Rome, Italy, Jan 19, 2009 (CNA) - The L’Osservatore Romano has published some excerpts from an article that will soon appear in La Civilta Cattolica written by Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, who warns of the risks of using social networking sites such as Facebook or Myspace, which can submerge users in loneliness and fragile friendships and are inadequate substitutes for the natural desire to be loved.
Father Spadaro says that on Facebook, “the need to know others and to make oneself known, and the need to experience friendships are ‘serious’ needs that run the risk of confusing superficial and sporadic relationships with friendship; or communication with exhibitionism; or the fact of wanting to know others with voyeurism. While the difference between the one and the other is radical, an appropriate education in relationships and one’s self-perception is needed in order to see it.”
The Gregorian University professor also explained that Facebook “is in this sense a challenge because as with all social networking platforms, it is both a potential aid for relationships as well as a threat” because relations between human beings are not “a game and require time and direct knowledge.”
Father Spadaro later pointed out that “relationships on the internet are necessarily always shaky if they are not anchored in reality. In some cases the desire to have many contacts in Facebook and thus ‘collect’ friends … becomes a challenge to loneliness and to the desire to feel and appear popular. In effect, the desire to appear extroverted, sought out, and in other words, loved, cannot be underestimated. Having many friends means showing others you are socially attractive,” he said.
Likewise, he continued, “sometimes one’s own profile aids in ‘fishing for’ potential ‘friends,’ and the motives for this can be varied: from the most legitimate to the least plausible and acceptable. It is obvious, on the other hand, that the more the number of ‘friends’ grows, the more Facebook risks losing its meaning and becomes a simple directory that is merely more technologically advanced.”
“The ideal use for Facebook, in my opinion,” the priest wrote, “is one based on real relationships. It is an important medium for rediscovering classmates, childhood friends, those we have lost contact with, for rediscovering old friends.”
Properly used, he continued, Facebook can become an opportunity to “strengthen relationships which because of distance or other motives are at risk of fading” or it can be used to “recover relationships that have grown distant through life.”
Father Spadaro noted that the phenomenon of social networks has brought the internet into the realm of human relationships when it was originally focused on information. In this sense, he warned that what is most at risk on platforms like Facebook is the protection of personal privacy.
He went on to stress that social networking sites offer a type of utopia: a place where one is forever close to people that one knows in one way or another. But the utopia should be confronted with an awareness of “the same risk that cell phones and computers carry with them, which is the isolation of the person, relations based solely on appearance…”
On the other hand, he continued, “From the invention of smoke signals or instruments such as the telegraph or the telephone, technology has always been an important aid for personal relationships.”
“In this long process that is the history of human communications, Facebook is playing a specific role: that of making the internet primarily a network of persons and accelerating the process which made significant strides in 2005 with the onslaught of blogs.”
Vatican City, Jan 19, 2009 (CNA) -
On Monday morning, Pope Benedict XVI received an ecumenical delegation of Finnish Lutherans and Catholics on the Feast of St. Henry, patron saint of Finland. The Holy Father spoke with the group about the progress made on a joint declaration about justification.
The ecumenical delegation, which was led by Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland Bishop Gustav Björkstrand on an annual pilgrimage to Rome for the Feast of St. Henry, met with the Pope at the Vatican.
Addressing the group in English, the Pope noted that "The Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue Commission in Finland and Sweden continues to consider the 'Joint Declaration on Justification.' This year we celebrate the tenth anniversary of this significant statement, and the commission is now studying its implications and the possibility of its reception."
Pope Benedict also highlighted the progress the dialogue has made in taking "ever fuller account of the nature of the Church as the sign and instrument of the salvation brought about in Jesus Christ, and not simply a mere assembly of believers or an institution with various functions."
Noting that the group's pilgrimage to Rome coincides with the Pauline Year, the Holy Father took the occasion to make a foray into the Catholic understanding of St. Paul’s teaching on the Church. "St. Paul reminds us of the marvelous grace we have received by becoming members of Christ's Body through Baptism. The Church is this mystical Body of Christ, and is continuously guided by the Holy Spirit; the Spirit of the Father and the Son.
"It is only based on this incarnational reality," he said in closing, "that the sacramental character of the Church as communion in Christ can be understood. A consensus with regard to the profoundly Christological and pneumatological (study of the Spirit) implications of the mystery of the Church would prove a most promising basis for the commission's work."
