Archive of February 6, 2009

Oakland Diocese denies new administrator permitted same-sex ‘marriages’

Oakland, Calif., Feb 6, 2009 (CNA) - The Diocese of Oakland has responded to a Catholic newspaper’s report alleging that the new interim administrator for the Diocese once allowed homosexual “marriages” at his parish, calling the report one-sided and inaccurate.

Following the appointment of former Bishop of Oakland Allen Vigneron to the Archbishopric of Detroit, Fr. Dan Danielson, was appointed Diocesan Administrator.

In a prepared statement in the Diocese of Oakland publication “Administrative Weekly,” the priest said he becomes administrator “with surprise and hope” while those in the diocese “prayerfully await a new bishop to be appointed.”

"This interim period could last a few months or as much as a year. We do not know. In the meantime, I will do my best to keep flourishing the wonderful ministries that are active in this Diocese,” Fr. Danielson wrote.

“This is all new to me so I count very much on your prayerful support and your honest feedback,” his statement continued. Noting that in his position he cannot begin any new diocesan initiatives, he said “please let me know how I can help you and support you in your ministry. Together we can keep our wonderful diocese functioning smoothly and be able to present to our new bishop, when he comes, a well-managed home.”

Fr. Danielson retired in 2007 as pastor of the Catholic Community of Pleasanton, which is reportedly comprised of St. Augustine Church and St. Elizabeth Seton Church.

The California Catholic Daily reports that then-Bishop of Oakland John Cummins expressed public displeasure with Fr. Danielson after it became public that Fr. Danielson was allowing homosexual “marriages” at St. Elizabeth Seton.

A “wedding” between two women was reportedly attempted at the parish on May 9, 1998 but was canceled after several dozen Catholics came out to protest at the church building, which was then under construction.

The protest was reported in the San Francisco Chronicle and on San Francisco’s Channel 7 News. According to the California Catholic Daily, Fr. Danielson “bragged” he would continue blessing homosexual unions outside of the church building.

In a Thursday phone call CNA spoke to Mike Brown, Director of Communications at the Diocese of Oakland, regarding the claims.

He said the California Catholic Daily “wasn’t terribly clear” in its material and “didn’t present anything that could be thought of as new allegations,” reporting that the paper had not called to confirm the reports.

He thought the report “didn’t present it in a way I thought gave a clear hearing to both sides of the controversy.”

“They went into their clips and found 11-year-old stories and are recapping those in two or three paragraphs.”

Asked if reports that Fr. Danielson had allowed homosexual “marriages” at his parish, Brown replied: “apparently not.”

He said that, according to the story in the May 1998 issue of the Catholic Voice, Fr. Danielson explained the action in the May 17, 1998 bulletin for his parish.

“We do not celebrate homosexual marriages in any form, but we will pray for and with anyone, we will pray over commitments of love and friendship, we will tend to anyone in their need whether they are practicing Catholics, registered members of our parish, or not.”

According to Brown, Fr. Danielson reportedly reiterated that the Church believes “that the only marriage that there can be, according to the plan of God, is a heterosexual union between two people married for the first time.”

“The church does not recognize anything else as a marriage, nor do we,” Fr. Danielson had said.

Fr. Danielson reminded his parishioners that the church teaches that “all genital sexual activity outside of the context of the marriage is not right. That not only includes homosexual activity, but also premarital sex, adultery, masturbation, second marriages without dealing appropriately with the first one through the annulment process, people living together before marriage, etc.”

“So I don’t think he could debunk it any more clearly than that,” Brown told CNA.

Asked by CNA whether the blessings of sinful unions can be a cause for scandal, Brown replied: “That sounds like a theological question.”

“The perspective needs to be balanced by what Fr. Danielson said to his parish at the time that the controversy arose.”

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Legion of Christ director asks forgiveness for ‘all this suffering’

Washington D.C., Feb 6, 2009 (CNA) - Following new allegations of misconduct against Legionaries of Christ Founder Fr. Marcial Maciel, the General Director of the order, Fr. Alvaro Corcuera, has written a letter to all Regnum Christi members asking forgiveness for “all this suffering.”

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had invited Fr. Maciel “to a reserved life of penitence and prayer, relinquishing any form of public ministry” in response to allegations such as sexual abuse of recruits to the order.

