their way back to the pews to kneel and pray," another parishioner, Carl Marszewski, 66, told the Register Citizen. "I was approaching my pew across the church from where he was when it happened. I ran over there to stop him from running out with the communion."

Ricci reportedly cursed at the parishioners who tried to stop him, pushing down Marszewski and the 83-year-old priest Father James Malgano.

"It took six people to hold him down," Marszewski said, reporting that he and the priest were injured in the incident, with Marszewski saying he suffered a heart attack as a result of the clash.

Ricci allegedly described himself as a member of the American Civil Liberties Union and stole the priest’s book used to say Mass two days before the Saturday incident.

"He was seen on a camera we have here stealing something else from the altar two days earlier," Marszewski told the Register Citizen. "There are so many reasons why he could have done this, especially with the issues of all of these different cults and covens that actually want to desecrate the offering to their god — the god of darkness."

"We have no idea what his motive was, but it was not ordinary," he continued. "The things he was saying were scary and he was very strong. We have been praying for him ever since. We are a peaceful and loving people."

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Gay activists disrupt Sunday service at Michigan church

Lansing, Mich., Nov 13, 2008 (CNA) - A homosexual activist group on Sunday disrupted services at a Michigan Assemblies of God-affiliated church, throwing fliers, shouting slogans at churchgoers, and kissing each other.

David Williams, communications director at the church and son of its pastor Dave Williams, said their slogans included phrases like “It's OK to be gay” and claims that Jesus was homosexual, the Lansing State Journal reports.

During the disruption, another group of protestors demonstrated outside the church. The outside protesters left peacefully when someone on the pastoral team told them they were not welcome on church property.

Williams said in a statement that churchgoers were unclear what the purpose of the demonstration was.

The church reportedly teaches that homosexuality is a sin, but Williams stressed “Mount Hope Church strives to follow Jesus' example of loving the sinner but not the sin."

According to the Lansing State Journal, a Lansing group affiliated with a radical homosexual organization called Bash Back issued a call on October 7 for activists to join a “radical queer convergence” in Lansing between November 7 and November 9.

A report on the Bash Back group’s web site claimed credit for the protest. It described the outside protesters as a small group dressed in pink and black equipped “with a megaphone, black flags, picket signs and an upside-down pink cross.”

“The group was extremely loud and wildly offensive,” the web site said, describing the outside protest as meant to distract the church’s guards.

According to the web site, a fire alarm was pulled and protesters of the same sex “began making out in front of the pastor.”

The Eaton County Sheriff’s Department reportedly received a call concerning the protest at about noon on Sunday. Deputies did not handle the protests inside the church and made no arrests.

Jessica Larkin, an employee with the Eaton County Sheriff’s Department, told CNA on Wednesday that no charges were filed.

“The church didn’t file any complaint. When we arrived there, they [the protesters] left on their own accord when they were told to leave. There was no incident as they were leaving,” she said.

Officials at the Eaton County Prosecutor's Office told CNA that an investigation would not be conducted into the incident if charges were not filed with the sheriff.

The Lansing State Journal reports that Williams said the church had received 80 to 85 e-mails and phone calls by Tuesday, "from churches and individuals around the country to express their concern and general disgust for what happened on Sunday."

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Orissa bishops warn state leader of ‘master plan’ to wipe out Christianity

Orissa, India, Nov 13, 2008 (CNA) - Denouncing what they called a “master plan” to wipe out Christianity, the bishops of India’s troubled Orissa region have written a letter to state’s Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik concerning the persecution of Christians at the hands of Hindu extremists.

Conveying their “sincere thanks and appreciation” for his appointment with them, the bishops’ November 10 letter brings several concerns to his attention.

First, the bishops addressed the “exodus of Christians” from Kandhamal District. Noting the “considerable reduction” of refugees in relief camps, the bishops denied that those who leave the camps are returning to their homes.

“Most of them have migrated to relief camps in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Jhanla, Berhampur and also settled down in rented houses and in the homes of relations, friends, acquaintances etc. It is estimated that 10,000 to 15,000 Christians of Kandhamal district are living outside the district,” the bishops wrote.

People in the relief camps want to return to their villages, but fear being attacked on their return trip or in the villages themselves. The refugees also fear being forced to become Hindus “under pain of death or loss of properties,” said the bishops, who reported that returnees are being told to convert or leave the village, the district, or even the country.

The bishops’ letter reported the details of such forced conversions, saying Christians are compelled to “accept Hindu Samskaras under oath and under pain of divine punishment.” Christians are also being prevented from harvesting their fields unless they become Hindus, and one man was denied burial in his village because he was not a Hindu.