Vatican City, Jan 19, 2009 (CNA) - This morning the Holy Father appointed Msgr. Edward J. Burns to be the Bishop of Juneau, Alaska. Msgr. Burns is currently rector of the St. Paul diocesan seminary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Bishop of Pittsburgh David A. Zubik described the appointment as “a cause of celebration for the Church because it recognizes in him the same qualities of pastoral care and spiritual leadership in priestly vocations that we have known here for many years, and has been recognized nationally in his nearly decade-long service at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington.”
The prelate continued by asking for God’s blessing upon the bishop-elect. “I join his many friends among the clergy, religious and faithful of our Diocese in wishing him well and asking God's blessing on him. As he leaves Pittsburgh, he takes with him the admiration and affection of all of us, together with our prayers for him and his pastoral ministry in Juneau.”
Msgr. Burns, currently the rector of the St. Paul diocesan seminary, was born in Pittsburgh in 1957 and ordained a priest in 1983. According to the Diocese of Pittsburgh, after his priestly ordination, Msgr. Burns served as an assistant pastor until 1991 when he was appointed as the Director of the Vocation Office and Vice Rector of Saint Paul Seminary in Pittsburgh.
In 1996, he was named Rector of the seminary and in 1999 was appointed Executive Director, Secretariat for Vocations and Priestly Formation for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington D.C.
Upon learning of his appointment, the bishop-elect released a statement saying that while he will miss the Diocese of Pittsburgh, he is looking forward to his new assignment.
In a letter of acceptance to Pope Benedict, Msgr. Burns wrote, “It is an honor for me to be called to provide apostolic ministry to the brothers and sisters who live in such a beautiful part of God’s creation. …May the Blessed Mother who said ‘yes’ to the message of the Archangel Gabriel intercede for me as I offer my fiat to the call of the Church and the will of God.”
Bishop-elect Burns then addressed the priests, deacons, religious and lay faithful of Juneau saying, “I am so glad to be with you and I am humbled by the call to be your Bishop – to lead and to serve you.”
The bishop-elect will be installed as Bishop of Juneau on April 2, 2009. He will serve 7,350 Catholics and 10 priests in the remote Diocese of Juneau.
Madrid, Spain, Jan 19, 2009 (CNA) - The spokesman for the organization Spanish Alternative (Alternativa Espanola), Francisco Torres Garcia, denounced Madrid city officials for continuing to allow the family planning clinic El Bosque to perform abortions despite a botched abortion that resulted in the death of the mother.
Torres recalled that “in 2005, a 19 year-old woman who was a patient at the clinic died, and her case is currently the subject of a lawsuit. In December of 2008, Intereconomia TV, in an investigative report, showed clear signs that illegal abortions and financial fraud were taking place at the clinic. Numerous women have testified about the activities of the clinic … and in January of 2009, a young woman who had to be urgently transferred from the clinic died at the Clinical Hospital of Madrid.”
Torres said the organization is demanding city officials investigate the incident, shut down operations at the clinic and put an immediate end to agreements signed with such abortion clinics that profit from the culture of death and take advantage of legal loopholes.
Vatican City, Jan 19, 2009 (CNA) - The Vatican Post Office will celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Vatican City State by issuing seven stamps with the portraits of seven Popes on February 10.
The stamps will bear the portraits of the seven Popes who served as head of Vatican City State from 1922 to the present: Pius XI, Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
The issuance of the stamps will take place one day before the anniversary of the signing of the Lateran Accords on February 11, 1929, which guaranteed the full sovereignty of Vatican City State.
The Vatican Post Office will also issue a pamphlet that includes a map of Vatican City, which was guaranteed full sovereignty by the Accords signed 80 years ago by then Secretary of the Pontifical State, Cardinal Pietro Gasparri and Italian President Benito Mussolini. The original text of the Accords will also be included in a special exhibit that will go on display on February 12.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 19, 2009 (CNA) - The Italian city of Milan will be the site of the next World Meeting of Families, scheduled to take place in spring of 2012, the Holy Father announced on Sunday.
In his address to those participating in the Sixth World Meeting of families, which took place last week in Mexico City, Pope Benedict also emphasized that it is in the familial environment where children learn their dignity and values such as peace, honesty and respect.
