Archive of February 26, 2009

Bishop asks university to consider closing Diversity Institute

Scranton, Pa., Feb 26, 2009 (CNA) - Following controversy over the Diversity Institute at Misericordia University’s hosting of a homosexual activist, Bishop of Scranton Joseph F. Martino has asked the university to seriously consider discontinuing the institute and to explain its efforts to teach Catholic sexual morality.

Bishop Martino had warned before Keith Boykin’s appearance that he had “absolute disapproval” for the institute’s invitation to have him speak at its annual dinner and as part of Black History Month. The bishop charged that the university was “seriously failing” to maintain its Catholic identity in the case.

On Tuesday the university issued a statement saying Misericordia University “has been committed deeply to its Catholic mission and the teachings of the Catholic Church for 85 years.”

“Misericordia University welcomes the opportunity to discuss these matters with the Bishop and his delegates at their convenience,” the statement continued, saying the university will not make any further public comments.

In a statement of its own, the Diocese of Scranton asked the school to inform its alumni and all the Catholics of the diocese about its efforts to teach Catholic morality regarding sexuality and homosexuality.

“In doing this, the Bishop believes the school should speak precisely, naming courses, content and even catalog numbers,” the diocese said.

The diocese reported that Boykin in at least one of his talks discussed advocacy for issues such as same-sex marriage and addressed the intersection of religion and sexuality.

“The Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality was not presented at the event,” the diocese said.

According to the diocese’s statement, Bishop Martino has said that students attending a Catholic institution should have “a clear understanding” that homosexual activity is “not condoned” by the Church and “should never be construed as acceptable behavior,” though all persons should be treated with dignity.

“Bishop Martino is also asking Misericordia to seriously consider discontinuing its Diversity Institute, which co-sponsored Mr. Boykin’s appearance,” the Diocese of Scranton said, adding that Boykin had previously served for a week as a visiting scholar with the Institute.

The bishop believes that students should learn respect for all races and cultures, but holds that viewpoints that are in “direct opposition to Catholic teaching” should not be presented under “the guise of ‘diversity’.”

“Doing so within a formal structure sanctioned by the institution gives the impression that these viewpoints are acceptable, or that all morality is relative,” the diocese’s statement concluded.

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‘Fund to Protect Human Life’ established at Notre Dame

South Bend, Ind., Feb 26, 2009 (CNA) - A new fund for pro-life activities has been established at the University of Notre Dame under the auspices of the Center for Ethics and Culture. The Notre Dame Fund to Protect Human Life aims to support pro-life activities at both student and university levels.

Noting that the sanctity of human life deserves protection in all stages, a statement from the Center for Ethics and Culture said that the fund focuses on the beginning stages of life. These stages are “particularly vulnerable” in contemporary culture, the Center says, and represent points at which “human dignity and human life are subject to the most egregious attacks.”

The fund aims to educate Notre Dame students in “the rich intellectual tradition supporting the dignity of human life” and to prepare the students to “transform the culture into one where every human life is respected” by means of personal witness, public service and prayer.

Additionally, the fund will encourage “relevant understanding, support and involvement” among the administration and the faculty while also promoting activities and projects which will enhance the university’s “institutional involvement and reputation as a leader” in pro-life issues.

Applications of the fund could include defraying transportation and other costs of student participation in the annual March for Life in Washington D.C. and other off-campus seminars and conferences; paying expenses of the undergraduate and law school student right-to-life clubs in excess of what they already receive; and sponsoring essay contests and academic competitions which encourage scholarly development of pro-life issues.

Funding for speakers and seminars on campus could also benefit, as could faculty, student and intern research into human life issues. The fund could be used to grant awards and prizes recognizing outstanding pro-life service or to develop relevant curricular offerings and programs.

The statement from the Center for Ethics and Culture emphasizes that the fund does not take away from student pro-life clubs, but “supports and amplifies” their activities and programs.

“Those groups currently receive some minimal University funding, and their fundraising efforts have not always been sufficient to support their desired agendas,” the statement said. “It is a challenge for students, who have just returned to campus each fall to start a new school year with a full course load and a panoply of extracurricular activities, to then carry the additional burden of trying to raise funds to support those activities.”

Fundraising shortfalls have made student pro-life activities “tentative” and have left some planned endeavors uncompleted.

