Archive of December 11, 2008

N.J commission criticized as ‘advocacy group’ for same-sex marriage

Camden, N.J., Dec 11, 2008 (CNA) - The New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission has concluded that New Jersey state legislators should allow same-sex “marriage,” citing several complaints charging that civil unions have not been properly implemented. However, an official with the New Jersey Catholic Conference charges that the commission is biased and headed by advocates who intended to lobby for same-sex marriage.

If the commission’s recommendations are followed, New Jersey would be the first state to institute homosexual marriage through passing a law rather than through obeying a court decision.

The commission argued that the state’s two-year-old civil union law does not do enough to give homosexual couples the same protections as heterosexual married couples. The law “invites and encourages unequal treatment of same-sex couples and their children,” the commission said, according to the AP.

It cited incidents where people in civil unions allegedly were prevented from visiting their partners in hospitals and making medical decisions on their behalf.

New Jersey Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts Jr., a Democrat, said the report should “spark a renewed sense of purpose and urgency to overcoming one of society's last remaining barriers to full equality for all residents.”

A spokesman for Gov. Jon S. Corzine said the governor would not comment on the report until it was presented. However, the governor in the past has said he would sign a bill allowing gay marriage.

Reportedly, of the 150 people who testified or wrote letters to the commission, only 10 opposed same-sex marriage.

The commission report also claimed that same-sex weddings would bring nearly $250 million to the state’s economy over three years.

Critics of the report charged the committee was biased.

Speaking with CNA on Wednesday, Brannigan reported that the commission’s chairman Frank Vespa-Papaleo is a “very noted gay person” and a “gay advocate.”

Steven Goldstein, the commission’s vice-chairman, is also chairman of the homosexual rights group Garden State Equality.

“We’re not surprised at the recommendation,” Brannigan told CNA. “This was not a commission set up to conduct a thorough study on whether or not the Civil Unions Act was implemented.

It was a group set to use everything and anything they could to lobby for same-sex marriage.”

“It is a conflict of interest for two advocates to be the leaders of a commission that is supposed to determine whether or not the act is working,” he argued.

“We look on it as a marketing report, done by good and decent people who are well-intentioned, but just because they’re well-intentioned, that doesn’t mean we should change long-standing social institutions.”

Brannigan noted that when he testified, the commission had received only eight complaints about the implementation of the civil union act.

“Of those eight, two were either from the same person or from two people with the same name.

And two were complaints about the same incident,” a Methodist camp which refused access to a lesbian couple.

Brannigan also told CNA that he had spent seven years as Deputy Director of the Division of Citizen Complaints in the Department of the Public Advocate. That department would receive “tens of thousands of complaints” each year and would consider it a very good sign “if we only ever got eight complaints about an agency.”

Reporting that Goldstein, the Civil Union Review Commission vice-chairman, claims to have received 1,500 complaints, Brannigan said that if that is true “he hasn’t made those complaints public.”

Brannigan added that in his experience many complaints tend to be irrelevant, misdirected, or not even complaints at all.

“Our experience showed that of the 20-30,000 complaints I received in a given year, the vast majority of them were from people who were confused or needed information, and so it wasn’t really a complaint about an agency.

“They wouldn’t all be complaints but different inquiries.”

Describing some of the complaints the commission received, Brannigan noted that some complained about matters of federal law.

“If New Jersey implemented same-sex marriage it would not affect those individuals.”

He noted that a civil union under New Jersey law “gives people every single benefit that heterosexuals obtain when they enter marriage.”

Brannigan then described Catholic teaching on marriage.

“Marriage can only be between a man and a woman. Biology supports us, because the bodies of man and woman are complementary.

For unions not for complementary sexes, “it’s a different institution, and it’s called the civil union. But it’s not marriage. It’s almost like calling an ocean a mountain. A tree cannot be a stone.”

“Marriage must be something between a man and a woman.

“That doesn’t mean that everyone isn’t made in the image and likeness of God, and so we have to treat people of the gay persuasion with all the courtesy and love we do to anybody. It’s not a matter of discrimination. It’s not bigotry, it’s biology.”

“We are not anti-gay, we are pro-marriage,” he continued, noting that the New Jersey Catholic Conference supported an implementation of the civil union act after it became law in New Jersey, which Brannigan characterized as an anti-discrimination law.

