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Archive of June 9, 2009

U.S. bishops launch website for Year for Priests

Washington D.C., Jun 9, 2009 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops’ conference has set up a website to help mark the Year for Priests by providing prayers and other resources.

Pope Benedict XVI designated the Year to begin on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, June 19. His announcement also designated St. John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests, as the Universal Patron of All Priests.

According to a press release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations has set up a website in service of the year’s theme.

“Please pray for our priests that they might always be faithful to their sacred calling,” the site says.

The site includes Pope Benedict’s message for the Year of Priests and the announcement of the celebration’s plenary indulgence in English and Spanish. It also provides prayers for both priests and laity in PDF format so that they may be downloaded and printed for diocesan and parochial use.

The Secretariat plans to provide monthly articles by prominent Catholic women who will write about their “faith and trust” in the priesthood.

Other activities for the Year of Priests include a gathering of priests in Rome as well as a retreat on the national level. Information on the retreat will also be provided through the website, which is located at http://www.usccb.org/yearforpriests/index.shtml

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Archdiocese reviewing Catholic network's alleged role in providing abortions

Boston, Mass., Jun 9, 2009 (CNA) - Further information about the Celticare medical program created in a Catholic health care network’s partnership with a secular company has renewed charges that the Catholic network will be complicit in the provision of abortions. The Archdiocese of Boston told CNA it is reviewing the matter.

The Caritas Christi Health Care network, which is affiliated with the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, joined in a partnership with Centene Corp. to enter into the state’s subsidized health program, Commonwealth Care.

The Centene-Caritas Christi partnership, in which Centene is the senior partner, established Celticare as a for-profit HMO to manage the Commonwealth Care contract awarded by the Massachusetts state government.

As of Monday afternoon, benefit information at the Celticare site lists abortion services for $0, $50, $100 depending on the participant’s health plan. Another Celticare document listing “Family Planning and Reproductive Services Providers,” dated May 21, gives information on four Planned Parenthood affiliates.

Centene and Caritas Christi each said they would partner with providers to ensure access to all services required by the Massachusetts Connector Authority, including “confidential family planning services.”

In March, Caritas Christi said it would ensure that its participation would be “in accord with Catholic teaching.”

Archbishop of Boston Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley said Caritas Christi Health Care had assured him that it will not be “engaged in any procedures nor draw any benefits from any relationship which violate the Church’s moral teaching as found in the Ethical and Religious Directives.”

The Catholic Action League, a lay group critical of Caritas Christi, said the new information was “final and conclusive proof” that Caritas will be a participant in “state subsidized abortions.”

CAL Executive Director C. J. Doyle accused the Archdiocese of Boston of “cynically misleading” Catholics in the controversy and said Cardinal O’Malley should “apologize” for asserting that Caritas Christi will not promote abortions or direct any patients to providers of abortions.

CNA sought comment from the Archdiocese of Boston and was told the matter was “under review.”

Terrence Donolin, the Archdiocese’s Secretary for Communications and Public Affairs, referred CNA to previous stories, stating “At this juncture there is nothing new to report and no announcements have been made.”

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Pope Benedict ‘visibly upset’ by abuse report, Irish prelates say

Dublin, Ireland, Jun 9, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin on Monday reported that Pope Benedict XVI was “visibly upset” by the details of a recent government report detailing child abuse in Irish institutions run by religious orders.

Archbishop Martin and Primate of Ireland Seán Brady had a meeting with the Pope on Friday, in which they discussed the Ryan report.

They reported on their meeting to Irish bishops in Maynooth, after which the cardinal released a statement to journalists.

Cardinal Brady said the Pope had listened “very carefully, very attentively, very sympathetically to what we had to say and he said in reply that this was a time for deep examination of life here in Ireland in the Church,” the Irish Times reports.

The cardinal said the Pope urged the two to establish the truth of what happened and to ensure that justice is done for all. Pope Benedict also urged them to instate measures that will prevent the abuses from happening again, with a view to furthering healing for the survivors.

“The Pope wrote his first encyclical about the love of God. He was very visibly upset, I would say, to hear of some of the things that are told in the Ryan report, how the children had suffered from the very opposite of an expression of the love of God,” Archbishop Martin said.

“The message again that we bring back with us is that we have to listen to the victims, we have to listen to the survivors, they’re the ones who have gone through this,” he continued. “Let’s listen and learn from what’s in the report and do a little bit of soul searching about what way the Church in Ireland will look in years to come.”

According to the Irish Times, Archbishop Martin said dialogue with the Vatican would continue and predicted “something will come of that.”