“This new fund will not replace student fund-raising activities, but will be available as a backstop to ensure that the full student agenda of Right-to-Life activity gets funded each year,” the Center explained.

Administration of the fund will be overseen by a committee of five pro-life scholars. The committee chair will be Director of the Center for Ethics and Culture David Solomon. Initial committee members will be associate directors of the Center Daniel McInerny and Elizabeth Kirk, professor of history Rev. Wilson Miscamble, CSC and O. Carter Snead.

Snead, an associate professor of law, was former Chief Counsel for the President’s Council on Bioethics.

“No Fund expenditures shall be authorized which are disapproved by more than one member of the Committee,” the Center for Ethics and Culture statement reports.

The Center has asked for direct contributions, endowments and bequests to help support the fund.

The web site for the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture is located at

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Targeted Proposition 8 supporter urges Catholics to ‘stand up’ despite critics

Sacramento, Calif., Feb 26, 2009 (CNA) - The owner of a family-owned ice cream shop and restaurant in Sacramento who has been targeted by angry phone calls and e-mails and obscene Valentine’s Day cards because of his support for the Proposition 8 campaign says Catholics should “stand up” for marriage despite the consequences and the “lies” of extremist activists.

The passage of Proposition 8, which overturned a California Supreme Court decision instating same-sex “marriage,” prompted major protests from homosexual activists and their allies.

Allan Leatherby, 46, told CNA that he and other family members decided to contribute to the Yes on 8 campaign after Bishop of Sacramento Jaime Soto personally called him to ask for his support.

Members of the Leatherby family, which owns Leatherby’s Family Creamery, gave $20,000 to the campaign. “It was a response to his personal request. Otherwise we might not have supported it in that amount,” he explained to CNA.

 “Obviously as Catholics we value marriage,” he said, saying they saw some “huge red flags” about the effects of same-sex marriage.

When the family’s support for Proposition 8 became public, protesters targeted their business. The ice cream shop was picketed, employees in company sweat shirts were harassed and angry callers phoned the business. The business reportedly received hundreds of angry e-mails and was targeted by bloggers.

Leatherby also received obscene Valentine’s Day cards in the mail.

“There is no way we could have prepared for the kind of reaction we got,” he said. “Business is actually down and that worries me. Can a business sustain that kind of negativity in the long-term? God only knows.”

After the election, business increased because Proposition 8 supporters deliberately frequented the business, but their numbers have decreased.

Leatherby’s Family Creamery and its owners enjoy a good reputation in the Sacramento area because of the business’ donations of ice cream to area charities. Leatherby himself is an active volunteer and built stairs and helped renovations at Hope House, a former AIDS hospice.

Speaking with CNA on Wednesday, Leatherby explained his support  for Proposition 8, saying he disagreed with characterizations of same-sex marriage as a civil rights issue.

“I have men’s and women’s restrooms in my establishment. Is that discrimination? No. Why? Because men and women are different!

“They’re equal in dignity but they’re different. A relationship between a man and a woman is different than a man and a man or a woman and a woman, hands down,” especially when children are considered.

Leatherby explained how Leatherby’s Family Creamery didn’t know what would transpire on the day after the election as angered opponents began to organize protests.

He said a friend overheard a protest group say they were going to start picketing and contacted him. Some opponents of Proposition 8 and some members of the gay and lesbian community also called to warn they would be boycotting.

There were rumors of a “sitdown” where protesters would not allow customers to enter the ice cream shop.

“We got a call from police department and the sherrif’s department saying ‘we are concerned for your safety’.”

Angry and violent e-mails and blogs increased concern about the protests, leading law enforcement to ask if they could position a patrol car at each location.

Leatherby then contacted members of his and his wife’s large families, asking for their support.

Others heard about the protests against the Leatherbys, resulting in an “outpouring of support” from those who wanted to make sure they didn’t go out of business.

When the shop opened, picketers were stationed out front carrying “vulgar, crazy signs.”

However, there was also a long line of people waiting to go into the store to show their support.

“That was just tremendous, to have that support,” Leatherby told CNA.

 “Now I know how George Bailey felt at the ends of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’,” he added. “It’s nice to have friends.”

Asked to describe the kind of critical comments he had received, Leatherby said Proposition 8 opponents have been “all over the board.”

“Most of them associate me and my family with hateful, spiteful people that would drag homosexuals out into the street and beat them up.

