St. Petersburg, Dec 2, 2008 (CNA) - Following the recent electoral victory of a marriage amendment proposed for the Florida constitution, homosexual activists plan to demonstrate outside the church wedding and reception of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist next Friday.
The governor is to be married to Carole Rome at the First United Methodist Church of St. Petersburg.
The activist group Impact-Florida has called for its members to gather in pink T-shirts outside the church and plans also to demonstrate outside the wedding reception at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort in downtown St. Petersburg, the Tampa Tribune reports.
“After the positive congratulatory observance, there will be a candlelight vigil close to the [Vinoy] in downtown St. Pete to mourn the loss of gays right to get married,” the group’s web site states.
In fact, same-sex marriage was not established in Florida even before Election Day, when voters passed Amendment 2 with 61.9 percent approval.
Gov. Crist supported the passage of the amendment.
A press statement from the Florida Family Policy Council placed the protest “under the category of lower than low” and claimed the protesters were “crashing” the wedding.
The Florida Family Policy Council encouraged Floridians to support the governor and his fiancé by sending them a wedding card and “earnestly praying for them as they become husband and wife.”
Indianapolis, Ind., Dec 2, 2008 (CNA) - The Indiana affiliate of Planned Parenthood is offering gift certificates for birth control and other services, including abortion. While an announcement of the program encourages customers to purchase the certificates to “give the gift of health this holiday season,” one critic characterized the effort as “lethal.”
Indiana Planned Parenthood is offering the certificates in $25 increments through its web site or at its 35 locations in the state. Prospective customers are advised that the gift certificates could be used as co-pays in conjunction with partial insurance coverage.
“Why not buy a loved one a gift this holiday season that they really need and one that will contribute to their health throughout the year?" Indiana Planned Parenthood President and CEO Betty Cockrum said in a statement on the state affiliate’s web site. “The gift certificates are also a wonderful idea for that person in your life who puts everyone else first and has been putting off taking care of her or his own health. Now, there’s no excuse for those people in your life not to get the basic health care that they need.”
The certificates may be used for breast exams and Pap smears, but may also be applied to defray the cost of an abortion, the Associated Press reports.
"I certainly don't think anyone would consider giving it for that purpose," Planned Parenthood of Indiana spokeswoman Kate Shepherd said.
Cockrum reported that Planned Parenthood in Indiana performs abortions on about 5,000 of the 92,000 patients it sees each year.
In Indiana the organization operates abortion clinics in Indianapolis, Merrillville and Bloomington.
Sister Diane Carollo, director of the Office for Pro-Life Ministry for the Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis, criticized the program.
"They deserve coal in their stocking, not money for lethal gift certificates," she told the Associated Press.
Mike Fichter, president and CEO of Indiana Right to Life, was also critical.
“The tragedy is that almost 6,000 fewer children will be celebrating a first Christmas this year because they were aborted in Planned Parenthood's Indiana clinics,” he remarked.
Hanoi, Vietnam, Dec 2, 2008 (CNA) - In one of the largest protests to be held in Vietnam in decades, more than 5,000 people gathered in a candlelight vigil on Sunday evening at Saigon Redemptorist Monastery to demonstrate support for eight Catholics who will be put on trial under false pretenses.
Government authorities have charged the eight parishioners of Thai Ha Church with “damaging state property and disorderly conduct in public,” while Catholics claim the charges are false.
For more than a year, Catholics have faced off with the Vietnamese government as they seek to reclaim property confiscated by the communists, property which includes a former papal nunciature.
At Sunday’s protests, 160 priests from various religious orders in Saigon and nearby provinces concelebrated Mass to pray for the Church in Vietnam and in particular for the eight faithful scheduled for trial, Father J.B. An Dang reports to CNA.
Prelates addressed the crowd and rallied support.
“At the former nunciature in Hanoi and at Thai Ha parish, the authorities buried Jesus Christ, justice and truth. But from there, Jesus Christ will rise, and justice and truth will be resurrected,” Fr. Michael Nguyen Huu Phu, the Superior of Saigon Redemptorist Monastery, told the protesters.
Pictures of the eight accused Catholics were displayed on a big screen as protesters were told of the difficulties faced by the accused.
