Scranton, Pa., May 5, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop of Scranton Joseph F. Martino has called Sen. Bob Casey, Jr.’s role as commencement speaker at King’s College is “sad and disappointing” because the allegedly pro-life Democrat cannot “muster the courage” to oppose “the pro-abortion agenda” in Washington.
King’s College, a Catholic institution in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, said the Senator will receive an honorary doctorate.
President of King’s College Father Thomas O’Hara, C.S.C., commented on the selection of Sen. Casey in a March 31 statement:
“From the time that Senator Casey taught fifth grade in a Philadelphia inner city school after graduating from college, he has been a great advocate of improving the quality of education.
“He is keenly aware of the issues important to the people he represents and provides great support to Northeast Pennsylvania on a federal level akin to state level support that his father obtained. The Caseys are a shining example of a family of faith who have dedicated their lives to public service. Throughout his career, Bob Casey has been guided by the legacy of his father’s principle that ‘all public service is a trust, given in faith and accepted in honor.’”
The Diocese of Scranton commented on Sen. Casey’s appearance in a May 1 statement.
The statement noted Sen. Casey’s vote to confirm Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of Health and Human Services, which it called “an affront to all who value the sanctity of life.” It also described the governor as “a committed advocate of abortion.”
“It is the Bishop’s position that his vote on April 28 demonstrates that Sen. Casey is a reliable vote for President Barack Obama’s aggressive pro-abortion agenda,” the diocesan statement continued.
The statement then quoted Bishop Martino.
“Sen. Casey’s appearance at King’s graduation ceremony is sad and disappointing in view of his recent alignment with anti-life forces in the Senate and the highest offices of our government,” Bishop Martino said. “I do not believe he has the moral stature to stand before the graduates of a Catholic college to address them about their futures and the challenges they will face when on the most important issue of the day—the sanctity of human life—he cannot muster the courage to oppose the pro-abortion agenda which is currently being promoted in Washington.”
The bishop did note that the college’s decision to invite the Senator was made prior to his votes to confirm Gov. Sebelius and to rescind the Mexico City Policy, which allows taxpayer funding for organizations that promote or perform abortions overseas.
Before Senator Casey’s actions, Bishop Martino said, he had no objection to the invitation.
However, he said it is now “truly unfortunate” that the Catholic institution will appear to provide a forum for “a politician who is steadily distancing himself from pro-life principles and, sadly, from his father’s legacy as a statesman who championed the rights of the unborn.”
Sen. Casey’s father Gov. Bob Casey, Sr. was a pro-life Democratic governor of Pennsylvania. He signed several abortion restrictions into law, a move which led to the 1992 Supreme Court decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey. He is believed to have been denied a speaking role at the 1992 Democratic National Convention because of his pro-life views.
Bishop Martino said he will continue to challenge Sen. Casey “whenever he fails to cast a vote or advance a position that will protect the most vulnerable in our society.”
CNA contacted King’s College and was told it had no comment on Bishop Martino’s statement.
Sen. Casey is scheduled to be commencement speaker at King’s College on May 17.
Helena, Mont., May 5, 2009 (CNA) - The Montana Supreme Court is considering whether to overturn a state judge’s ruling that Montana residents have a legal right to assisted suicide.
On Thursday attorneys for the Chicago-based law firm Americans United for Life (AUL) filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of a bipartisan group of 28 Montana senators and representatives. The brief argued that there is no right to assisted suicide under the state’s constitution.
“If this ruling is allowed to stand, Montana would have the most liberal allowance of assisted suicide in the nation,” said Mailee Smith, staff counsel for the AUL.
In December Helena district Judge Dorothy McCarter ruled that a Billings, Montana man with terminal cancer had the right to commit suicide and the right to assistance in committing suicide. The judge cited the state constitution’s explicit right to privacy and right to dignity.
"The Montana constitutional rights of individual privacy and human dignity, taken together, encompass the right of a competent terminally (ill) patient to die with dignity," McCarter held.
The Montana attorney general’s office is formally appealing the decision.
Smith warned Judge McCaerter's decision had opened the door to active euthanasia.