“I suggested to the commission that they should spend more of their energies on enforcing the civil unions act if there are more problems with it. There is no area of civil governance where the first step in a program, if there are problems, is to abolish the program.

“With only eight complaints, that is certainly not an issue.”

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Wealthy couple who ‘lived their faith’ leaves $30 million to Catholic institutions

, Dec 11, 2008 (CNA) - A wealthy couple who spent their lives in service to the Catholic community has left $30 million to Catholic institutions in Broome County, New York.

Robert and Catherine “Kay” McDevitt, who had no children, owned a funeral home in Binghamton, New York but made most of their wealth through IBM stocks.

The beneficiaries of their bequest include Seton Catholic Central High School, St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Binghamton, St. Patrick's Church in Binghamton and St. James Church in Johnson City.

A home for retired priests will also receive support from their gift, as will seminarians.

Kathleen Dwyer, principal of Seton Catholic, described the McDevitts to News Channel 10, saying "They certainly were not people who were showy, or I guess the common word would be flaunted, that kind of affluence. Which I think endeared them to people.”

Father John Donovan, Pastor of St. James Church, also expressed gratitude for the donation.

A statement from the Diocese of Syracuse called the McDevitts “quiet, yet prominent leaders” in their community and their Church. Robert served on boards of directors for organizations such as Broome County Catholic Charities and Lourdes Hospital Foundation, Inc.

Robert was installed with the Papal Honor as Knight of the Order of St. Gregory the Great. Both he and his wife Kay were installed with the Papal Honors as a Knight and Lady of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem.

“Bob and Kay were deeply committed to their Catholic faith, each and every day,” said Bishop of Syracuse James M. Moynihan. “They lived simply and never wavered from their personal devotion to God. Through their generosity, the Diocese of Syracuse will share their lifelong dedication to the Faith.”

“They loved their Church, they lived their faith and have now left a lasting legacy to remember and emulate,” continued Bishop Moynihan. “The Diocese of Syracuse is forever grateful for their stewardship.”

Under the donors’ conditions, only the income from their gift will be used.

Robert McDevitt died last September while Catherine McDevitt died in April.

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Population Research Institute claims new UNFPA video series refutes its critics

Front Royal, Va., Dec 11, 2008 (CNA) - Following the Huffington Post’s recent attack on the Population Research Institute (PRI) for opposing policies of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), PRI challenged its critics to examine its evidence linking the organization with coercive population control programs in China.

Cristina Page, writing in a December 2 essay at the Huffington Post, claimed that the PRI was coordinating the “heckling of humanitarian relief efforts” conducted by the UNFPA. Page claimed that “UNFPA was working with the Chinese government to prove that voluntary family planning would lead to better outcomes for Chinese citizens as well as the Chinese government.”

She claimed that the UNFPA was actually persuading the Chinese government to relax its “coercive and brutal one-child policy.”

“Bush, eager to lock lips with his fanatical base, ignored the advice of his own state department, as well as many allied nations, and opted to go with the swirly eyed lunacy of the six staffers of PRI,” Page charged. “At their request, Bush quickly froze all U.S. funds to UNFPA, which represented 12 percent of its budget.”

In a statement from PRI, Steven Mosher and Colin Mason noted that the Huffington Post attack should draw attention to PRI’s new video series about its investigation into UNFPA activities.

PRI argued that Page had good timing but “got virtually everything else wrong.”

“PRI brought back hard evidence of coercion in China--videotapes, cassette tapes, written and spoken testimony from dozens of witnesses the details, all of which is easily accessed on our web site.

“Not only does The Huffington Post not address this evidence, Cristina Page does not even seem to be aware of its existence,” the PRI statement said.

PRI also responded to the claim that President Bush wanted to "lock lips with his fanatical base” by insisting that it was then-Secretary of State Colin Powell who decided to send his own investigative team into China after reviewing PRI evidence.

“When they reaffirmed our findings, only then did he--not Bush--decide to discontinue funding the UNFPA. Colin Powell, who is both pro-abortion and pro-population control, has never shown the slightest inclination to want to lock lips with Bush's supposedly ‘fanatical base’."

The Huffington Post has no real arguments to make, and so it resorts to sandlot slurs,” the PRI statement concluded, adding that Page had not tried to contact PRI for her story.

