Fargo, N.D., Mar 24, 2009 (CNA) - Facing forecasts of severe floods, Bishop of Fargo Samuel Aquila has appealed for volunteers to combat the threat and has asked parishioners to “keep in fervent prayer” all those who may be affected.
Much of the eastern half of North Dakota is threatened by floods predicted to be more severe in some areas than the 1997 floods whose waters devastated several areas of the diocese.
The National Weather Service said the Red River was about three feet above flood stage (18 feet) on Sunday in Fargo, with more water was on the way. The river was expected to crest between 39 feet and 41 feet in the Fargo-Moorhead area by Friday, a day earlier and a foot higher than projected.
According to a Sunday statement from the Diocese of Fargo, Bishop Aquila sought prayers for those affected, saying “Please remember to pray for their protection, for the protection of our families, our communities and also asking the Lord to give us strength during this time of trial.”
He also encouraged young people to assist others during the flood threat, which must be countered in Fargo by filling of nearly 1.9 million sandbags.
“We need your strength and your work,” he said, “so please volunteer and go out and help where you can.”
Assuring parishioners that God is “with us in all of this,” he also assured them of his own prayers.
“My prayers are with all of the families and our communities that will be impacted as we beg God’s protection upon our communities, asking the Lord to give us strength and patience in all that we face. We know that in every adversity, if we turn to our God, no matter how strong the adversity may be, he will sustain us. And so let us approach it with that confidence and trust in him and knowing that he is with us in all of this.”
In a formal statement issued by e-mail to all Catholic parishes, religious communities and diocesan and Catholic Charities North Dakota personnel this morning, Bishop Aquila repeated his call for prayers.
“I ask especially those in the diocese who live outside of the affected areas to increase your prayer, praying that those in the center of the flood fight will be protected and may experience the peace only God’s love can give,” he said.
“I am grateful for our young people -- youth group members and high school and college students -- who are embracing this opportunity to help with sandbagging those communities and homes which are threatened; the parishes and diocesan entities like Catholic Charities North Dakota who are establishing ways to meet the unique needs of people now and after this threat subsides.”
He then thanked those who are doing “small things” like providing food or offering childcare.
He also noted that the Fargo Catholic Schools Network has set up a Flood Fight Update e-mail system which regularly puts out calls for sandbagging assistance.
“For all who are suffering due to the potential flood, I pray for God’s protection and blessing over you and for the calming strength of His grace,” Bishop Aquila’s e-mail concluded. “As in any adversity, with faith, hope and charity, God will grant us the particular graces we need in this trial and we will grow in our love for God and each other.”
Evansville, Ind., Mar 24, 2009 (CNA) - Saying there can be “no equivocation” about abortion, Bishop of Evansville, Indiana Gerald Andrew Gettelfinger has decided not to attend the Vanderburgh County Right to Life (VCRL) banquet because Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, a Catholic who made conflicting comments about his abortion views, will be addressing the gathering.
Bishop Gettlelfinger charged that Steele “assiduously avoids” strong language on abortion.
The Washington Times reports that 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is also to address the banquet attendees.
Paul Leingang, communications director for the Diocese of Evansville, told CNA that the bishop intends not to attend the dinner he would normally attend.
Evansville Catholic Charities Director Jim Collins also plans not to attend the gathering, saying he was “shocked” by Steele’s comments on abortion in an interview with GQ magazine.
The Republican leader had told GQ that he believes women “absolutely” have the right to choose abortion and that he believes abortion is “an individual choice.”
Steele later distanced himself from remarks in a statement, saying “I am pro-life, always have been, always will be” and voicing his support for the Republican Party platform and “its call for a Human Life Amendment.”
Last Thursday the VCRL board voted to honor its speaking contract with Steele, which agreement was reached last fall, according to the Washington Times.
"We have done our due diligence," VCRL Executive Director Mary Ellen Van Dyke told the Washington Times. "Michael Steele has made the board of directors more than satisfied with his response regarding the GQ article. He told us he always has been and will be pro-life and against abortion in all cases."
However, Bishop Gettelfinger wrote a letter to VCRL, saying that “the principled answer for us is that there can be no equivocation: Intentional abortion is an act of killing the unborn. There is no room for choice in this deadly matter. Mr. Steele assiduously avoids such strong language.”
On Monday CNA spoke with Evansville diocesan communications director Paul Leingang about Bishop Gettelfinger’s decision.
He said there were no new developments concerning the situation because Bishop Gettelfinger is out of town. The diocese had not received a response to the letter the bishop had sent to VCRL, but was still hoping for comment. The organization may not yet have received the bishop’s letter, Leingang explained.
