Roswell, Ga., Jun 3, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell and the forty-four bishops of Australia have invited the head of the successful media effort Catholics Come Home to bring the outreach program to their country. In the Diocese of Phoenix, the initiative has already brought some 92,000 Catholics back into the Church.
Tom Peterson, founder and president of CatholicsComeHome.org (CCH), will present the evangelization outreach program to key religious leaders and lay media specialists from the various dioceses in Australia.
According to a press release from the group, Australian bishops were impressed by the results of the CCH television outreach in the United States and are considering implementing the campaign in Australia.
Peterson was also invited to present the keynote speech at the Australian National Catholic Media Congress, where he will address the communications directors and media ministries of all dioceses. He will also make a presentation at the Plenary Meeting of the Australian Catholic Bishops.
More than twelve diocese and archdioceses in the U.S. plan to launch CCH television and web campaigns in Advent of 2009 or Lent of 2010. They include Chicago, Atlanta, Omaha, Charlotte, Providence, Green Bay, Rockford, Colorado Springs, Lincoln and others.
Bishop of Phoenix Thomas Olmsted reported that as many as 92,000 inactive Catholics and converts returned to the Church in the diocese in the months following their campaign. The Diocese of Corpus Christi reported a 40 percent increase during Easter Masses at key parishes after a bilingual CCH campaign.
New York City, N.Y., Jun 3, 2009 (CNA) - The state of New York is considering several proposals which would pay women who donate their eggs for research purposes, leading some Catholic ethicists to worry the move would induce poorer women to risk their health and become involved in unethical human embryo research.
New York state funds may be awarded to researchers who pay women to harvest their egg cells for research purposes if a recommendation of the ethics committee of the Empire State Stem Cell board is accepted.
Writing in National Review Online, Fr. Thomas Berg reported that the May 12 vote to recommend the practice passed “overwhelmingly.” He said the state is also considering using state funds to “reimburse” women directly for their egg donations, possibly paying several thousand dollars per donor.
If such proposals are approved, New York would become the first U.S. state to allow such payments.
Donated eggs could be used to create human embryos for research purposes, like embryonic stem cell research, or for attempts at human cloning, warned Fr. Berg, who is also a CNA columnist.
Fr. Berg also expressed concern that egg donation entails “very serious health risks” for women. Risks include moderate to serious ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome (OHSS) which results in maladies ranging from bloating and nausea to infertility, organ failure and death.
The long-term risks of egg donation have rarely been studied, he said. One of the few studies conducted found that about one-third of 155 donors suffered OHSS-related health complications and five percent suffered infertility.
However, the general lack of knowledge about the effects of egg donation calls into question whether an egg donor truly has “informed consent,” Fr. Berg wrote.
Noting that egg donors for assisted-reproductive technology receive as much as $10,000 per donation, Fr. Berg said low-income women may be unduly swayed by the prospect of financial gain at the expense of their health. He noted one fertility clinic head’s comments that paid egg donations go up during times of high unemployment.
“We’re even getting men offering up their wives; it’s pretty scary,” Robin von Halle, president of Alternative Reproductive Resources, a Chicago-based fertility clinic, told the Wall Street Journal.
Seeking further comment, CNA spoke with Dr. Stephen Napier, an ethicist with the National Catholic Bioethics Center.
When payments are offered for egg donation, he said, “only poor women are really going to respond. It’s a way of taking advantage of women’s poverty.”
This raises concerns about justice, he said.
He repeated concerns about the medical effects of hyperovulation hormones, saying the hormones themselves pose medical dangers to women.
Noting the eggs are paired with sperm to create human embryos, he said research would be conducted on “basically young human beings.”
“That’s really the main worry. These women would be contributing necessary material to conceive young human beings who would serve as subjects for destructive research. No one should be involved in that activity.”
“They’d be contributing to the creation of young human life [that is] only to be destroyed for research purposes.”
Washington D.C., Jun 3, 2009 (CNA) - The U.S. government has defended the constitutionality of the 75-year-old Mojave Desert Cross which memorializes World War I veterans.
