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Archive of December 16, 2008

Galveston may close churches due to Hurricane Ike damage

Houston, Texas, Dec 16, 2008 (CNA) - Due to serious hurricane damage to Catholic churches in Galveston, Texas, Catholic leaders in the archdiocese are considering consolidating the island's parishes into one.

 

Texas Cable News reports that in the weekly Sunday bulletin, the pastor of Sacred Heart Church explained to his parishioners that after meeting with the archdiocesan officials and other priests, one parish in Galveston was “ideal.”

 

“It seems like a logical conclusion to draw, after all that’s happened on the island, and I think that as long as we all work together, we’ll be better off in the future,” parishioner Mary Beth Bassett said.

 

Parishes in the area have struggled to get back on their feet due to a great amount of Hurricane Ike damage, large costs for repairs and a decrease in donations.

 

According to Texas Cable News, no official decisions have been made, but they are considering closing two churches and consolidating the remaining four into a single parish – St. Patrick’s.

 

Another parishioner, Leslie Burgess said that the community is learning to cope.  “You know, we just have to roll with the punches. We don’t have a choice. And as long as we have our parish, as long as we have a parish, and our Catholic priests, everything will come together as it should.”

 

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Second Indiana Planned Parenthood fails to report statutory rape; Attorney General launches investigation

Indianapolis, Ind., Dec 16, 2008 (CNA) - A new undercover video from Live Action Films reveals that a second Indiana Planned Parenthood clinic refused to report the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl and instead referred her to an out-of-state clinic to evade Indiana’s parental consent abortion laws.

 

The second Indiana video is part of Live Action Film's "Mona Lisa Project," a series of investigations aimed at documenting how secret abortions keep young girls trapped in cycles of sexual abuse.

 

Similar to the first video, the new footage shows Lila Rose, a student journalist and president of Live Action, entering the Indianapolis clinic.  She tells the staff member that she is a 13-year-old girl who was impregnated by her 31-year-old boyfriend.

 

In response, the staff member states that she doesn’t want to know the age of her boyfriend before sending Rose to a counselor at the clinic.

 

The counselor’s reaction is similar: "I don't care how old he is."

 

When Rose tells the counselor that her mother would be upset about the 31-year-old boyfriend, the counselor informs Rose that "the surrounding states don't have parental consent. I can't tell you anymore."

 

The organization’s first Indiana video, which was shot at a Bloomington, Indiana Planned Parenthood, yielded similar responses from the clinic’s employees.  Neither clinic reported the statutory rape and both counseled the girl to cross state lines to avoid Indiana’s parental consent laws.

 

Although the Bloomington clinic fired its nurse who dealt with Rose, the Live Action president comments that these two Indiana clinics are not isolated incidents.  “We have more videos documenting this pattern of law-breaking within Planned Parenthood. There are actual cases all across the country where their failure to follow state statutes has allowed predators to continue their sexual abuse of young girls."

 

On Monday, Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter launched an investigation of Planned Parenthood in response to the Bloomington footage.  In 2005, the Attorney General also sought the records of 84 Planned Parenthood patients under the age of fourteen who may have been victims of sexual abuse, but Planned Parenthood sued to prevent their release.

 

In Live Action’s press release, Rose commended the Attorney General's efforts. "We applaud Mr. Carter's integrity and urge him to conduct a thorough and complete investigation, despite any political attacks Planned Parenthood may attempt against him personally or his office."

 

Rose went on to challenge Planned Parenthood to cooperate. "Planned Parenthood must release files they have previously sued to keep private and allow state authorities to conduct a complete investigation."

 

She added, "Mandatory reporting laws are necessary for the protection of young girls, and Planned Parenthood must not be allowed to sabotage them."

 

For more information on The Mona Lisa Project, please visit LiveActionFilms.org.

 

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Petition drive to support Grand Duke of Luxembourg’s anti-euthanasia stand

Paris, France, Dec 16, 2008 (CNA) - A petition drive has been launched to support Grand Duke Henri I of Luxembourg, who has imperiled his political powers by opposing a euthanasia legalization bill recently proposed in his country’s parliament.