“It’s amazing. Because of the lies that are told about this, about how supporters are hateful, so many people have bought into that!”

“A majority of Californians are not hateful people. It’s a lie to say that.

“They don’t hate gay people, they support marriage.

“You can’t hold those beliefs any longer unless you’re considered hateful?” Leatherby asked.

“Is Mother Teresa a hateful person? She has the same beliefs I do.

“One of the first houses she opened in San Francisco was an AIDS house for gay men. Some of the first people she reached out to were gay men,” Leatherby noted.

“If it wasn’t so horrible, it would be silly,” he said of the criticisms.

He said the phone calls accusing his family of hate are “vulgar, swearing, for the most part just angry,” explaining his mother took one such call on Tuesday.

“You accuse me of hate, could you please listen to what you are saying?” she said to the caller, according to Leatherby.

“They’re so emotional and so angry that they don’t’ take time to sit back and think about it,” he said.

He noted that he and his business had even been threatened.

“Our employees, little 16-year-old girls, have been threatened physically because of my family’s stand,” he said.

Not all the interactions with critics have been negative.

Leatherby recounted his meeting with a 70-year-old man who was critical of his support for Proposition 8.

“After talking with him, I said I used to work at a certain house for gay men dying of AIDS.

“He broke down in tears and said, ‘one of my partners died there’.”

Leatherby offered to buy him lunch, where he learned that the man had grown up in a Catholic orphanage.

“The man said ‘the Catholic church had done more for me than anyone else in my life.’

“He said he had been abused before he entered the orphanage, and said he wouldn’t have been gay if he had had a strong man in his life.”

Relatives of gays tell Leatherby they support him, but it’s “very difficult” for them.

“Some gays come in and say ‘I wasn’t for Proposition 8, but we don’t agree with the boycott, and how they’re treating you, so we’d like you to know we’re not in favor of that.’”

He recounted how one man had told a television station he had voted for Proposition 8 after noticing the difference between the two sides and the different examples of their advocates.

CNA asked Leatherby what he would say to those Catholics who are wary to support marriage publicly for fear of economic and social consequences.

“I think we have to stand up,” he replied. “The biggest fear is: if you don’t, you’re going to be in violation of hate crimes very soon,” warning that people “could be dragged to jail.”

He predicted others will “stand up” following his lead.

“To stand alone is always difficult,” he said, adding that many people have come in and spoken with his family in support.

“We’ve been very public when the news media has asked us to step up and I hope that would encourage other people to step up” and not “cower,” Leatherby told CNA.

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Pope calls Catholics to prayer and sacrifice during Lent

Vatican City, Feb 26, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict began Lent yesterday by presiding over Mass at the Church of Saint Sabina and calling on Catholics to enter the period of conversion through frequent contact with the Word of God, more intense prayer and a penitential lifestyle. Let these be “a stimulus to convert and to love our brothers and sisters, especially the poor and needy," he said.

Benedict XVI began yesterday’s Lenten observance with a penitential procession from the church of Sant'Anselmo on Rome's Aventine Hill to the nearby basilica of Santa Sabina where he presided at a Eucharistic celebration.

The Ash Wednesday ceremony included the Pope receiving ashes from Cardinal Jozef Tomko, titular of Santa Sabina, after which the Pope imposed ashes upon cardinals, bishops and a number of faithful.  

The tradition of Catholics wearing ashes on their foreheads on the first day of Lent comes from the Jewish practice of placing dirt or ashes on their foreheads as a sign of repentance. Likewise, Catholics today begin Lent—a 40 day period of fasting and penance—using the same outward expression of their sorrow and intention to seek deeper conversion.

In his homily the Pope highlighted that "the call to conversion emerges as the dominant theme" in the Ash Wednesday liturgy.

Recalling that the Church is celebrating the 2,000th anniversary of St. Paul’s birth, he pointed out that the Apostle was "aware of having been chosen as an example.” Because of this awareness, "St. Paul recognized that everything in him was the work of divine grace, yet he did not forget the need to accept freely the gift of new life received at Baptism."

"How can we fulfill our baptismal vocation?" the Holy Father asked. "How can we emerge victorious from the battle between the flesh and the spirit, between good and evil, the battle that characterizes our lives? Today's Gospel reading shows us three useful means to this end: prayer, alms and fasting.