Explaining to CNA why Bishop Gettelfinger will not be attending, Leingang said the bishop was “disturbed” by Steele’s comments in GQ magazine in regard to a woman’s “right to choose” and that they seemed to come from “a political stance, not a principled one.”
“The principled answer would be there can be no equivocation, there’s no room for ‘choice’,” Leingang told CNA, because of what is being chosen.
CNA asked about defenses of Steele which claimed he merely spoke with “unfortunate phrasing” in his GQ interview.
“The salient point is that this is the principled decision of Bishop Gettelfinger,” Leingang replied, reporting that the bishop spoke with Steele by phone last Friday and also read the statement that Steele had issued following the GQ interview.
“After that conversation and examination of the statement, Bishop Gettelfinger maintained his decision not to attend the banquet.”
The bishop has not previously had to take a stand by declining to attend an event.
“This is unique,” Leingang told CNA.
He added that Bishop Gettelfinger will explain his decision in an upcoming article for the diocesan newspaper The Message.
London, England, Mar 24, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop of Cardiff Peter Smith has written a letter to The Times voicing his concern that changes to a bill intended to regulate websites that encourage suicide will “hijack” the proposal by protecting those who assist in suicides in other countries.
Archbishop Smith’s March 20 letter to The Times explained that the Coroners and Justice Bill aims to bring within the law “predatory internet websites that promote or encourage suicide.”
According to The Guardian, the proposed change to the bill, made by former health secretary Patricia Hewitt, says that any act “done solely or principally for the purpose of enabling or assisting (an individual) to travel to a country or territory in which assisted dying is lawful" would not be treated as "encouraging or assisting” a suicide. It reportedly is backed by more than 100 Ministers of Parliament.
In his letter, the archbishop said that defenders of suicide argue there is a difference between “malicious encouragement of suicide” and assistance with suicide “in compassionate circumstances.”
“The real world just isn’t like that,” he said, arguing that lawmakers must take into account the seriously ill or incapacitated elderly parent who feels guilty at the “burden of care,” or the relative whose suicide could be “subtly encouraged” by others in order to secure an inheritance.
“People like this have already heard suggestions from one eminent advocate of legalised euthanasia that sufferers from dementia are wasting NHS resources and the lives of others, and should consider whether they have a duty to die,” he warned.
“As things stand, they have the law’s protection: assisting suicide is illegal. But, if it is made legal in certain situations, that would open a door not just for the self-possessed and self-confident minority who are sure they want it, but for many more who might persuade themselves, or be subtly persuaded by others, that that is the best course for them — and for those around them,” Archbishop Smith’s letter concluded.
Aboard the papal plane, Mar 24, 2009 (CNA) - En route to Rome from Africa, Pope Benedict spoke with journalists about his impressions of the African Church. The Holy Father said that he was impressed with the awareness of the sacred at the liturgies, the powerful sense of belonging to the family of God amongst Africans and his encounter with the suffering.
During his six-day visit to Cameroon and Angola, Pope Benedict said that he was particularly impressed by "this almost exuberant cordiality, this delight, of a rejoicing Africa."
The awareness of the connection between the faithful and the universal Church through Peter’s successor was also evident to Benedict XVI. "I felt they saw in the Pope ... the personification of the fact that we are the children and the family of God. This family exists and we, with all our limitations, are part of it, and God is with us."
Perhaps thinking of World Youth Day gatherings, the Pope related that he was "also moved by the spirit of meditative absorption in liturgy, the powerful sense of the sacred; in the liturgies there was no self-presentation of groups, no self-animation, but the presence of the sacred, of God Himself; even the movements were always movements of respect and awareness of the divine presence."
One incident that deeply affected the Pope was the death of two young women who were trampled at the gathering for youth on Saturday.
"I was also profoundly affected by the death of two girls during the stampede of people entering the Stadio dos Coqueiros, on Saturday. I prayed, and continue to pray, for them. ... All of us pray and hope that in the future things may be organized in such a way that this does not happen again."
Benedict XVI also explained that his meeting with the physically disabled and those suffering from traumatic experiences would remain with him as a "special memory." At the Cardinal Leger Centre, the Pope said, "it touched my heart to see a world of so much suffering, all the suffering, sadness and poverty of human existence; but also to see how State and Church work together to help those who suffer.
"It is, I believe, evident that by helping the suffering man becomes more human, the world becomes more human."
The final highlight for Pope Benedict was the publication of the Instrumentum laboris or working document that will serve as guidelines for the forthcoming Synod for Africa.