Submitting a brief in the Supreme Court case Salazar v. Buono, the government argued that the case should be dismissed because the plaintiff has not been personally injured or denied any rights by the presence of the cross but only claims to be offended by it, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty says.
Glen M. Gardner, national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. and its Auxiliaries (VFW), said in a column at the VFW web site that the seven-foot-tall white cross mounted on Sunrise Rock is currently covered with a plywood box according to a lower court order.
A district court initially ruled that the cross had to be removed. Congress then enacted legislation ordering the Department of the Interior to transfer an acre of land, including the cross, to the VFW in exchange for a parcel of equal value elsewhere in the federal preserve where it is located.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit permanently enjoined the government from enacting the property transfer.
“If the High Court rules in favor of the plaintiff, every such memorial across the land will be in jeopardy of being torn down - and the ultimate loser will be America,” Gardner wrote. “That's because veterans’ memorials help our nation remember what came before.”
“The critics argue that organized religion and its symbols have no place in government even though our country was founded on religious freedom and tolerance,” he added.
A Becket Fund official joined Gardner’s criticisms.
"Stripping this country of every symbol-even the religious ones-that might offend somebody somewhere will impoverish American culture," Eric Rassbach, National Litigation Director of the Becket Fund, said in a statement. "The First Amendment guarantees the right to speak and believe freely; it does not guarantee the right to silence those who disagree with you."
"If the Supreme Court strikes down this memorial, tens of thousands of memorials around the country stand at risk," he warned.
Lima, Peru, Jun 3, 2009 (CNA) - The Anglican Bishop of Peru has said the “very lamentable” manner of Fr. Alberto Cutié’s entry of the Episcopal Church following a sex scandal will cause “deep problems” between the two communions.
He remarked it was “too early” to have the former Catholic priest and media personality preach at Episcopal Sunday services like he did on Sunday.
The Anglican website VirtueOnline.org reports that Anglican Bishop of Peru Bill Godfrey spoke about Fr. Cutié in an interview with Peru’s RPP-TV.
The issue of Cutié's conversion affects Bishop Godfrey since the Episcopal Church is part of the Worldwide Anglican Communion.
“Changing from one Church to another is not like changing shirts,” Bishop Godfrey explained, adding that the former Catholic priest’s actions are still generating many “polemical” commentaries.
"The pictures of Fr. Alberto together with his divorced girlfriend, Ruhama Bunil Canellis, as well as the controversial pictures have shaken Catholicism,” the Anglican bishop said.
“I believe every person acts according to their conscience, it is a personal decision, but I believe it very lamentable that it happened this way because to move from one communion to another will cause problems between the two churches,” he continued, according to Virtue Online.
The bishop said it was “sad” that the “talented” and influential Fr. Cutié did not convert in “a more discreet manner.”
“I am not one to judge or criticize but he wounded many people who held him as an example.”
Bishop Godfrey said a process of “adaptation” would have been advisable for the former Catholic priest.
“It is not like changing shirts and then saying everything is alright. I think it is too early to let him preach… given the circumstances it would have been more prudent to wait till the scandal subsided.”
Last week, Episcopal Bishop of Southeast Florida Leo Frade said he was “excited and pleased” to announce Fr. Cutié’s reception into the Episcopal Church. The former Catholic priest delivered a homily in an Episcopal Church on Sunday.
The Catholic Archbishop of Miami John C. Favalora reported that he was not informed of the priest’s decision. He said the cleric’s actions “have caused grave scandal within the Catholic Church, harmed the Archdiocese of Miami − especially our priests – and led to division within the ecumenical community and the community at large.”
The announcement of Fr. Cutié’s conversion “only deepens those wounds,” Archbishop Favalora said.
Vatican City, Jun 3, 2009 (CNA) - At today's general audience, Pope Benedict XVI reflected on the life of St. Rabanus Maurus, whom the Holy Father said speaks to us today by reminding Christians to set aside time for God, whether at work or on vacation.
Pope Benedict began his catechesis by recalling the early life of St. Rabanus for the more than 17,000 pilgrims in St. Peter's Square.