Ways to live out these three practices can be found in “the life and writings of St. Paul," the Pope said. The Apostle exhorts us to "persevere" in prayer, and to "pray without ceasing." On the subject of almsgiving, he speaks of "the great collection in favor of our poor brethren" and underlines how "charity is the apex of a believer's life. ... He does not expressly mention fasting, but he often calls for sobriety as a characteristic of people called to live in vigilant expectation of the Lord," Benedict XVI explained.

"May Lent," said Pope Benedict prayed, "marked by more frequent contact with the Word of God, by more intense prayer, and by a severe and penitential lifestyle, be a stimulus to convert and to love our brothers and sisters, especially the poor and needy."

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Fire at Chicago cathedral doesn’t stop parish life

Chicago, Ill., Feb 26, 2009 (CNA) - As workers cleaned up Holy Name Cathedral and evaluated the damage caused by a Feb. 4 fire, clergy and parishioners got on with the business of worship.


For the second time in just under a year, the cathedral has become unusable because of damage. Last February, it was wood falling from the ceiling that closed the 134-year-old building’s doors; this year, less than six months after the cathedral reopened, a fire in the attic area just below the roof left the oak and walnut ceiling intact but did enough damage to close the building while repairs are made.


Father Dan Mayall, the cathedral rector and pastor of Holy Name Cathedral Parish, said that in some ways, it’s easier this time around because cathedral staff had a plan in place to relocate daily and weekend Masses.


Within hours of the fire, the cathedral web site advised visitors that daily Masses would be celebrated in the club room the parish center and Sunday Masses would be celebrated in the parish center auditorium.


“That’s one good thing,” said Linda Weaver, a parishioner who serves as a lector and extraordinary minister of communion, and is active in several other ministries. “We know what we need to do. We need to have greeters outside to direct people, and we need to have extra lectors on stand-by in case we have to have an overflow Mass.”


Weaver said she had been in the cathedral the evening before the fire, listening to people who want to become lectors there.


“We were sitting there, just enjoying the majesty and the stillness and the quiet,” Weaver said. “It was just awesome.”


Weaver said she has faith it will be again.


Cardinal George expressed that same faith when he met with reporters shortly after the fire was put out.


“Chicago has bounced back from fires before,” said the cardinal, as firefighters still poured water on the steaming roof. “We will bounce back from this.”


The cardinal spoke to the media after taking a brief tour inside the cathedral church.


The fire apparently started in the attic area between the decorative wooden ceiling and the roof, in the transept just west of the altar. Because it was above the ceiling, it was also above the fire sprinkler system.


Reports on Feb. 5 indicated that investigators were looking at a de-icing system that had been repaired the week before, but no definitive cause was named.


“The cathedral looks intact,” the cardinal said, explaining what he saw when he went inside. “Until you see the icicles on the pews and the water on the floor and the water coming out of the electrical installations.”


Later in the day, the heat and lights were on as workers mopped and vacuumed the water on the main floor and pumped water out of the lower level. Plaster had fallen from an area above one pillar, paint high on the walls was bubbled and peeling and a tapestry “IHS” in the ceiling where the transept crosses the nave was waterlogged as water continued to drip onto the pews and floor.


The five galeros — red hats belonging the former cardinal archbishops of Chicago — still hung over the altar, but all movable items were taken out of the sanctuary.


Mayall, who on Feb. 5 called on Chicagoans of all faiths to pitch in to help fix the structure, said it will take time for the damage to be repaired.


The cathedral was in the midst of a $10 million capital campaign to repair and renovate its facilities. But money from that campaign could not be used to pay for repairs to the ceiling and roof structure that closed the cathedral from February to the end of August last year.


In a January bulletin, Mayall said work on the ceiling had cost more than $4 million. He has no estimate for how much the fire damage will cost to fix, or how much insurance will cover.


According to Mayall, a worker arriving after 5 a.m. reported the fire, setting off alarms in the building. The 11 priests who live there were evacuated as a precaution, Mayall said.

Father Matt Compton, an associate pastor, with the help of Father Tom Mulcrone, the fire department chaplain, was able to enter the sanctuary and remove the Blessed Sacrament from the tabernacle for safekeeping. It was taken to the chapel of Casa Jesus, a formation seminary for Hispanic young men on the cathedral grounds.


Firefighters were able to save the building by pouring water on the roof from hook-and-ladder trucks while others crawled along narrow planks in the attic, fighting the fire from inside the roof.