The Holy Father recalled how on St. Joseph’s feast day he met with members of the Special Council for Africa, twelve bishops who spoke to me of the situation in their local Churches, their proposals, their expectations. Thus there emerged a detailed picture of the situation of the Church in Africa, how she moves, how she suffers, what she does, what are her hopes, her problems. There is much I could say, for example the Church in South Africa, which has gone through a difficult but substantially successful experience of reconciliation, now uses her experiences in an attempt at reconciliation in Burundi, and she seeks to do something similar, though facing enormous difficulties, in Zimbabwe."
Fort Wayne, Ind., Mar 24, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop John M. D'Arcy has issued a statement saying that he won't be attending Notre Dame's commencement exercises, which will feature President Obama as the keynote speaker and honor him with a doctor of laws degree.
The Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, said that he was not informed of the decision to allow Obama to speak and be awarded a degree until just before the White House announced the news.
Of particular concern to the bishop is the fact that "President Obama has recently reaffirmed, and has now placed in public policy, his long-stated unwillingness to hold human life as sacred.
"While claiming to separate politics from science," said D'Arcy, "he has in fact separated science from ethics and has brought the American government, for the first time in history, into supporting direct destruction of innocent human life."
Pointing to a 2004 U.S. Bishops' statement that calls on Catholic institutions not to honor those who thwart Church beliefs, Bishop D'Arcy said that "the measure of any Catholic institution is not only what it stands for, but also what it will not stand for."
Notre Dame has also announced that it plans to award former Ambassador to the Holy See Mary Ann Glendon with its Laetare Medal. Bishop D’Arcy explained that he encouraged her to accept the medal and use the opportunity to teach, presumably about Church’s defense of all human life.
Bishop D’Arcy’s boycott of the event joins some 50,000 people who have already signed a petition asking Notre Dame’s president to withdraw Obama’s invitation to speak at the Catholic institution.
The full statement of Bishop D'Arcy follows.
Concerning President Barack Obama speaking at Notre Dame
graduation, receiving honorary law degree
March 24, 2009
On Friday, March 21, Father John Jenkins, CSC, phoned to inform me that President Obama had accepted his invitation to speak to the graduating class at Notre Dame and receive an honorary degree. We spoke shortly before the announcement was made public at the White House press briefing. It was the first time that I had been informed that Notre Dame had issued this invitation.
President Obama has recently reaffirmed, and has now placed in public policy, his long-stated unwillingness to hold human life as sacred. While claiming to separate politics from science, he has in fact separated science from ethics and has brought the American government, for the first time in history, into supporting direct destruction of innocent human life.
This will be the 25th Notre Dame graduation during my time as bishop. After much prayer, I have decided not to attend the graduation. I wish no disrespect to our president, I pray for him and wish him well. I have always revered the Office of the Presidency. But a bishop must teach the Catholic faith "in season and out of season," and he teaches not only by his words — but by his actions.
My decision is not an attack on anyone, but is in defense of the truth about human life.
I have in mind also the statement of the U.S. Catholic Bishops in 2004. "The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions." Indeed, the measure of any Catholic institution is not only what it stands for, but also what it will not stand for.
I have spoken with Professor Mary Ann Glendon, who is to receive the Laetare Medal. I have known her for many years and hold her in high esteem. We are both teachers, but in different ways. I have encouraged her to accept this award and take the opportunity such an award gives her to teach.
Even as I continue to ponder in prayer these events, which many have found shocking, so must Notre Dame. Indeed, as a Catholic University, Notre Dame must ask itself, if by this decision it has chosen prestige over truth.
Tomorrow, we celebrate as Catholics the moment when our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, became a child in the womb of his most holy mother. Let us ask Our Lady to intercede for the university named in her honor, that it may recommit itself to the primacy of truth over prestige.
Lima, Peru, Mar 24, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop Jose Antonio Eguren of Piura and Tumbes has called on Peruvians to “be on guard” to protect the unborn from “very powerful ideological and economic interest groups that seek to legalize abortion in Peru at all costs.”
During the Mass for the Day of the Unborn Child, which will be commemorated on March 25, Archbishop Eguren recalled that “the natural law inscribed on the hearts of all human persons and illuminated by Christian revelation” demands respect for life from conception to natural death. For this reason, he called on all Peruvians to reject abortion.
“Today when we speak so much about human rights, we must also proclaim with courage that the right to life is the first and most fundamental right of the human person,” he said.
The archbishop, who is also president of the Bishops’ Committee on the Family, Childhood and Life, said Peruvians want peace, but he warned that social peace “cannot be built through criminal violence that takes place in the mother’s womb through the crime and sin of abortion.”