Socialist and Green party lawmakers are backing the measure, which Henri I has said he will not approve for reasons of conscience. The overwhelmingly Catholic population of Luxembourg reportedly also opposes the proposal.

The duke’s action has triggered what some have called a "grave constitutional crisis" as the parliament moves to strip the duke of his constitutional power to sanction law.

The Paris-based Fondation de Service Politique has launched a petition drive for people to support the Duke’s resistance to the euthanasia law. It pledges to deliver petitions supporting the Grand Duke through Elizabeth Monfort, a former Minister of the European Parliament.

"With French members of the Parliament Jean-Marc Nesme, Marc Le Fur, Dominique Souchet, Véronique Besse and Bernard Depierre, let’s give our support for the Grand Duke of Luxembourg," the petition page states.

The petition is located at http://www.liberte-politique.com/soutien_au_Grand_Duc_du_Luxembourg/php/appel_en.php

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New Vatican instruction called valuable ‘reference point’ on bioethics

Washington D.C., Dec 16, 2008 (CNA) - Dignitas Personae, the new Vatican instruction on ethical issues in biotechnology was further explained by the U.S. bishops in a new “Question and Answer” document. Catholic bioethicist Father Tad Pacholczyk has also commented on the instruction, calling it a valuable “reference point” for bioethical controversies.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on Friday released Dignitas Personae, which is subtitled “On Certain Bioethical Questions.” The result of six years of study and deliberation on the most recent developments in the field of bio-technology, it discusses the implications of technologies related to procreation.

It especially examines such issues in relation to the dignity of human life and the integrity of marriage.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Question and Answer document on Dignitas Personae explains that the document’s title means “the dignity of a person.”

“All the conclusions of the document are based on the inherent dignity of each and every human person, from conception to natural death, and the need for all technology and other human activity to respect that dignity,” the bishops’ Q and A states.

The bishops note that some topics discussed in the document are new, such as human cloning and embryo adoption.

The Question and Answer document especially reiterates Church teaching against in-vitro fertilization (IVF), stating:

“The child conceived in human procreation is a human person, equal in dignity with the parents. Therefore he or she deserves to be brought into being through an act of total and committed marital love between husband and wife.”

Replacing such an act with a procedure by a laboratory technician does not respect this “special dignity” of the human person, nor does using gametes from people outside the marriage, using another woman to bear a surrogate pregnancy, treating the child as an object of “quality control,” or otherwise mistreating the human being in embryo.

Addressing these issues is important, the bishops write, because technological power “carries with it great responsibility that we must never misuse technology to demean human dignity, but always to serve the value and dignity of every person without exception.”

The bishops also explain that, though the document does not declare an infallibly defined dogma, its moral judgments are part of the “universal ordinary Magisterium.” Catholics are to inform their consciences with its teachings and adhere to them with “religious assent.”

Father Tad Pacholczyk, Ph.D., neuroscientist and staff ethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, spoke about the Vatican instruction in a Monday phone interview with CNA.

Calling the instruction a “valuable document,” Father Pacholczyk said it accomplishes two things.

First, the instruction provides a restatement of many of the “basic principles” first outlined in the 1987 instruction Donum Vitae, helping to navigate the “sometimes complicated waters” of modern biotechnology.

Second, it provides help in addressing new issues that have developed since 1987, providing “helpful guidance” in areas not previously discussed in detail.

In Father Pacholczyk ‘s view, Dignitas Personae will “become another ‘reference point’ for those within the Church who are discussing and trying to properly apply the timeless principles of the Church to new developments.”

It will be relevant “especially among believers,” he continued, also noting that the document was written and addressed to “all men of good will.” This recognizes that many of principles and aspects of the discussion in the document should be “truths that even somebody without religion would be able to appreciate.”

“These are aspects of what we call the natural law, and they don’t depend strictly on Revelation,” Father Pacholczyk told CNA.

“In theory, this document should also be of interest to those who are seeking to know what is moral, what is ethical, and what is not in the realm of new developments in biotechnology,” he added.

“Whether it will actually have that effect is always hard to say, because it will depend on variables such as a person’s views with regard to the Catholic Church speaking authoritatively.

“My hope is that it will find a receptive audience, especially among those who are actually involved in doing some of these techniques, and pioneering some of these new technologies.”