Recently the Legionaries admitted that Fr. Maciel had a mistress, fathered a child and led a double life.

Writing to members of the Legionaries of Christ lay order Regnum Christi, Fr. Corcuera did not respond to any specific allegations against Fr. Maciel but tried to encourage members scandalized by their founder’s reported behavior.

In his letter he invoked the imagery of Psalm 22/23, “Though I walk through a dark valley, I fear no evil, for the Lord is at my side.”

Speaking of Fr. Maciel, Fr. Corcuera wrote that he “cannot but recognize all the good I received through him.”

Through the charism Fr. Maciel “passed on to us,” many people have received love for Christ, the Virgin Mary, the Church, the Pope, and the souls of men.

“On a personal level, I am grateful to him for being the instrument God used to give my entire life meaning, seeking eternal salvation, the path to God. This is the truth I experienced, and it would be impossible to find enough words to thank him.

“It is also true that he was a man, and these things that have hurt and surprised us -- and I don’t believe we can explain with our reason alone -- have already been judged by God. It is true that we are going through much suffering and a great deal of pain. As in a family, these pains draw us together and lead us to suffer and rejoice as one body. This circumstance we are living invites us to look at everything with much faith, humility and charity. Thus we place it in the hands of God, who teaches us the way of infinite mercy.”

“For my part, I ask forgiveness for all this suffering,” Fr. Corcuera continued. “And I beg God with all my being to help us all to see it from the heart of Christ.”

Stating that he wrote his letter in the presence of the Eucharist, he said “At this time, we want to look at everything from the vantage point of faith, hope and charity, and to act according to the heart of Christ who became flesh and redeemed us.”

“We are living a time of pain and suffering. And with this pain comes the experience of God’s infinite love as he asks us to continue forward in peace and goodness, for all he wants is for us to know the happiness of being his children. In my own experience, I can say that whenever I am with you I can see the love of God in your hearts like a mirror that gives light to the lives of so many people and which joins us together as one family.”

“Truth, in charity, leads us to think, speak and act like Christ in everything,” Fr. Corcuera insisted. “I know that whatever I say will never be enough, but I do want to express all my closeness, gratitude and prayers, with the certainty that ‘for the one who loves, EVERYTHING contributes to his good’ (cf. Rom. 8:28).”

 “These are times for holiness, humility, and charity. And in everything, let us be instruments of God to do good,” his letter concluded, asking God to bless them always.

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Catholic-SSPX split not yet healed, George Weigel cautions

Washington D.C., Feb 6, 2009 (CNA) - Catholic commentator George Weigel has suggested that the Society of St. Pius X’s (SSPX) response to the lifting of the excommunications of its leaders may not bode well for the full reunion of the traditionalist breakaway group with Rome.

Writing in a Jan. 26 issue of Newsweek, Weigel said SSPX leader Bishop Bernard Fellay’s Jan. 24 letter to society adherents may be seen by some as a “unilateral declaration of victory.”

The bishop’s letter said that “Catholic Tradition is no longer excommunicated” and affirms “all the councils up to the Second Vatican Council about which we express some reservations.”

According to Weigel, the letter implies that talks between the Vatican and the SSPX will focus on these “reservations.”

“Benedict XVI undoubtedly intended this lifting of excommunications as a step toward healing a wound in the church. Bishop Fellay's letter, in response to the pope's gesture, suggests that the healing has not taken place,” Weigel argued in Newsweek. “Moreover, Fellay's letter raises the stakes for everyone, and to the highest level. For what is at issue, now, is the integrity of the Church's self-understanding, which must include the authenticity of the teaching of Vatican Council II.”

Noting that Vatican Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi has emphasized that the excommunications do not mean that “full communion” with Rome has been restored, Weigel cautioned:

“For it is not easy to see how the unity of the Catholic Church will be advanced if the Lefebvrist faction does not publicly and unambiguously affirm Vatican Council II's teaching on the nature of the Church, on religious freedom, and on the sin of anti-Semitism. Absent such an affirmation, pick-and-choose cafeteria Catholicism will be reborn on the far fringes of the Catholic right, just when it was fading into insignificance on the dwindling Catholic left, its longtime home.”

