Hollywood, Calif., Feb 24, 2009 (CNA) - Same-sex “marriage” and homosexual rights advocacy played a part in the Academy Awards when the movie “Milk,” about the murdered San Francisco homosexual politician Harvey Milk, took two Oscars.
Actor Sean Penn, who won Best Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of Milk, said supporters of California’s Proposition 8 should reflect upon their “great shame” while Lance Black, the film’s writer, claimed that churches, the government, and families had diminished young homosexuals.
Last November, the success of Proposition 8 generated protests from Hollywood after the ballot measure overturned the California Supreme Court’s decision imposing same-sex “marriage” on the state.
Upon receiving his Oscar, Penn commented on some Christians who lined the street in protest of the acceptance of homosexuality near the Kodak Theater, where the Academy Awards ceremony was held.
"For those who saw the signs of hatred as our cars drove in tonight, I think it's a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect on their great shame and their shame in their grandchildren's eyes if they continue that support," Penn said. "We've got to have equal rights for everyone."
Black, after receiving the Oscar for Best Writing in a Screenplay written Directly for the Screen, commented:
"If Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he would want me to say to all the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told they are less than [sic] by the churches, by the government, by their families, that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value, and that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you and that very soon, I promise you, you will have equal rights, federally, across this great nation of ours."
Gary Stein, a writer with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, was critical of Penn’s actions, saying he was “pompously and hypocritically ripping into protesters who were lining the streets near the Oscar show.”
“In his speech, Penn tried to shame these people, belittle them, and basically shame anybody who might have supported Proposition 8, which passed in California.”
Stein argued that Penn’s own past involvement in activist protests made his comments hypocritical.
“Stick to acting, Sean. The hypocrisy in personal politics is showing. And it's not pretty.”
Madrid, Spain, Feb 24, 2009 (CNA) - The Apostolic Administrator of Valencia in Spain, Cardinal Agustin Garcia-Gasco, called on Catholics last week to exercise their religious freedom in public because otherwise “they condemn the living and expressing of their faith to social clandestineness, limiting their creativity and impoverishing their contribution to the common good.”
In his weekly pastoral letter, the cardinal warned that if Catholics give in to living merely an underground faith, “Would we not be denying the right to exist in the society of our religiously inspired traditions, customs, art and culture?”
“This patrimony is the fruit of many successive generations, who passed it on to the generations of today so that, in their own creative way, they might pass it on to those of the future. This society is not the patrimony of the State but of the people, of the citizens. Included therein are the citizens who profess the Catholic faith,” he reminded his readers.
The cardinal also warned that the “triumph of radical secularism and an ideology of the State” carries with it “the silencing of God in public life,” which is manifested by the disregard for principles of the natural law or for the humanizing potential of the Gospel actively lived out on the basis of religious freedom.”
Therefore, he encouraged “all faithful Catholics and all people of good will to break with the culture of emptiness and hopelessness, to build a new way of living that springs forth from the Gospel,” a culture that respects the human dignity of all “with freedom, truth and openness to God.”
“Taking inspiration from the words of St. Vincent the Martyr spoken at the time of his death, I believe we cannot merely ‘whisper’ about the freedom and dignity of each human person, his innate fundamental rights, the truth about life and the family. We must proclaim the culture of love loud and clear,” the cardinal said.
Toronto, Canada, Feb 24, 2009 (CNA) - On Tuesday morning Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput addressed 100 business, banking and legal leaders in downtown Toronto. Noting the moral imperative to live for others, the archbishop urged them to “light the marketplace” with generosity, justice and honesty.
After a Mass presided over by Archbishop of Toronto Thomas Collins at St. Paul’s Basilica, Archbishop Chaput opened his talk at the business leaders' breakfast with some general comments on history:
“History is to a nation or people what memory is to individual persons: It roots us in reality. It gives us a context for the present. And it teaches us some of the lessons we need to build a better future,” he said.
He noted several historical facts united by the power of money: religious Muslims’ avoidance of interest as a financial tool; past Catholic opinion that interest charged on money is a sin; the Protestant countries’ general economic outperformance of Catholic nations; and Karl Marx’s inspiration of millions of people and a century of “revolutionary action” despite the “huge holes in his ideas.”