Father Tad Pacholczyk said Dignitas Personae could be of “great assistance to those who are trying to enter more fully into where the Church is coming from.

“This document provides these basic principles and a good discussion of them, and really provides a kind of consistent view that covers the entire gamut of new developments.”

When CNA asked what he found particularly striking about Dignitas Personae, Father Pacholczyk singled out its discussion of embryo adoption.

“The treatment of embryo adoption was an aspect of this document that many people were hoping would be addressed, but nobody was really sure. So it was good to see that that subject area, which has been an area of much discussion over the past years, is being addressed.

“It appears that this document did not speak the ‘final word,’ perhaps, on embryo adoption. There appears to be still a little bit of ambiguity or openness, at least, in the way that it was phrased.

“But clearly, this document is moving in the direction of indicating that embryo adoption will not be likely to be acceptable as a means of trying to save frozen embryos.”

The U.S. bishops’ Q &A document is located at http://www.usccb.org/comm/Dignitaspersonae/Q_and_A.pdf

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Catholic and Muslim leaders discuss responsibilities during times of crisis

Vatican City, Dec 16, 2008 (CNA) - Yesterday Catholic and Muslim leaders met in Rome to discuss the theme: "The Responsibility of Religious Leaders, Especially in Times of Crisis."

The XI Colloquium, organized by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the World Islamic Call Society (WICS), a Muslim organization headquartered in Tripoli, Libya, began yesterday and will end tomorrow morning with an audience with Pope Benedict.

The colloquium's five sessions are dedicated to presentations, part Catholic and part Muslim, and the development of three themes of reflection: "Religious Responsibility," "Cultural and Social Responsibility," and "Times of Crisis on the Path of Interreligious Dialogue."

Twelve Catholic and twelve Muslim dignitaries and experts from various countries are participating in the event, which is presided over by, respectively, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and the Secretary General of WICS, Mohamed Ahmed Sherif.

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Holy Father chooses themes for future World Youth Days

Vatican City, Dec 16, 2008 (CNA) - To help prepare Catholics for the 2011 World Youth Day celebrations in Madrid, Spain, Pope Benedict has announced that its theme will be: "Rooted and Built Up in Jesus Christ, Firm in the Faith" (cf Col 2:7).

Additionally, the Holy Father also released the themes of the 2009 and 2011 World Youth Days which are celebrated at the local level on Palm Sunday in hopes to “build a spiritual itinerary culminating in the World Youth Day celebrations” scheduled to take place in Madrid in August 2011, noted a Vatican press release.

Next year, the theme of the 24th World Youth Day will be: "We Have Set Our Hope on the Living God" (1 Tim 4:10). 

In 2010, the 25th World Youth Day will have: "Good Teacher, What Must I do to Inherit Eternal Life?" (Mk 10:17) as its theme.

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Cardinal Arinze discusses obedience, poverty and chastity

Rome, Italy, Dec 16, 2008 (CNA) - The prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Cardinal Francis Arinze, has written a new book entitled, “Letter to a Young Priest,” in which he presents a way of life for priests to assist them in living out obedience, chastity and poverty.

 

Obedience

 

In extracts from the book published by L’Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Arinze says, “The obedience that the priest gives to the Holy Father, the bishop and his representatives is based on faith. Through this obedience, the priest gives God the possibility of making complete use of him in carrying out the mission of the Church.  The purpose of obedience is not to diminish the role of the priest, or to treat him as inferior or keep him from adequate personal growth.”

 

Cardinal Arinze warned that priests “should not try to introduce a sort of secular democracy that is not in accord with the divine nature of the hierarchical institution of the Church.  The virtue of humility is one thing, it’s another thing to seek to clericalize the laity or laicize the clergy.  The Church has nothing to gain by this, and everything to lose with similar initiatives.”

 

The cardinal went on to note that priests should always obey their bishops, “even when in the worst of scenarios the bishop assigns a task that surpasses the capacity of the priest or could make him suffer or harm him. God will not cease to protect the priest who is obedient.  The judgment of God with regard to the bishop is a different question!”