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Canon law expert says Legionaries need transparency

CNA STAFF, Feb 6, 2009 (CNA) - As the Legionaries of Christ wrestle with the news that their founder led a double life, a debate is taking place over the order’s future. Canon lawyer Ed Peters argues that the Legion could dissolve itself and reconstitute under a new charism. But Pete Vere, a canon lawyer who specializes in movements, argues that a reform of the order, not dissolution is the answer.

Earlier this week, news that Father Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ and the lay Regnum Christi movement, had a mistress, fathered a child and led a double life was confirmed by the Legionaries.

Pete Vere, a canon lawyer who is an expert on movements within the Catholic Church, spoke to CNA about how he believes the news will affect the future of the congregation, and the role the Church can play in helping the Legionaries move forward.


Q: In reacting to the revelations of Father Maciel's double life, some have been calling for nothing short of the dissolution of the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi.


Vere: I can agree with a reorganization. Something like this is going to hit hard. I also think that given institutes within the Church take their charism, which is their way of doing things -- their gift to the Church -- from their founder, the Legion is going to have to take a close look [at itself].

My understanding is that they've been doing this already and that they've been working with Rome to make some changes. More changes will have to be made, and these changes come at a very difficult time for them as they are coming to grips with this news. I don't see the necessity of dissolving the Legion.

I think if they were being resistant, if they were refusing, if they were trying to defend the founder's actions, that would be a lot different.

Rome generally takes three approaches when dealing with their wayward children. The first approach is to try and convert and to try to get them to do better. If that fails, then Rome will attempt neutralizing, where basically they pen them in and don't allow them to do anything, to do anymore damage. Then, and only then, will Rome go in for dissolution and crack down heavily.

All indications are that while there are certainly people in the Legion that are having a difficult time with this, and are asking questions, as well as in Regnum Christi, they are trying to do the right thing. Will they necessarily get everything right the first time? No. Will there be questions asked? Absolutely. This is stunning news. This is very difficult news. But, what people in the Church want to see is progress. And we can't expect everything to fix itself overnight. That's my take on that.


Q: In dealing with the news about its founder, where can the Legionaries of Christ and the movement turn?


Vere: We need to keep in mind that no founder in the Church has been perfect, except Jesus Christ. And this is why it is important as members of Catholic organizations and as members of Catholic apostolates and groups, that we always maintain our connection to the Church, that we always turn to the Church when we are going through difficulty, and sometimes we have to say this is beyond our ability as a movement or organization to fix on our own. We need the Church's help here. By the Church I mean our pastors, our shepherds, the Supreme Pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI, as well as the local bishops who are pastors within the diocese. And I also mean Jesus Christ and his blessed mother, who give us the grace, and in whose name we carry on in the apostolates. There is no shame in asking for help from the Church and the wider Church community.


Q: Can the movement go on without a founder?


Vere: Without a founder, no. But being honest about the founder, and saying that the founder made mistakes and that maybe the founder did things for the wrong reasons, and maybe some of the things we did were wrong ... I think that type of openness and transparency will allow them to go on.

Obviously given the size and given the effect they've had on the Church, there is something good there, but that something good has also been clouded by this scandal as well as some of the practices.

Having worked on the tribunal [as a canon lawyer], one thing you learn is that where there is abuse -- especially sexual abuse -- it becomes a family secret and [the family] turns in on itself. It becomes sort of suspicious of the outside world, and you become paranoid that the secret is going to get out and what will people think.

To a certain extent you try to deny this is going on, then when it breaks people say "ha, ha, I told you so." There's also the effect of blaming the victim, [telling them they] didn't do enough. So then one becomes more inward because [of that]. So that's unfortunate.

What's needed here is transparency. And this is a criticism that I have made of the Legion and of Regnum Christi in the past, is that quite often they operate without the local Church's knowledge. There seems to be something secretive. Christ told us not to hide our light under a bushel. Christ told us to preach in the open. So I think what the Legion has to work on is openness, they have to work on transparency. They have to be honest about what has happened. And if they do that, with sincerity, I think, God will give them the grace to move on. And I think the Church has the resources to help the Legion and Regnum Christi to move on with this.

Christ talks about being the good physician. And we refer to the Pope as the Holy Father. And as any good parent or physician, you can't heal the problem if you don't know what it is and it's hard to know what it is if certain symptoms or ailments are being concealed. So that's what I think. I think absolutely the Legion can learn and grow and continue from this. But, they have to show that trust in the Church.


