Detroit, Mich., Dec 8, 2008 (CNA) - Cardinal Adam Maida, the Archbishop of Detroit, on December 4 privately met with various religious leaders he had invited to Sacred Heart Major Seminary to discuss their deep concern for those affected by economic decline and the ramifications the difficulties of the auto industry could have for the region.
Their meeting was titled “Conversation on the Economy.”
Speaking to the press in a post-meeting briefing, the cardinal said that religious leaders want to offer words of hope and encouragement for “countless” individuals and families under great stress because of economic uncertainty.
“With one voice, we wish to stand in solidarity with all who are suffering loss of jobs or homes, and all those who are anxious about what will happen with the future of the automobile industry in Metro Detroit,” Cardinal Maida stated.
Religious leaders “truly appreciate the creative efforts of the leaders of the automobile industry, as well as the cooperative spirit of the labor community,” he said, praising the joint work of business and labor.
“We join the leaders of business and labor to encourage federal support for this vital industry,” the cardinal added. “We all recognize the domino or ripple effect of how one aspect of our economy influences every other aspect of our life together. Clearly, the well-being of our metro area and, indeed, of our nation, depends on the continued strength of the automobile industry.”
Religious leaders recognize that the economy is “not just about money” but is ultimately about “people created in the image and likeness of God, people whose dignity does not depend on the fluctuation of the stock market or the good fortune at having permanent employment and secure healthcare.”
Cardinal Maida said he joins other religious leaders in seeking to secure “every person's right to fair employment and just compensation, affordable healthcare, food, housing, and adequate clothing.”
“Every one of us has needs of body or spirit, and conversely, every one of us has something we can give for the sake of the common good. I join with my fellow religious leaders in seeking to create an environment for such a healthy exchange of gifts.”
The cardinal referenced the gift-giving customs of the holidays of Hanukkah and Christmas, adding:
“We Christians see these traditions of gift-giving as a response to God's generosity toward us in sending His own Son into the world. This year, in some ways, our Christmas giving will probably be different. On the one hand, we will still be celebrating our faith in the light and hope Christ brings to the darkness of our world. But we will probably celebrate the feast in a more modest way, spending less on ourselves and hopefully being more generous toward those with greater needs.
“We also believe in the power of prayer and trust in God's providential care for us all,” Cardinal Maida assured. “We pray the Lord will bless our nation and our region as we begin this new chapter in our history. We are confident that working and praying together, we can find a way forward that will assure a bright and hopeful future for the citizens of this great state and our nation – indeed our world – for generations to come.”
On Sunday, one of Detroit’s largest Protestant churches, Greater Grace Temple, offered prayers for a Congressional bailout of the auto industry as auto workers sat in the pews and three sport-utility vehicles rested at the altar.
Local dealerships donated the three hybrid SUVs representing Ford, GM, and Chrysler.
"We have never seen as midnight an hour as we face this week," the Rev. Charles Ellis told several thousand congregants at the service at Detroit's Greater Grace Temple. "This week, lives are hanging above an abyss of uncertainty as both houses of Congress decide whether to extend a helping hand," Ellis said according to Reuters.
Rev. Ellis said he and other ministers would pray and fast until Congress voted on a bailout, urging his congregation to do the same.
The Archdiocese of Detroit has published Cardinal Maida’s full statement and a list of places to obtain assistance at its web site, http://www.aodonline.org
Madrid, Spain, Dec 8, 2008 (CNA) - Spanish author Olga Bejano died on December 5 in Spain after a 20 year-long battle with a neuro-muscular disease that left her mute, blind and practically immobile. Using one of her knees she was able to communicate with the world, including authoring several books and working for the defense of life until its natural end.
According to El Semanal Digital, Bejano’s health worsened last week when she was stricken with pneumonia and a high fever, “which irreversibly led to the cardio-respiratory failure that ended her life on Friday morning.”
In 1987 the Spanish writer contracted a neuro-muscular disease that left her practically paralyzed and dependent on an artificial respirator and feeding tube.