 

Even when this obedience implies adversities for the priest, “in the end God protects the priest who respects and obeys the Bishop with firm fidelity and nobility of character. The intervention of God can appear after months or even years, but it does finally come. Some saints were only done justice after death,” he added.

 

Poverty

 

Speaking about poverty, Cardinal Arinze said that “every priest should cultivate” this virtue which also has to do with “the personal use of his own money. Avoiding anything that can make him appear trapped in earthly goods or inclined towards excessive spending, the priest should remember the poor, the sick, the elderly, and in general all those in need.  The means of transportation, the home, the furniture, the clothing should not give the impression that he is rich or powerful.”

 

Next, Cardinal Arinze said, “The priest should not identity poverty with lack of cleanliness or order in his own home, nor should he put it in practice with the ornaments or vestments at the altar.  God should be given the best in order to praise Him.  In his home, everything should be a sign of good taste and order, based on simplicity and sobriety.”

 

Chastity

 

In reference to chastity, the cardinal recalled how this virtue in the priestly life “expresses and stimulates pastoral charity.  It is a special source of fruitfulness in the world,” and he stressed that it constitutes “a testimony that shines before the world as an effective way of following Christ.”

 

“In today’s world,” he continued, “immersed in an exaggerated preoccupation with sex and its desacralization, a priest who lives joy, fidelity and his own vow of chastity positively is a testimony that cannot be ignored.”

 

“Through priestly celibacy, the priest is more closely consecrated to Christ in the exercise of spiritual fatherhood.  With greater promptness he shows himself as a minister of Christ, spouse of the Church, and he can truly present himself as a living sign of the future world, which is already present through faith and charity.”

 

“The priest should not doubt the value or the possibility of celibacy because of the threat of loneliness,” Cardinal Arinze said. “A certain dose of loneliness is present in every state of life, even in the marital life. It would be an error if he sought to avoid loneliness by filling himself always with activities and always organizing new meetings, travels or visits.”

 

What the priest needs, says Cardinal Arinze, “is silence, quiet, and reflection to be in the presence of God, to give greater attention to God and to encounter Christ in personal prayer before the tabernacle. Only then will he be capable of seeing Christ in every person whom he encounters in his ministry.”

 

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Ordinations end Shanghai Diocese's celebration of 400 years of evangelization

Shangai, China, Dec 16, 2008 (CNA) - Shanghai diocese capped its nine-month celebration of the 400th anniversary of Catholicism's arrival with the ordination of two priests.  During the ordination, the bishop reminded the congregation, that though the anniversary celebration has ended, Catholics in China must continue to "spread the Gospel to those who have never heard of it."

Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Xing Wenzhi of Shanghai ordained Fathers Joseph Li Gangyao and Joseph Xu Ruhao on Dec. 6 at St. Ignatius Cathedral in the downtown Xujiahui district of the city, 1,080 kilometers southeast of Beijing. Both graduated from Sheshan Regional Seminary on the outskirts of Shanghai, reports UCANews.

About 2,000 Catholics, including relatives of the new priests, attended the ordination Mass, which 87 priests from local and neighboring dioceses concelebrated.

With the ordination of Father Li, Shanghai diocese now has 75 diocesan priests. Father Xu was ordained for Anhui diocese, to the west.

Bishop Xing told the congregation that although the anniversary celebrations have come to a close, "our mission does not end today, but rather it marks a new impetus for us to spread the Gospel to those who have never heard of it."

Noting that the universal Church is now in the midst of celebrating a Pauline Year, Bishop Xing urged the congregation to model themselves after Saint Paul the Apostle in evangelizing zeal.

Pope Benedict XVI declared June 28, 2008, to June 29, 2009, as the Year of Saint Paul.

During the ordination rite, Bishop Xing encouraged the new priests to learn to be good shepherds like Jesus Christ, who "comes not to be served but to serve, and to search for the lost."

Father Li told UCA News two days later that he knows many Catholics have been praying for him and will "work hard to evangelize as a gesture of thanks." He added that he would look toward the early missioners to China as role models.

Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian of Shanghai had asked Catholics to intensify evangelization efforts to mark this year's landmark anniversary. In a pastoral letter he issued in December 2007 to announce the celebration, he also urged them to renew themselves spiritually, especially in response to the pope's call for prayers to Our Lady of Sheshan on May 24, the feast day of the Sheshan Marian shrine.