“There are no safeguards – no restrictions – in place under the judge’s order,” Smith told CNSNews.com. “The judge stated that under the state’s constitution, a person would be denied his or her constitutional right to dignity if they do not receive assistance-in-dying.
“This means that anyone – even a patient who cannot administer lethal drugs herself – is entitled to have a physician kill them," Smith said.
Unlike Oregon, she explained, there is no requirement that a request for assisted suicide be in writing or a requirement for witnesses to the request. There is also no requirement that the patient see another physician to establish competency to request assisted suicide.
This lack of regulation is “another terrifying aspect,” Smith said, reporting that in the Netherlands physicians are administering euthanasia without the consent of their patients.
“There are no safeguards in place to prevent that from happening in Montana,” she said.
The Colorado-based pro-assisted suicide group Compassion & Choices, formerly known as the Hemlock Society, helped argue the Montana case.
Compassion & Choices legal director Kathryn Tucker in a press release argued the right to “privacy, personal autonomy and dignity” are “deeply rooted in the political and cultural heritage of Montana.”
The Alliance Defense Fund has also filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the Catholic Medical Association, the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Family Research Council and Montana physicians.
Vatican City, May 5, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has appointed the recently-retired Cardinal Joseph Zen as his special envoy to the 25th anniverary celebrations for John Paul II's visit to Thailand.
The celebrations will be held in Bangkok on May 10 and 11.
The names of the members of the mission accompanying the cardinal have also been made public: Fr. John Bosco Thepharat Pitisant S.D.B., provincial superior of the Salesian Fathers in Thailand; Fr. Vincent Ekapong Pongsungnern of the clergy of the archdiocese of Bangkok, assistant of the secretary general of the Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Carte of Christians; Msgr. Marek Zalewski, nunciature counsellor in Bangkok, and Msgr. Dennis Kuruppassery, secretary of the nunciature in Bangkok.
Vatican City, May 5, 2009 (CNA) - The Vatican is preparing to swear in 32 recruits as members of the Pontifical Swiss Guard tomorrow at five in the evening. The ceremony is celebrated every year on May 6 to commemorate the death of the 147 Swiss Guards who died during the Sack of Rome.
Tomorrow the recruits will begin their day with Mass at seven, along with the Swiss Guards and their families at St. Peter’s Basilica.
At 8:30 a.m., Commander of the Swiss Guard Daniel Rudolf Anrig, will place a laurel wreath at the monument in the courtyard of the Swiss Guard barracks commemorating the 147 members of the corps who lost their lives protecting Pope Clement VII from the onslaught of the troops of Emperor Charles V during the Sack of Rome on May 6, 1527.
Archbishop Fernando Filoni, substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State, will then confer military decorations on certain members of the Guard.
Among those present at the swearing-in ceremony will be Major-General Andre Blattman, the new commander-in-chief of the Swiss Armed Forces. Also participating as guest of honor will be the Council of the Canton of Zurich.
"With the participation of a guest Canton at the swearing-in of the new recruits," says a statement released by the Swiss Guard, "the corps intends to promote and strengthen ties with Switzerland and its regions."
The Swiss Guard was founded by Pope Julius II in 1506 when he called on the States of the "Confederatis Superioris Allemanniae" to allow him to recruit young men to form a Pontifical Guard. The Guard was established on January 22, 1506 with a contingent of 150 men who had marched on foot from Lucerne to Rome along the pilgrim route known as the Via Francigena.
The main duty of the Swiss Guard - which has as its motto "Acriter et Fideliter" (Courage and Loyalty) - was and still remains that of guarding the person of the Roman Pontiff and the Apostolic Palaces.
Vatican City, May 5, 2009 (CNA) -
Pope Benedict will begin his trip to the Holy Land this Friday. In anticipation of the visit, the Central Statistical Office of the Church has published information detailing the presence and ministry of the Church in the region.
The information on the Church was last updated on December 31, 2007.
Jordan has a population of 5,720,000 of whom 109,000 (1.91 percent) are Catholic. There are three Church provinces (ecclesiastical circumscriptions) and sixty-four parishes. Currently, there are four bishops, 103 priests and 258 religious. Major seminarians number seven.
