Archive of November 18, 2008

Group to coordinate 10,000 Masses for the unborn

Memphis, Tenn., Nov 18, 2008 (CNA) - The Memphis-based Saint Michael the Archangel Organization has announced that it is coordinating an effort to celebrate 10,000 Masses for unborn babies from January 13 to January 21.

Patrick Benedict, the president of the Saint Michael the Archangel Organization, said in a press release that the effort intends “to provide protection for innocent unborn babies.”

“Obviously, these babies cannot have Masses offered for themselves. But, people like myself can have Masses offered, and I am hoping many will choose to do exactly that.”

"There is no such thing as a 'choice' to kill an unborn baby," Benedict continued. "A person who murders an unborn baby, or a person who formally cooperates with that action, puts his soul at risk of being eternally separated from God. And that eternal separation from God is hell. This is a truth that needs to be repeated often."

Those who wish to participate in the effort may ask a priest to offer Mass for the protection of the unborn on dates ranging from January 13 to January 21, 2009. Participants should then register the date and location of the Mass by mail or e-mail with the Saint Michael the Archangel Organization, whose web site is located at

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Science without ethics 'out of bounds,' says Vatican official

Rome, Italy, Nov 18, 2008 (CNA) - In an article published by the L’Osservatore Romano, the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, said science that is for the purpose of experimenting with human life without any ethics “puts itself out of bounds” and lends itself to be suspect of being at the service of those in power rather than of the good of all of humanity.

After noting that the Church is an expert in humanity, “as Paul VI said before the United Nations,” and that throughout her history she has defended human life and dignity, the archbishop underscored that human life “possesses a sacredness for Christians because it is first of all a mystery, from its beginnings until its end.” In its very nature, the archbishop noted, it is beyond comprehension, and for this reason “it must be respected by all.”

“When we speak of human life, we are not dealing with material that can be manipulated, but rather with intrinsic dignity that deserves respect at the very least,” he said.

Just as states are capable of defending and promoting human life and of expressing an opinion on issues related to it, “in the same way the freedom of the Church to express her own teaching cannot be limited by any scientist or scholar who thinks we should not talk about these issues,” Archbishop Fisichella stated.

“If other people find their certainties in science, they will not find opposition in us,” he added.

“We would like to respectfully remind them that science also does not have definitive certainties and that the mystery of human existence, with its unavoidable questions about its meaning, is also valid for them.  They don’t need to necessarily listen to the Catholic Church, but if they to keep the door of their reason open and give room to the force of reason, that is enough,” the archbishop explained.

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Ft. Worth becomes the fourth diocese to leave the Episcopal Church

Fort Worth, Texas, Nov 18, 2008 (CNA) - Nearly eighty percent of the clergy and lay delegates to the 26th diocesan convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Ft. Worth on Saturday voted to leave the Episcopal Church to join the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, joining other dioceses and individuals who have left that church following intense theological and moral controversies.

Among the diocese’s voting clergy, 72 voted to leave the General Convention of the Episcopal Church while 19 voted against, reports. Among the diocese’s voting lay delegates, 102 voted to leave while 25 opposed the proposal.

Similar numbers voted to join the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, whose archbishop, Gregory Venables, sent a message to the diocese, saying:

“In spite of the tragic circumstances which have made your costly decision necessary we rejoice with you at the opportunity to serve God together in His ongoing and glorious mission to extend His Kingdom.”

Dr. John Burk objected to leaving the Episcopal Church, saying the proposal was invalid because of its inconsistencies with the constitution and canons of that body.

“The propositions would violate the interests of generations of Episcopalians who, long before this diocese existed, sacrificed to contribute time, talent, and treasure to build up the body of Christ through the ministry of Episcopal Church, not some other church, in this area,” he said.

Judy Mayo, a lay woman, favored the resolution, saying children are “bombarded by the world’s values” and the Episcopal General Convention “makes things more and more confusing for both straight and gay people.”

“A husband wearing a dress and skirts to teach Sunday School in church, another pastor wants to perform same-sex unions. Young people crave a safe haven. Bible churches have something steady and secure to hold onto. In The Episcopal Church (TEC) we have shifting sands, relationships of every sort are accepted. We are on a collision mode. The Diocese of Ft. Worth is held in trust for the diocese not beyond to the TEC. The notion of a national church is mythical,” she said, according to VirtueOnline.