The elderly bishop is currently in poor health.

The Catholic Church began in Shanghai in 1608, when Paul Xu Guangqi, the first Shanghai Catholic, invited Italian Jesuit Father Lazare Cattaneo to preach here. About 200 people received baptism during the priest's two-year stay, and the first Catholic church was built near Xujiahui.

The diocesan celebrations of the anniversary, which began on March 1, included pilgrimages to the Sheshan shrine in May and a seminar on evangelization in September.

On Oct. 30, an exhibition of about 100 photos linked to local Church history opened at the cathedral. Tours to 30 parishes that will go until May 30, 2009, were also launched.

Another anniversary event, the first-ever diocesan choral concert, was staged at the cathedral on Nov. 15, the diocesan website reported. About 1,000 laypeople, priests, seminarians and nuns, as well as local and foreign tourists, attended the performance.

Father Antonius Li Xiaowei, the organizer of the concert, told UCA News each of the diocese six deaneries, or parish groupings, sent a choir to participate. The hymns were grouped under three themes: Remembering the Past, Expressing Thanks for the Present and Looking to the Future.

As examples of songs in the first category, he cited the Latin hymn Sicut Cervus (as the deer), performed by a youth choir, and the Chinese Shepherd Song, sung by some priests. These hymns depicted how the early missioners "brought the Good News to China, but were at times barred from entering the country," he explained. "We Chinese became thirsty for God, just like the deer that searches for the spring."

Today, he said, the Chinese people are still thirsty for God, a sentiment that was expressed in Chinese hymns such as Thirst for God and God Reads My Heart.

Before the anniversary celebrations began in March, the diocese had already launched a one-year evangelization formation program for 80 lay Catholics. On Jan. 19, each participant received a certificate after completing courses on the Bible, Church dogma and history, liturgy and evangelization skills.

The original article can be found here: http://www.ucanews.com/2008/12/10/ordinations-end-shanghai-dioceses-celebration-of-400-years-of-evangelization/

 

Printed with permission from UCANews: http://www.ucanews.com/

 

 

 

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Cardinal Canizares: ‘It is my duty in charity to communicate the Church’s teachings’

Madrid, Spain, Dec 16, 2008 (CNA) - In an interview with the Spanish daily La Razon, the new prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Antonio Canizares, said, “It is my duty in charity as a service to mankind and to society to communicate the Church’s teachings” in response to laws that are contrary to man and the Christian faith.

 

Cardinal Canizares, who will continue to serve for a brief period as Archbishop of Toledo also stated, “I am not speaking out against anything, much less against the government. I am among those who will always treat the government with respect and fidelity.”

 

But, he went on, “this does not mean that, as the Pope said in ‘Deus caritas est,’ that out of political charity, I can say that human rights are being respected when they really are not being respected.”

 

For this reason, he stated, “I will have to complain along with parents when the right to education is not fully respected. Or I will have to ask that the right to life be respected from conception to natural death.”

 

He continued, “People say I am the bishop who is the most against the Zapatero government. This is completely untrue. But, I insist, I do proclaim and defend what the Church says. I don’t impose it on anyone, I propose it, and I demand that when fundamental questions are at stake, citizens need to wake up.”

 

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Vatican and Italian government criticize sale of RU 486 in Italy

Rome, Italy, Dec 16, 2008 (CNA) - The Vatican and the Italian government have criticized the imminent arrival of the abortion pill RU 486, which will be available for use in the country perhaps before the end of the year.

 

The president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, condemned the use of the pill because of its abortifacient nature.

 

In comments to reporters, Cardinal Barragan said the Church “understands the drama of a young woman who is pregnant against her will, but She condemns abortion no matter how it is practiced because it is the killing of an innocent being.”

 

Being pregnant against one’s will is a terrible drama, the cardinal continued, but “in the hierarchy of dramas the greatest is death and more so if it is inflicted on an innocent person, as in the case of the unborn.”

 

“Life comes before all else,” he added.