A total of 30,595 students attend the 123 infant, primary, middle and secondary schools that belong to the Catholic Church or are run by priests or religious. Other institutions belonging to the Church or run by priests or religious in Jordan include two hospitals, one clinic, one family counseling center and three centers for education and social rehabilitation.
Israel and the Palestinian Territories have a population of 7,180,000 of whom 130,000 (1.81 percent) are Catholic. There are nine Church provinces (ecclesiastical circumscriptions), seventy-eight parishes and three pastoral centers of other kinds. Currently, there are eleven bishops, 406 priests, 1,171 religious and one lay missionary. Minor seminarians number fourteen and major seminarians 110.
A total of 43,876 students attend 192 centers of Catholic education, from kindergartens to universities. Other institutions belonging to the Church or run by priests or religious in Israel and the Palestinian Territories include eleven hospitals, ten clinics, nine homes for the elderly or disabled, eleven orphanages and nurseries, four centers for education and social rehabilitation, and two institutions of other kinds.
Rome, Italy, May 5, 2009 (CNA) - The Apostolic Nuncio to Iraq and Jordan, Archbishop Francis A. Chullikat, told the Italian agency SIR that Pope Benedict XVI does not have any plans to visit Iraq in May, despite comments made by some Iraqi lawmakers.
Instead, the nuncio said, the Pope will meet in Amman, Jordan with a group of Chaldean bishops as part of his trip to the Holy Land, which begins on May 8.
The archbishop said, “Perhaps people have heard reports, but we need to say that these kinds of announcements are issued beforehand by the Holy See, at least two months ahead of time. As far as I know, there is no such plan.”
However, Archbishop Chullikat, “On the other hand it is confirmed that Benedict XVI will hold a meeting with an official delegation of Chaldean (Catholic) bishops, led by Patriarch (Emmanuel) Cardinal Delly of Baghdad, which will take place in Amman (Jordan) on the occasion of his Apostolic Visit, which begins on Friday.”
Winona, Minn., May 5, 2009 (CNA) - In an article titled "The Notre Dame Flap," Bishop of Winona, Minnesota Bernard Harrington, harshly criticized the decision of the University of Notre Dame to bestow an honorary degree upon President Obama, saying that it has created a "no win" situation for the Church in the U.S. and a losing one for the university.
In his final column for the diocesan newspaper, "The Courier," before officially retiring, Bishop Harrington revealed that he has joined more than 50 bishops in expressing "my disbelief and disappointment" for Notre Dame’s decision.
"President Obama has been blatantly pro-abortion in the first few weeks of his new administration with the lifting of the ban on federal funding of abortions and approving with federal funds embryonic stem cell research," the Bishop of Winona wrote.
"He is also 'on record' that he approves the 'Freedom of Choice Act' (FOCA) and he is seriously considering lifting the exemption of conscience clause from those in the medical field who oppose abortion."
According to Bishop Harrington, the University of Notre Dame "is choosing to defy the bishops of the United States and turn its back on the Catholic community in its continual defense of the right-to-life. The university’s stance is similar to that of Catholic politicians who say that they are pro-life and then support legislation and vote for programs that foster abortion."
"It is hard to believe that the University of Notre Dame has chosen 'political rightness' over principle and truth," he added.
Bishop Harrington recalled that shortly after the election of Pope Benedict XVI, the president of the university, Father John Jenkins, CSC, asked the Pope what the university could do for his papacy.
"I am sure that Pope would now tell Father Jenkins the same thing that Pope Benedict XVI told Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives."
During the brief meeting with Pelosi on February 18, Pope Benedict spoke to the pro-abortion Catholic democrat about "the requirements of the natural moral law and the Church's consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death which enjoin all Catholics, and especially legislators, jurists and those responsible for the common good of society."
The Bishop of Winona also said in his column that "no matter what the President of Notre Dame says, the invitation and bestowal of an honorary degree upon President Obama is a 'no-win situation' for the Catholic Church of the United States and in particular, a losing situation for the University of Notre Dame."
"It might be a little too dramatic to say that Our Lady of the Golden Dome is hanging her head in shame, but there is no question that hundreds of thousands of ‘loyal Irish’ supporters are angered, dumbfounded and disappointed in this administration’s decision," he said.