The denial of their access to lawyers was particularly criticized. Le Tran Luat, who is defending the accused Catholics, said on November 24 that he had not been able to meet with Mrs. Nguyen Thi Nhi and Mrs. Ngo Thi Dung, who are being held at the Hoa Lo prison.
Another point of contention raised by Catholics is that the government has set the trial date for December 5, the day on which the new Auxiliary Bishop of Hanoi, Laurent Chu Van Minh, will be installed. Bishop-elect Van Minh’s installation will take place in Nam Dinh, which is 55 miles away from Hanoi, the location of the trial.
Mr. Le also alleged that the government is disobeying its own laws about who can attend the trial. According to Mr. Le, Vietnamese law allows anyone over 16 to attend a trial, but he claims that the People’s Court of Hanoi has ordered that “except defendants and their lawyers, anyone wishing to attend the trial must submit an application form.”
On Saturday thousands of Catholics reportedly gathered for another candlelight vigil in Hanoi to protest the Communists government’s dishonest tactics. They were strictly monitored by hundreds of police who took photos and filmed video in what J.B. An Dang calls “an obvious intimidation tactic.”
During the vigil, students performed a play depicting the sufferings of martyrs from previous eras when government authorities tried to destroy Catholicism in Vietnam.
Fr. Vincent Nguyen Trung Thanh, the provincial superior of the Redemptorists in Vietnam, sent a letter to all Redemptorists in Vietnam asking them to pray intensely for the eight parishioners of Thai Ha.
“More than anyone, we know well that they are innocent, not only innocent according to their own conscience, but also according to the law. However, they are still charged and prosecuted,” he wrote.
He praised the arrested parishioners for following their Master who “more than 2,000 years ago was prosecuted and killed for his insistence on defending the truth.”
“The Beatitudes are an invitation for us and these faithful to accept adversities and tragedies, and to put our trust in God who will transform our sufferings into benefits for those who love Him,” he said, concluding by asking the Redemptorist communities in Vietnam to pray for the eight parishioners.
Vatican City, Dec 2, 2008 (CNA) - At a time when “uncertainty and anxiety seem to prevail” in the financial world, the Holy See is challenging the international community to turn to a just and equitable sharing in the world’s resources and opportunities.
Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the permanent observer of the Holy See to the U.N., speaking at an international conference in Doha, Qatar on financial development, asserted that national governments need the help of the international community to overcome the financial crisis.
Solving the current problems can be accomplished by “ensuring more just and equitable trade systems,” the archbishop said.
He suggested tackling “trade-distorting subsides, financial speculation, increased energy prices and decreased investment in agriculture” since these have led to a “lack of access to the very thing which is necessary for life, namely food.”
“This economic volatility, which strikes at the heart of human existence, gives greater urgency to finding a common commitment to addressing global trade and development," he added.
Although "uncertainty and anxiety seem to prevail at this particular point in time,” Archbishop Migliore said, “the virtues and principles which have led the global community out of so many crises remain.”
Among these principles are: “solidarity with our global community, just and equitable sharing in resources and opportunity, prudent use of the environment, restraint from seeking short-term financial and social gain at the expense of sustainable development, and finally, the political courage which is necessary to build a world in which human life is placed at the centre of all social and economic activities."
Vatican City, Dec 2, 2008 (CNA) - To mark the 100th anniversary of several Italian pontifical seminaries, the Holy Father met with the student representatives at the Vatican on Saturday. Speaking to the seminarians from the regions of Marche, Puglie, Abruzzo and Moliese, Pope Benedict XVI emphasized that mankind in the third millennium has the need for God.
The Holy Father opened his address by noting that the mission of priests “is to scatter with open hands the Word of God over the fields of the world." The Word, “which brings eternal life, is Christ Himself, the only One Who can change the human heart and renew the world, Pope Benedict proclaimed.
“And yet we may ask ourselves: does modern man still feel the need for Christ and His message of salvation?”
Everything is subjective in our world today except empirical science, Pope Benedict continued. “As a consequence, religious experience also risks being seen as a subjective choice, not essential and decisive for life.”
Nevertheless, the Pope pointed out that contemporary man is concerned about his future “seeking certainties and eager for secure points of reference” and “as in all ages, has need of God and sometimes seeks Him without even realizing."