“Church leaders originally condemned interest because it allowed the rich to take even greater advantage of the poor, and it reduced the bonds of family, fealty and friendship to impersonal transactions,” the archbishop explained.
“Protestant individualism led to economic initiative. Catholic distrust of the new economy tended toward heavy economic controls and conservatism. If we compare the traditional economic assumptions of countries like the United States with those that were dominant in Latin America until very recently, the differences are pretty clear.”
The improper pursuit of capital should not lead people to misread Scripture to say that money is the root of all evil, he clarified, recalling that the Bible says that “the love of money is the root of all evils.”
“We can love people. We can’t love things. People are the subjects of history. Things are the objects and tools of history. When we treat things with the attention and reverence due to people, people suffer,” Archbishop Chaput continued.
Saying the increase of quality and length of life is an “astounding modern achievement” and an example of how the free market can be “a powerful force for good,” the archbishop recalled that it is also true that “more people are poor and suffering than at any time in history.”
“One of the lessons of history – and also the Christian and Jewish Scriptures -- is that the rich forget the poor. Power, including economic power, can become a kind of addiction. The language of appetite subverts the language of ideals. If we associate the idea of freedom with cars or cell phones or computers, as we relentlessly do in our advertising, pretty soon we lose the real vocabulary of freedom,” the Denver prelate warned.
The need for profit and the specialization of skills and interest narrows our horizons at work and also in our perceptions of others and our connections with the world, the archbishop argued.
Archbishop Chaput said that the economic marketplace exists for the benefit of everybody and must recognize the justice of economic success without shunning responsibility for those around us.
“And when we do lose sight of that responsibility -- when we reduce other people to statistics or impersonal social problems; when we ignore the moral implications of money; when we let greed, dishonesty and financial voodoo take over our economic life – then the bonds that hold a nation together begin to unravel. And we end up in the train wreck we all find ourselves dealing with now.”
Emphasizing that the free person, like the saints, must live for others, he said true freedom comes from self-mastery and using our talents for others.
“We need to give to receive. And that makes sense, because God is love; his essence is charity,” the archbishop said.
God belongs “in the hearts and the actions of the people who make the market succeed. And that means you,” he told the Toronto audience.
“Business, like art, law, literature, music, and architecture, is a window on the soul of a culture -- and that puts a rather unflattering light on the soul of the past five months, doesn’t it. What we do, what we create, reveals who we are. And that's as true in the marketplace as it is in the painter's studio. The rest of us need good leaders like you to change things; to light the marketplace with habits of generosity, justice, and honesty.”
He emphasized the necessity for personal conversion, saying:
“Devotion to family sounds like a simple thing, and it is. Gratitude, honesty, humility, faithfulness – these all are simple things. They’re also very difficult. It’s easy to talk about fixing the problems of society with big national programs and policies, because we can always blame somebody else when they don’t work.
“Personal change, personal moral integrity, personal fidelity to people and principles – that’s much harder work, because we’re stuck with the clay of who we are, and there’s nobody to blame but ourselves if we fail.”
Persistence in small virtues will result in change on a large scale, Archbishop Chaput concluded.
“One life, lived well, won’t change the world – but it’s a start. That’s where revolutions start; with one life.
“So lead well, with honesty, generosity and vision; with moral character and unselfishness. Lead well, not only with what you say, but with what you do – and in your example, that’s where the renewal of your nation’s public life will begin.”
Irondale, Ala., Feb 24, 2009 (CNA) - The television network EWTN in March will begin airing a television series for spouses suffering marriage problems to help them renew their marriages.
The series “Marriage Works in Christ: Broken and Blessed” is hosted by Fr. James Dean and Greg and Julie Alexander, the married founders of the Alexander House.
After an overview episode, each new installment will feature a couple who has experienced significant turmoil in their marriage. According to a press release, the couple will first discuss how an issue strained their marriage and then share how God worked in their lives to restore unity and joy to their marital union.
“We live in a society that has lost hope in the vocation of marriage,” Greg Alexander said, explaining the relevance of the series. “We want the world to see that marriage can be beautiful if we live it according to the way that God designed it. If we participate in the sacrament the way that God intended, all the grace we need is available in order to live peaceful, joy-filled marriages.”
