Archive of November 17, 2008

Pope encourages solidarity and the building of a united society in Lebanon

Vatican City, Nov 17, 2008 (CNA) - Upon receiving the Letters of Credence from the new Ambassador of Lebanon Georges Chakib El Khoury, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his hope that the people of the country “may courageously continue their efforts” to increase solidarity and to build a united society.


"The millennial history of the country, and the place it occupies at the center of a complex region, give it a fundamental mission to contribute to peace and harmony among all," began the Holy Father.


What makes the country so valuable, according to Pope Benedict, is its “experience of life and of inter-community and inter-cultural collaboration.” In fact, the Pontiff described Lebanon as “a 'treasure' that has been entrusted to all the Lebanese people.” 


This treasure is so important that the Pope called on the international community to “protect and value the country” in order to prevent it from “becoming a land in which regional and global conflicts are played out.”


The Holy Father also proposed that peace in the Middle East might be found if Lebanon is seen as a “laboratory in which to seek effective solutions to the conflicts that have long troubled the Middle East."


"The election of the president of the Republic, the formation of a government of national unity and the approval of a new electoral law will favor national cohesion and contribute to the true coexistence of the various components of the nation,” the Pope remarked.  “I hope that, leaving particular interests to one side and healing the wounds of the past, everyone will make an effective commitment to the path of dialogue and reconciliation so that the country may progress in stability."


And yet, progress still must be made to achieve stability, the Pope said.


The “tensions that still exist demonstrate the need to continue down the path opened some months ago with the Doha Agreement, in order to build Lebanese institutions together," Pope Benedict noted. "In this commitment to the common good, people must be guided by an unshakeable certainty: each member of the Lebanese people must feel Lebanon as their home and know that their own concerns and legitimate expectations are effectively taken into consideration, while showing reciprocal respect for the rights of others."


This can be done by encouraging the youth, he continued.  “It is necessary to promote and develop true education for peace, reconciliation and dialogue, directed above all at the young generations.” 


“Lasting peace, which is the profound aspiration of all Lebanese, is possible only if everyone gives fundamental importance to the will to live together in the same land, and considers justice, reconciliation and dialogue as the appropriate context in which to resolve the problems of individuals and groups," the Holy Father asserted.


Noting that the Holy See follows events in Lebanon and the Middle East closely, Pope Benedict concluded by greeting the Catholic community in Lebanon inviting them to become “architects of unity and fraternity.”

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Local priests support S.C. pastor in trouble over misreported communion ban

Charleston, S.C., Nov 17, 2008 (CNA) - Fr. Jay Scott Newman, a South Carolina priest whose parish bulletin letter gained national attention due to an inaccurate Associated Press headline “S.C. Priest: No communion for Obama supporters,” is receiving support from priests in his diocese.  The show of priestly support comes after Fr. Newman was criticized by the diocesan administrator for pulling the Church’s teaching into the “partisan political arena.”  

In the weekly parish bulletin, Fr. Newman emphasized the need for people to examine their consciences before receiving Communion and noted that self-described Catholics had played a role in electing Barack Obama as president.

 “Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exists constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil, and those Catholics who do so place themselves outside of the full communion of Christ’s Church and under the judgment of divine law,” Fr. Newman wrote.

He further added such persons should not receive Holy Communion until they are reconciled to God in the Sacrament of Penance. The pastor of Saint Mary’s Church in Greenville, South Carolina also told his parishioners that they must pray for the president-elect and cooperate with him “wherever conscience permits.”

Fr. Newman’s letter originally prompted a largely favorable reaction, with parishioners saying by a 9 to 1 margin that they appreciated his column on the election.

In fact, sources close to the matter told CNA that after Fr. Newman published his original column for the parish bulletin and provided responses to The Greenville News for an article on the column, he received a supportive email from the Diocese of Charleston Administrator Monsignor Martin Laughlin.  In the email Msgr. Laughlin thanked Fr. Newman for his statement and said, “I wish the bishops would have been as forthright. Why did they not speak before the election?”

However, when the Associated Press picked up the story from The Greenville News, it twisted the facts in its headline, which reads, “S.C. Priest: No Communion for Obama supporters.”

The original article in The Greenville News correctly noted that Fr. Newman said that “church teaching doesn't allow him to refuse Holy Communion to anyone based on political choices, but that he'll continue to deliver the church's strong teaching on the ‘intrinsic and grave evil of abortion’ as a hidden form of murder.”