PRI’s web site is located at

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Fight material and spiritual poverty to build peace, Pope Benedict says

Vatican City, Dec 11, 2008 (CNA) - On Thursday morning at the Holy See’s press office, Cardinal Renato Martino presented Pope Benedict XVI’s message for the 42nd World Day of Peace, which speaks to the need of bringing about peace through fighting both material and spiritual poverty.

The World Day of Peace will be celebrated on January 1, 2009 and has "Fighting Poverty to Build Peace" as its theme.

Cardinal Martino, who heads the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace described Pope Benedict’s message as returning to and developing John Paul II’s message for the World Day of Peace in 1993.

While John Paul II explained the reciprocal connections and conditions existing between poverty and peace, Benedict XVI "shows us how peace and the fight against poverty intersect” in an increasingly globalized world.

The Pope’s new message, the cardinal stressed, takes into consideration “the role of the social sciences to measure the phenomenon of poverty ... which provide quantitative data and, if poverty were merely a material problem, they would suffice to explain its characteristics. However, we know that that is not the case: there are non-material forms of poverty that are not the direct and automatic consequence of material deprivation."

"In advanced wealthy societies, the phenomenon of affective, moral and spiritual poverty is widespread: many persons feel marginalized and live with various forms of malaise despite their economic prosperity. This is what is known as 'moral underdevelopment'."

Summarizing the Pope's message, Cardinal Martino said that it "establishes two parts in the theme of the fight against poverty ... it ties in with the diverse aspects promoting peace. The first deals with the moral implications tied to poverty; in the second, the fight against poverty is tied to the need the need for a greater global solidarity."

The complete message can be read at:

 Excerpts of the message can be read below:

"Poverty is often a contributory factor or a compounding element in conflicts, including armed ones. In turn, these conflicts fuel further tragic situations of poverty."

"Fighting poverty requires attentive consideration of the complex phenomenon of globalization. ... The reference to globalization should also alert us to the spiritual and moral implications of the question, urging us, in our dealings with the poor, to set out from the clear recognition that we all share in a single divine plan: we are called to form one family in which all - individuals, peoples and nations - model their behavior according to the principles of fraternity and responsibility."

"We know that other, non-material forms of poverty exist which are not the direct and automatic consequence of material deprivation. For example, in advanced wealthy societies, there is evidence of marginalization, as well as affective, moral and spiritual poverty, seen in people whose interior lives are disoriented and who experience various forms of malaise despite their economic prosperity. On the one hand, I have in mind what is known as 'moral underdevelopment', and on the other hand the negative consequences of 'superdevelopment'. Nor can I forget that, in so-called 'poor' societies, economic growth is often hampered by cultural impediments which lead to inefficient use of available resources."

"Poverty is often considered a consequence of demographic change. ... The extermination of millions of unborn children, in the name of the fight against poverty, actually constitutes the destruction of the poorest of all human beings. And yet it remains the case that in 1981, around 40% of the world's population was below the threshold of absolute poverty, while today that percentage has been reduced by as much as a half, and whole peoples have escaped from poverty despite experiencing substantial demographic growth. This goes to show that resources to solve the problem of poverty do exist, even in the face of an increasing population."

"Another area of concern has to do with pandemic diseases, such as malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS. Insofar as they affect the wealth-producing sectors of the population, they are a significant factor in the overall deterioration of conditions in the country concerned. .... . It also happens that countries afflicted by some of these pandemics find themselves held hostage, when they try to address them, by those who make economic aid conditional upon the implementation of anti-life policies."

"It is especially hard to combat AIDS, a major cause of poverty, unless the moral issues connected with the spread of the virus are also addressed. First and foremost, educational campaigns are needed, aimed especially at the young, to promote a sexual ethic that fully corresponds to the dignity of the person; initiatives of this kind have already borne important fruits, causing a reduction in the spread of AIDS. Then, too, the necessary medicines and treatment must be made available to poorer peoples as well.

"Almost half of those living in absolute poverty today are children. ... When the family is weakened, it is inevitably children who suffer. If the dignity of women and mothers is not protected, it is the children who are affected most."

"The relationship between disarmament and development. The current level of world military expenditure gives cause for concern. ... an excessive increase in military expenditure risks accelerating the arms race, producing pockets of underdevelopment and desperation, so that it can paradoxically become a cause of instability, tension and conflict."