Episcopal Bishop of Fort Worth Jack Iker addressed the delegates:

“This past year has been a tense and at times contentious period in the life of our diocese. Every one of our congregations has engaged the controversies that are before us, some more than others. Most of our churches have hosted forums and conducted study groups on why we are doing what we are doing. Differences of opinion remain in our church family, but we cannot avoid the decision that is before us. Some can no longer remain within the structures of The Episcopal Church, and others cannot bring themselves to leave TEC, even though they may disagree with the direction it is headed.”

“Some have encouraged us to stay and fight as the faithful remnant in TEC, to work for reform from within. I can only reply by quoting the saying that ‘the definition of insanity is to keep on doing the same thing, expecting different results.’ The time has come to choose a new path and direction, to secure a spiritual future for our children and our grand-children.”

Urging the separation to proceed “without rancor or ill will,” he continued:

“This diocese stands for orthodox Christianity, and we are increasingly at odds with the revisionist practices and teachings of the official leadership of The Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church we once knew no longer exists. To contend for the faith as traditional Episcopalians has brought us to this time of realignment in the Body of Christ.”

Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church, responded to the vote in a Saturday statement, saying:

“The Episcopal Church grieves the departures of a number of persons from the Diocese of Fort Worth. We remind those former Episcopalians that the door is open if they wish to return. We will work with Episcopalians in the Diocese of Fort Worth to elect new leadership and continue the work of the gospel in that part of Texas. The gospel work to which Jesus calls us demands the best efforts of faithful people from many theological and social perspectives, and The Episcopal Church will continue to welcome that diversity.”

On November 8 the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy, Illinois, while meeting at its annual synod, also voted to leave the Episcopal Church and join the Province of the Southern Cone on a temporary basis. According to the Episcopal News Service, the vote to leave the church passed among clergy by 41 to 14, while laity approved by 54 to 12.

Fort Worth and Quincy join the dioceses of San Joaquin and Pittsburgh in seceding from the Episcopal Church. 

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Redefining marriage renders it meaningless, Bishop of Portland says

Portland, Maine, Nov 18, 2008 (CNA) - Richard Malone, the Bishop of Portland, Maine, has written a letter to Maine Catholics in response to a Portland news conference where leaders in several other Christian faiths professed support for same-sex marriage. The bishop defended marriage, saying opposition to its redefinition derives not only from faith but also from reason and a concern for the good of society.

According to Bishop Malone’s letter, which was sent over the past weekend, the Christian ministers’ news conference had urged the people of Maine to embrace same-sex marriage “in the name of equal civil rights.”

“To claim that marriage is a civil right open to all forms of relationships is a misnomer,” he explained.

“Marriage is an institution that predates civilization, ordained by God, and exclusive to one man and one woman who are given the responsibility to procreate the human race, and to nurture, educate, and pass on shared values and mores to their offspring. To redefine marriage to include same-sex couples is to strip marriage of an essential component, namely the ability and obligation to procreate. To strip marriage of this essential component is to render marriage meaningless and open it up to endless revision and redefinition.”

For Catholics, he explained, marriage is “a Holy Sacrament, a vocation and a vehicle to salvation.” However, he added, Catholics’ opposition to same-sex marriage is also based on reason and “the good of society at-large.”

The recognition and privileges granted to marriage, the bishop commented, derives from the institution’s foundational nature to “the good of a nation and entire civilizations.”

“To support and encourage strong families is to support the building of a healthy and productive societal structure that is best equipped to raise and rear children,” he wrote.

Bishop Malone denied that those who refuse to accept same-sex marriage are being unfair and unkind.

“We have been unwavering in our support for a number of changes, to what was once known as spousal benefits, which have made hospital visitation rights available to a wider spectrum of individuals, opened up opportunities for one household member to share health insurance benefits with another, and so on. These major changes were supported in the interest of preserving basic human rights for every person.”

He said marriage does not fall into the category of basic human rights because “by its very nature, those who commit to it must be of different sexes as a fundamental prerequisite.”

“Marriage is being challenged throughout the country,” he said, citing recent California, Florida and Arizona elections resisting changes to the definition of marriage.

“Many more challenges are expected in the year ahead,” the bishop continued, predicting that a same-sex initiative will be proposed in Maine in the near future.

“We must work together to preserve marriage for the good of our society,” he added. “In the weeks and months ahead, you will hear more about our own initiatives not only to preserve marriage but to enhance it and support it in all ways possible.”

He said Catholics “naturally” will continue to speak out on human rights issues affecting all individuals.

“However, we can never do so at the cost of compromising those eternal, fundamental truths as handed on to us in our faith tradition as well as the natural law,” he concluded, referring readers to the Diocese of Portland’s web site for more information on the topic of marriage.