According to a letter from Fr. Newman to his parishioners, the AP reporter who wrote the misleading article received the same responses from Fr. Newman that he provided to The Greenville News.

Following the publication of the AP article this past Friday, Monsignor Laughlin did an about-face and issued a public repudiation of Fr. Newman’s statements based off of the inaccurate headline that accompanied the AP story.

In his statement, Msgr. Laughlin wrote that the Catholic Church’s “clear, moral teaching on the evil of abortion” was “pulled into the partisan political arena” by the priest’s letter and that Fr. Newman’s actions have “diverted the focus” from Catholic teaching on abortion and “do not adequately reflect the Catholic Church’s teachings. Any comments or statements to the contrary are repudiated.”   

Fr. Newman responded to fracas surrounding his original column in this yesterday’s bulletin from St. Mary’s, saying that he never imagined that his bulletin would be read outside of the parish and that his comments must be read in light of “the teaching of the American bishops on ‘Faithful Citizenship’ which was distributed in the bulletin the week before the election and explained from the pulpit.”

Furthermore, the South Carolina pastor stated that, “From that document and the teaching of the Church's Magisterium, no one could conclude that a vote for Senator Obama is in itself or by itself a mortal sin. But from that same teaching, though, we must conclude that a vote for a pro-abortion candidate can be a mortal sin if the intent is to support abortion, that abortion is not merely one issue among other important issues, and that no Catholic should endorse a pro-abortion politician if a plausible pro-life alternative is available.”

He also pointed out that he purposely did not endorse a candidate, “make myself or any human authority the judge of an individual's conscience” or “presume to know or determine for others what constitutes being a "plausible pro-life alternative" to a pro-abortion politician; I asserted only that there can be such.”

Since the Diocese of Charleston does not have a bishop, Archbishop Gregory has the final say on diocesan personnel decisions and was likely consulted on the statement repudiating Fr. Newman’s remarks.

In the wake of the statement from the Diocese of Charleston, a group of local priests is organizing a public statement of support for Fr. Newman. The priests’ statement will also criticize the way his words were distorted by the media, CNA has learned.

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Benedict XVI appoints delegates to visit gatherings in Mexico and Germany

Vatican City, Nov 17, 2008 (CNA) - On Saturday, the Holy Father appointed Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone as pontifical legate to the World Meeting of Families in Mexico City and Cardinal Franc Rode as his special envoy for the closing celebrations of the Jubilee year of the Cistercian Abbey in Waldsassen, Germany.


Benedict XVI has decided to send Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone to Mexico City as his legate for celebrations marking the Sixth World Meeting of Families scheduled to be held January, 13 – 18, 2009.


Additionally, the Pope appointed Cardinal Franc Rode, the current prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, as his special envoy to attend the closing jubilee celebrations of the Cisterian Abbey of Waldsassen, Germany.  The abbey will celebrate its 875th anniversary on November 23.


Accompanying the Cardinal Rode will be two priests:  Fr. Thomas Denter, the former abbot of Marienstatt, and Fr. Gabriel K. Lobendanz, spiritual assistant to the Abbey of Waldsassen.

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Cardinal Stafford criticizes Obama as ‘aggressive, disruptive and apocalyptic’

Washington D.C., Nov 17, 2008 (CNA) - Cardinal James Francis Stafford, head of the Apostolic Penitentiary of the Holy See, delivered a lecture on Thursday saying that the future under President-elect Obama will echo Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane. Criticizing Obama as “aggressive, disruptive and apocalyptic,” he went on to speak about a decline in respect for human life and the need for Catholics to return to the values of marriage and human dignity.

Delivered at the Catholic University of America, the cardinal’s lecture was titled “Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II: Being True in Body and Soul,” the student university paper The Tower reports. Hosted by the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, his words focused upon Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, whose fortieth anniversary is marked this year.

Commenting on the results of the recent presidential election, Cardinal Stafford said on Election Day “America suffered a cultural earthquake.” The cardinal argued that President-elect Obama had campaigned on an “extremist anti-life platform” and predicted that the near future would be a time of trial.

“If 1968 was the year of America’s ‘suicide attempt,’ 2008 is the year of America’s exhaustion,” he said, contrasting the year of Humane Vitae’s promulgation with this election year.