After recalling that science confirms that life begins at conception, the archbishop said the unborn child is an expression of the love of God, “and therefore should always be cause for joy.”
“There was a time in which Jesus Christ, like us, was an embryo, that is, an unborn child. If we had attacked Him in his mother’s womb, we would have committed the same crime carried out by the Roman soldiers on Calvary,” he said.
“Said in another way,” the archbishop continued, “even before being born, from the womb of Mary, Jesus Christ has revealed to us the dignity of human life.”
Therefore, he said, “The Church is called today to defend the weakest of the weak, the poorest of the poor, those who have no voice to defend themselves: the unborn.”
Toledo, Spain, Mar 24, 2009 (CNA/Europa Press) - The town of Pelahustan, Spain held a ceremony on Monday to announce the dedication of a street to Father Ramiro Ludena, who was slain in Brazil.
The mayor of Pelahustan, Ramon Garcia-Soto, told Europa Press that although the idea still needs to be approved by the town council, the street bearing the priests name could be the one that runs behind the city’s main church. Last Saturday the city also called for three days of mourning, which concluded this past Monday. Flags were flown at half-mast throughout the priest’s hometown.
Some 200 residents gathered to pay to homage to Father Ludena, who spent thirty years working with the poor in Brazil and was laid to rest there.
Investigations continue in Brazil, where police in Recife have detained a 15 year-old suspect in the death of the 64 year-old priest, who was gunned down last Thursday evening.
Two nuns who were with the priest in his car when the incident took place helped police to identify the suspect. He was shot in the arm as they were leaving the house of a friend where they had gone to have dinner. He died later at a local hospital.
Madrid, Spain, Mar 24, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the Institute for Family Policy, Eduardo Hertfelder, said this week that the latest data shows "4 out of every 10 out-of-wedlock pregnancies" in Spain end in abortion, indicating the failure of the government’s family policy.
He explained that the rates have increased since 2007 when "out of every 10 pregnancies, two ended in abortion and three were out of wedlock." This translates to almost 150,000 children born to unmarried parents and 66,489 abortions by single parents.
He added that between 1995 and 2007, "out-of-wedlock births have tripled. During this period, more than 1.1 million children were born" to unmarried parents.
The reality of these facts, Hertfelder noted, "proves that something is failing in Spain. Sexual education is not only erroneous, it is also fostering both out-of-wedlock pregnancies and abortions."
"The increase in immigrants from different cultures, the increase in unmarried couples and the increase in premarital and extramarital sexual relations are the main causes of the increased numbers of out-of-wedlock births," he stated.
Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 24, 2009 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Mexico has sent a letter to Pope Benedict XVI offering prayers, solidarity and communion after receiving the Pontiff’s letter explaining the lifting of the excommunication of four Lefebvrist bishops.
In their letter, the bishops lament "with sadness and sorrow the unjust and disproportionate reactions to the gesture of mercy His Holiness has shown to these brothers of ours aimed at reconciliation."
They called Benedict XVI’s decision to send the letter "a courageous gesture that expresses his sincerity, honesty and frankness in his manner of acting as a Successor of Peter." It also conveys "his sensitivity and gentleness, which are the fruit of mature spirituality and wisdom (….), in understanding the different situations that are present in the life of the Church, in order to act with evangelical spirit and to explain with charity and truth the motives and reasons behind the decisions that are made."
For this reason, the bishops said, it is the perfect opportunity to express to the Holy Father, our fidelity and communion."
"We confirm our filial adherence to the Successor of the Apostle Peter, we appreciate the value of his Magisterium and we thank him for such an exemplary testimony by showing us the heart of a good shepherd," the bishops concluded.
Chicago, Ill., Mar 24, 2009 (CNA) - In response to the announcement that the pro-abortion “rights” President Barack Obama will deliver the commencement address at Notre Dame, CatholicVote.org has partnered with the Cardinal Newman Society to establish a web petition for Catholics and others who wish to protest the university’s invitation of the president.
Brian Burch, President of CatholicVote.org, characterized the president as “a champion of the abortion cause,” citing his support for embryo-destructive research and taxpayer-funded abortion.
“Given President Obama’s utterly shameful record on life, how could a Catholic university honor him?” Burch asked.
“The University could have politely and quietly told the White House that their standing invitation to the President of the United States was not available this year. Better yet, they could have said that while they would welcome his contributions to the public debate over how to solve our economic crisis, his regrettable policies in favor of a culture of death make it impossible for them to welcome him.”
Saying that CatholicVote.org has spoken with professors, students and leaders at Notre Dame in recent days, he said they together concluded that a massive protest will be “practically difficult and even counterproductive” and could “create exactly the wrong impression.”