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Pope Benedict XVI appoints Msgr. Knestout as auxiliary bishop of Washington

Washington D.C., Nov 18, 2008 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Washington received good news this morning as Pope Benedict XVI announced that he is appointing Monsignor Barry Knestout to serve as an auxiliary bishop for the 580,000 faithful in the region.

With the addition of Bishop-elect Knestout, the archdiocese, which serves Catholics in an area that includes the nation’s capitol, will have four auxiliary bishops to meet the needs of a diverse flock.

Bishop-elect Knestout was born in 1962 in Cheverly, Maryland, just southeast of Washington D.C.  According to a biography on the Archdiocese of Washington’s website, the bishop-elect is one of nine children and grew up in Bowie, Maryland, with the exception of a four-year stint in Ankara, Turkey.

The newly appointed bishop attended St. Pius X elementary school and Bowie Senior High School before receiving a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Maryland in December 1984. He entered Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland in 1985 to study for the priesthood and was ordained a priest in June 1989.

He currently serves as moderator of the curia and vicar for administration, a position that is best described as the “chief of staff” for the archdiocese’s central offices.

Bishop-elect Knestout was also involved in the planning for Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the U.S. this past April. While serving as co-chair of the Planning Committee for the papal visit, he utilized his architectural background to help run the contest for Catholic University of America architecture students, who competed to design the altar and chair used by the Pope at Nationals Stadium.

In addition to being named an auxiliary for the Archdiocese of Washington, Msgr. Knestout has been appointed titular bishop of Leavenworth. Bishop-elect Knestout will be ordained a bishop on December 29, 2008, the Monday of Christmas week.

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Bolivian government responds to papal call for reconciliation by lashing out

La Paz, Bolivia, Nov 18, 2008 (CNA) - The rector of the Salesian University in Bolivia, Father Thelian Corona, has expressed disappointment at the government’s reaction to Pope Benedict XVI’s message to the Bolivian bishops during their ad limina visit, in which he called for national reconciliation.

Fr. Corona said a “useless controversy” has been created after President Evo Morales and the vice minister for Coordination with Social Movements, Sacha Llorenti, who said the bishops did not represent the Bolivian faithful in their traditional report to the Pope on the state of the Church in their country. 

“It is childish to think that the leaders of the Church are going to contradict the faith of the people,” the priest said.  “It’s not an individual bishop speaking, but rather the perception of the Bishops’ Conference of Bolivia.  Describing is not the same as judging; describing does not mean casting judgment. To deny the reality of what is happening in Bolivia is like denying there is an economic crisis, it is like denying that there has not been an increase in prices,” he added.

Likewise, Father Corona noted that the Church’s teaching “is never political.” “We are concerned about the statements by vice minister Sacha Llorenti.  If they were his own personal opinions, his perception is not very objective, and if they were in the name of the government, then things are even more delicate.”

Several days ago, during the opening of the Fourth World Congress of Mediation, Bolivian President Evo Morales lashed out at the Church calling her an “instrument of domination that brings injustice and inequality.”

From Rome, Cardinal Julio Terrazas of Santa Cruz de la Sierra urged Bolivians not to be carried away by a spirit of confrontation.  “Let’s not be carried away by confrontational words or statements or phrases in Bolivia and Latin America that claim the bishops are on one side, the priests on another and the faithful on another,” he said.

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Vatican cardinal pleads for life of Italian 'Terri Schiavo'

Rome, Italy, Nov 18, 2008 (CNA) - The president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, said this week that Italy’s “Terri Schiavo,” Eluana Englaro, “has been condemned to die of hunger and thirst because she has been living in a vegetative state for many years. Let us hope that at the last minute this decision will be reconsidered and ideology will not completely blind consciences.”


According to the SIR news agency, the cardinal made his comments at the conclusion of a Mass for the 27th Congress of the Centers for Aid to Life. The case he was referring to involves a 37 year-old Italian whose feeding tubes have been removed after the Supreme Court ruled her father had the right to disconnect them to bring about her death.  The case is being compared to what happened in the U.S. with Terri Schiavo, who died thirteen days after her tube was removed. 


Cardinal Antonelli said, "Eluana is in a 'vegetative state,' but she is not a vegetable. She is a person who is sleeping," he said. "The person, also when she is sleeping or disabled, retains all of her dignity. The person is valuable in herself, not for what she produces or consumes, or for the pleasure or satisfaction she gives to others."


“We are called to bear witness even with our sacrifice” and to make an “intelligent, generous and persevering effort in favor of life,” the cardinal said.