Because of this need, all Christians, especially priests, are called “to respond to this profound longing of the human heart and to offer everyone, using means and methods in keeping with the needs of the time, the unchangeable Word of eternal life which is Christ, Hope of the world,” the Pontiff told the seminarians.
"In the light of this important mission," he added, "the years spent in the seminary assume great importance, a time dedicated to formation and discernment, years in which priority must be given to the constant search for a personal relationship with Jesus."
Sacramento, Calif., Dec 2, 2008 (CNA) - This past Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Bishop William Weigand as the head of the Diocese of Sacramento. Bishop Weigand, who is resigning due to health issues, will be succeeded by Bishop Jaime Soto.
Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, announced in Washington on Saturday that the Pope had accepted the resignation of Bishop Weigand who is 71 and has been battling an uncommon liver disease called primary sclerosing cholangitis for the last 27 years. According to the Diocese of Sacramento, Bishop Weigand underwent a living donor liver transplant in April 2005 and returned to full time work by November of 2005.
With the acceptance of Bishop Weigand’s retirement by Pope Benedict, Bishop Soto took over as the head of the Diocese of Sacramento on Sunday. Bishop Soto will celebrate two Masses on Sunday, December 7 at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in downtown Sacramento to celebrate his accession. The 11 a.m. Mass will be said in English and the 1 p.m. Mass will be offered in Spanish, according to the Diocese of Sacramento’s website.
Before coming to Sacramento, Bishop Soto served as the Auxiliary Bishop of Orange, California.
Jaime Soto was born December 31, 1955, in Inglewood, California. He attended St. John's Seminary College in Camarillo, California, and there earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy in 1978, and Master of Divinity degree in 1982. He earned a Master of Social Work degree from Columbia University in 1986.
He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Orange in 1982, and was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Orange, March 23, 2000 by Pope John Paul II.
Bishop Soto's pastoral experience includes work in Catholic Charities, immigration reform and ministry to the Hispanic community.
The Sacramento Diocese includes 3,431,778 people, including 552,147 Catholics.
Havana, Cuba, Dec 2, 2008 (CNA) - Thousands of Cubans came together on Saturday for the beatification of Father Jose Olallo Valdes, called the Father of the Poor and Champion of Charity, and who is now the second Cuban to be declared Blessed.
Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, presided at the celebration, which was the first of its kind to take place in Cuba. Among those in attendance was Cuban President Raul Castro.
“His beatification is a milestone for the Church in Cuba and for the entire nation,” Cardinal Saraiva said, calling Blessed Olallo a “champion” and “apostle” of Christian charity.
Cardinal Saraiva pointed out that “ten years have passed since the historic visit of John Paul II to Cuba” and that the "Diocese of Camaguey and the entire Church in Cuba are experiencing today an unforgettable moment.”
“Faced with an imposing materialistic culture that casts aside the weak and forsaken, let us learn from Father Olallo the virtue of trusting in God, of knowing how to love everyone who is our neighbor.”
During the ceremony, Archbishop Juan Garcia Rodriguez of Camaguey and president of the Bishops’ Conference of Cuba, gave a Bible as a gift to Raul Castro, who was accompanied by Vice President Esteban Lago and the head of religious affairs for the Communist Party, Caridad Diego.
Madrid, Spain, Dec 2, 2008 (CNA) -
During the presentation of the first international catalogue of stamps, Archbishop Luigi De Magistris, prefect emeritus of the Apostolic Penitentiary, revealed this week that the founder of the Italian Communist Party, Antonio Gramsci, returned to the Catholic faith of his childhood and received the sacraments before dying in April of 1937.
Gramsci was the father of a more sophisticated version of Marxism, which gave rise to so-called “Euro-Communism.” Under his scheme, the Catholic Church and the Christian family were the main enemies to gaining control of minds and of the culture, which he considered essential to maintaining long-term political power.
Among the measures he used to achieve what he called “cultural hegemony,” Gramsci proposed ending the beliefs, traditions and customs that speak of the transcendence of man and creating a culture in which transcendence has no place. He also aimed to infiltrate the Church to get dissident bishops and priests to speak out against her. His plan was to destroy the Church from within.