Further, many of the criminals involved in the anti-Christian attacks are still at large.

Naming several injustices against Christians, the bishops noted that Christians are still being chased away from their homes and villages, and the state government has not fulfilled its promises to allot land and money to those made homeless.

According to the bishops, criminals are still looting and burning Christian homes, churches, and institutions.

The bishops challenged characterizations of the anti-Christian attacks as an ethnic conflict:

“Hindu Fundamentalist groups have been trying to name the communal violence as an Ethnic Conflict between the Tribals and the Pano Christians. A cursory look at facts reveals that this conflict is a calculated and pre-planned master plan to wipe out Christianity from Kandhamal district, Orissa, in order to realize the hidden agenda of Sangh Parivar of establishing a Hindu Nation.”

This agenda has allegedly been furthered by concealing the fact that the attack victims were Christians.

The bishops expressed happiness that the Orissa government has decided to establish a Fast Track Court at Kandhamal to expedite the trials of cases related to the violence.  In addition, the bishops requested that the judge of the court should be from a religion other than Hindu or Christian.

Continuing their requests, the bishops asked that the presence of national police in Kandhamal be extended until the parliamentary and assembly elections in Orissa are concluded, citing the State Police’s low numbers and inability to defend themselves.

Finally, the bishops asked that churches be built or repaired by the first week of December, 2008, to allow Christmas preparations to begin and spiritual traditions to be observed.

“This will also help confidence building among the congregations and bury the past quietly as they approach Christmas 2008,” their letter concluded.

The letter was signed by Raphael Cheenath, Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar; Bishop of  Balasore Thomas Thiruthalil; and Bishop of Berhampur Sarat Nayak.

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Lawsuit filed in defense of Marine vet’s anti-Islam decals

Ann Arbor, Mich., Nov 13, 2008 (CNA) -

A Marine veteran whose anti-terrorist and anti-Islam vehicle decals hindered him in visiting the grave of his fallen son at Arlington National Cemetery has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the military order which rebuked his display of the decals.

Jesse Nieto, a 25-year Marine veteran, served two combat tours in Vietnam. His youngest son, Marc, was one of the seventeen sailors killed in the terrorist bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in October of 2000.

Since 1994 Nieto has been a civilian employee at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. In 2001 he began displaying various decals on his vehicle expressing sentiments such as “Remember the Cole, 12 Oct 2000,” “Islam=Terrorism” and “We Died, They Rejoiced.” 

On July 31, 2008, two military police officers ticketed Nieto for displaying “offensive material.”

After Nieto refused to remove all allegedly offending decals from his vehicle, the Base Magistrate issued a written order ordering Nieto to remove his vehicle from the base until all decals were removed. The order banned his vehicle from all other federal installations, and reportedly prevented him from driving onto the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery.

The Ann Arbor-based Thomas More Law Center filed a federal civil rights lawsuit this week on Nieto’s behalf against the Camp Lejeune Commanding Officer and the Base Magistrate in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. The lawsuit claims that the military’s ban on Nieto’s vehicle decals violates his constitutional rights to freedom of speech and the equal protection of the law.

“The banning of these decals is political correctness run amuck in the military,” charged Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center. “Our troops are being killed by Islamic terrorists, 9/11 was caused by Islamic terrorists, these terrorists want to destroy America, the Islamic countries persecute Christians, and now the military is victimizing a father whose son was killed by Islamic terrorists while serving our nation.”

Thompson speculated that the Marine command would have to eliminate the Marine’s Hymn because “the phrase ‘to the shores of Tripoli’ celebrates the Marine victory over Islamic forces in the Barbary Coast War and the Battle of Derne.”

The lawsuit alleges that military officials engaged in viewpoint discrimination prohibited by the First Amendment and violated the Fifth Amendment’s equal protection guarantee by allowing some messages to be displayed but prohibiting others.

Further, the suit charges that the military’s ban on “offensive” speech is impermissible because there are no objective standards guiding government officials’ decisions, thus granting them “unbridled discretion” to determine the acceptability or the unacceptability of speech, a statement from the Thomas More Law Center reports.

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Separating Christianity from Europe's public life leads ‘down a blind alley,’ Pope cautions

Vatican City, Nov 13, 2008 (CNA) - Upon receiving Letters of Credence from the new ambassador of San Marino, Pope Benedict stressed that if the country’s rich Christian heritage is separated from the its public life, citizens will be led “down a blind alley.”