“She found a way to communicate with the world by making apparently incompressible markings by moving her knee, which her nurses learned to slowly translate into writing. Thanks to this system, Ogla was able to successfully publish three books: ‘Voz de papel,’ ‘Alma de color salmon’ and ‘Los garabatos de Dios’ (The Voice of paper,' Salmon-colored Soul and The Scribbles of God), some of which have been translated and published in other countries, making her known internationally.” Her third work is a lucid reflection on the greatness and limits of the human being, and especially on the capacity of people to overcome trials. She had been working on her fourth book, “Alas Rotas,” (Broken Wings) the report indicated.
Vatican City, Dec 8, 2008 (CNA) - In celebration of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, Pope Benedict XVI presided over the angelus prayer today at noon. The Pontiff said that this feast is a chance to "contemplate the reflection of the Beauty who saves the world: the beauty of God that shines on the face of Christ."
Thousands of pilgrims poured into St. Peter's Square today to pray the angelus with the Holy Father and hear his teaching on the Virgin Mary. Pope Benedict described her, saying, "this beauty is totally pure, humble, free from arrogance and presumption." This is how the Virgin appeared to St. Bernadette in Lourdes, where she told the saint, "I am the Immaculate Conception," he reminded the faithful.
The Pope explained that the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary recalls two truths of the faith: the existence of original sin, and especially the victory of Christ over evil, a victory that shines so sublimely in the form of the Virgin Mary.
"The existence of what the Church calls ‘original sin’ is unfortunately overwhelmingly evident, if only we look around us and within ourselves. The experience of evil is so consistent that it arouses in us the question: where did it come from?" This question becomes an "even more profound one" for the believer, the Pope noted. "If God, who is absolute Kindness, has created everything, where does evil come from?" he asked.
Benedict XVI explained that the answer is clear from the first pages of the Bible, which tell the story of creation and the fall of the first parents.
"God created all that exists, in particular he has created human beings in his own image, he did not cause death, but it entered the world through the envy of the devil (Wisdom 1:13-14; 2,23-24), who rebelled against God, and also deceived men, causing them to rebel."
"It's the drama of the freedom that God picks us up out of love, pledging instead to be a son of a woman who crushed the head of the ancient serpent," he said, adding that "the woman predestined to be Mother of the Redeemer, the mother of the One who has been humiliated to bring us back to our original dignity."
"This Woman, in the eyes of God, has always had a face and a name: "full of grace," as she was called by the Angel visitors to Nazareth. She is the new Eve, the wife of Adam, made to be the mother of all redeemed," Pope Benedict said. He also quoted from Saint Andrew of Crete who said: "Mary Theotokos, the common refuge of all Christians, was the first to be released by early fall of our forefathers."
The Holy Father also pointed to today's liturgy, which says that God has "prepared a worthy dwelling for his son and, in anticipation of the death of him, has preserved from every stain of sin."
In keeping with tradition, Pope Benedict XVI will visit the Spanish Steps in Rome this afternoon, where he will pay homage to the image of the Immaculate Conception.
Panama City, Panama, Dec 8, 2008 (CNA) - Panama’s House of Representatives has decided to suspend discussion on a controversial law on sexual and reproductive education which was under fire for being anti-life and anti-family.
The Panamanian Alliance for Life and the Family congratulated the lawmakers for suspending discussion of the law over its promotion of gender ideology. The proposed law was under fire for advocating the use of contraceptives by minors, homosexual marriage, the violation of parents’ right to educate their children according to their moral convictions, as well as for going against the country’s constitution.
“We are happy because the congressmen voted their consciences and they said it upfront, they were brave in confronting all of the pressures from international organizations” and all of the “internal pressure” as well, said Gloria Grifo de Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the Alliance.
“What a beautiful testimony was given in the Congress. Only one congressman came out in defense of the ill-fated proposed law,” Rodriguez said.
She added that pro-abortion and pro-homosexual activists who were present during the vote were taken aback by the lawmakers’ decision, and they shouted out at the lawmakers calling them “demagogues, killers and liars.”
Helena, Mont., Dec 8, 2008 (CNA) - Last Friday Montana became the third state to legalize doctor-assisted suicide when a judge ruled that physicians could prescribe life-ending medication to terminally ill patients without the threat of criminal prosecution.
According to the Associated Press, Judge Dorothy McCarter declared that mentally “competent, terminally ill patients” may self-administer life ending medication and that physicians who prescribe the medications need not fear criminal prosecution.
The decision will likely be appealed by the state so Montana’s Legislature can decide whether or not terminally ill patients can take their own life.