Weaver said she learned of the fire when a friend sent her a text message at about 6 a.m., and she turned on the television and saw the pictures.


“I cried,” she said. “Last year, we felt like we were in exile all summer.”


Printed with permission from Catholic New World, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Chicago.

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Cardinal Rivera demands priests be allowed to deliver sacraments in hospitals

Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 26, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, has complained that priests and extraordinary ministers of Communion are not being allowed to enter public hospitals in the Mexican capital, in violation of the right of patients to receive spiritual attention.

“If ministers are not given the permission to care for patients in hospitals it is a violation of human rights. It needs to be brought before the Human Rights Commission of Mexico City, which should issue recommendations to the hospital. This cannot continue!” the cardinal said.

Cardinal Rivera said he learned of the situation when one his parish priests was not allowed to enter a hospital in the city of Cuauhtemoc.

“They do give us access in cases of patients who are gravely ill, but in cases where patients request our presence and want to receive Communion or Confession we have not been given access for more than six months because of complaints from non-Catholics,” Father Gilberto Chávez Flores told reporters.

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Court rulings on Education for the Citizenry fail to address main concern, cardinal says

Madrid, Spain, Feb 26, 2009 (CNA) - The new Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Cardinal Antonio Canizares, warned this week that the recent Supreme Court rulings in Spain on the school course Education for the Citizenry do not resolve concerns that parents be able to decide how their children are morally formed.

“That parents have the right to have their children educated according to their own moral and religious convictions, and that they can choose that education, has not been resolved at all, it continues to be valid,” the cardinal told the COPE radio network.

The cardinal noted that the Church supports “an education for peaceful coexistence within Spanish society” and that “the fundamental rights” of the Constitution and Spanish law be taught. 

Nevertheless, he warned that the royal decrees establishing Education for the Citizenry “go beyond” the laws on education and impose “an obligatory moral education on everyone,” to the detriment of the right of parents to choose which kind of formation they want for their children.

Cardinal Canizares continued by reaffirming the Church’s mission of being a “witness and guarantor of fundamental human rights.”

“Precisely her faith in God, in God the Creator, brings her to recognize these fundamental rights that belong to the human person for mere fact of simply being man.”

Thus, he concluded, the Church’s demand that human rights be respected “does not fall under Church-State relations, but rather is consubstantial with her mission, and if the Church did not do so, she would be betraying her own identity.”

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Caritas Nigeria calls for aid for poor amidst global financial crisis

Rome, Italy, Feb 26, 2009 (CNA) - The office for development, justice and peace of Caritas Nigeria expressed concern this week over “the global recession and the consequences it is having on the poor in Nigeria, especially in relation to the global food crisis.”  The office issued its statement at the conclusion of its coordinating meeting in Abuja calling on the international community for aid.

“The failings of the global financial system have laid bare the dangers of placing our trust exclusively in human capacities, without resorting to divine guidance and instruction, which have led to our current situation.  We invite government agencies to identify and implement policies and programs that will effectively lessen the impact of the financial crisis on the Nigerian population,” Caritas said in its statement.

After emphasizing that the first victims of this crisis are children, Caritas denounced police officials in Enugu in eastern Nigeria for storming a hospital that had been dubbed “a baby factory” and taking the newborns of young women to sell them on the black market.

“The recent crisis in Jos has caused a significant but avoidable loss of human life as well as the destruction of property,” Caritas said, while also pointing that in the Niger Delta region “kidnappings and demands for ransom are common.”  Caritas called for peace and an end to the hostilities.

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Bishop Williamson expresses ‘regret’ for Holocaust comments’ effects

London, England, Feb 26, 2009 (CNA) -

Society of St. Pius X Bishop Richard Williamson has expressed regret to the Church and to Holocaust victims and their relatives for the harm caused by his remarks on Swedish television minimizing Jewish suffering in the Holocaust. He also apologized to those who took "honest scandal" from his comments.

Though describing his opinion as that of a "non-historian," he did not explicitly retract it.

"I can truthfully say that I regret having made such remarks, and that if I had known beforehand the full harm and hurt to which they would give rise, especially to the Church, but also to survivors and relatives of victims of injustice under the Third Reich, I would not have made them," he said in a Thursday statement issued from London.

He said recent events and the advice of "senior members" of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) persuaded him of his responsibility for "much distress caused."