Q: How should other members of the Church react to the news?


Vere: I think for the rest of us, it doesn't do well to play blame the victim. Catholicism is a big family, and like any family, our members sometimes will go through some rough patches and suffer some crises, and the rest of us have to be there for the family. We need to reach out and realize first that most rank-and-file members of Regnum Christi are sincere Catholics who are trying to live a Catholic life, and we need to be understanding of that. We also need to reach out to them and let them know we are praying for them. We also need to reach out to former members of the Legion and Regnum Christi who raised these concerns and ignored them, and we need to apologize to them too. In doing this, I think, we can all get beyond this and grow in holiness, and the Legion and Regnum Christi can return to being a vibrant part of the Catholic Church.


Q: What do you know about the charism of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi?


Vere: I've been following the Legion and Regnum Christi for several years. There were several Legionaries and members of Regnum Christi who helped me through my reconciliation with the Church. I know that their charism was "serve the Church." But, to serve the Church you have to be a part of the Church, and I think this is often where the Legion and Regnum Christi got into trouble in the past, and I think they are working on this, to bring about more openness.

Certainly, the fact that they've brought this forward, and knowing the disappointment they would face shows they are trying to reform and carry on with their mission and charism.


Q: Is there awareness that while the founder was held in high esteem, the charism of the Legionaries of Christ is centered on the person of Christ, and has as its mission to serve the Church in obedience to the Pope?


Vere: I think this has been some of the problem of the past is that they've followed this but the rest of the Church hasn't been aware of what the Legion does, and I think the Legion in the past has been reluctant to share some of this. And I think this is an opportunity for them to open up and say: "Here's what we do, here's how we do things. If there's anything we should be doing differently, or if there's anything we could do better to serve the Church, please let us know. And please take this opportunity to correct us and help us move on."

And certainly, I've been a part of other lay movements that have gone through a reorganization process after the death of the founder, or early on in the foundation, and were moving in the wrong direction and the Church stepped in and reorganized and they've become very, very productive within the Church, serving the Church. And today nobody would question their charism or their authenticity, as part of the Church family.

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Italian government passes emergency decree to save Eluana Englaro

Rome, Italy, Feb 6, 2009 (CNA) - Italy’s Council of Ministers, headed by Silvio Berlusconi, unanimously approved an emergency decree on Friday to stop the father of Eluana Englaro from killing her by removing hydration and food. However, this morning at the clinic La Quiete, where Eluana is staying, the process to end her life was initiated.

According to the newspaper La Repubblica, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi commented on his motivation for passing the emergency decree, saying, "I do not want the responsibility for the death of Eluana."

The decision of the ministers could become law, but still requires the signature of Italy’s President Giorgio Napolitano, who is reportedly against the decree. Unless the decree is signed, Englaro’s feeding tube will be removed today, after which it will take two weeks for her to starve to death.

The Italian newspaper La Stampa reported on Friday that Prime Minister Berlusconi spoke with the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, but the Vatican "categorically denied" a phone conversation ever took place. La Stampa’s story was following the oft repeated accusation that the Catholic Church is trying to sway the political decisions surrounding Eluana’s case.

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President of Italian bishops’ conference pleads for life of Eluana

Rome, Italy, Feb 6, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Genoa and president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, has issued a fervent plea that Eluana Englaro, the Italian woman who has been in a “persistent vegetative state” for 17 years, not be euthanized by her father, who intends to remove her feeding tubes today.

In a story published by the L’Osservatore Romano, the cardinal points out, “We are at a very grave and sad moment in the history of our beloved country, and the death by euthanasia of Eluana Englaro” would be “a grave wound” and a “failure.”

“We are very concerned because this kind of a path toward euthanasia would have a very painful conclusion, it would be a grave wound in our culture, which has always been a culture that promotes, cares for and defends life in all of its forms, especially when it is most fragile, as our Pope has recalled,” the cardinal added.

Cardinal Bagnasco said, “The degree of civilization of a people, of a culture, is marked first of all by its capacity to respect and embrace, in the most beautiful, most responsible way, life when it is fragile: from the moment of conception until natural death.”

Outside the La Quiete Hospital, where Eluana is being kept, pro-life groups have gathered to offer prayers and solidarity with the woman known as “Italy’s Terri Schiavo.”