 

The vice secretary of Italy’s Ministry of Health, Eugenia Roccella, said, “The assessment of the risks and benefits of the pill leaves many questions.”  The Minister of Youth Policies, Giorgia Meloni, reminded Italian women that RU 486 is not a contraceptive, but rather “an abortion in all of its effects.”

 

The Italian Drug Agency could grant definitive authorization of the sale of the drug in Italy this week. Negotiations are still underway with the pill’s French manufacturer, Exelgyn, regarding the price.

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Catholic experts warn against bill that would legalize euthanasia in Uruguay

Montevideo, Uruguay, Dec 16, 2008 (CNA) - This week the John Paul II Archdiocesan Institute of Bioethics warned that a new bill being discussed in the Uruguayan Parliament will not provide sufficient guarantees to prevent euthanasia from being adopted.

 

In an official statement, the experts said that the law “manifests the laudable intention of avoiding unnecessary treatment, which consists of applying disproportionate therapeutic means that affect the quality of life of the patient without a reasonable hope of significant benefits in terms of health or survival.”

 

“However, it has the grave defect of not putting the same care in avoiding the opposite extreme, that is, the omission of assistance to the patient in cases in which he could recover or save his life. This means that it does not give sufficient guarantees that it is not legalizing, in practice, euthanasia,” the Institute stated.

 

The criteria that is usually applied to distinguish in between avoiding extraordinary measures and practicing euthanasia “is that which distinguishes proportionate from disproportionate therapeutic means,” the statement indicated. “To withdraw or not apply the former is euthanasia, and to apply the latter is unnecessary treatment.”

 

The Institute also pointed out that the bill is gravely insufficient because “in the most delicate of cases, in which the person has not expressed his or her will beforehand, and he or she is not in a position to manifest it in the present, the decision is left exclusively in the hands of family members, who lack the technical competence necessary to discern this.”

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LifeTeen founder Msgr. Dale Fushek excommunicated

Phoenix, Ariz., Dec 16, 2008 (CNA) -

Bishop of Phoenix Thomas J. Olmsted has issued a decree of excommunication to Monsignor Dale Fushek, founder of LifeTeen, and Father Mark Dippre for their establishment of and leadership in an "opposing ecclesial community."

Fushek, one of three founders of LifeTeen, has not been active in the youth ministry for four years.

The priests had served together in the 1990s at St. Timothy’s Catholic Community in Mesa, Arizona, the East Valley Tribune reports. A year ago, they founded the non-denominational Praise and Worship Center, which meets Sundays at the Fiesta Fountains Recreation Center in Mesa.

Their meetings regularly draw 250 to 300 people. The priests’ 90-minute services begin at 10 am each Sunday and feature much music but do not include sacraments. Reportedly, the priests have repeatedly said their services are not to be considered "Catholic" in any way.

"They always claim that they are not doing something in opposition to any denomination, but they are always holding their worship services at a time that coincides with a lot of Catholic Masses." Jim Dwyer, a Diocese of Phoenix spokesman, told the East Valley Tribune.

The East Valley Tribune quoted two attendees of Monsignor Fushek’s service who also attend Catholic Mass.

"I go to Mass for my sacraments, and I go to Praise and Worship for my Christian fulfillment," Stan Nicpon said, adding that it has a "good community feeling."

His wife Jan described her reaction to the service, saying "It is kind of a fulfillment beyond church. It is just a lot of great music that kind of fills you with a good spirit, inspiration and hope — a lot of hope."

Monsignor Fushek, the former vicar general of the Diocese of Phoenix, is also awaiting trial on seven misdemeanor counts including contributing to the delinquency of a minor, indecent exposure and assault.

A statement from the Diocese of Phoenix explained the excommunications, saying that the two priests refused to comply with Bishop Olmsted’s "explicit directions" to discontinue public ministry.

"The excommunications were incurred after repeated offers of reconciliation were ignored," the diocese said.

The diocese’s statement remarks that the priests brought the excommunication upon themselves and explains that the priests cannot celebrate Mass or participate in any other ceremonies of worship.

"They are also prohibited from celebrating or receiving any of the sacraments. In addition, they forfeit the benefits of dignity, office, or any function that they had previously acquired in the Catholic Church," the diocese statement reads.