"To all souls that took honest scandal from what I said, before God I apologize," Bishop Williamson remarked.

He said in his interview he had given "only the opinion of a non-historian" formed 20 years ago on the basis of "evidence then available."

The bishop had denied the existence of Nazi gas chambers and claimed only 200,000 to 300,000 Jews had died at the hands of the Nazis.

The generally accepted figure of Jewish casualties in the Holocaust is about six million.

"As the Holy Father has said, every act of unjust violence against one man hurts all mankind," Bishop Williamson said.

According to Bishop Williamson, both Pope Benedict XVI and his group’s superior, Bishop Bernard Fellay, requested that he reconsider his remarks because their consequences have been "so heavy."

On Thursday the Vatican Press Office told ANSA that it had not been informed of the apology.

In January Pope Benedict lifted the excommunication of the four bishops who lead the Society of St. Pius X in an effort to advance church unity. The revelation of Bishop Williamson’s remarks caused tensions with Jewish leaders after an international media firestorm.

Bishop Williamson returned to Britain on Tuesday after he was ordered out of Argentina because of alleged irregularities in his documents, ANSA reports.

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Fasting shows love and solidarity with the poor, says Argentinean cardinal

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Feb 26, 2009 (CNA) - In his Lenten message, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, said amidst the atmosphere of “sadness” on display in the streets of Argentina with so many going hungry and in poverty, the Lenten fast is a way of expressing “solidarity with those who fast involuntarily” and helps people overcome indifference.

In a press release about the message, the cardinal said the reality of “men and women begging or going through trash, the elderly sleeping on street corners, kids sleeping on top of subway vents to stay warm” no longer “shocks us.”

“We show no interest in their lives, their stories, their needs or their future. How many times did their pleading looks made us look the other way and walk by.  When we get used to something we also become indifferent,” he warned.

Cardinal Berglogio called on the faithful to observe the Lenten fast as “God desires,” that is, “giving bread to the hungry, shelter to the homeless, clothing to the naked, and not turning our backs on our neighbor.”

“Today we need to fast by working so that others don’t have to fast. Today we can only practice fasting by taking of the pain and powerlessness of the millions who go hungry. Whoever does not fast for the poor cheats God. To fast is to love,” he said.

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Fr. Thomas Rosica named consultor to Pontifical Social Communications Council

Vatican City, Feb 26, 2009 (CNA) - This morning Fr. Thomas Rosica CSB was appointed as a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. Speaking to CNA, the priest said that he sees this as the Pope entrusting a special responsibility to the Church in Canada.

"It is a privilege to serve the Universal Church through the important work of the Council for Social Communications,” said Fr. Rosica in an email to CNA.  

Citing the mishaps the Church has experienced in its communications over the past month, Fr. Rosica said that communicating poses “great challenges” and has great potential for good.

“This appointment,” he commented, “is a tribute to and responsibility given to the Church in Canada, to all of the young adults working with me at Canada's first national, Catholic Television Network, and to those generous benefactors who have made this project of the New Evangelization possible in Canada.  I am grateful to Pope Benedict XVI and to those at the Pontifical Council for Social Communications in Rome for their encouragement, trust and confidence."

Fr. Thomas Rosica, is the CEO of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and Television Network, a network that was born out of World Youth Day in Toronto, Canada.

Born in 1959, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1986.  He holds dual citizenship in the USA and Canada.  Fr. Rosica is a Scripture scholar and has served on the General Council of the Congregation of Priests of St. Basil since July, 2006. 

Fr. Rosica has also been involved with numerous Vatican activities, including serving as the National Director and C.E.O. of World Youth Day 2002 and the Papal Visit to Canada.  In October 2008, he served as the English Language Media Attaché of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican.

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Ash Wednesday services at Protestant university attract interest

Nashville, Tenn., Feb 26, 2009 (CNA) - Ash Wednesday services at Belmont University have become an annual tradition, with Bishop of Nashville David Choby joining Todd Lake, the school’s vice president of spiritual development, for the Wednesday service at the former Baptist school.

Bishop Choby said in his sermon that people need physical reminders of spiritual truths, making the customs of Ash Wednesday so powerful, The Tennessean reports. He also told the mostly Protestant audience of hundreds about the custom of making the sign of the cross on his forehead, lips and heart before reading from the Bible.