Burch explained that the university could act to prevent protestors from entering campus and might legally arrest those who do.
He then announced CatholicVote.org’s partnership with the Cardinal Newman Society to establish a petition at www.NotreDameScandal.com.
“Together our aim is to collect thousands of signatures and present them to University officials. Sign the petition now,” he exhorted, also asking those who are concerned to contact Notre Dame President Fr. John Jenkins.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the petition had more than 87,500 signatures.
He also encouraged local groups to organize for a May 17 afternoon prayer of reparation, adding that there would be a “peaceful and prayerful” gathering at the Grotto on the campus of Notre Dame.
Franklin, Tenn., Mar 24, 2009 (CNA) - Filmmakers have released a new documentary which they say reports previously unexplored facts about the legal battle surrounding Terri Schiavo while exploring her death’s ethical and cultural implications. One disabled woman connected with the film said “countless people” face pressures similar to those that killed Schiavo.
Terri Schindler Schiavo, who was severely brain damaged after a cardio-respiratory arrest, in 2005 died from dehydration 13 days after a court ordered the removal of her feeding tube.
Her story is the focus of “The Terri Schiavo Story,” distributed by Franklin Springs Media and produced and directed by Ken Carpenter.
Speaking in a press release, Carpenter said he thought most people believed Schiavo had no prospects of improving.
“The truth is the doctors believed Terri was a candidate for rehabilitation, but her husband withheld that treatment,” he claimed. “Additionally, we uncovered that only one judge ruled on the facts of the case.”
The film is hosted by Joni Eareckson Tada, who was left quadriplegic and wheelchair-bound after a diving accident.
She said fallout from Schiavo’s case continues to affect disabled citizens.
"There are countless people like Terri whose lives are in danger because of unclear custody and guardianship laws," Tada said in a press release. "More states are removing the feeding tubes from brain- injured people when families abandon their responsibilities. Feeding tubes are providing basic care, not medical treatment."
Bobby Schindler, Schiavo’s brother, is working through the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation to help families in circumstances similar to Schiavo’s.
“I believe that if the public had been allowed to witness Terri's suffering first hand, the outcry would have deafened Florida and the world,” he said. “Death by dehydration is truly inhumane which is why it is always done in the strictest secrecy.”
The Terri Schiavo Story has won the Jubilee Award for Best Documentary at the San Antonio Independent Film Festival. Its trailer may be seen at www.TheSchiavoStory.com.
Perth, Australia, Mar 24, 2009 (CNA) - After experiencing a deep conversion, a former lawyer who had a good job and “partied a lot” is now Mother Superior of a new religious order of “John Paul II sisters” in Australia.
With two other sisters, the 30-year-old Sister Bernadette founded the Missionaries of the Gospel (MGs) in June 2007 in hopes of helping men and women “encounter Christ and live the Gospel,” their website says.
Sister Bernadette spoke to the West Australian about her background, her mission and her relations with her fellow sisters.
“I think I am experiencing the same anxiety any new mother goes through. We have completely different personalities and different cultures, so our community life presents great struggles and great joys as well,” she told the paper.
“I was like many other young people. I had a good job, I drank and partied a lot, but at the end of the day I still felt an emptiness that no boyfriend and no number of Wild Turkeys could fill.
“I did a full 180. I really wanted to do law, I was dead set on being married, but once I started falling in love with the Lord I realized He was calling me to do something different.”
The sisters, who were founded in 2007 under the direction of Perth’s Archbishop Barry James Hickey, attend several classes a day as part of their formation. They do not have mobile phones, television or radios but have a computer and internet access to aid their training.
According to the West Australian, the sisters chose to wear a traditional habit and to take new names when they made their vows. Their vows of poverty require them to rely on donations of food, goods and money to meet their needs.
“God willing, in time, the community will consist of sisters (John Paul II Sisters), Brothers, Priests and lay men and women. The community is contemplative-active in nature and its members strive to follow Christ in the footsteps of John Paul II,” the order says on its website.
“John Paul II taught us that God can not be known as an object is known, because he is a person and as a person, he can only be known in a reciprocal relation of self-giving. In order for this meeting and process of self-giving to take place for each of person on a deep level, the community hopes to overcome the obstacles in all our hearts that prevent us from experiencing God,” the order’s introductory statement continued.
One aspect of this “way of being,” the MGs explain, is to present the Good News with words “that relate to the person’s lived experience.”
“The Holy Spirit is now slowly rising up a family of Consecrated and Lay men and women to strive to dedicate their lives to this special mission,” their statement concludes. “Perhaps he is calling you too?”
The MGs web site is at http://www.mg.org.au