After ten years of leading the southern Minnesotan diocese, Bishop Harrington has announced that he will "pass the crosier" to his coadjutor, Bishop John Quinn.
Miami, Fla., May 5, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop of Miami John C. Favalora has said he is "deeply saddened" by news that a South Florida priest well-known for his Spanish language television and radio shows was photographed in "compromising positions" with a woman on a beach.
Fr. Alberto Cutié hosted Spanish language television show on Telemundo and had a radio show on Radio Paz, CBS 4 Miami reports. He also wrote an advice column in El Nuevo Herald.
A Spanish-language tabloid magazine released pictures of the priest and a woman on a beach in what CBS 4 Miami characterized as "several compromising positions."
Fr. Cutié serves Mass in the Miami Beach parish of St. Francis De Sales and could be removed from performing priestly functions because he is believed to have violated his vow of chastity.
In a Tuesday statement, Archbishop Favalora said he was "deeply saddened" by the news about Fr. Cutié.
"I apologize on behalf of the Church in Miami to the parishioners of Saint Francis de Sales Parish, where he serves as administrator, to the listeners and supporters of Radio Paz and Radio Peace, and to the entire Archdiocese," he wrote.
The archbishop explained that the priest had made a promise of celibacy that all priests are expected to fulfill "with the help of God."
"Father Cutié's actions cannot be condoned despite the good works he has done as a priest. I ask for everyone's prayers at this time. Scandals such as this offer an occasion for the Church on all levels to examine our consciences regarding the integrity of our commitments to the Lord and to his Church," Archbishop Favalora said.
El Nuevo Herald reported that Fr. Cutié was to meet with the archbishop on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the pictures.
Rome, Italy, May 5, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop Emeritus Antonio Rosario Mennonna, 103, of Nardo-Gallipoli (Italy), one of three living bishops born in 1906, has criticized the film Angels and Demons as “useless stupidity.”
According to press reports, the bishop criticized the movie based on Dan Brown’s novel, saying its contents are “highly denigrating, defamatory and offensive for the values of the Church and the prestige of the Holy See.”
Those close to the prelate said he is “deeply shocked and disturbed by the contents of the film.” Bishop Mennonna invited his brother bishops to denounce the film for attacking the faith of missions of spreading obscenity.
Mexico City, Mexico, May 5, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera, said in his Sunday homily that the solution to the flu epidemic that has hit the country “is not only in the actions of our leaders but requires also the collaboration of all of society, and therefore we call on you for prevention more than for worry; action more than fear, and above all, responsibility.”
According to the Archdiocese of Mexico City’s news service, the cardinal said that amidst the “harsh and painful” current situation, we must “open ourselves more than ever to listening and meditating on the Word of God which, in these days, shows us Jesus fostering encouragement and strength in his community.”
“Although we are now receiving news that this health crisis that has shaken us is stabilizing, I don’t think we should let our guard down. Let this message be a new call to society in general, who we remind of its moral duty to follow and obey the constant recommendations that health officials are making.”
The cardinal went on to note that “Christians, in particular, have an enormous obligation at this time, since the Risen Lord continues working through his Church, and he demands that we go out to meet those in need. For this reason, we should assume the role of being spreaders of preventative and sanitary habits and to watch over those who have been infected by this virus, as these persons urgently need attention and love.”
“Only thus will they be able to experience the diligence and divine mercy that consoles, forgives and loves. But our commitment to God goes beyond just those who are close to us, and it is imperative we lend a hand to those who are alone and defenseless,” he added.
Vatican City, May 5, 2009 (CNA) - In his editorial last Saturday, the Director of the Holy See’s Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, encouraged the faithful to accompany Pope Benedict XVI on his journey to the Holy Land with what John Paul II called “great prayer.”
Father Lombardi noted that “the departure of Benedict XVI to the Holy Land is now imminent. It is the most anticipated and perhaps most valiant trip of his pontificate. It is a trip of faith and above all, a trip that is more than any other, a true pilgrimage to the holiest places of Salvation History and above all of the Incarnation, Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Son of God.”