Before the meeting, Archbishop Martin was asked about a Christian Brothers letter claiming there had not been any abuse in their institutions. In response, the archbishop said there was “huge denial” about abuse.

The Irish Survivors of Child Abuse (SOCA) on Sunday welcomed the meeting between the leading Irish prelates and the Pope, expressing its willingness to help the Vatican in any inquiry into the misconduct of religious orders in Ireland or elsewhere.

An announcement on the web site of the Archdiocese of Armagh said groups of survivors of abuse were organizing a “silent march of solidarity” on Wednesday to coincide with a scheduled Irish Dáil debate on the Ryan report.

However, the debate will likely be delayed until Thursday because of the Fine Gael party’s post-election decision to call for a motion of no confidence in the Government.

Organizers of the march include Survivors of International Abuse Ireland (SOIAI) and John Kelly of SOCA Ireland.

The organizers asked for as many as possible to attend and called for those who cannot make it to the march to wear a white ribbon and to sign a petition of solidarity.

The white ribbon will symbolize “the lives shattered in these institutions.”

“We the people of Ireland join in solidarity and call for Justice, Accountability, Restitution and Repatriation for the unimaginable crimes committed against the children of our country by religious orders in 216 Institutions” the petition reads, according to the Archdiocese of Armagh.

The petition will be handed to representatives of the Conference of the Religious of Ireland and the 18 religious orders who participated in a 2002 indemnity agreement concerning child abuse committed by members of religious orders.

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Video game giant funds fake Christian protest of ‘Inferno’ game

Los Angeles, Calif., Jun 9, 2009 (CNA) - Video game giant Electronic Arts has admitted it funded a group of fake protesters who pretended to be Christians as a publicity stunt to spur interest in its upcoming action game very loosely based on Dante’s “Inferno.”

The game company hired a group of almost 20 people to stand outside the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles on Wednesday, the Associated Press says.

The phony protesters passed out amateurish material and held signs bearing slogans such as “Trade in Your PlayStation for a PrayStation,” “Hell is not a Game” and “EA = Electronic Anti-Christ.”

Holly Rockwood, an EA spokeswoman, said the charade was arranged by a viral marketing agency hired by the company.

A web page in the crude style of 1990s web design was also created in connection with the stunt. It depicted crosses crushing the word “sin” and placed images of the King James Bible among phony condemnations and thinly-veiled promotions of the game.

“A video game hero does not have the authority to save and damn... ONLY GOD CAN JUDGE. and he will not judge the sinners who play this game kindly,” the site said.

EA’s video game “Dante’s Inferno” claims to be inspired by the first book of Dante Alighieri’s theological poem “The Divine Comedy.” Its character uses a cross as a weapon.

While Dante’s epic poem placed his beloved Beatrice in Paradise, the EA game makes its Dante character rescue Beatrice’s soul from Lucifer, USA Today says.

"We've tried to faithfully recreate the geography of hell as he wrote about it," the game’s executive producer Jonathan Knight told USA Today.

Dante Alighieri’s “Inferno” depicts various circles of hell in which sinners are punished according to their defining sins.

Dante placed the fraudulent and the sowers of discord in the penultimate Eighth Circle.

In the Divine Comedy the Inferno is followed by the “Purgatorio,” a poetic exploration of purgatory, and then by the “Paradiso,” Dante’s depiction of the blessed in heaven.

He closes the “Paradiso” by exalting God as “the Love which moves the sun and the other stars.”

EA has not announced any sequels to its game.

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Piccoli pleads guilty to targeting Catholics in Ponzi scheme

Buffalo, N.Y., Jun 9, 2009 (CNA) - A New York businessman pleaded guilty Monday to mail fraud and tax evasion in a scam that conned millions of dollars from primarily Catholic investors.

With about 150 of his victims present to watch him, 82-year-old Richard Piccoli admitted to running a Ponzi scheme aimed at Catholics for nearly two decades.

Piccoli, owner of Gen-See Capital Corp, declined to comment after his appearance in the U.S. District Court in Buffalo.  Piccoli had been advertising for his company primarily in Catholic publications, targeting clergy and Church entities, and offering priests as references.

Piccoli admitted Monday to promising unusually high guaranteed returns on real estate investments he knew didn't exist.  He then paid early investors by collecting new investment money from more victims.

When he was arrested in January, authorities said Piccoli had stolen at least $17 million from over 250 investors.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has moved to freeze Piccoli’s assets.

Kevin Keenan, a spokesman for the Diocese of Buffalo, said that although Piccoli had advertised in the diocesan newspaper, The Western New York Catholic, the diocese did not have any investments with him.

Keenan told CNA on Tuesday that the diocese not take a position on the trial or sentencing.