The case of Baxter et al. v. Montana was filed in November 2007 by Robert Baxter, a 75 year-old retired truck driver from Billings, Montana who suffers from lymphocytic leukemia and has a history of prostate cancer, hypertension and gastroesophageal reflux disease. Along with Baxter, the other plaintiffs listed are four physicians and a non-profit patients’ rights group called Compassion & Choices, formerly known as the Hemlock Society.
In the late Friday ruling, Judge McCarter stated that the “Montana constitutional rights of individual privacy and human dignity, taken together, encompass the right of a competent terminally (ill) patient to die with dignity.”
She went on to say that those patients had the right to hasten death through self-administered medications. Additionally, physicians can prescribe this medication without the threat of prosecution.
In a statement, the AP reports, Baxter said he was “glad to know that the court respects my choice to die with dignity if my situation becomes intolerable.”
He also explained in Compassion & Choices Magazine that a patient’s right to die has “always been a very important thing to me.”
“I've just watched people suffer so badly when they died, and it goes on every day. You can just see it in their eyes: Why am I having to go through this terrible part of my life, when we do it for animals? We put them out of their misery,” reports World Net Daily.
"I just feel if we can do it for animals, we can do it for human beings,” Baxter argued.
The state attorney general’s office contended that taking a life intentionally is illegal and that any decisions regarding the issues are the responsibility of the state Legislature.
The AP reports that Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Anders argued that Montana currently lacks an evaluation process and regulations to provide guidance for physician-assisted suicide. She also pointed out that the terms “competent” and “terminally ill” have not been defined.
The judge’s decision stated that doctors would both determine the competency of their patients and whether or not the patient is terminally ill.
An attorney who specializes in bioethics issues, Wesley J. Smith, told Life News that the decision was a broad ruling that “logically couldn’t be limited to physician assisted suicide or the terminally ill.”
Smith claimed that the judge “went further than somebody's right to commit suicide, which is an individual action. She declared that the person who wants to die has the right to help."
"The example here is of a physician writing a prescription. But her ruling went even farther than that--it shielded assisting doctors from homicide laws. It seems to me that language has to open the door to active euthanasia.”
This decision could lead the way for non-doctors assisting in suicides similar to the way the state allows nurses to perform abortions.
The Diocese of Helena was not able to immediately provide CNA with a statement regarding the decision.
Montana now joins its northwest neighbors Oregon and Washington as the only three states to allow doctor-assisted suicides.
Santiago, Chile, Dec 8, 2008 (CNA) - The new book “Formacion y Mision” (Formation and Mission) by Luis Fernando Figari, superior general of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae and founder of the Christian Life Movement, was released this week in Santiago, Chile.
The presentation of the book took place at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile located in central Santiago, before a packed auditorium.
The 200-page book was presented by four prominent Chilean intellectuals in a ceremony lasting almost two hours. The book will soon be translated into English.
The presenters were writer and journalist Magdalena Ossandon, philosopher Fernando Moreno, member of the Chilean Academy of Political, Social and Moral Sciences; Father Fernando Retamal, canonist and professor at the Pontifical University; and philosopher Jaime Antunez, director of the magazine “Humanitas.”
The ceremony ended with remarks by Figari, who explained that due to the weakening of man’s identity as a creature of God and the crushing process of dehumanization, the formation of the laity is essential for reaffirming their Catholic identity and becoming more converted to the Lord. When this happens he can experience the fervor of the Apostle Paul and exclaim, “Woe to me if I do not spread the Gospel!”
Hanoi, Vietnam, Dec 8, 2008 (CNA) - This morning in Vietnam eight Catholics charged with destroying property and disturbing the public order were found guilty but received suspended prison sentences. The news was greeted by cheers and flowers for the defendants from the hundreds of supporters gathered outside the courthouse.
The court case was the result of a police crackdown on protests by Catholics who claim that the Communist government illegally seized their land when it took over in 1954. Over the past year and a half, Catholics have held mostly peaceful protests asking for the return of a former papal nunciature and about 14 acres of land at Thai Ha parish.
Seven of the eight Catholics, who range in age from 21 to 63, were charged with damaging public property during the protests, while Marie Nguyen Thi Nhi was charged with causing a social disturbance for playing a gong and praying at Thai Ha. According to Fr. An Dang, the property that was allegedly damaged by the Catholics amounts to around $200.