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LOR recalls Archbishop Cipriano Calderon coined the term 'Pope’s catechesis'

Rome, Italy, Feb 6, 2009 (CNA) - On Thursday  L’Osservatore Romano memorialized Archbishop Cipriano Calderon Polo, vice president emeritus of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, who died at the age of 81. During his years as director of the LOR’s Spanish edition, the archbishop coined the phrase, the "Pope’s catechesis,” in order to refer to the papal messages of the Wednesday General Audience.

LOR pointed out that the late Spanish archbishop served six Pontiffs and was noted for “his fidelity to the Popes and to the Church, at whose service he placed his intelligence, his hard work, his austerity of life, his vast knowledge. His was a fidelity that was born naturally of the faith that was so rooted in him.”

After being named vice president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America by John Paul II, a task “he carried out with the dedication to work that always characterized him.” Archbishop Cipriano Calderon “journeyed with the Church in Latin America in her culminating moments in Puebla, Medellin and Santo Domingo, and thus helped Rome come to a greater understanding of the aspirations and tensions of those young Churches,” the Vatican paper said.

The tribute also points out that the “brief portrait of Archbishop Calderon would be incomplete if we did not mention his journalistic activity, which occupied so many hours of his day. It was a life-long passion for him.”

Shortly after being named director of the L’Osservatore Romano’s Spanish edition by Paul VI in 1969, Archbishop Cipriano Calderon coined the phrase “Pope’s catechesis” to refer to the weekly discourse at the Wednesday General Audience.  “Nobody had called it that up to then…It was a meaningful and fitting definition that has been embraced in a positive way,” the archbishop said in 2007.

Archbishop Cipriano Calderon’s “testimony of fidelity” will remain with the Church forever, the newspaper stated.  “The Lord will abundantly reward his faithful servant.”

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Parents say love of their children led to objecting to state-imposed school course

Madrid, Spain, Feb 6, 2009 (CNA) - The organization Professionals for Ethics is making public the testimony of some parents who are objecting to the state-sponsored course Education for the Citizenry, saying love for their children and concern that they receive a proper moral formation are some the main reasons they are rejecting the controversial course promoted by the  Socialist government.

Marta Carmona Soriano, who objects to her children taking the course, says the opposition by parents is just the beginning.  This “is a fight for freedom.” “Only our sense of responsibility and the love for our children keeps us from losing our perspective. We have been hardened in our efforts and sacrifices,” she insists.

The organization Professionals for Ethics argues that objecting parents know they are right and they will not stop until their right to choose the kind of moral formation their children receive is respected. “Our objection has its basis not in legal, juridical or judicial arguments, but rather in our own consciences, which are being violated by the State’s attempt to indoctrinate.  From this point of view nothing has changed. EFC continues to violate our consciences and therefore we will maintain our objection,” say Maite Escudero and Fermin Civiac, two other objecting parents.

Luis Dorado Estrada, another objecting parent from Asturias, emphasizes that he will take every means necessary to protect his rights, saying he has the obligation to protect his children from indoctrination “with opinions and principles contrary” to his own.

Victoria Urbina of Madrid says that although some claim the Socialist government is targeting either the Popular Party or the Church, he believes the truth is that the government is placing the “thousands of parents” who have objected to the course in the cross hairs.

Parents know that “with persistence and unambiguous ideas they are winning the battle,” Urbina states.  “When this government disappears, we parents will still be here and we will have won.”

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'Prayer March' to be held for religious kidnapped in Kenya three months ago

Rome, Italy, Feb 6, 2009 (CNA) - The Catholic weekly La Guida in the Italian town of Cuneo announced that the intention for the traditional “Prayer March” that will take place on Sunday, February 8, will be to pray for the nuns kidnapped three months ago in Kenya: Sister Caterina Giraudo and Sister Maria Teresa Olivero.

According to the Italian news agency SIR, La Guida reports that the liberation of the nuns is “increasingly more complicated.  Three months after the kidnapping, the apprehension is more and more intense, as is the prayer and hope for their release.”

The March will conclude with the recitation of the Rosary and a Mass.

The website of the sisters’ religious community,, published a statement denying reports that there had been telephone contact with the two nuns.  “Up to now there have been no calls made by the sisters to their families or to the religious communities.”

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