The Pope addressed the new ambassador, Sante Caducci, this morning at the Vatican.  The small country, which the diplomat represents is completely surrounded by Italy, and was founded in the fourth century by Christians fleeing the persecution of Diocletian. 


In his words to him, he recalled that Christianity has always been a building block of the country’s history and people.  Pope Benedict also expressed his hope that the community of San Marino will continue to “write a chapter of progress and civilization, recognizing the indispensable role each family (as a place of education in peace) is called to play in forming the new generations."


Though our world and environment continue to change, Pope Benedict continued, “the final aim of all our daily efforts, both as individuals and as a community, remains unaltered: the search for the true wellbeing of the person and the creation of an open and welcoming society attentive to the real needs of everyone.”


"The values and laws, the shared spiritual 'alphabet,' that has made it possible for our peoples to write noble chapters of civil and religious history over the centuries, is a precious heritage that must not be squandered," the Pope added, but rather “augmented with the contribution of modern discoveries in the fields of science technology and communication, which must be placed at the service of the real good of mankind."


The Pontiff continued by emphasizing that if this rich heritage is separated from the public life, it would “mean starting down a blind alley.”  He also stressed that “this is why it is necessary to redefine the meaning of secularism, a secularism that highlights the real difference and autonomy between the various elements of society but that also protects their specific competencies, in a context of shared responsibility.”


During his visit to France in September, Pope Benedict explained the concept of a “healthy secularism” by saying that it must maintain the separation of the Church and State to “preserve both the religious freedom of citizens and the responsibility of the State towards them” and at the same time it must become “more aware of the irreplaceable role of religion for the formation of consciences and the contribution which it can bring to—among other things—the creation of a basic ethical consensus within society.”


The Holy Father concluded his address by asserting that "when the Church, through her legitimate pastors, appeals to the value that certain ethical principles rooted in the Christian heritage of Europe, have for private life, and even more so for public life, she is moved exclusively by the desire to guarantee and promote the inviolable dignity of the person and the authentic good of society."

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Religions are messengers of peace and reconciliation, asserts cardinal

, Nov 13, 2008 (CNA) - Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, stressed in his speech to the 63rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York that “Religions, despite the weaknesses and contradictions of their members, carry a message of reconciliation and peace."

In his Wednesday speech on the theme, “Culture of Peace, the prelate stressed that the U.N., “by its nature and mission, should be a school of peace.”  Here, we must "learn to think and act while always bearing in mind the legitimate interests of all sides." Member countries, he continued, “must strive to overcome the simplistic logic of the power of force and replace it with the power of law and the wisdom of peoples, becoming 'builders of peace'.”

Therefore, he added, “in this demanding task, individual believers and communities of believers have their place and their role to play.  Religions, despite the weaknesses and contradictions of their members, carry a message of reconciliation and peace."

Having stressed that believers must be "coherent and credible," the Cardinal said that Christians “cannot use religion to attack freedom of conscience, justify violence, spread hatred and fanaticism or undermine political and religious authority."

He went on: "Believers, in contributing to public debate and participating in the societies to which they belong, feel themselves called to co-operate in promoting the common good, which rests on a platform of values shared by everyone, believers and non-believers alike: the sacredness of life and the dignity of human beings, respect for liberty of conscience and of religion, practice of responsible freedom, acceptance of different opinions, correct use of reason, appreciation for democratic life and care for natural resources, to mention but a few," he said.

Concluding his speech, Cardinal Tauran called on his audience to “find the path to a safer and more united world,” without renouncing their “cultural and religious identity.”  We cannot “rest content with mere tolerance and vague commitments, let us make fraternity more than an ideal, a reality!"

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Cardinal Ruini discusses book of Pope's homilies as a model for preaching

Rome, Italy, Nov 13, 2008 (CNA) - Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the former Vicar for the Diocese of Rome, has published a review of Pope Benedict XVI’s new book “Homilies: The Liturgical Year Narrated by Joseph Ratzinger, Pope.” Saying the homilies “contain a treasure, a form of sustenance, and even a medicine, which can do a great deal of good for those who wish to read them,” the cardinal endeavored to explain the distinctive theology of the Pope’s thought.

Saying the Pope has a “profound sense” of liturgical mystery and liturgical action, the cardinal describes his theology as being “in every respect extraordinarily equipped and ‘oriented’" toward the ministry of the homily.

Cardinal Ruini quoted the Pope’s October 14 remarks to the Synod of Bishops in which the pontiff critiqued some modern biblical studies for denying “the possibility of the entry and real presence of the divine within history.”