Father Dean explained that Greg and Julie have gained “wonderful insights” about troubled marriages though their own experience and through helping over a thousand couples repair their own marriages.
“This series will not only give couples hope, it will also give them insights into how to resolve their problems,” he said.
Following a painful time in their marriage, their marital renewal led them to found The Alexander House, a non-profit organization intended to help understand the meaning of marriage from a godly perspective. The Alexanders lead marriage enrichment workshops, “coach” troubled couples, and help couples understand and follow the teachings of the Catholic Church on marriage.
Julie said she and her husband are sharing what God has done for them.
“By inviting God into our lives and our marriage and by learning about His plan, we have experienced the joy of an amazing marriage. In the Scriptures when Jesus heals people, they go and share what God has done for them. Our family was restored and our marriage was renewed.”
“Marriage Works in Christ: Broken and Blessed” will debut on EWTN on March 4. It will air on Wednesdays at 11:30 pm and Thursdays at 2:30 am Eastern time.
Vatican City, Feb 24, 2009 (CNA) - Every year the Pontifical Commission for Latin America celebrates Hispanic-American Day, which this year falls on March 1. This year, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re and Archbishop Octavio Ruiz Arenas are calling on Latin Americans to redouble their commitment to evangelization as the continent is undergoing a "crisis of faith."
The Hispanic-American Day celebration is held annually in the dioceses of Spain to celebrate the ties established by the first evangelization between Spain and Latin America. Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re and Archbishop Octavio Ruiz Arenas, respectively president and vice president of the commission, have penned a message to help people live out this year’s theme: "America with Christ. Live the mission."
The theme, the two clergymen write, highlights "two intimately related questions. On the one hand it reminds us of the call to go out into the world to 'make disciples' of Jesus; on the other it reaffirms a conviction that has its foundation in the Master's promise: 'I am with you always, to the end of the age'."
"At the present time Latin America needs to recover and reaffirm the Christian values that lie at the root of its culture and traditions," they say. "There is an urgent necessity to bring the light of the Gospel to public, cultural, economic and political life."
"How," the two prelates ask, "can we respond to these challenges? How can we find an authentic and truly satisfactory solution to an ever-changing reality in which the values propagated by contemporary culture are in ever greater contrast with the reality of the Gospel?"
The solution, the cardinal and archbishop continue, can be found in Pope Benedict’s inaugural address to the Fifth General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean in Aparecida (2007). "He reminded us of a great truth: 'only those who recognize God know reality and are able to respond to it adequately and in a truly human manner'."
"Faced with the crisis of faith in Latin America today," write Cardinal Re and Archbishop Ruiz, "there is a pressing need to make Christ known, and to announce His Word to the men and women of the continent. To this end we must base our missionary efforts, and all of our lives, upon the rock of the Word of God."
With the Pauline Year nearing its final leg, the two prelates evoke the image St. Paul "bearing witness to an individual experience of meeting a person, Jesus Christ. He is the only reality with the power to open the hearts of men and women to contact with the Truth. Hence, it is only united to Christ, only with Christ, that America can live its mission!"
In recent days, the Pope and Latin American bishops have raised their voices calling for a commitment to the Great Continental Mission, which is aimed at bringing Christ to all of South America and the Caribbean. The message for Hispanic-American Day ends with calling people "to shoulder missionary commitment in the Continent of Hope," and encourages priests and religious "to feel in their hearts the ardor of being bearers of the Word 'unto the ends of the earth', and not to be afraid to respond generously to the apostolic mission."
Bogotá, Colombia, Feb 24, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop Alberto Giraldo Jaramillo of Medellin expressed his condolences this week over the violent death of Father Juan Gonzalo Aristizabal, who was killed on February 22 by a group of unknown assailants.
In a statement published by the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, “Archbishop Alberto Giraldo Jaramillo of Medellin, his auxiliary bishops and all the clergy of the archdiocese lament the violent death of Father Juan Gonzalo Aristizabal Isaza on February 22 by unknown assailants and which is under investigation by the competent city officials.”