The Pontiff spoke to participants at the basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe during the closing Mass of the Sixth World Meeting of Families yesterday via live television linkup and noted that the theme of the 2012 meeting will focus on, “The Family, Work and Feast.”
The Pope continued by defining the family as the “essential foundation for society and peoples, an irreplaceable benefit for children, who deserve to come into the world as the fruit of love, of the total and generous giving of the parents.” He further added that “the family occupies a primary position in the education of the individual. It is a true school of humanity and of perennial values.”
It is from others that the gift of life is received, the Holy Father said, “which then develops and matures with the truths and values we learn through relation and communion with others. ... The family founded on indissoluble marriage between a man and a woman expresses this inter-relational, filial and community dimension, as well as being the environment in which human beings can be born with dignity, and grow and develop fully."
"Yet such educational efforts are hindered by a misleading concept of freedom, in which individual whim and subjective impulses are exalted to the point that people are enclosed in the prison of their own ego,” the Pontiff warned. “Human beings' true freedom comes from having been created in the image and likeness of God and hence must be exercised responsibly, always opting for true goodness.”
It is more than theories, he continued, “what is needed is the closeness and love that are characteristic of the family. It is in the home that people truly learn to live, to value life and health, freedom and peace, justice and truth, work, harmony and respect."
The Pope also underlined the vital need for all of the baptized to support the family as well as society. “Legislative and administrative measures also have to be promoted that support families in their inalienable rights, which are necessary in order for them to continue their extraordinary mission," he said.
After reiterating his closeness to, and giving assurances of his prayers for "all families who bear faithful witness in particularly difficult situations," Benedict XVI concluded by encouraging large families "who, though sometimes experiencing difficulties and misunderstandings, give an example of generosity and trust in God.”
Vatican City, Jan 19, 2009 (CNA) - On Saturday, the Holy Father authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to announce the approval of the miracles and heroic virtues of several Servants of God.
In order for Servants of God to move onto beatification, the next “step” toward sainthood, the congregation must recognize their heroic virtue and certify that one posthumous miracle took place through the Servant of God’s intercession.
Canonization, the next “step” requires an additional miracle unless waived by the Pope.
Those who were recognized with a miracle are:
- Servant of God Ciriaco Maria Sancha y Hervas, Spanish cardinal archbishop of Toledo, founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Cardinal Sancha (1833-1909).
- Servant of God Carlo Gnocchi, Italian diocesan priest and founder of the "Pro Juventute" Foundation (1902-1956).
- Servant of God Bernardo Francisco de Hoyos, Spanish professed priest of the Company of Jesus (1711-1735).
- Servant of God Raphael Rafiringa (ne Louis), Madagascan professed religious of the Institute of Brothers of Christian Schools (1856-1919).
- Servant of God Eustachio Kugler, (ne Joseph), German professed religious of the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God (1867-1946).
Those Servants of God acknowledged as having heroic virtue are:
- Servant of God Juan de Palafox y Mendoza, Spanish bishop of Osma (1600-1659).
- Servant of God Robert Spiske, diocesan priest and founder of the Congregation of Sisters of St. Hedwig (1821-1888).
- Servant of God Carolina Beltrami, Italian foundress of the Institute of "Immaculatine" Sisters of Alessandria (1869-1932).
- Servant of God Mary of the Immaculate e Conception Salvat y Romerio (nee Maria Isabella), Spanish superior general of the Institute of Sisters of the Company of the Cross (1926-1998).
- Servant of God Liberata Ferrarons y Vives, Spanish laywoman of the Third Order of Carmelites (1803-1842).
Additionally, during a private audience on December 22, 2008, the Holy Father authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to recognize the heroic virtues of Servant of God Jose Tous y Soler, a Spanish priest of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchins and founder of the Capuchin sisters of the Mother of the Divine Shepherd (1811-1871).
Washington D.C., Jan 19, 2009 (CNA) - In a letter made public today, the U.S. bishops ask president-elect Barack Obama to continue President Bush’s pro-life policies particularly on the conscience rights of health care professionals, not providing foreign aid for promoting abortion and embryonic stem cell research.
The letter, sent on January 16 by Cardinal Francis George, the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), notes that he is writing on behalf of all the American bishops in order to assist the new Administration in serving the common good.