This failing has created confusion over homily preparation and displaces Scripture from its place as “the soul of theology,” Cardinal Ruini said.

The brilliance of the Pope’s theological work is that it utilizes the “intimate union between exegesis and theology.” Cardinal Ruini said Pope Benedict’s preaching is both simple and substantive, “break(ing) the bread of the Word of God and of the mystery of our salvation in a way that is understandable to all.”

The Pope’s historical approach to theology and exegesis does not leave Scripture “closed off in the past in which they were written” but rather understands Scripture’s present meaning through its past. In the words of each biblical author “something greater resounds, God who shows us his face for the sake of our salvation,” Cardinal Ruini wrote.

Pope Benedict elaborates and brings to life biblical faith “in a fertile interchange with the great problems of the time in which we are living.” His homilies show how the biblical texts can be fully and authentically understood “as an integral part of liturgical action,” through which they are made present and speak to us.

“For this reason,” the cardinal continued, “reading and meditating on the homilies of Benedict XVI has become for many priests a valuable aid, and almost a paradigm for their personal preaching: in this regard, I myself have experienced how much listening to many of these homilies in person has helped my preaching, improving its connection to the Bible and the liturgy, and stimulating the attention and participation of those present.”

Calling the new book of homilies a “practical aid” and an inspirational model for every priest, the cardinal selected some of his favorite examples from the book.

He described the Pope’s homily for the chrism Mass on the morning of Holy Thursday, at which priests renew their vocational vows.

“This homily takes us inside the nature and meaning of the priestly ministry,” the cardinal said.

Beginning with the words of Deuteronomy on the Old Testament priesthood, “to stand in your presence and serve you,” Pope Benedict says these words “indicate standing before the Lord present in the Eucharist and the center of the priest's life”

The homily continues by recalling a Lenten hymn from the liturgy of the hours, based upon the words “Let us be more vigilant.”

In the cardinal’s words, the Pope explains: “the priest must therefore be one who watches, who stands guard before the insistent demands of evil.”

The Pope then explores the meaning of serving the Lord, writing “in the celebration of the Eucharist, the priest carries out a service to God and a service to men, inserting himself within the donation Christ made of himself.”

The dimensions of this service include the “art of celebrating,” prayer learned “in the school of Christ and of the saints” and familiarity with the Word of God and with God Himself. This familiarity “must not become routine, obscuring the astonishing and always novel reality that God is present, speaks to us, gives himself to us.”

“The service of the priest therefore means obedience, the obedience of faith that makes us free in the communion of the Church and service to our brethren,” the Pope’s homily explains.

The cardinal writes that he cannot briefly communicate the “beauty and richness” of the homilies contained in Pope Benedict’s book, but invites readers to find in it “that restoration of the Spirit and of life that only Jesus Christ can give us.”

At present, “Homilies: The Liturgical Year Narrated by Joseph Ratzinger, Pope” is available only in Italian.

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Spanish academic scholar says Education for Citizenship an 'amalgam of aberrations'

Madrid, Spain, Nov 13, 2008 (CNA) - Academic scholar and recipient of numerous awards, Juan Velarde Fuertes, this week applauded conscientious objection to the school course Education for Citizenship, calling it an “amalgam of aberrations” that breaks with the foundations of “Western Christian culture.”

Speaking to the group Professionals for Ethics, Velarde criticized the quality of education in Spain and said the course “adds nothing to basic education and takes time away from the school day.”

In addition, he warned, its contents break with “the basic foundations of Western Christian culture, without which it is impossible to find the adequate basis for living together in peace in our nation.”

Velarde, a recipient of the King Juan Carlos Prize for Economics, also criticized the economic contents of the course, calling it “an amalgam of indescribable aberrations and economic trash.”

“As a grandfather and as a Spanish citizen, of course I applaud conscientious objection to this bundle of stupidities and moral and intellectual abominations,” he stated.

Velarde noted that the Spanish Constitution supports conscientious objection and that “if parents understood the collection of barbarities that are being taught in the course, they would have thrown it out on the street.”

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Indissoluble marriage between man and woman should not be weakened, says archbishop

Lisbon, Portugal, Nov 13, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Jorge Ferreira da Costa Ortiga of Braga and president of the Portuguese Bishops’ Conference denounced this week “all inclinations and attitudes that threaten to undermine the reality of the family,” including so-called “marriage” between “persons of the same sex.”