He went on to note that this pilgrimage is also “the spiritual desire of all Christians, and it has become a priority for all the pontiffs ever since international travel became a concrete possibility. It wasn’t for nothing that the pilgrimage to the Holy Land was the first of Paul VI’s of such trips. It was a truly historical moment of grace for the Catholic Church, which was holding the Council.”
“John Paul II,” Father Lombardi continued, “had to wait a long time before fulfilling the desire for this pilgrimage, but he had the joy of doing so serenely, in the heart of the Great Jubilee in 2000.” It was a “true culmination of his pontificate, with moments of sublimely intense prayer and memorable gestures of friendship and closeness to the Jewish and Palestinian peoples and to their past and present sufferings.”
Now, he said, “its Pope Benedict’s turn. We know the political situation in the area is uncertain, just as the prospects of peace are fragile. But with admirable courage based on the faith, the Pope is taking the journey to speak about reconciliation and peace. All of us should accompany him not only with ordinary prayer but also with that spiritual mobilization that John Paul II called the ‘great prayer’.” These prayers and spiritual accompaniment for Benedict XVI will also help the Church “to find renewal in her sources, to increase the unity among Christians and to finally move from hatred to reconciliation.”
Orlando, Fla., May 5, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando, Florida led a Mass of Reparation on Sunday for Notre Dame’s invitation to President Barack Obama and “the sins and transgressions committed against the dignity and sacredness of human life.” Criticizing Catholic “complacency,” he urged the faithful to be “for the world” by living the Gospel.
In his Sunday afternoon homily at the Cathedral of St. James, Bishop Wenski said the University of Notre Dame “chose to defy the Bishops of the United States” by granting him an honorary degree “despite his rather extremist views on abortion.”
“[O]ur purpose here this evening is not to rail against the insensitivity or thoughtlessness exhibited by Notre-Dame’s president and board. As I told a reporter who asked me last week why I am celebrating a Mass of Reparation, ‘I am a bishop; and so I am not going to send upset Catholics to storm Notre-Dame with pitchforks, I am going to tell them to pray.’”
Prayer should not resemble that of the self-righteous Pharisee, he noted.
“In our prayer, we seek to make reparation not just for Notre Dame’s regrettable decision, but more importantly we seek to make reparations for our own complacency. Yes, we pray for Notre Dame – for Notre Dame holds a unique place in the heart of most American Catholics and not just its alumni; but we pray for ourselves as Catholics in America.”
“We Catholics have become too complacent about the legal killing of unborn children in America and elsewhere,” the bishop continued. “This complacency contributed to the climate that led Notre Dame’s president to think that it would be no big deal to defy the bishops in granting this honorary degree to President Obama.”
Bishop Wenski noted as cause for concern President Obama’s rescindment of the Mexico City Policy, his expansion of federal funding for abortion, his allowance of taxpayer funding for embryonic stem cell research and his challenge to conscience protection laws for pro-life health care workers and institutions.
Noting that Cardinal Francis George, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, had pledged cooperation with the new administration, Bishop Wenski said Catholics must work with people of good will to promote the common good.
However, he added, “We must always insist that the common good is never served by making wrongs –like abortion- into rights.” The bestowal of the honorary degree is understood by some to indicate approval and thus undermines the work of bishops, Wenski explained.
Bishop Wenski returned to Catholic complacency, saying:
“We have become complacent, because we have become comfortable – too accommodated and too uncritical of the larger culture in which we live. Perhaps, as Catholics, we have become victims of our own success.”
He warned that Catholics have craved respectability and acceptance and risk surrendering their convictions and principles as a precondition to entering public life.
“The options before us are not just between flight and capitulation: we need not retreat into a Catholic ghetto – for Christ calls us to be in the world; nor, must we necessarily surrender to the culture around us and accept to be absorbed by and assimilated into the ascendant secularism – for Christ tells us not to be of the world. There is a third option, to be for the world. We are best for the world, when we preach and live the gospel coherently. In a world which pretends that God doesn’t matter, we must witness that life is meaningful and joyful only when we live in a way that shows that God does matter.”
The gospel will not change the world “unless the gospel changes us first,” he advised.
Bishop Wenski concluded his homily with a prayer to the Virgin Mary, asking her to intercede for the pardon of sins and the conversion of sinners.