"States are therefore invited to reflect seriously on the underlying reasons for conflicts, often provoked by injustice, and to practice courageous self- criticism. If relations can be improved, it should be possible to reduce expenditure on arms."

"In order to govern globalization, however, there needs to be a strong sense of global solidarity between rich and poor countries, as well as within individual countries, including affluent ones. A 'common code of ethics' is also needed, consisting of norms based not upon mere consensus, but rooted in the natural law inscribed by the Creator on the conscience of every human being."

"Objectively, the most important function of finance is to sustain the possibility of long-term investment and hence of development.

 The recent crisis demonstrates how financial activity can at times be completely turned in on itself, lacking any long-term consideration of the common good. ... Finance limited in this way to the short and very short term becomes dangerous for everyone, even for those who benefit when the markets perform well."

"The fight against poverty requires cooperation both on the economic level and on the legal level, so as to allow the international community, and especially poorer countries, to identify and implement coordinated strategies to deal with the problems discussed above, thereby providing an effective legal framework for the economy. Incentives are needed for establishing efficient participatory institutions, and support is needed in fighting crime and fostering a culture of legality. On the other hand, it cannot be denied that policies which place too much emphasis on assistance underlie many of the failures in providing aid to poor countries. Investing in the formation of people and developing a specific and well-integrated culture of enterprise would seem at present to be the right approach in the medium and long term. ... In a modern economy, the value of assets is utterly dependent on the capacity to generate revenue in the present and the future. Wealth creation therefore becomes an inescapable duty, which must be kept in mind if the fight against material poverty is to be effective in the long term."

"If the poor are to be given priority, then there has to be enough room for an ethical approach to economics on the part of those active in the international market, an ethical approach to politics on the part of those in public office, and an ethical approach to participation capable of harnessing the contributions of civil society at local and international levels. ... Civil society in particular plays a key part in every process of development, since development is essentially a cultural phenomenon, and culture is born and develops in the civil sphere."

"Globalization ... needs to be managed with great prudence. This will include giving priority to the needs of the world's poor, and overcoming the scandal of the imbalance between the problems of poverty and the measures which have been adopted in order to address them. ... The problems of development, aid and international cooperation are sometimes addressed without any real attention to the human element, but as merely technical questions - limited, that is, to establishing structures, setting up trade agreements, and allocating funding impersonally."

"In the Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, John Paul II warned of the need to 'abandon a mentality in which the poor - as individuals and as peoples - are considered a burden, as irksome intruders trying to consume what others have produced'. ... In today's globalized world, it is increasingly evident that peace can be built only if everyone is assured the possibility of reasonable growth: sooner or later, the distortions produced by unjust systems have to be paid for by everyone. ... Globalization on its own is incapable of building peace ... it points to a need: to be oriented towards a goal of profound solidarity that seeks the good of each and all. In this sense, globalization should be seen as a good opportunity to achieve something important in the fight against poverty, and to place at the disposal of justice and peace resources which were scarcely conceivable previously."

"The Church's social teaching has always been concerned with the poor. At the time of the Encyclical Letter 'Rerum Novarum', the poor were identified mainly as the workers in the new industrial society; in the social Magisterium of Pius XI, Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI and John Paul II, new forms of poverty were gradually explored, as the scope of the social question widened to reach global proportions. ... For this reason, while attentively following the current phenomena of globalization and their impact on human poverty, the Church points out the new aspects of the social question, not only in their breadth but also in their depth, insofar as they concern man's identity and his relationship with God."

"'In regard to the Church, her cooperation will never be wanting, be the time or the occasion what it may'. ... The Christian community will never fail, then, to assure the entire human family of her support through gestures of creative solidarity, not only by 'giving from one's surplus', but above all by 'a change of life-styles, of models of production and consumption, and of the established structures of power which today govern societies'." 

The complete message can be read at:

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‘God is the foundation for human rights,’ instructs Holy Father

Vatican City, Dec 11, 2008 (CNA) - Following a concert on Wednesday at the Vatican, the Holy Father addressed the crowd about human rights. These rights, he said, are based in God, “who has given intelligence and freedom to all.”  If these rights are disconnected from God, the Pope cautioned, they “weaken and lose their concrete foundation.”


The concert, which was organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, commemorated the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The night included musical arrangements presented by the Brandenburgisches Staatsorchester of Frankfurt, which was directed by the Spaniard Inman Shara.