During the opening of the bishops’ Plenary Assembly, Archbishop Ferreira also said, “Recognition of indissoluble monogamous marriage between a man and a woman, the only authentic form of the family, must never be weakened.”

He said it was sad to witness the problems that are experienced in the homes of this “supposedly advanced society” and the “cases of poverty and hunger that are right here at our side.” The archbishop also criticized the law on divorce recently approved by Congress saying, “The family is the fundamental cell of each and every balanced society.”

The archbishop questioned the approval of laws that only “fracture” Portuguese society and said voters must respond to the new political initiatives.

He concluded his remarks by calling for unity in resolving the problems caused by the global financial crisis.  At the same time, he added, “We cannot ignore and neglect the great difficulties in which many families find themselves.”

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Case of British girl who refused heart transplant could be used to promote euthanasia

CNA STAFF, Nov 13, 2008 (CNA) - Dr. Luis Raez, expert in bioethics and professor at the Hematology and Oncology Clinic at the University of Miami’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, has warned that the case of Hannah Jones, a 13 year-old British girl who decided not to undergo a heart transplant, sets a precedent that is “very dangerous and could be used legally to promote euthanasia.”

The Case
According to the British press, Hannah’s chances of surviving the operation are minimal. A battle with leukemia left her heart extremely weak and it is currently functioning at only 10 percent of normal capacity.  She has already undergone several surgeries.

Hannah explained that her treatments have exhausted her and that taking medicines constantly has been very difficult. “I don’t like to be like this but I live with it,” she said.  For these and other reasons she decided to refuse the transplant, without which doctors have said she has only six months to live.

In response to her refusal, administrators at the Herefordshire Primary Care Trust in Hereford, England decided to seek temporary custody of the child in order to “force” her to undergo the surgery.  However, after several court hearings and a report from a child protection officer, the hospital withdrew its legal action.

According to the BBC, Hannah convinced the officer that her decision was the result of thoughtful and mature reflection.  "I don't know exactly what Hannah said but it must have been powerful enough to convince some very high-up people that she was right. It is an incredible thing for a young person who has been through such a lot to have the bravery to stand up for her rights. We're so very proud of our little girl,” her father Andrew Jones told The Independent.

Together with Hannah’s mother Kristy, Andrew supports the decision of their daughter.  “Obviously we want to have Hannah with us as long as possible, but we are not going to force her to do something that she doesn’t want to do at this time,” he told The Daily Mail.

Anti-life Manipulation

Alicia Latorre, president of the Spanish Federation of Pro-life Associations, said the reporting on Hannah has been fraught with “deceitful language. The sensationalist media tells us that Hannah Jones, the British 13 year-old girl who does not want a heart transplant has won the battle to ‘die with dignity’.”

She noted that the term “death with dignity” is one of the euphemisms used by the culture of death.  “Human beings have dignity from the moment of conception and it is the obligation of everyone to facilitate that everyone can be born and enjoy conditions of life in accordance with that dignity,” she said.

Dr. Raez pointed out that “the Catholic Church has always been clear that extraordinary means should not be forced upon someone in order to artificially prolong life, but these means are defined according to the person and the circumstances.  For example, a heart transplant in an elderly patient (over the age of 85) is probably an extraordinary and unnecessary procedure, but in this case it is a girl who is only 13 years old. Certainly there are doubts as to whether her life expectancy would be another 70 years but only God knows how long it would be.”

Raez noted that “heart surgery is a procedure performed every day in all countries of the world, and thus it is not always necessarily an extraordinary procedure.” 

Another aspect of the case, he said, “is the precedent, since British and European law influences greatly this kind of legislation.  In English-speaking countries, this case creates a very dangerous precedent that could be used to legally promote euthanasia if children are allowed to express their opinions without having adequate knowledge of the issue, especially when they are sick.” 

Raez went on to state that perhaps “due to her young age and the suffering she has endured because of her long illness, she is losing the hope to live.”  Therefore, he said, “the parents, who are legally responsible for making decisions for her are without hope and faith and no longer wish to keep fighting.”  “The dignity of the human person is extremely valuable even when one is suffering or dying, because the love of God for us never diminishes even when we go through the worst of circumstances,” he asserted.

Dr. Luis Raez is certified by the American Board in Internal Medicine and Medical Oncology.  He currently works on research for new cancer treatments and has published numerous articles on medical ethics and euthanasia, stem-cells and human embryos.