Regarding the credibility of advertisers, Keenan stated that the policy of the Western New York Catholic is to “conduct background checks on financial advisors who seek to advertise” in the newspaper.

“We only accept advertising from registered investment advisors who are members of the FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority), the largest independent regulator for all securities firms doing business in the United States,” he explained.

Piccoli will be sentenced on October 21.  If convicted, he could face up to 25 years in prison and substantial fines.

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Tiller's death brings pro-life reaction and permanent clinic closing

Wichita, Kan., Jun 9, 2009 (CNA) - Following the murder of Kansas abortionist Dr. George Tiller, his family’s attorneys have announced that his clinic will permanently close. Meanwhile, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City has urged pro-lifers to defend the unborn by praying for the conversion of abortionists and by realizing that they are not “evil people.”

Lee Thompson and Dan Monnat, attorneys for Tiller's family, said in a statement that Women’s Health Care Services, Inc., will be “permanently closed” effective “immediately,” Fox News reports.

An extremist opponent of abortion murdered Tiller at his Lutheran church on May 31. The crime was swiftly denounced by pro-life leaders.

"We are proud of the service and courage shown by our husband and father and know that women's health care needs have been met because of his dedication and service,” the family’s statement stated, saying Tiller’s legacy “will never die.”

Tiller’s funeral was held Saturday. His family said it would honor his memory through work at private charities.
Tiller’s accused murderer Scott Roeder, a 51-year-old with ties to anti-government groups, has been charged with first-degree murder.

Archbishop of Kansas City Joseph Naumann, writing in his column in “The Leaven” last week, said he responded to Tiller’s killing by offering Mass for the repose of his soul and for the consolation of his family.

“The pro-life movement is about saving lives, not taking them,” he said. “Killing those who perform abortions builds up the culture of death, because it embraces its premise that we solve problems by destroying human life rather than honoring the truth that every human being is made in the image of God.”

Listing several abortionists who abandoned their practices and became part of the pro-life movement, Archbishop Naumann said abortionists are not “evil people.”

“They are men and women made in the image of God and deemed by Jesus to be of such worth that he gave his life on Calvary for them. They are men and women who are engaged in a very evil activity – destroying an innocent human life, but often for what, in their misguided minds, they believe to be noble reasons. I believe this was true of Dr. George Tiller.”

The archbishop called for prayers for doctors involved in abortion and “to love them out of their abortion clinics.”

“We need to continue to speak the truth about abortion, but always with love. Those who perform abortions and those who procure abortions are not our enemies. We must recognize in them the same God-given dignity that inspires us to be so passionate in protecting the lives of unborn children,” the archbishop said.

CNA also spoke about the closure of Tiller’s abortion clinic with Mary Kay Culp, executive director of the group Kansans for Life.

“We’re brokenhearted that [the closing] happened under these circumstances,” she said. “It was about to happen anyway as a result of pro-lifers working through the system methodically and responsibly for about five years now in our efforts to enforce the states’ late-term law, which Tiller was repeatedly breaking.”

She reported that the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts had had taken two of three steps necessary to remove Tiller’s medical license because of allegations he was ignoring laws restricting late-term abortions.

Culp said Kansans for Life was “horrified” by the murder of Tiller. His clinic closing under the circumstances of his murder was “horrible,” she added.

Asked about protesters at Tiller’s funeral who carried signs such as “God sent the killer,” Culp noted that the protesters were “the same old people from Topeka that you hear about at soldiers’ funerals.”

“They have never been associated with us at all. The mainstream media doesn’t even associate them with us because they know the difference.”

She compared pro-lifers’ peaceful actions against Tiller to a “really tough race” against a cheating competitor.

“It’s really hard to be happy about ‘winning’ when you could have won for a legitimate reason,” Culp told CNA.

“We hadn’t given up on the system, as challenging as that system is. It was paying off, and then this happened.”

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Venezuelan bishops warn Chavez is jeopardizing democratic society

Rome, Italy, Jun 9, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela, Archbishop Ubaldo Santana, said the political agenda of President Hugo Chavez has provoked “a growing political polarization, increased violence, insecurity and hatred, and seriously jeopardized a peaceful democratic society.”

The archbishop made his statements during the Venezuelan bishops’ ad limina visit to Rome.

According to the press, Archbishop Santana said, “As [it] is known, in Venezuela a new political agenda was imposed a decade ago that is called the Socialism of the 21st century. It is revolutionary by nature and has introduced profound modifications at all levels of life in the country, funded by oil revenues.”

This agenda has caused “growing economic, social and cultural polarization” in the country and has provoked “a growing political polarization, increased violence, insecurity and hatred, and seriously jeopardized a peaceful democratic society,” the archbishop warned.