The Spanish daily La Razon reported that the conversion of Gramsci “has been confirmed and denied on various occasions, but this is the first time that a member of the Curia declares that the rumor is certain.”
During a press conference covered by Vatican Radio, Archbishop De Magistris explained, “Gramsci had a statue of St. Therese of the Child Jesus in his room (at the hospital where he was dying). During his illness, the nuns at the clinic brought a statue of the Child Jesus to the patients for their veneration. Gramsci complained that they did not bring it to his room. ‘Why didn’t you bring it to me?’ he asked them. So they brought the statue of the Child Jesus to him and he kissed it. He also received the sacraments and returned to the faith of his childhood. The mercy of God ‘pursues’ us, the Lord does not resign to losing us,” the archbishop said.
Giancarlo Lehner, Italian lawmaker and author of the “The Gramsci Family in Russia,” said he would “not be surprised if Gramsci had embraced the Catholic faith.” According to the Italian daily La Stampa, theologian Father Gianni Baget Bozzo believes the statue of St. Therese is an important part of explaining the conversion of the Communist Party’s founder.
“St. Therese offered her life for the conversion of the anarchist Prandini, who in fact before he was beheaded asked to kiss a crucifix, and she was willing to give her life for the conversion of atheists,” Father Bozzo said.
Gramsci died in Rome at the age of 46 and asked his family members to bury him in a Protestant cemetery, where his tomb is found today.
Gramsci’s followers claim there is “no evidence that he had converted to Catholicism.” But their claims have been discredited by those who cared for him at the hospital where he died and which was visited often by priests and religious.
Giuseppe Vacca, director of the Gramsci International Institute said that Gramsci’s conversion “wouldn’t be a scandal and wouldn’t change a thing,” because in fact his method of cultural hegemony continues to be employed by feminist, pro-abortion and homosexual groups.
Rome, Italy, Dec 2, 2008 (CNA) - A proposed EU declaration which would condemn “discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity” has been criticized by Archbishop Celestino Migliore, who heads the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the United Nations. Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi agreed, saying it could lead to discrimination against Christians.
The draft declaration was drawn up by France, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency. All countries of the EU have signed the document, the Times Online reports.
The declaration is planned to be submitted at the U.N. General Assembly on December 10, the sixtieth anniversary of the U.N. declaration of human rights.
The declaration calls upon governments to “de-criminalize homosexuality,” in an apparent reference to anti-sodomy laws.
Explaining that the Catechism of the Catholic Church forbids “unjust discrimination,” Archbishop Migliore argued that outlawing discrimination through a United Nations declaration would pressure states which do not recognize same-sex marriage to change their laws.
The bill, in his view, would “add new categories of those protected from discrimination” and could lead to reverse discrimination against those who believe in traditional marriage.
"If adopted, they would create new and implacable discriminations," Migliore said. "For example, states which do not recognize same-sex unions as 'matrimony' will be pilloried and made an object of pressure.”
Sodomy is punishable by law in more than 85 countries and is a capital offense in countries like Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen.
Homosexual rights advocates in Italy harshly criticized the archbishop’s remarks, labeling them “grotesque” and “anachronistic.”
The Director of Vatican Radio, Father Frederico Lombardi, defended the archbishop’s remarks, saying “no one wants the death penalty or jail or fines for homosexuals.”
"It's not for nothing that fewer than 50 member states of the United Nations have adhered to the proposal in question while more than 150 have not adhered. The Holy See is not alone," he said, according to Vatican Radio.
According to Vatican Radio, Father Lombardi also reiterated concerns that the proposed declaration would be used against those who maintain the true definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
La Plata, Argentina, Dec 2, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Hector Aguer of the La Plata in Argentina said on Monday that the new book by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, “Nocturnal Conversations in Jerusalem,” “casts doubt on truths and practices” continuously taught by the Church.
During his program “Keys to a Better World,” the archbishop said that in his book, Cardinal Martini casts doubt on “truths and practices permanently upheld by the Church, such as the celibacy of priests, priestly ordination reserved to men and the immorality of homosexual relations.”
He also pointed out that the cardinal harshly criticizes Pope Paul VI and the encyclical Humane Vitae, which he claims “has caused great harm by prohibiting artificial contraception” and that it “has made many people leave the Church and the Church leave many people.”