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Fr. Bourgeois will not renounce stand to avoid excommunication

Columbus, Ohio, Nov 13, 2008 (CNA) - Father Roy Bourgeois, a Maryknoll priest who participated in the attempted ordination of a woman to the priesthood, has been told by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to renounce his support for women’s ordination or be excommunicated. The priest has affirmed he will make no such renunciation.

The Vatican action results from an August 8 ceremony at a Unitarian church. There, the Carmel-by-the-Sea woman Dana Reynolds, who claims to be a Catholic bishop, purported to ordain Janice Sevre-Duszynska as a Catholic priest. According to the California Catholic Daily, Father Bourgeois delivered the homily at the event, reportedly equating Catholic teaching that the Church has no authority to ordain women with the segregation of African-Americans in Louisiana, his home state.

His participation in the ceremony was reportedly the first to have involved a Catholic priest in good standing with the Church in the United States.

Father Bourgeois’ Maryknoll superiors, learning of the incident, summoned him to a meeting in Maryknoll, New York. A joint statement from the priest and his superiors reported that his participation in the ceremony had been investigated and communicated to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome.

The priest’s superiors also gave him a “canonical warning” informing him that he had violated Church law and advising him a future violation could result in his excommunication.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in an October 21 letter gave Father Bourgeois 30 days to renounce his public support for the ordination of women on penalty of excommunication.

In a November 7 letter recently made public, he wrote: “After much prayer, reflection and discernment, it is my conscience that compels me to do the right thing. I cannot recant my belief and public statements that support the ordination of women in our Church.”

The priest said he knew many women who feel called to the priesthood and argued that the Church cannot declare their reputed calling to be invalid.

Ordained a Maryknoll priest in 1972, Father Bourgeois is well-known for leading annual protests outside the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, which was formerly called the School of the Americas (SOA), at Fort Benning, Georgia. Graduates of the institute have been linked to human rights violations in Latin America.

CNA spoke with Father Bourgeois in a Thursday phone interview, asking about his response to the threatened excommunication.

“I’m hoping for the best,” the priest said, referring to his “deep love for the Church” and his 36 years of ministry. “I’m hoping somehow justice will prevail,” he said, adding that he hoped the Congregation for the Faith will take seriously his letter.

“I do believe, with all due respect, there’s no reason theologically or morally that we can justify women not being included in the priesthood,” he insisted, adding that he is not alone in being critical of Catholic teaching on women’s ordination.

Father Bourgeois said he would particularly like an answer to his question “What do we say to women who are being called by God to the priesthood?”

He repeated his comments about meeting women, “very devout Catholics,” who profess to be called to the priesthood.

“Who are we to say our call is valid, but the call that women have and feel in their faith is not valid?” he asked.

“That call does not come from the Pope, that call does not come from our hierarchy, that call is very sacred, it comes from our God, who has created men and women of equal stature and dignity,” he asserted.

He compared his work against the “injustice” of the School of the Americas to working against the “injustice in my Church” which he described as the “exclusion of women from the priesthood.”

When CNA asked Father Bourgeois his plans if he is in fact excommunicated, he said he had consulted with some canon lawyers.

“I am the only Catholic priest that has been in this position in the U.S. They couldn’t give me any person I could call who has been in this same situation on this same issue.

“I really don’t know what the implications, the consequences will be,” he continued, reporting that because he believes that God is leading him on this issue and “because of my conscience,” he feels “very much at peace.”

If he is excommunicated, he knows he will not be able to say Mass publicly.

“I will not be able to go home to baptize the new babies in the family; I will not be able to say the Mass for my Mom who died. And that will be very difficult.

“At the same time, I cannot not do what I am doing. I must follow my God I must follow my conscience.

“I do believe that good will come from this.”

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Father Andrew Greeley suffers severe injuries in fall

Chicago, Ill., Nov 13, 2008 (CNA) - Father Andrew Greeley, the best-selling novelist and newspaper columnist, is in “critical but stable” condition at a suburban Chicago hospital after a fall on Friday afternoon.

The 80-year-old priest reportedly snagged his jacket in a taxicab door and fell, hitting his head, the Chicago Sun-Times says. He fractured his skull and the left orbital bone near his eye, suffering bleeding on the brain.

Greeley friend and attorney Terry Goggin on Saturday told the Chicago Sun-Times the priest “looked good.”

“You know, he’s a fighter and a tough guy. He was restless last night. He’s got everything they want in a patient. All the signs are very positive,” Goggin said.

Earlier on Friday the priest author had delivered a lecture at a convention of the Religious Education Association at a Chicago-area hotel. The Chicago-born Greeley has written more than 50 novels and writes a column for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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