At 5:00 a.m. on Monday morning, thousands of Catholics gathered in Hanoi to celebrate Mass and show support for those on trial. Following the Mass, over two thousand parishioners processed behind the defendants saying the Rosary as they made their way to the office of People’s Committee of O Cho Dua precinct where the trial was held.
Along the one and half mile route Catholics encouraged their fellow believers with palm leaves, which have a twofold meaning. On Palm Sunday, the fronds are used to celebrate the Triumphal Entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem, but they are also used to accompany martyrs as they head to their executions or for persecuted Christians who are about to be tried for their faith. The gesture is meant to express the Christian belief that those who are persecuted for faith will enter gloriously into the Heavenly Jerusalem.
The protestors reached the court house at 7 o’clock where they were met with hundreds of police, armed with stun guns and trained dogs. According to Fr. An Dang, the police were attempting to block access to the courthouse and limit the number of people who could have access to the area surrounding the courthouse. Other security measures included a large metal detector and bomb-sniffing dogs.
Around 700 Catholic supporters were able to find their way around the police cordon and organize a sit-in protest in front of foreign journalists and representatives of various Western embassies.
The case has been overshadowed by Catholic claims of fabrication and manipulation by the Vietnamese government. One such instance was the court’s setting of December 5 as original date for the trial. Catholics complained that this was an attempt by the government to prevent protests and popular support for the eight accused Catholics since the Church was installing a new auxiliary bishop for Hanoi 50 miles away from the trial. The government then reset the trial date for December 8.
The trial concluded this morning with seven of the Catholics receiving suspended jail terms of 12 to 15 months, minus time already spent in custody, and administrative probation of up to two years. The sentence handed down also included a warning for one defendant.
La Paz, Bolivia, Dec 8, 2008 (CNA) - The Bolivian media is reporting that after the vote on the country’s new Constitution on January 25, the government of Evo Morales will consider a plan to tax the Church for the Masses that are offered at the request of the faithful.
Jorge Silva, a spokesman for Socialist lawmakers, said, “The money-making part of the faith must be separated from the social work that the Church carries out.” “We don’t know what the social work is that the Church carries out because everything costs money. Priests don’t do anything for free,” he added.
Silva went on to say that in the current Constitution, the Church enjoys privileges and that with the new one, “The Catholic Church will cease to be the official religion of the State and, as a consequence, will lose privileges, and as a provider of services, it will have to pay taxes for example.”
The communications director of the Bishops’ Conference of Bolivia, Jose Rivera, responded by saying the Church does not enjoy special privileges and that two years ago the bishops laid out their position about article three of the Constitution which supposedly establishes them.
He noted that the bishops “called for a revision of that article precisely to avoid these kinds of misunderstandings.” He also added that the Church carries out social work in areas unreachable by the State.
“The Church in Bolivia pays taxes,” Silva said. “Sometimes it’s easy to think that it’s enough for a specific work to bear the name Catholic or belong to the Catholic Church for it to mean it does not pay taxes, but this is not the case. Schools, universities, the works of the Church pay taxes. Consequently, objective and truthful information needs to be shared in order to prevent unnecessary controversies as much as possible,” he said.
Edinburgh, United Kingdom, Dec 8, 2008 (CNA) - Following the implementation of a U.K. law requiring adoption agencies to serve homosexual couples, Cardinal Keith O’Brien has resigned as head of the St. Andrew’s Children’s Society.
The Sexual Orientation Regulations under the Equality Act enacted by the U.K. parliament are forcing the change. They outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the provision of goods and services.
“Following careful consideration, Cardinal Keith O'Brien has decided to resign his position as President of the St. Andrews Children's Society Ltd,” the Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh said in a statement to CNA.
Cardinal O’Brien, Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, explained in a statement that the society was founded by the Catholic Church in the archdiocese about 85 years ago, but became independent 16 years ago.
“It has not received any funding from the Catholic Church or used any church buildings or facilities since then,” he stated.
"The interests of children must always be paramount and I would hope that the staff of St. Andrews Children's Society Ltd. will continue to work to ensure this in the years that lie ahead."The archdiocese informed CNA that a monsignor who is a board member of the Children’s Society will also step down from the board.