"Many words have been said and written about Eluana's case," he continued. "The most beautiful and persuasive of these are those [spoken] by the nuns (who care for Eluana): 'If there is someone who considers her dead, let them leave Eluana to continue with us, who feel she is alive ... Let us have the freedom to love and to give ourselves to one who is weak.'"


“I feel I must repeat the call of Mother Teresa, ‘Don’t kill the children with abortion. If you don’t want them, give them to me’,” the cardinal said.

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Argentinean priest receives award for work with the poor in Madagascar

Vatican City, Nov 18, 2008 (CNA) - The president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Renato Martino, has announced the recipients of the St. Matthew Foundation Awards for outstanding service in solidarity and social justice. One of the recipients this year is the Argentinean Fr. Pedro Opeka, who has worked with the poor in Madagascar since 1989.


The St. Matthew Foundation was created in memory of the late Vietnamese Cardinal Francois Xavier Van Thuan, who died in 2002, and whose cause for beatification is underway. The foundation promotes initiatives that encourage the presence of the Church in society through study and the spreading of the Church’s social doctrine.


Father Opeka’s life


The AICA news agency reports that Argentinean writer Jesus Silveyra, in his book “A Trip to Hope,” written after visiting Madagascar, says the following about Father Opeka:


He was ordained a priest in 1975 and returned to the African island to be pastor of the parish of Vagaindrano Mission in the southeastern jungle of the island.  For fifteen years he was devoted to the education of hundreds of young people. As he became accustomed to living among the poor and the needy, and because of the inhospitable nature of the region, he contracted various stomach ailments, as well as malaria.


In 1989, with the help of many of his former university students who had been taught by him, he founded the Akamasoa Humanitarian Association, which in Malgache means, “good friends,” in order to serve the marginalized and excluded.


Silveyra explains that after sixteen years of service, some 17,000 people live in the five villages created by the Association; 8,500 children attend its schools; and 3,500 people are employed by the Association.


“Each town has a food bank and has opened a hospital. More than 200,000 people (1.5% of the country’s entire population) have passed through its Support Center, where they have received temporary assistance and guidance in redirecting their lives,” Silveyra wrote.

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Liberal pro-lifers allying with socially radical abortion rights groups

Washington D.C., Nov 18, 2008 (CNA) - Certain pro-life pastors, academics, and activists are now working with abortion rights advocates to push for legislation intended to encourage women to continue their pregnancies by providing more health care, child care, and money. One of the pro-abortion rights allies, a Third Way, has strategized on how to marginalize both pro-lifers who favor outlawing abortion and people who oppose homosexual politics.

The pro-lifers reaching out to abortion rights supporters argue that legal challenges to permissive abortion laws will not be successful, especially following Barack Obama’s election to the presidency, the Washington Post reports.

“If one strategy has failed and failed over decades, and you have empirical information that tells how you can honor life and encourage women to make that choice by meeting real needs that are existing and tangible, why not do that?” Douglas W. Kmiec, a Pepperdine University law professor and pro-life Catholic, told the Washington Post.

The coalition of pro-lifers seeking policy change rather than legal change includes Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals; Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good; Catholics United, described as a progressive Catholic lay group; Sojourners, a progressive evangelical organization; and, a coalition of Catholics and evangelical leaders.

Rev. Thomas Reese, S.J.., from Georgetown University’s Woodstock Theological Center, has also allied himself with the effort, even though he has resigned himself to only commenting on politics in the past.

So too has Nicholas Cafardi, a former dean of the Duquesne University School of Law and a Catholic canon lawyer. He resigned from the board of Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio after writing a column supporting Obama and declaring the abortion battle lost, the Washington Post says.

The Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput has criticized Kmiec and several of the Catholic groups involved, saying they have "undermined the progress pro-lifers have made and provided an excuse for some Catholics to abandon the abortion issue." Vice president-elect Joe Biden’s home diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania has also berated the Catholic groups, saying, they are “neither united nor allied with authentic Catholic teaching.” “Catholics and non-Catholics alike should not be misled by them.”

Other pro-life leaders are also critical.

"It's a sellout, as far as we are concerned," Joe Scheidler, founder of the Pro-Life Action League, told the Washington Post. "We don't think it's really genuine. You don't have to have a lot of social programs to cut down on abortions."

The Archbishop of Chicago Cardinal Francis George, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has also questioned the wisdom of the approach.

“It's still to be proven what the connection is between poverty and abortion," he said at a bishops’ meeting last week.

Some of the activists who advocate policy remedies to reduce the number of abortions are working with Third Way, an abortion rights think tank, to build political support among Democratic lawmakers.