The diocese said that Bishop Olmsted continues to express "grave concern" for Catholics who may be "misled or confused" by the priests’ actions. The statement encouraged Catholics not to attend or support the Praise and Worship Center and reminded Catholics that "the ultimate form of praise and worship is and always will be the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass."

"There is no substitution for the graces received at Mass and no prayer more edifying," the diocese said.

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University of San Francisco working to remove health plan’s abortion coverage

San Francisco, Calif., Dec 16, 2008 (CNA) -

The University of San Francisco (USF) continues to react to the revelation that its mandatory student health insurance plan covers abortions. Insisting that the coverage is being removed from the student plan, a USF official reports that the school is also working to remove abortion coverage from its employee plans.

However, the official says contraceptive coverage for students and employees is mandated by California law.

Last week, the blog of the Catholic Key, the newspaper for the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph in Missouri, reported that USF students were required to enroll in the USF health insurance plan if they did not have comparable coverage of their own.

The University of San Francisco (USF) Student Health Insurance Plan, underwritten by Aetna Life Insurance Company, is described in a university brochure as covering "voluntary termination of pregnancy."

Gary McDonald, assistant vice president of communications and public affairs at USF, spoke about the issue in a recent interview with Our Sunday Visitor.

"As stated on Dec. 12, it was not the university's intention to offer coverage for the voluntary termination of pregnancy, and we are removing this provision from our student health plan, he stated. "We regret this mistake, and we take full responsibility for not adequately reviewing the contract. We are grateful to those who brought this issue to our attention."

"Coverage for the voluntary termination of pregnancy in the student health plan was a mistake, and that provision is being removed. However, health insurance is still mandatory for all USF students."

McDonald clarified earlier reports which claimed that the USF student clinic at St. Mary’s Medical Center referred students to Planned Parenthood or Aetna providers for contraceptives and abortions.

"Students are not referred to Planned Parenthood, but are referred to Aetna providers for prescriptions," he told Our Sunday Visitor. "Under California law, prescription plans must pay for all FDA approved medications, including contraception."

"Prescriptions for contraception are never provided at the USF Clinic, nor are referrals to Planned Parenthood for abortions," he added.

He continued to discuss the student health clinic: "In light of recent inquiries, we are now aware that our protocol needs improvement. We are taking immediate steps to remedy this, and are in the process of developing a protocol to ensure that counseling and pro-life options are always provided at the USF clinic."

McDonald responded to reports that USF employee insurance covered abortion and contraception.

"USF offers two options for employee health insurance, Blue Cross and Kaiser Permanente. Our Blue Cross claims procedure excludes coverage for surgical abortion. When USF negotiated its contract with Kaiser, we were unable to opt out of the plan's provision for termination of pregnancy. USF decided to offer the Kaiser plan because Kaiser is widely considered to be the highest-quality HMO in Northern California."

He told Our Sunday Visitor that USF is trying to determine if the contract can be renegotiated and the provision covering abortion eliminated.

Though asked about claims that, as early as 2005, the USF plan apparently covered the abortion pill RU-486, McDonald did not address the issue.

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Italian chapel honoring dead of World War II rediscovered

Rome, Italy, Dec 16, 2008 (CNA) -

A "lost chapel" honoring those who died in southern Italy during the Second World War has been rediscovered in an Italian building’s storeroom. It had been dedicated as "a perpetual monument to the ideals of chivalry and the brotherhood" which inspired the soldiers.

Former British soldiers who took part in the landings at Salerno in September 1943 had told Harry Shindler, a spokesman in Italy for the veterans’ group "Star Association," that they had built the chapel to honor those who died in the landings, the Times Online reports.

The soldiers said they named the chapel for St. Martin and St. George and painted frescoes in it.

Schindler told the Times the soldiers remembered that the chapel had been carved out of a former wine cellar but the landscape had changed so much they could not recall its exact location.

An appeal to residents of Salerno was published in La Repubblica, resulting in the discovery that the chapel was now being used as a storeroom in Pontecagnano, a town located on the sea south of Salerno.

According to the Times, the chapel retains its vaulted walls but the frescoes have been painted over.

A 1944 report said that the chapel was built on the initiative of army chaplain Father H.P. Hansen and blessed by the Anglican Bishop of Lichfield.