“For the next few years, Gethsemane will not be marginal. We will know that garden,” Cardinal Stafford told his audience. Catholics who weep the “hot, angry tears of betrayal” should try to identify with Jesus, who during his agony in the garden was “sick because of love.”

The cardinal attributed America’s decline to the Supreme Court’s decisions such as the 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, which imposed permissive abortion laws nationwide.

“Its scrupulous meanness has had catastrophic effects upon the unity and integrity of the American republic,” Cardinal Stafford commented, according to The Tower.

His theological remarks centered upon man’s relationship with God and man’s place in society.

“Man is a sacred element of secular life,” he said, arguing that therefore “man should not be held to a supreme power of state, and a person’s life cannot ultimately be controlled by government.”

Cardinal Stafford also touched on the state of the family, saying that the truest reflection of the relationship between the believer and God is the relationship between husband and wife, and that contraceptive use does not fit within that relationship.

Read the full text of Cardinal Stafford's remarks at:

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Bishops of Congo appeal for help from international community to achieve peace

Rome, Italy, Nov 17, 2008 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Congo issued a dramatic and urgent message calling for an end to the violence in the country and urging the international community to intervene to stop the “silent genocide” that is afflicting the nation, especially in the northern region of Kivu.

According to the L’Osservatore Romano, the bishops said that “despite our call to go to leaders and the international community, the situation in this part of the country (Kivu in the north) has only gotten worse.  It is reaching unbearable, very troubling proportions, capable of destabilizing the entire sub-region if it is not stopped,” they stated.

“We strongly condemn this ignoble manner of considering war as a means for resolving problems and achieving power,” the bishops went on. “We denounce all crimes committed against innocent citizens and we absolutely disapprove of all aggression in the country. We are warning about the laxity with which the international community treats the problem of aggression of which our country is a victim,” they said.

Likewise they call for “an immediate cessation of the hostilities, the guarantee of conditions of security for the return of those displaced from their land and an increase in humanitarian aid.”

The bishops also recalled the constant concern of Pope Benedict XVI for the crisis affecting the country and his “repeated calls for a peaceful solution and for financial aid, which he himself has given, to alleviate those affected.”

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Pro-lifers in Spain praise politically consistent policy of Uruguayan president

Madrid, Spain, Nov 17, 2008 (CNA) - “President Tabare Vazquez of Uruguay, in vetoing almost in its entirety the law intended to legalize abortion, has become an example of honesty and consistency amidst pressure from abortion supporters, who support the death of the most defenseless,” said the president of the Pro-Life Federation of Spain, Alicia Latorre.

She praised Vazquez for his honesty and reasonableness and for being “intellectually faithful to the defense of life which he defended as a doctor.”  She also said his position was reasonable because “as science teaches, life begins at the first moment, and to interrupt a life is a crime that at the same time gravely harms society.”

Latorre later pointed out that “except for some aspects of chapter I of the law that are contrary to the natural order and were not vetoed, the Pro-Life Federation celebrates this victory of the right to life, because this intellectual honesty and political consistency must be praised. A person like Tabare Vazquez who defends life amidst a culture that is against it deserves admiration and our most sincere support.”

She said that pro-lifers in Spain hope Uruguayan lawmakers will be “courageous in defending life and seeking ways of helping women that never attack life or human dignity.”

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Fear of suffering the 'motor' of promoters of euthanasia, writer explains

Rome, Italy, Nov 17, 2008 (CNA) - In a recent article published by the L’Osservatore Romano entitled, “For an examination of conscience,” reporter Lucetta Scaraffia explained that fear of suffering in today’s world is the “motor” that drives the promoters of euthanasia. In response, Catholics should lay out principles that reasonably address the questioning that emerges from such fears, she said.

Scaraffia’s comments came in response to the case of Eluana Englaro, a 37 year-old Italian woman condemned to undergo euthanasia by the Italian Supreme Court, which has ruled in favor of her father’s request to have her food and hydration withdrawn to cause her death.

She charged that the court was showing mercy, “not for the suffering of Eluana—who doctors swear can no longer feel a thing and will not realize she is going to die of hunger and thirst!—but rather for that of her father. As if the father, with the death of his daughter, will no longer suffer. And this is the paradox to which nobody has found a reason to object.”