“It is noteworthy that such an important, intelligent and outstanding cardinal such as Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, has echoed and made his own the criticisms that the secularized culture and those elements within the Church that have embraced dissent against the Magisterium have aimed at the Church for decades,” Archbishop Aguer said.
Archbishop Aguer noted that the “doctrine of Humanae Vitae is based on a constant tradition that goes back to the Fathers,” and that “since the beginning of the 19th century, when modern technology offered new methods for frustrating the fertility of the conjugal act, the Magisterium has been consistent in pointing out the correct path.”
The archbishop mentioned such documents as Pius XI’s “Casti Connubii,” numerous discourses by Pius XII, Vatican II’s “Gaudium et Spes,” various statements by John XXIII, Paul VI’s “Humanae Vitae,” and the teachings of John Paul II, especially his theology of the body as part of the Church’s teaching. “Benedict XVI has expressly ratified the doctrine of ‘Humanae Vitae’,” Archbishop Aguer added.
He went on to say that Cardinal Martini’s statements have probably found an audience in some elements of the Church, “but with all due respect to the illustrious cardinal I fear that for most of the faithful, they have been scandalous.”
“If we follow our Catholic instincts,” the archbishop stated, “we know very well what we need to follow. We must adhere to the constant doctrine of the Church and the teaching of Benedict XVI, who is the shepherd that today guides us all.”
Toledo, Ohio, Dec 2, 2008 (CNA) -
A university administrator fired from the University of Toledo for her published remarks criticizing homosexuality and expressing her Christian views has filed a lawsuit against the school. The suit alleges the violations of her constitutional rights to free speech and equal protection of the law.
Attorneys who filed the suit charged that the administrator was fired “for being a Christian.”
Crystal Dixon, associate vice president of human resources at the state-run University of Toledo, wrote an April 18 column for the Toledo Free Press in response to an April 4 column by the paper’s Editor-in-Chief Michael S. Miller. Miller argued that Ohio is behind in “gay rights” and also criticized the University of Toledo’s lack of health care benefits for some domestic partnerships.
Dixon, who did not identify herself as a university employee, wrote in her column:
“As a Black woman... I take great umbrage at the notion that those choosing the homosexual lifestyle are ‘civil rights victims.’ Here's why. I cannot wake up tomorrow and not be a Black woman. I am genetically and biologically a Black woman and very pleased to be so as my Creator intended.”
She referenced prominent individuals who had renounced their homosexual behavior, sometimes because of “a realization that their choice of same-sex practices wreaked havoc in their psychological and physical lives.”
She closed her column with two references to the Bible. She said that God had created humankind male and female and gave them free will, which she described as an “inalienable right to choose.” Saying there are consequences for our choices, Dixon said it is “base human nature to revolt and become indignant” when the world or God Himself disagrees with our choices.
Dixon also insisted that God “loves the sinner but hates the sin” and that Jesus is “radically transforming the lives of both straight and gay folks and bringing them into a life of wholeness.”
Lloyd Jacobs, President of the University of Toledo, soon after published a column in the same paper to “repudiate” Dixon’s views and to insist her comments “do not accord with the values of the University of Toledo.”
Dixon was placed on leave and fired by the university in May.
According to a press release from the Thomas More Law Center, Dixon had earlier questioned the University President’s decision to hire his niece over five more qualified candidates. His niece was hired for the Human Resources Department where Dixon worked.
The Ann Arbor-based Thomas More Law Center on Monday filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court on Dixon’s behalf. It is being assisted by Toledo attorney Tom Sobecki.
“It’s clear that radical homosexuals have an inordinate amount of influence over the University President. He openly brags about being friendly to ‘lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning individuals.’ But he doesn’t care about the constitutional free speech rights of Christians,” charged Richard Thompson, President of the Thomas More Law Center.
“Where is the so-called free expression of ideas and tolerance that universities so adamantly defend in other contexts? Crystal Dixon has a constitutional right to privately express her personal opinions, and this particular opinion represents the view of a majority of Christian Americans."
"Crystal Dixon believed and expressed this – essentially she was fired for being a Christian,” Thompson said.Dixon has set up a web site explaining her view of the controversy at http://www.crystaldixon.com