After the music concluded, the Holy Father took the occasion to speak to the audience.  In his speech, he affirmed that in order to achieve the true dignity of all persons, their fundamental rights must be “recognized, defended, and promoted."


The church has always emphasized human rights, he continued, because “they are a universal given, since they form part of the very nature of humanity.”  It is the natural law, which is “inscribed by the Creator in human consciousness,” that “is the common denominator of all persons and all people; it is a universal guide that all can understand and in virtue of which all can understand themselves."


These rights are “ultimately based on God the Creator who has given intelligence and freedom to all,” Benedict XVI explained.  If human rights are disconnected from God, they “weaken and lose their concrete foundation."


The Pope then called on everyone to use the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Declaration as “an opportunity to verify to what point the ideals, accepted by the majority of the community of nations in 1948, are respected today in the different national legislatures and, further, in the consciousness of individuals and communities."


"They have undoubtedly come a long way but there still remains much to do: the rights to life, liberty and safety for hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters remain threatened; the equality of all and the dignity of each are not always respected while new barriers tied to race, religion, political opinions, and other convictions are being raised."


“The common task to better promote and define human rights cannot cease,” concluded the Holy Father, but rather our efforts must “intensify.”

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Cardinal Canizares says answering the Church’s call to serve brings joy

Madrid, Spain, Dec 11, 2008 (CNA) - In an emotional message to the faithful of Toledo, Spain, Cardinal Antonio Canizares, the new prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, expressed his thanks for the support and affection he has received as Archbishop and he reminded them, “When we serve Mother Church and carry out what she asks of us, it can only bring us joy and happiness.”


“I seek nothing else in life but to do the will of God,” the cardinal said.  “May He never allow me to stray from it.  I have accepted this mission entrusted to me with complete obedience, fidelity, communion and the joy of doing what is asked of me,” he told the faithful.


“These feelings do not eliminate but rather increase my sorrow at leaving you. For me it is a kenosis, an expropriation, a denying of myself, which in reality is where joy truly is found. I ask you all to pray to God for me,” the cardinal said.


In his message Cardinal Canizares mentioned a special detail about his appointment, noting that it was made public on December 9, the feast of St. Leocadia, the patron saint of Toledo and of the archdiocese’s young people.


In St. Leocadia, he said, “the grace of the Lord shined forth, because she encountered Christ and his love and she lives in Him and for Him, such that nothing or nobody can separate her from his love. She wanted to know nothing else than the love of Christ, and she lived off of the charity and love that comes from Him in order to make Him known through a life of charity, to the point of making her entire person a testimony of this Gospel of the Love of God, that is to the supreme point of martyrdom.”


“For this reason the Church sends me now, together with Peter, to make Christ known and to be a witness of his mercy, which has been made manifest so strongly in my life; to help the Holy Father in his fundamental mission of sanctifying the people of God; to collaborate with him, inseparably united to him and in unbreakable communion with him, so that the whole of humanity might offer to God true worship in spirit and in truth, in true adoration, where the glory and the greatness of the future of humanity lie,” the cardinal stated.


Cardinal Canizares said he would begin his ministry at the Vatican on Thursday, December 11.

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Vatican authority comments on euthanasia law in Luxembourg

Rome, Italy, Dec 11, 2008 (CNA) - The president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, said this week, “Life is not something negotiable,” and no politician or political party can attack its inviolability and sacredness.


In a recent editorial published by the Italian bishops’ daily newspaper “Avvenire,” Archbishop Fisichella commented on the recent law allowing euthanasia in Luxemburg, which was opposed by the Grand Duke Henry I.  He noted that a person who “gives in to the desire for death opens the doors to expediency and undermines the foundation of social and civil life.”


The archbishop also said that every Catholic lawmaker “must in conscience oppose a law that upholds the legitimacy of euthanasia.  The freedom of the lawmaker affects the common good when his political choice is based on a relativistic concept that confuses as licit all positions in the name of individual freedom.”


After explaining that no parliamentarian institution can hide behind fallacies when it is called to legislate on the beginning and the end of life, the archbishop explained that all life must be defended and that often cited “principle of self-determination” can only be “an act by which one chooses life and never death.  Otherwise we would be making an arbitrary choice that has nothing to do with freedom.”