Third Way spokeswoman Rachel Laser said overturning Roe v. Wade “is not going to dramatically reduce the number of abortions in America,” arguing other avenues promise to be “very productive in terms of their goals, which is reducing the number of abortions, and that also serves the purpose of healing the divide and reasoning together.”

The Third Way group has advocated that self-described progressives marginalize social conservatives by taking a page from Saul Alinsky’s book and presenting themselves as conflict-averse consensus-builders.

In a September 8 memo reacting to the selection of Gov. Sarah Palin as the Republican vice-presidential nominee, Rachel Laser, Director of the Culture Program and Jim Kessler, Vice President for Policy, advised allies on the topic of “handling the culture wars.”

Saying Palin’s nomination would heighten the public position of issues like “abortion, gay rights, guns, and religion in the public square,” the Third Way memo warned “progressives must not take the bait.”

The memo advocated the repetition of certain talking points, such as:

“Progressives are seeking to find common ground and to move the nation forward where we have shared values; conservatives are seeking to reignite the culture wars of yesterday that paralyze the nation for the sake of short-term political gain.”

On the abortion issue, the memo recommended emphasizing the need to “find common ground” to reduce the need for abortions “while still protecting a woman’s right to have one.”

“Conservatives want to tear this country apart and throw people in jail. I want to reduce the need for abortions by preventing unintended pregnancies and supporting pregnant women,” the memo recommended as a message for an activist or a candidate.

The language echoes that of an April 2008 Third Way memo on the subject of “A Consensus on the Abortion Debate.” In that memo, the same Third Way staffers counseled how to marginalize pro-lifers.

“We also suggest defining those who oppose abortion rights as being in favor of criminalization and imprisonment,” they wrote.
The Third Way organization’s activism extends to homosexual advocacy. An August, 2008 memo titled “How to Talk About ENDA Support” strategized how to promote the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Advising activists to focus on the “grays”—those ambivalent about homosexual political issues—the memo said ENDA support should be defined as “common ground” and presented as a “measured step forward.”

It suggested activists highlight the legislation’s exemptions for only “faith-based employers who may feel that the hiring of gays and lesbians violates religious doctrine,” saying this would show that lawmakers respect religious freedom and “have listened to the concerns of people of faith.”

The memo noted that the “grays” tend to see homosexuals more as a protected class than one which suffers discrimination. “That is why the ‘special rights’ argument from the other side has traction,” the memo stated.

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Pro-lifers should ‘prepare for the worst’ in Obama presidency

Washington D.C., Nov 18, 2008 (CNA) - A pro-life leader has called on her allies to be “prepared for the worst” on domestic and international pro-life issues under an Obama presidency.

Marie Smith, Director of the Life Issues Institute’s Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues, made her comments last week in a letter to pro-life leaders in Latin America.

Characterizing President-elect Barack Obama as a “radical pro-abortion president,” she urged pro-lifers to adjust themselves to this reality. Though there is “a good deal of uncertainty” about how extreme Obama’s administration will be, she noted several areas where pro-abortion activists could advance their cause.

U.S. pro-life policies on foreign assistance will be dissolved, Smith wrote. She mentioned such policies as the Mexico City Policy which restricts funding to international organizations that promote or perform abortions, and also the prohibition on funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

“USAID is likely to be run by a pro-abortion zealot,” she added, referring to the U.S. Agency for International Development. “Pro-life Members of the US Congress will be extremely limited in their ability to have any influence or oversight on US foreign policy.”
Speaking with CNA in a phone conversation on Tuesday afternoon, Mrs. Smith explained that her goal in writing the letter was to motivate pro-lifers and to alert them that “there’s a tsunami headed their way from the U.S.”

In Smith’s view, pro-life advocates will need to “work harder, smarter, and more effectively, aided by prayer and fasting.” Abortion struggles will increasingly be fought in Latin America, she said.

“The need to organize each sector of society is critically important and must move forward with record speed,” she said, saying pro-life leaders must be “informed, organized and assisted” by pro-life organizations.

“This work must begin immediately,” Smith insisted.

“It is clear that international US-based pro-abortion NGOs expect great support from the new president.  Some have already prepared a list of pro-abortion actions items they expect from Obama's presidency,” she claimed.

Urging individuals in all countries to stand up to “all types of pressure from the US” and to protest “foreign values that weaken the family and destroy the lives of precious unborn children,” she exhorted:

“The pro-life voice of Latin America must be heard loud and clear.”

“The next four years will be difficult but it is also a time to persevere in faith, hope and love trusting in God for the ultimate victory of life over death,” Smith concluded.

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