In the chapel, 15 "truly outstanding paintings" reportedly were painted by Corporal Harold Addenbrooke from Sheffield, who had been a commercial artist in peacetime.

The chapel was built by soldiers who had been bricklayers before the war, while individual soldiers provided chairs with their names and their own places of worship carved on them.

The chapel could hold 300 worshipers and had a brick floor and an altar made of stone, marble, and quartz.

Its entrance was marked by an oil painting of Jesus painted by a local Italian. The painting’s canvas bore bullet holes from the fighting, the Times Online reports.

A marble plaque for the chapel, inscribed in English and in Latin, read "This chapel of St Martin and St George has been raised to the glory of God in remembrance of those who fell in the landing on the beaches in this area in 1943, and as a perpetual monument to the ideals of chivalry and the brotherhood which inspired them."

Domenico Maisto, a local resident who had been five at the time of the landings at Salerno, remembered a wedding had been performed at the chapel between a British soldier and an Italian woman from Capri.

Maisto recalled that Biblical scenes were painted on the walls and suggested they were still present under the whitewash.

According to the Times, Schindler is trying to locate the chapel’s marble plaque, which could have been removed to a local church when the chapel was converted into a storeroom.

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Plan sent to Obama transition team reveals ‘abortion industry bailout’

Washington D.C., Dec 16, 2008 (CNA) -

A strategy document from a coalition of abortion rights groups which outlines their agenda for an Obama administration has been made public. Asking for more than $1 billion in funding, the plan seeks to overturn restrictions on the use of taxpayer funds for abortions and aspires to place pro-abortion partisans in judicial and political positions.

One pro-life organization characterized the plan as an "abortion industry bailout."

The 55-page plan, titled "Advancing Reproductive Rights and Health in a New Administration," was published on the web site of President-elect Barack Obama. It bears the label "produced by an outside party and submitted to the Obama-Biden transition project."

The plan was signed by groups which include the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and International Planned Parenthood Federation of America. It was also signed by a group which calls itself "Catholics for Choice."

Writing in the plan, abortion advocates call for the abolition of restrictions on taxpayer funding for abortions:

"The President’s budget should strike language restricting abortion funding for (i) Medicaid-eligible women and Medicare beneficiaries (Hyde amendment); (ii) federal employees and their dependents (FEHB program); (iii) residents of the District of Columbia; (iv) Peace Corps volunteers; (v) Native-American women; and (vi) women in federal prisons."

It asks that funding be restored to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), whose funding was rescinded under the Bush administration after private and governmental investigations revealed that the program cooperated with China’s coercive population control programs.

The abortion advocates’ plan calls for an increase in the budget of the Title X Family Planning Program to $700 million, reportedly a 133 percent increase, while providing $1 billion for international "family planning" programs.

Further, it asks that abstinence-only education be defunded in preference to "comprehensive sex education."

The document lists vacancies in the Federal Circuit Courts, urging the Obama administration to appoint judges with a "demonstrated commitment to fundamental legal protections and civil liberties, including reproductive rights."

The plan indicates "positions of interest" in the federal government where the coalition desires its partisans to be placed. It names administrative, directorial, and assistant posts within the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Justice, and the Department of State.

It also lists leadership positions within the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Equal Opportunity Commission, and the Federal Trade Commission.

On Monday the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List announced a nationwide campaign to oppose the plan, characterizing it as an "abortion industry bailout."

"President-elect Barack Obama spoke of finding ‘common ground’ on abortion policy, but abortion advocacy groups clearly see an open door," said Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser.

"After a decade of commonsense restrictions on taxpayer funding, the abortion industry thinks it deserves a bailout from President-Elect Obama," she charged. "Today the Susan B. Anthony List launched its ‘Stop the Abortion Bailout’ campaign to mobilize thousands of activists across the country."

She said the campaign will focus on encouraging citizens to write letters to their Senators to try to secure the 41 votes necessary to sustain a Senate filibuster of the abortion plan.

The campaign, she said, will "ensure our hard-earned taxpayer dollars stay out of abortionists’ coffers, especially since national abortion numbers are already on the decline."

The SBA’s campaign web site is at www.sba-list.org/abortionbailout.

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