He recalled that the bishops’ conference has issued various statements calling for peace and reconciliation in response to the “many misunderstandings and attacks” by the government.

“We have reminded both leaders and citizens so much of the fundamental principles of the Church’s Social Doctrine. We have defended the poorest among us and we have always sought out the common good and peaceful democratic coexistence. We have not looked for favors or privileges,” the archbishop said.

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Vatican newspaper editor to present new book on Pius XII

Vatican City, Jun 9, 2009 (CNA) - The director of L’Osservatore Romano, Giovanni Maria Vian, will present a new book entitled, “In Defense of Pius XII. The Reasons of History,” at the Luigi Sturzo Institute of Rome on June 10.

According to Vatican Radio, the book includes numerous texts and articles published by L’Osservatore Romano on Pius XII. It recounts that at the time of his death, the Pope was practically unanimously acclaimed for his actions. Vian will address how it was possible that his image could have changed so much after 1963.

Vian says the first reason for the change in the late Pontiff’s image was the difficult political choices that he made from the beginning of his pontificate, during the tragic war period and at the end of the war.

The Pope was very anti-Communist, and therefore Soviet propaganda painted him as an accomplice of Nazism and its horrors, despite his condemnations of Hitler and of all forms of totalitarianism.

“The second reason was the election of his successor, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli. In the book, the author explains that this Pope, who was transitional because of his age, was greeted by the world as the ‘good Pope,’ and was increasingly set in contrast with his predecessor because of his radically different character and style, but also because of the unexpected and resounding decision to convene a council,” Vatican radio reported.

The new book recalls that during the years of World War II, Pius XII carried out an unprecedented humanitarian effort, which saved many human lives, including thousands of Jews.

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Argentinean archbishop says celibacy must be lived 'in the faith and in profound prayer'

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jun 9, 2009 (CNA) - During his weekly television program, “Keys to a Better World,” Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata underscored that fidelity to the gift of celibacy is fostered and achieved “in the faith, in profound prayer.” With the help of God, he added, “it is not only relatively easy but joyful.”

“Celibacy is assumed freely, just as those who marry freely assent to marriage and commit themselves to conjugal fidelity,” the archbishop said. “The reason for which the Church reserves priestly ordination to those men who have received the charism of perfect chastity from God is because he desires that his ministers, those who will serve the people of God as pastors and teachers, assume the same state of life as that of Jesus Christ,” he continued.

The archbishop said the incomprehension of celibacy by the general public is because people “see these noble and healthy realities from outside, they think it is hard to live them because we are submerged in an artificially eroticized culture in which it seems that sex has become an obsession.”

“Many people unfortunately live like this,” he went on, “and it is true that many in the media undermine even the most basic sense of modesty, banalize the mystery of human sexuality and make a mockery of virtue.”

In this cultural context, the archbishop said, it is obvious that the value of celibacy and the ability to practice it is not understood. “But most priests who live it in fidelity, and the faithful who have the sensitivity of the faith, realize that it is not so difficult, that it is relatively easy if celibacy is lived in faith and in profound prayer.”

“If a priest wants to live a worldly life, if he wants to live like any other person in the world, then yes, celibacy will be very hard and difficult,” the archbishop said. “But if he lives his total commitment to Christ and his brethren with self-denial, he will see that with the hope of God, it is not only relatively easy, but joyful, and it is the secret to an authentic spiritual fatherhood. For this reason, above all, the faithful can call their priests father.”

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Cardinal Terrazas says Bolivians have no need for other gods

La Paz, Bolivia, Jun 9, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Cardinal Julio Terrazas Sandoval, said this week the Bolivian people are privileged because they have God present among them, and they have no need to seek out “other gods” or to be afraid “of others who think they are gods.”

The cardinal made his comments on the Feast of the Holy Trinity this past Sunday. “God makes us see that liberty and human dignity are fulfilled by keeping God, represented in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, present in our lives,” he said.

The celebration of the Holy Trinity has great significance for Catholics because the Trinity is our “source of peace, of justice and truth, our source of brotherhood and of love,” the Bolivian cardinal said.

“This is our feast and we all have to commit ourselves to continue building a lasting peace, an authentic brotherhood and human dignity that are not trampled upon either in action or in words,” the cardinal said.

In this sense, he invited the faithful to participate in the upcoming celebration of Corpus Christi, when “we will put ourselves before the Lord in the Eucharist.”

Cardinal Terrazas encouraged Catholics to draw close to the Body and Blood of Christ in order to be true missionaries and to transmit the hope of the Gospel to all Bolivians.

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