“The fear of suffering constitutes the motor that drives all of the bad decisions about end-of-life interventions: those who promote euthanasia by pushing for a future without suffering know it,” Scaraffia warned, underscoring that the meaning of suffering, “which only Christianity knows how to confront,” is the reason why “everything must be done to stop this kind of situation for happening again.”

Catholic tradition, she noted, “offers clear and precise guidance on how to make a decision in these complex circumstances: the value of human life from the moment of conception to natural death, no matter in what conditions it is lived, even if the cases to be confronted are constantly changing, making them more complicated and unprecedented.”

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The laity must bring the faith to youth, especially those entering politics

Vatican City, Nov 17, 2008 (CNA) - The pontifical council charged with helping care for the laity met with Pope Benedict on Saturday and received the challenge to continue their efforts to reach the youth and promote the equal dignity of women.

With the entire Pontifical Council for the Laity gathered for its 23rd assembly, Pope Benedict XVI focused on revisiting John Paul II’s exhortation "Christifideles Laici" on its 20th anniversary.

The Pope began by explaining how the John Paul II’s document on the laity represents "an organic reassessment of Vatican Council II's teaching on the lay faithful: their dignity as baptized persons, their vocation to sanctity, their membership of the ecclesial communion, their involvement in building Christian communities and in the mission of the Church, their witness in all areas of social life and their commitment to serve the integral growth of the individual and the common good of society."

As society changes, Benedict XVI explained that the laity should look to the historic document as a guide "for discernment and for the intensification of the Church's lay commitment."

One aspect of this change has been the rise of movements within the Church which should also be guided by the "criteria of ecclesiality" given in the document. These criteria are necessary, "on the one hand, for pastors' own discernment and, on the other, for the development of associations of faithful, ecclesial movements and new communities," the Pope said.

Given "[t]he current cultural and social situation," Pope Benedict stressed that evangelization is "even more urgently necessary" to pass on the faith, culture and tradition of the Church to the youth.

The hearts of the new generation "await proposals of truth and happiness" the Holy Father said as he recalled his recent trip to World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia.

Benedict XVI then went on to praise the Pontifical Council for the Laity for the importance it gives to "the dignity and participation of women in the life of the Church and of society" because "men and women, equal in their dignity, are called to enrich one another in communion and collaboration, not only in marriage and the family, but in all dimensions of society."

As he drew his remarks to a close, Pope Benedict encouraged the council for the laity to continue their work of forming the lay faithful. He particularly reiterated the "urgent need for evangelical formation and pastoral accompaniment of the new generation of Catholics involved in political life, that they may remain coherent to the faith they profess, uphold their moral rigor, capacity for cultural judgment, professional competency and passion for service of the common good."

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Pope Benedict reflects on health care for God’s ‘objects of special love’

Vatican City, Nov 17, 2008 (CNA) - While meeting with participants from the 23rd International Conference of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, the Holy Father underscored that sick children, including the unborn, must be treated with dignity for their authentic good.  The conference, held at the Vatican November 13 – 15, met to discuss the theme “Pastoral Care in the Treatment of Sick Children.” 

The Holy Father began by praising the conference for shedding light on the difficult conditions experienced by “large numbers of children in vast regions of the earth” despite great strides in medicine.

After saying that four million newborn infants die each year, the Pope called on conference participants to work to “prevent the emergence of many illnesses once typical of childhood and, overall, to favor the growth, development and maintenance of a correct state of health for all children.”

This must be done through a “proper balance between the continuation and abandonment of treatment so as to ensure adequate care for the young patients without giving way to the temptation of experimentalism,” the Pope cautioned.

He then reminded participants that the focus of all medical activity “must always be the authentic good of the child, considered in his or her dignity as a human being with full rights.

“Children must, then, always be cared for with love, to help them face suffering and sickness, even before birth, in a way appropriate to their situation.”

Along with addressing the physical needs of sick children, Pope Benedict also spoke about the need to address their emotional needs.  It is essential to keep “in mind the emotional impact of the sickness the child must undergo, and of the treatment, which at times can be particularly invasive, it is important to ensure constant communication with the relatives,” he said.

"The sick, and especially children, have a particular understanding of the language of tenderness and love as expressed though sensitive, patient and generous service,” the Holy Father said as he reminded Christians that they should exhibit the same love Jesus had for children.