After acknowledging that the president-elect will face difficult decisions when he is sworn into office, Cardinal George writes that he anticipates that “some want you to take executive action soon to reverse current policies against government-sponsored destruction of unborn human life.”
“I urge you to consider that this could be a terrible mistake -- morally, politically, and in terms of advancing the solidarity and well-being of our nation's people,” Cardinal George says.
Cardinal George also touches on the regulation issued last month by the Bush administration protecting the conscience rights of health care workers calling it a “long-overdue measure for implementing three statutes enacted by Congress over the last 35 years."
The prelate describes the legislation, which has been attacked by the ACLU, as a "common-sense regulation, which explicitly protects the right of health professionals who favor or oppose abortion to serve the basic health needs of their communities." He adds, “Suggestions that government involvement in health care will be aimed at denying conscience, or excluding Catholic and other health care providers from participation in serving the public good, could threaten much-needed health care reform at the outset.”
The president of the U.S. bishops then turns his attention to the Mexico City Policy clarifying that rather than reducing aid for family planning, it has “ensured that family planning funds are not diverted to organizations dedicated to performing and promoting abortions instead of reducing them.”
“Once the clear line between family planning and abortion is erased, the idea of using family planning to reduce abortions becomes meaningless, and abortion tends to replace contraception as the means for reducing family size. A shift toward promoting abortion in developing nations would also increase distrust of the United States in these nations, whose values and culture often reject abortion, at a time when we need their trust and respect.”
Moving on to the embryonic stem cell policies initiated by President Bush, Cardinal George explains that the policies make certain that “Americans are not forced to use their tax dollars to encourage expanded destruction of embryonic human beings for their stem cells,” especially since new scientific breakthroughs “are said by many scientists to be making embryonic stem cells irrelevant to medical progress."
"To divert scarce funds away from these promising avenues for research and treatment, toward the avenue that is most morally controversial as well as most medically speculative, would be a sad victory of politics over science," he writes.
The letter follows in its entirety:
Dear Mr. President-elect:
I recently wrote to assure you of the prayers of the Catholic bishops of the United States for your service to our nation, and to outline issues of special concern to us as we seek to work with your Administration and the new Congress to serve the common good.
I am writing today on a matter that could introduce significant negative and divisive factors into our national life, at a time when we need to come together to address the serious challenges facing our people. I expect that some want you to take executive action soon to reverse current policies against government-sponsored destruction of unborn human life. I urge you to consider that this could be a terrible mistake -- morally, politically, and in terms of advancing the solidarity and well-being of our nation's people.
During the campaign, you promised as President to represent all the people and respect everyone's moral and religious viewpoints. You also made several statements about abortion. On one occasion, when asked at what point a baby has human rights, you answered in effect that you do not have a definite answer. And you spoke often about a need to reduce abortions.
The Catholic Church teaches that each human being, at every moment of biological development from conception to natural death, has an inherent and fundamental right to life. We are committed not only to reducing abortion, but to making it unthinkable as an answer to unintended pregnancy. At the same time, I think your remarks provide a basis for common ground. Uncertainty as to when human rights begin provides no basis for compelling others to violate their conviction that these rights exist from the beginning. After all, those people may be right. And if the goal is to reduce abortions, that will not be achieved by involving the government in expanding and promoting abortions.
The regulation to protect conscience rights in health care issued last month by the Bush administration is the subject of false and misleading criticisms. It does not reach out to expand the rights of pro-life health professionals, but is a long-overdue measure for implementing three statutes enacted by Congress over the last 35 years. Many criticizing the new rule have done so without being aware of this legal foundation – but widespread ignorance of a longstanding federal law protecting basic civil rights is among the good reasons for more visibly implementing it. An Administration committed to faithfully implementing and enforcing the laws of the United States will want to retain this common-sense regulation, which explicitly protects the right of health professionals who favor or oppose abortion to serve the basic health needs of their communities. Suggestions that government involvement in health care will be aimed at denying conscience, or excluding Catholic and other health care providers from participation in serving the public good, could threaten much-needed health care reform at the outset.