“As the Catholic Church we roundly reject these kinds of acts that go against human life, the betterment of society and the work of evangelization of a priest who daily sought the good of others. We have no words to express our concern and sorrow over the murder of our beloved priest,” the archbishop said.
He also called for prayers for the eternal repose of Father Aristizabal and for those responsible for the crime, “that the Lord might transform their hearts.”
Yonkers, N.Y., Feb 24, 2009 (CNA) - After being appointed the new archbishop of the Archdiocese of New York, Archbishop Timothy Dolan received a phone call yesterday from President Barack Obama who congratulated him and assured the prelate of his prayers.
Dolan told the Associated Press that the president’s call was “extraordinarily gracious” and that the two discussed the country’s financial problems. The archbishop also invited Obama to his installation ceremony in April.
Archbishop Dolan said that when he initially took the call, he suspected it was his brother playing a prank on him.
There has been no official statement from the president’s office on the conversation.
Archbishop Dolan, 59, was picked yesterday to succeed Cardinal Edward Egan as the head of the Catholic Church in New York City.
Madrid, Spain, Feb 24, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, presided last Thursday at the opening session for the cause of canonization of the married couple Paquita Dominguez Susin and Tomas Alvira Alvira.
With the eight children of the Opus Dei couple present at the ceremony, Cardinal Rouco underscored the “need to proclaim and bear witness to the gospel of the family,” and referred to the Alviras as “an example of this testimony in the 20th century.”
Cardinal Rouco recalled that before the new millennium, Pope John Paul II established the study of holy Christian marriages as one of the objectives for the Church. At the time, John Paul II said, “The Christian witness of the family is very much needed.”
The ceremony for the Alviras took place in the crypt of St. Michael’s Basilica in Madrid.
The postulator of the cause, Jose Carlos Martin de la Hoz, commented on the occasion, saying, “The Church asks us now to show that their lives in the Prelature of Opus Dei, during so many years, were truly heroic.” The postulator added that a tribunal has been established to gather the necessary evidence “to determine if they can be considered as examples of Christian life and as intercessors for all Christians.” .
Tomas Alvira and Paquita Dominguez joined Opus Dei in 1947 and 1952 respectively. Alvira was professor of Natural Sciences and a researcher in Aragon and his wife worked as a teacher in Madrid. Only two other married couples have been beatified by the Church: Luis and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi (2001) and the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, Luis Martin and Zelie Guerin (2008).
Lisbon, Portugal, Feb 24, 2009 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Portugal has reaffirmed its rejection of the government’s attempts to make homosexual unions equal to traditional marriage after Socialist Prime Minister Jose Socrates Carvalho Pinto de Sousa promised he would support gay unions if re-elected.
In a statement issued during the meeting at Fatima, the bishops’ executive committee said the family, founded upon marriage between a man and woman, merits unique and exclusive recognition and should not be confused with other types of unions.
The bishops explained that any law that allows homosexual unions and gives them the right to adopt children "would constitute a grave change to the anthropological basis of the family and of all society, endangering its balance."
After pointing out the "complementarity of the sexes," the bishops warned that "alternative models" of marriage and the family "would represent a source of confusion for teens and young people."
"These positions are accepted by diverse cultures and civilizations, by the Judeo-Christian revelation and thus recognized implicitly by our Constitution and explicitly by the Civil Code."
The bishops went on to explain that while "homosexuality denotes the existence of personal identity problems," at the same time "the Church rejects every form of discrimination or marginalization of homosexual persons and she asks that they be treated with kindness and assisted in overcoming their difficulties, which in many cases cause great suffering."
The bishops also said, "Faithful to reason, the Word of God and the teachings she has received," the Church "considers that human sexuality lived out in marriage finds its truth and fullness in the loving union of a man and a woman."
Rome, Italy, Feb 24, 2009 (CNA) - The Patriarch of Venice, Cardinal Angelo Scola, explained this week that Catholics need to bear witness to their faith in public life, showing society the richness of the Gospel, where the answers man is seeking can be found. He also noted that today many are working to silence the necessary contribution of the faithful to the world.
In an editorial entitled, "Catholics, the Laity and Civil Society," published on February 20 by the Italian daily Avvenire, and presented in English by Vatican analyst Sandro Magister, the cardinal explained that there are two cultural interpretations of Christianity that are at odds with each other and appear to be reductive.