Born in Mainz, Germany around 780, Rabanus became an oblate of the abbey of Fulda at a young age. “This precocious introduction to the Benedictine world and the fruits he reaped from it,” observed the Pope, “give us an interesting glimpse at the life of the monks and the Church as well as the society of that time, described as Carolingian.”
Due to his refined upbringing Rabanus served as an advisor to princes. He later became the abbot of Fulda, followed by being appointed the archbishop of Mainz.
“He studied ceaselessly, showing us that you can be available to others without denying yourself of time for study and meditation,” the Holy Father said. “Thus was Rabanus Maurus an exegete, philosopher, poet, pastor and man of God.”
Rabanus is the author of “De laudibus sanctae Crucis” and among his many writings there is also one of the most beautiful hymns, “Veni creator Spiritus.”
In Rabanus Maurus, the Pope observed, we see "an extraordinary awareness of the need to involve not only the mind and heart in the experience of faith, but also the senses." This he accomplished by using "other aspects" such as "aesthetic taste and human sensitivity which bring man to benefit from the truth with all of himself: spirit, soul and body.”
“This is very important because faith is not just thought, faith comprehends our entire being," said the Holy Father.
“God became man, flesh and blood, he entered the world sensitive to all of the dimensions of being, penetrated the reality of our being and transformed it,” Pope Benedict added. “We must search for God in all the dimensions of our being.”
"I believe that Rabanus Maurus also speaks to us today," Pope Benedict concluded. "Whether immersed in the frenetic rhythms of work or on holiday, we must reserve time for God. We must not forget Sunday as the day of the Lord and the day of the liturgy, in order to see - in the beauty of our churches, of sacred music, and of the Word of God - the beauty of God Himself, and allow it to enter our own being. Thus our lives become great, they become true life."
Omaha, Neb., Jun 3, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Bishop George J. Lucas, 59, to serve as the new Archbishop of Omaha, after accepting the resignation of Omaha’s Archbishop Elden Curtiss.
Archbishop-Designate Lucas has served as the bishop of Springfield, Illinois for nearly ten years. In a news conference on Wednesday morning, he expressed his “joy and anticipation” at his new assignment, but said that it is mixed with sadness at having to leave Springfield, which he had come to call home.
Looking forward, Lucas said that he has been praying for his new diocese every day since he learned of his appointment. Regarding his new archdiocese, he said, “I am impressed by the strength of parish life and the value placed on Catholic education.”
“It is humbling to be given such responsibility by the Vicar of Christ, and I thank the Holy Father for this privilege,” Lucas said during the conference. “I look forward to learning about all of the ways in which the Gospel is preached and lived in the Archdiocese of Omaha. I have a great deal to learn, and you all have much to teach me.”
In his new assignment, Lucas will lead over 221,000 Catholics, 148 parishes and missions and 76 primary and secondary schools. His former diocese of Springfield was somewhat smaller, with about 170,000 Catholics, 164 parishes, and 62 parochial schools.
Born in 1949 in St. Louis, Missouri, Lucas was ordained a priest in 1975 and served as an associate pastor for several years. In addition to taking advanced studies at Saint Louis University, he holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy and a Master of Arts degree in history.
Before being ordained Bishop of Springfield, Lucas served as a faculty member for St. Louis Preparatory Seminary, as the rector of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary and as chancellor and vicar general for the St. Louis Archdiocese.
Archbishop-Designate Lucas has selected the phrase “Grace and Mercy” as his episcopal motto, expressing faith and trust in God’s providence to aid and sustain us on our journey towards eternal life.
He will be the fifth Archbishop of Omaha and the tenth to lead the archdiocese when he is installed on July 22, 2009.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 3, 2009 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Mexico City has published an editorial in its weekly newspaper, Desde la Fe, revealing that some Catholic bishops have been been threatened by the criminal group known as La Familia.
The editorial states that despite the harassment, the bishops have not bowed to the pressure from these criminals. The same cannot be said of many local government leaders, police officers and business leaders, “who prefer to acquiesce to extortion rather than see the security of their businesses or families subjected to extortion.”