"I do that as a sign the love of Christ will be in my mind, that the love of Christ will be on my lips, and that the love of Christ will transform my heart," he said.

Attendance at the services may reflect a trend towards liturgical interests among younger evangelicals.

Todd Johnson, professor of worship at the evangelical Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California told The Tennessean that such interest is common.

"We have a whole generation of people who are familiar with using symbols," he told The Tennessean. "Kids have grown up using icons on their computers. Symbols mean more to them than words."

Ash Wednesday became more commonly observed after 9/11, Johnson said. The ashes conveyed the loss of life and death in that terrorist attack.

"It's a reminder of your baptism, and time to examine your life," he said. "The ashes used to be a sign of sin. Now they are a sign of our mortality."

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Kansas late-term abortionist to face trial

Wichita, Kan., Feb 26, 2009 (CNA) - A judge on Wednesday refused to dismiss the criminal case against Kansas late-term abortionist George Tiller, who has been accused of violating the state’s late-term abortion law.

Pro-life groups have argued that Tiller’s connections with Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius are a major problem for the governor, who is one of President Obama’s top choices to become U.S. Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

In 2007 Sebelius hosted a governor’s mansion dinner for the late-term abortionist, which he purchased as part of a fundraising event for the governor. Tiller has also raised funds for other politicians in the state.

On Wednesday, Sedgwick County District Judge Clark Owens ruled that former prosecutor Phill Kline’s conduct did not warrant the dismissal of the charges against Tiller. The judge also refused to throw out evidence in the case.

According to the Associated Press, Tiller is scheduled to go on trial March 16 for 19 misdemeanor charges alleging he failed to obtain a second opinion for some late-term abortions from an independent physician, which Kansas law requires.

Tiller’s lawyers have accused Kline and his office of misconduct and illegally gathering evidence. Kline, a pro-life Republican, began investigating abortion clinics as Kansas attorney general from 2003 to 2007.

“While Phill Kline testified that he would like for all abortions to be outlawed, his investigations made no attempts to prevent lawful abortions from being performed in the State of Kansas," Judge Owens wrote in his ruling.

He noted that Kline’s successor as attorney general, pro-abortion “rights” Democrat Paul Morrison, took over the case and filed the charges against Tiller.

“Once the investigation was assumed by Attorney General Paul Morrison, the acts of Phill Kline could not have tainted the investigation and prosecution of this case,” the judge wrote.

Phil Kline's “procedures have certainly been questioned by the Kansas Supreme Court, but his conduct in the investigation does not merit the sanction of the dismissal of the charges or suppression of evidence,” Judge Owens continued.

Judge Owens also said the Kansas Supreme Court’s December ruling on Kline’s handling of copies of medical records from Tiller’s abortion clinics found that Kline had not violated any law.

In December’s ruling, the high court refused Planned Parenthood’s demands that Kline relinquish all medical records he had acquired in his investigation involving alleged illegal late-term abortions and the falsification of documents.

However, the Kansas Supreme Court was divided in its opinion.

Justice Carol Beier criticized Kline for engaging in an "obvious and sorry pattern" of "willful disregard" and called him "demonstrably ignorant, evasive, and incomplete" in his written responses. She speculated that actions of Kline could be revealed that might merit civil or criminal contempt charges or other disciplinary action.

On the other hand, Chief Justice Kay McFarland criticized Justice Beier and other justices for using the court’s power of sanction merely “to provide a platform from which it can denigrate Kline for actions that it cannot find to have been in violation of any law and to heap scorn upon him for his attitude and behavior that does not rise to the level of contempt.”

Kline supporters argued that Justice Beier purposefully juxtaposed a favorable ruling with denigrating language and accused the media of misreporting the decision.

Responding to Judge Owens’ Wednesday decision, Tiller’s attorneys said they had hoped that taxpayers might be spared the “expensive security and litigation of this hyper-technical political trial.”

Kline’s attorney, Caleb Stegall, told the Associated Press the ruling vindicated the investigation conducted by Kline.

"No investigation and set of prosecutions in Kansas has ever been subject to the level and intensity of scrutiny that this investigation has borne,” Stegall said.

Operation Rescue President Troy Newman said the decision “brings us one step closer to justice.”

“We continue to pray that true justice will be served on behalf of the innocent, viable babies wrongfully killed by Tiller,” he said in a Wednesday statement.

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