The first treats Christianity as a civil religion, "as mere ethical cement, capable of acting as a social adhesive for our democracy and for the European democracies in grave distress. If such a position is plausible to those who do not believe, its structural insufficiency should be evident to those who do believe. The other, more subtle interpretation is the one that tends to reduce Christianity to the proclamation of the pure, unadorned Cross, for the salvation of ‘everyone else’."
"There is another cultural interpretation that to me seems more respectful of the nature of man and his being in relationship," the cardinal continued. "This runs along the ridge that separates civil religion from diaspora and concealment. It presents the coming of Jesus Christ in its entirety – incapable of being reduced to any human federation – and displays the heart of this, which lives in the Church's faith on behalf of all people. In what way? Through the Church's proclamation of all the mysteries of faith in their entirety, as skillfully compiled in the catechism," he said.
The Patriarch of Venice later noted that, "respecting the specific responsibility of the lay faithful in the political domain, it is nonetheless evident that if every member of the faithful, from the Pope to the last of the baptized, were not to share openly what he believes are the valid answers to the questions that trouble the human heart every day, and bear witness to the practical implications of his own faith, he would take something away from others. He would withhold a positive contribution, he would not participate in the common effort to build up the good life."
After stressing that "this exchange must extend 360 degrees, to everyone, no one excluded," Cardinal Schola emphasized that by engaging in this "dialogue humbly but firmly with everyone, it can be seen that the action of the Church is not aimed at hegemony, or in using the ideal of faith for the sake of power."
"Its real aim, in imitation of its Founder, is that of offering everyone the consolation of hope in eternal life. This hope can already be enjoyed in the "hundredfold here below," and helps us to face the crucial problems that make everyone's daily life fascinating and dramatic," the cardinal said.
Washington D.C., Feb 24, 2009 (CNA) - The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has announced that it is offering a variety of internet resources for Catholics’ reflection and spiritual growth during Lent 2009.
The USCCB site, located at http://www.usccb.org/lent , is organized around the four pillars of the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults: what we believe, what we celebrate, how we live and how we pray.
“Since the Second Vatican Council, the Church has reemphasized the baptismal character of Lent with the restoration of the catechumenate, a period of learning and discernment for individuals who have declared their desire to become Catholics,” the web site says. “The traditional Lenten practices of fasting, prayer and almsgiving are still observed, but are done so with the purpose of recalling our baptism and in solidarity with those preparing to be baptized and received into the Church.”
Prayer resources at the website include a tutorial on the rosary, text and audio versions of the Stations of the Cross, and a section on Lenten prayer. The site especially discusses the two sacraments emphasized during Lent, Reconciliation and Baptism.
The site also provides a question-and-answer section on the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) and on the Paschal Triduum which lasts from Holy Thursday through Vespers on Easter Sunday.
Videos at the site include meditations on the crucified Christ and Michelangelo’s Pieta. An hour-long documentary about the RCIA is also excerpted.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Feb 24, 2009 (CNA) - This week, Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata, Argentina remarked that the current financial crisis is due to people looking only at the short-term, when instead, the purpose of finances should be used for "the concrete development of nations."
"This touches upon a fundamental point of the Church’s Social Teaching: finances should be at the service of the production, work and concrete development of the nations," the archbishop said in his program "Keys to a Better World," as he referred to Pope Benedict XVI’s message for the World Day of Peace.
Speaking about the current financial crisis, Archbishop Aguer warned that attention has not been paid "to the fundamental teachings of the Church’s Social Doctrine." The Pope, he said, "correctly points out that the short-sightedness of financial profit has been the problem," as well as not looking at "the relationship between financial investments and truly productive processes that provide work and create development and progress for nations."
Archbishop Aguer noted that just as the Pope said, the short-sighted vision of finances has led us to go from "a phase of financial euphoria" to "a phase of financial depression that has resulted in immeasurable ruin not only in the financial markets" but also in many families who are going to wind up in extreme poverty.
"I hope the voice of the Church, which has resounded for decades - and I would say, for centuries, because this has its basis in the Sacred Scriptures - will someday be heeded," the archbishop concluded.