“Mexico has no other way out than to continue straightening out what at one time was twisted. There is no way back, otherwise we will end up destroyed by criminals and evil Mexicans,” it added.
“This entire history has its turbulent beginnings in the years in which those in the highest level of political power not only allowed criminals to act but actually allied themselves with them,” the archdiocese said, adding that, for this reason, “politicians from the past” should also be held accountable.
The editorial pointed out that the Church offered its support to the federal government in the operations carried out recently in Michoacan to detain public officials allegedly cooperating with La Familia and other drug cartels.
Vatican City, Jun 3, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has expressed his condolences to the relatives of the Air France flight which disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean on Monday during a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris.
The telegram, signed by the Vatican's Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, was sent to Archbishop Fortunato Baldelli, acting Apostolic Nuncio in France and recently appointed to replace Cardinal J. Francis Stafford as head of the Apostolic Penitentiary.
"The Holy Father expresses his condolences to the grieving families and assures his deep spiritual closeness to all those touched by this drama," says the telegram in French.
The Pope "has entrusted the deceased to the divine mercy, asking the Almighty to welcome them into his peace and light."
"Asking God to offer his support and consolation to all the persons so sorely put to the test, and wishing them to find in their surroundings the help they need in this time of sorrow, the Pope imparts his apostolic blessing to everyone affected by this tragedy," the message concludes.
Valencia, Fla., Jun 3, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop Carlos Osoro Sierra of Valencia, Spain said this week during the closing of a congress for immigrant families that the Holy Spirit helps to overcome all “barriers, distances and divisions.”
“The Holy Spirit eliminates barriers, distances and divisions, those that exist between rich and poor countries, between races, languages and cultures. He makes us citizens with the same rights and obligations, he reveals to us that we are children of God and brothers and sisters,” the archbishop said.
He went on to express his desire that immigrant families who settle in Valencia be given all of the opportunities they need to develop and flourish.
“The Church says to all mankind that she has only one way of understanding life, which is to have one spirit, the same spirit that unites all peoples and all men,” such that this very unity in the spirit “is what gives us the ability to understand each other and to hold events like this, with people who come from very diverse places,” Archbishop Osoro stated.
Madrid, Spain, Jun 3, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop Francisco Javier Martinez of Granada, Spain has called for the recovery of morals in society and warned that “a democracy without values ends up becoming a dictatorship.”
During the opening of a class on “Ethics and the Future of Democracy,” the archbishop pointed out that today’s society finds itself before “a distressing panorama, an intellectual and moral paralysis that has no precedent.”
This has resulted in today’s culture being governed by values that “are subjective,” he observed.
The archbishop encouraged the revival of teaching values to people and reminded Catholics that “there is no task more urgent that to offer a perspective as God sees things,” because “anything else would be to work for the enemy.”
Front Royal, Va., Jun 3, 2009 (CNA) - Yesterday, pro-life scholar Steven Mosher was presented with the “Blessed Frederic Ozanam” award by the Society of Catholic Social Scientists for his work as a pro-life author, speaker and researcher.
The Population Research Institute is a non-profit research group that seeks to protect life by working “to expose the myth of overpopulation, to expose human rights abuses committed in population control programs, and to make the case that people are the world’s greatest resource.”
As he received the award at a ceremony yesterday, Mosher spoke out against abortion, which he called the “greatest social injustice of our time.” He called to mind the award’s namesake, Blessed Frederic Ozanam, who founded the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in order to better serve the poor and underprivileged.
Mosher explained that his work at the Population Research Institute is an attempt to continue this work by defending the most vulnerable in society today, the unborn. “No one is more impoverished than the child in the womb,” said Mosher. “The poor may possess little, but the unborn child possesses nothing.”
The Society of Catholic Social Scientists issues the Blessed Frederic Ozanam award to people who demonstrate “Catholic social action.” Previous recipients of the award include Dr. Ronald Rychlak, defender of Pope Pius XII; Karl Keating, founder and president of Catholic Answers; and Theresa Burke, known for her work with post-abortive women.