This is important, the Holy Father added because all people were created in the image and likeness of God, who views them as “even more precious the weaker” than they are seen “in the eyes of man.”

“With how much love then, must we welcome” and care for “a child not yet born and already affected with a sickness,” children who are orphaned, abandoned, or suffer from poverty, a disintegrated family, AIDS, war, drought or hunger? the Pope asked.

“The Catholic Church never forgets these children,” Benedict XVI continued.  In fact, the Church “applauds the initiatives of the richer nations to improve the conditions for their development,” but she also “feels the compelling duty to call for greater attention to be paid to these brothers and sisters, so that, thanks to our joint solidarity they may look upon life with trust and hope."

Benedict XVI concluded his address by thanking those who devote their work to assisting children. He expressed particular appreciation Catholic social-healthcare associations and institutions and “our own 'Bambino Gesu' Hospital,” which “following the example of Jesus Christ the Good Samaritan and animated by charity, bring human, moral and spiritual support and relief to so many suffering children, who are the objects of God's special love.”

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Catholic commentators missed their chance to dissuade bishops on abortion stance

Baltimore, Md., Nov 17, 2008 (CNA) - As the U.S. bishops prepare to strongly oppose the expected pro-abortion policies of an Obama administration, two Catholic Democratic commentators have published an editorial calling on the bishops to focus on other issues besides abortion. That call, however, appears to be too little, too late.

Patrick Whelan, president of Catholic Democrats, and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former lieutenant governor of Maryland, made their case in a Sunday editorial in the Baltimore Sun. Claiming that Catholic voters’ majority preference for Obama shows they care about other issues, they argued the abortion rate decreased more quickly under the Clinton administration.

They also advocated social programs instead of legal protections for the unborn as more effective means to reduce the numbers of abortions.

Citing episcopal statements deeming pro-life issues central to responsible voting considerations, the two writers said “all this talk about abortion,” which they characterized as defending “the need to vote Republican,” showed some bishops wanted a Republican victory.

Whelan and Townsend’s editorial followed action at the U.S. bishops’ fall meeting last week in which American prelates pledged to work with the Obama presidency “for the common good of all” on issues such as immigration, education, health care, and religious freedom.

However, even though Whelan previously had warned the bishops not to make any strong statements on abortion, which he claimed would be counterproductive and “only alienate Catholics,” they did nothing of the sort.

At their annual meeting, the bishops insisted that life itself is a “fundamental good,” lamenting the removal of legal protection for the unborn mandated by the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. They also attacked the proposed Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) as “legislation that is more radical” than Roe v. Wade.

While campaigning for the Democratic nomination in 2007, President-elect Barack Obama promised to sign FOCA in his first legislative act as president.

According to the bishops, FOCA would remove the states’ “modest restraints and regulations on the abortion industry” while forcing all Americans to subsidize and promote abortion with their tax dollars. It could even mandate that Catholic hospitals cooperate in or even perform abortions.

The bishops also defended their focus on pro-life issues.

“The bishops are single-minded because they are, first of all, single-hearted,” the bishops’ statement said.

The statement was written under an unusual process, with USCCB President Cardinal Francis George being asked to write the letter with the bishops’ approval. In normal circumstances, such a statement would have needed to pass through an administrative committee.

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Socialist Party has no authority to rule on conscientious objection, family group says

Madrid, Spain, Nov 17, 2008 (CNA) - The Forum on the Family of Valencia said last week the ruling Socialist Party has no authority to rule on the legality of conscientious objection to the course Education for Citizenship, because it is a fundamental right in the Constitution and “according to the Constitutional Court, it does not have to be expressly regulated by law.”
“It’s not up to the Socialist Party to rule on the legality of conscientious objection to Education for Citizenship.  This is a task in the hands of the Supreme Court. But it must be noted that there have already been 123 court rulings all over Spain that have sided with families that object,” the forum stated.
The pro-family organization explained that according to Constitutional Court rulings, this right does not require any law to expressly regulate it, but rather its application is determined through the legal proceedings.

It also criticized Socialist lawmakers, including Representative Carlos Gonzalez, for misinforming parents and claiming that the Forum on the Family “incites families and students to exercise a false conscientious objection in order to get out of the Education for Citizenship course.”

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