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U.N. receives 5.4 million signatures in favor of the unborn and the family

Brussels, Belgium, Dec 11, 2008 (CNA) - Wednesday, December 10 marked the 60th anniversary of the U.N.’s Declaration on Human Rights.  To make evident the number of people around the world who support interpreting the declaration as protecting the lives of the unborn and the family, a coalition of European groups presented 5.4 million signatures at the U.N.

The coalition of groups interested in defending the unborn and the family launched their initiative which they dubbed “Familiokratos” on December 10, 2007 after a meeting in Strasbourg.

Spearheaded by Carlo Casini and Anna Záborská, Directors of European Forum of the Rights of Man and the Family (FEFA), the leaders met October 25-26, 2008 in Bratislava to count the signatures. They found that they had 5.4 million signatures from the efforts of the 60 European organizations they had enlisted to help.

Yesterday, the names were presented along with a petition to the U.N. ambassador from Gabon, the ambassador from the Holy See and other ambassadors in order to be distributed among the U.N. delegates.

Anna Záborská commented on the need for the petition, saying, "The family is where we learn that the authentic role of the state is to serve its people; and not to reinvent humanity along the lines of some artificial ideology: the first and last sign of the approach of totalitarianism is the collapse of the family. Finally, we promote the family because it is the primary repository of love in our society."

The petition calls upon the interpret the Declaration on Human Rights as securing the right to life to all members of the human family, including the unborn child. It also calls on governments to protect the family "as the fundamental group unit of society," give special assistance to mothers and children and to promote the rights of parents.

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Bolivian bishops reject attacks on Pope and Cardinal Terrazas by government

La Paz, Bolivia, Dec 11, 2008 (CNA) - The bishops of Bolivia have rejected the “irreverent statements” made by representatives of the Evo Morales government against Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Julio Terrazas Sandoval and other Bolivian bishops.


In recent days, members of the Morales administration slammed the Church, especially the Pope and Cardinal Terrazas, who recently spoke out against the dangerous growth of drug trafficking in the country.


In addition, the prefect of Cochabamba, Rafael Puente, said the Pope “doesn’t have much authority to speak about Bolivia” because “he is so out of touch with reality.”


In response, the bishops issued a press release saying the statements “border on the insulting, and they are ignorant of the acceptance and appreciation that (the Pope) enjoys in world public opinion, because of his humanity and his teaching, which make him one of the great minds of this century.”


“The Pope has been following the journey of our nation with fatherly care, as the different messages he has delivered during difficult moments of our country show,” the statement from the bishops said.


After reaffirming their communion with the Holy Father, the bishops expressed their “solidarity with and loyalty to Cardinal Julio Terrazas” “for his spotless, selfless and prophetic service to the people of God,” especially “to the poor and those most in need.”


They also stressed that when the Church speaks about current issues, “she does not do so out of a desire for power or for political purposes.”  The Church speaks “in order to serve and to guide believers on the basis of the Gospel, fulfilling the duty the Lord has entrusted to them to guide and enlighten the people of God.”

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Human rights stem from natural law written on heart of man, says Cardinal Bertone

Rome, Italy, Dec 11, 2008 (CNA) - Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, said this week human rights “cannot be considered as containers that according to particular historical, cultural and political moments, are filled with different meanings and elements.”  Their common roots, he said, are found in natural law which, as Pope Benedict XVI said in his speech at the U.N., “is written on the heart of man.”


According to the SIR news agency, during his speech at a congress on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Rome, Cardinal Bertone warned that amidst the troubling global situation “fundamental rights seem to depend on uncontrolled anonymous mechanisms and on a vision that unfolds in the pragmatism of the moment.”


The cardinal also explained that defending “fundamental rights” such as life, the family, education and religious freedom, “means not confusing them with simple and often limited contingent needs.  Moreover once they are recognized and enshrined into eventual conventions, human rights always need to be defended.”


Cardinal Bertone went on to note that it is difficult to protect human rights effectively and universally without cognizance of “that natural law that nourishes human rights themselves and is the antithesis of the degradation that has led our society” to debate “the ethics of life and procreation, marriage and family life, education and the formation of young generations.”


He stressed that the Church has always seen the 1948 Declaration as a positive step and a starting point to keep society from falling into a denial of the primacy of the human being.