The Mexico City Policy, first established in 1984, has wrongly been attacked as a restriction on foreign aid for family planning. In fact, it has not reduced such aid at all, but has ensured that family planning funds are not diverted to organizations dedicated to performing and promoting abortions instead of reducing them. Once the clear line between family planning and abortion is erased, the idea of using family planning to reduce abortions becomes meaningless, and abortion tends to replace contraception as the means for reducing family size. A shift toward promoting abortion in developing nations would also increase distrust of the United States in these nations, whose values and culture often reject abortion, at a time when we need their trust and respect.
The embryonic stem cell policy initiated by President Bush has at times been criticized from both ends of the pro-life debate, but some criticisms are based on false premises. The policy did not ban embryonic stem cell research, or funding of such research. By restricting federally funded research to cell lines in existence at the time he issued his policy, he was trying to ensure that Americans are not forced to use their tax dollars to encourage expanded destruction of embryonic human beings for their stem cells. Such destruction is especially pointless at the present time, for several reasons. First, basic research in the capabilities of embryonic stem cells can be and is being pursued using the currently eligible cell lines as well as the hundreds of lines produced with nonfederal funds since 2001. Second, recent startling advances in reprogramming adult cells into embryonic-like stem cells – hailed by the journal Science as the scientific breakthrough of the year – are said by many scientists to be making embryonic stem cells irrelevant to medical progress. Third, adult and cord blood stem cells are now known to have great versatility, and are increasingly being used to reverse serious illnesses and even help rebuild damaged organs. To divert scarce funds away from these promising avenues for research and treatment toward the avenue that is most morally controversial as well as most medically speculative would be a sad victory of politics over science.
I hope you will consider these comments in the spirit in which they are intended, as an invitation to set aside political pressures and ideologies and focus on the priorities and challenges that will unite us as a nation. Again I want to express our hopes for your Administration, and our offer to cooperate in advancing the common good and protecting the poor and vulnerable in these challenging times.
As we approach the first days of your new responsibilities as President of the United States, I will offer my prayers for you and for your family. May God bless your efforts in fostering justice and peace for all, Mr. President, as you begin your term.
Sacramento, Calif., Jan 19, 2009 (CNA) - At least sixty amicus curiae briefs have been filed with the California Supreme Court, variously arguing for and against to the constitutionality of Proposition 8. Opponents include internet giant Google, Inc., which argues the Proposition denies employees “basic rights.”
Proposition 8 is the successful California ballot initiative which overruled a California Supreme Court decision that imposed same-sex “marriage” on the state. Three lawsuits filed by several cities, counties, and same-sex couples argue that the measure is unconstitutional because it could not be enacted simply as a voter initiative, KPIX reports.
Amicus curiae briefs, meaning “friend of the court” briefs, are filed by people who are not official parties to a case but have interests in its outcome.
A total of 60 amicus curiae briefs were filed in the Proposition 8 case, with 17 supporting the proposition and 43 arguing it should be overturned.
On Thursday Google’s official blog published an entry titled “Supporting Equality.” In that entry, Google said that many people were concerned with the impact the ballot measure could have “on the personal lives of people they work with every day, and on California's ability to attract and retain a diverse mix of employees from around the world.”
Google explained that this is the reason they filed an amicus curiae brief supporting challenges to Proposition 8. “Denying employees basic rights isn't right, and it isn't good for businesses. We are committed to preserving fundamental rights for every one of the people who work hard to make Google a success.”
Google joined other commercial groups in a brief against Proposition 8. Other amicus curiae briefs favoring and opposing the proposition were filed by religious organizations—including the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Conference—law professors, and state legislators, .
A group of present and former legislators headed by Democratic State Assembly and Senate leaders supported the plaintiffs’ claim that Proposition 8 should be considered to be a constitutional revision that would require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature before being submitted to voters.
Legislators supporting Proposition 8 argued that overturning the proposition would unconstitutionally “alter the balance of governmental powers by expanding the role of the judiciary.”
When the lawsuits were first filed in November, the General Counsel of ProtectMarriage.com – Yes on 8, Andrew Pugno called them “frivolous and regrettable” and characterized them as an attempt to “invalidate the decision of California voters to enshrine traditional marriage in California's constitution.”
“These same groups filed an identical case with the California Supreme Court months ago, which was summarily dismissed,” Pugno said. “We will vigorously defend the People's decision to enact Proposition 8.”
The panel judging the lawsuit could hold a hearing as early as March and will then issue a ruling within three months.