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University of Mary elects young high school religion teacher as president

, Dec 11, 2008 (CNA) - The University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota, has elected as its new president a priest who is a high school religion teacher and chaplain. It is believed the 33-year-old Father James Patrick Shea will become the youngest university president in the United States.

Martin White, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and Sister Nancy Miller, Board President and Prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Monastery, introduced Father Shea as the new president in a December 5 press conference.

"I'm deeply honored and humbled to have been chosen to serve as the sixth president of the University of Mary," said Father Shea, according to a press release. "It's a surprising choice to many, I know, including me. But I am grateful to the Board of Trustees and the Sisters for their confidence in me, and I look forward to the challenges and opportunities that lie in store."

Father Shea will succeed Sister Thomas Welder as university president on July 1, 2009.

At present Father Shea is pastor of the Church of St. Joseph in Killdeer, North Dakota, and the Church of St. Paul in Halliday. He is also senior religion teacher and chaplain at Trinity High School in Dickinson.

The priest, the eldest of eight siblings, grew up on a farm near Hazelton, North Dakota and entered the seminary for the Diocese of Bismarck in 1995. He studied philosophy at the Catholic University of America, where he was awarded the prestigious Basselin Scholarship.

While in Washington D.C., Shea taught religion in two inner-city elementary schools and worked with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity at the Gift of Peace AIDS Hospice.

In 1998, he went to the North American College in Rome, where he studied theology under the Jesuits at the Gregorian. Bishop of Bismarck Paul Zipfel ordained him to the priesthood on July 3, 2002.

He is reportedly a fan of literature and reading, favoring the writings of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and G.K. Chesterton. He enjoys snow skiing and water skiing and is a gourmet Italian cook.

Martin White called Father Shea “a person of extreme faith, integrity and passion” with “an aura of energy, a youthful smile and a special gift to inspire, connect and communicate with people of all ages.”

“Father Shea exudes leadership and charisma well beyond his years,” he continued.

"Father Shea has demonstrated the innovative and collaborative leadership we were seeking for this position," commented Sister Nancy Miller. "He is vibrant, energetic and possesses a spirit of hope and optimism for the future."

Father Shea was selected from 22 applicants by the university’s Presidential Search Committee.

Sister Welder, the University of Mary’s president since 1978, announced her retirement in May 2008. The fifth president of the university, she is believed to be the longest currently serving woman college president in the country and is known to be one of the longest-tenured presidents in U.S. history.

The University of Mary has about 3,000 students and will mark its fiftieth anniversary next year.

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Bishop Wenski says pro-life laws a ‘moral imperative’

Orlando, Fla., Dec 11, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Thomas Wenski of the Diocese of Orlando, Florida has written an essay reaffirming that Catholic support for legal protections for the unborn child is a “moral imperative.” His essay also warns that the proposed federal act FOCA could endanger even minor abortion restrictions.

Bishop Wenski began his essay in The Ledger by congratulating President-Elect Barack Obama, saying his election could signify a welcome “repudiation of racism.” He noted that had the nineteenth century Dred Scott Supreme Court Decision ruling, which considered if African-Americans were property and “somehow less than persons under law,” remained in effect Obama could never have been elected.

The bishop then compared Dred Scott’s denial of legal protections to the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision which imposed permissive abortion law nationwide.

“A well ordered state should protect the lives of all, especially the lives of the most vulnerable. For this reason, we can never accept Roe v. Wade as a permanent fixture of constitutional law nor can we ever stop working to restore recognition for the human rights of the unborn child. Killing the unborn child is always wrong - to make it a ‘right’ is a travesty of justice.”

Reversing Roe v. Wade, he said, is a “moral imperative” for Catholics and all those who support human life.

Bishop Wenski also lamented the proposed Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), saying it would “further enshrine the bad law” of Roe v. Wade by overturning the “modest restraints and regulations” on the abortion industry.

FOCA, which Obama has pledged to sign, could endanger parental notification laws, bans on partial-birth abortion, and assistance to infants who survive an abortion.

“Taxpayers would be forced to subsidize abortions as restrictions on federal funding of abortions would be abrogated. The freedom of conscience of health-care workers not to participate in abortions would be compromised,” Bishop Wenski claimed.

Citing Obama’s promise of unity, the bishop said passing FOCA would only provide more division.

“The common good is not served by making wrongs - like abortion - into ‘rights’,” he concluded.

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