Archive of June 10, 2009

Contraception and debt relief tackled by Catholic-Anglican dialogue

Washington D.C., Jun 10, 2009 (CNA) - Catholics and Anglicans sat down in Cincinnati on May 25-26 to hold establish a dialogue on two issues that feature prominently in modern society: debt relief and contraception.

The event marked the second meeting of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue in the United States (ARC-USA).  The theme of this meeting was "Ecclesiology and Moral Discernment: Common Ground and Divergences."

The dialogue was hosted by the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio and was co-chaired by Episcopal Bishop Thomas Breidenthal of Southern, Ohio and Catholic Bishop Ronald P. Herzog of Alexandria, Louisiana. 

On the topic of international debt, the two churches found that they approach the subject differently but arrive at similar conclusions. They agreed that there is a great need for debt relief programs that acknowledge the dignity of the human person and serve the needs of the poor.

On the topic of contraception, however, the churches reached very different conclusions. 

The Anglican view, explained by Rev. Matthew S. C. Olver of the Church of the Incarnation in Dallas, Texas, believes that the use of contraception can be morally acceptable in certain situations, whereas the Catholic view, presented by Theresa Notare, Ph.D., assistant director of the Natural Family Planning Program at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), teaches that use of contraceptives is never morally justified.

The two churches had agreed that contraception was immoral until the Lambeth Conference in 1930, when the Anglican church decided that while “The primary and obvious method [for birth regulation] is complete abstinence,” there are some situations “where there is a morally sound reason for avoiding complete abstinence,” and in these cases, “other methods may be used,” provided that motivation is aligned with Christian principles.

Since that time, nearly every Protestant Church has adopted the belief that contraception is morally acceptable.

The Catholic Church, however, has remained consistent in teaching that artificial birth control is a grave evil that prevents husband and wife from giving themselves properly to each other in marital love. 

Pope Pius XI responded to the Lambeth Conference by issuing an encyclical, Casti Connubii, in which he confirmed the Catholic position that any time the marital act is “deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature.”

In 1968, Pope Paul VI reaffirmed this belief when he responded to the growing popularity of oral contraceptives by writing Humane Vitae.  In this encyclical, the Pope again proclaimed Church teaching that the only acceptable form of birth regulation is to “take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system.”   

The next meeting of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue is scheduled for October, at which time members will continue to explore the similarities and differences of their views on these subjects, as well as examining the two churches’ views on immigration and responses to Veritatis Splendor, John Paul II’s 1993 encyclical.

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San Francisco archdiocese’s tax dispute with city could cost $15 million

San Francisco, Calif., Jun 10, 2009 (CNA) - A year-long conflict over whether the Archdiocese of San Francisco should face a tax bill of as much as $15 million for its property reorganization will soon come to a key moment in a June 16 appeals hearing.

The Archdiocese had moved 232 San Francisco properties from one Catholic non-profit organization to another. The properties included empty lots and commercial land but also famous churches such as Mission Dolores, Old St. Mary’s Cathedral and St. Francis of Assisi.

The city tax assessor has argued that this move was a transfer of assets to a separate entity, while the archdiocese said the action was simply an internal reorganization.

Nonprofits are exempt from property and federal income taxes but are subject to property transfer taxes. The decision in this case could affect hundreds of other non-profit groups.

Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting plans to argue at the appeals hearing that the properties were moved into a new nonprofit created expressly to protect the archdiocese from losing those assets, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The archdiocese has sold other properties to pay out more than $40 million in settlements related to sexual abuse lawsuits.

Archdiocese spokesman Maurice Healy rejected Ting’s claim, saying that past litigation was not relevant to the tax issue. Healy also stated that Ting’s argument was “beneath” him and “shames the city of San Francisco.”

"This is a self-admitted cash-strapped recorder, and we think he is misinterpreting transfer tax law and infringes on religious organization's right to reorganize themselves," Healy told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Ting argued that the property transfer changes the board of directors, its members, and its controls.

“In our opinion, this isn't just a change - these are separate legal organizations,” he said.

In a statement reproduced at the California Chronicle, Ting said that the archdiocese is treated no differently than “Macy’s, the Gap or AT&T.”

“If any of these corporations did the same thing, they would be subject to transfer tax as well,” he said. “We have given the taxpayer every opportunity to demonstrate that they deserved an exemption and unfortunately, they have not been able to prove it. By making this determination, we are merely treating the Archdiocese like every other taxpayer in San Francisco.”

Archbishop of San Francisco George H. Niederauer said in an e-mail that the reorganization aims to establish “simple ownership models” that clearly distinguish canonical assets of the parishes and schools from those of the archdiocese. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the archbishop said counties throughout California have allowed similar reorganizations.

If the city appeals board sides with Ting, he estimates the archdiocese could owe between $4 million and $15 million in taxes.

If the board rules against the archdiocese, it may appeal to the Superior Court.

Critics of the city government have questioned whether the tax inquiry by the City of San Francisco, which largely favored Proposition 8, was “payback” for the Catholic Church’s stand in favor of the measure.

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Christians in Nepal defy extremists’ demand to leave country

Kathmandu, Nepal, Jun 10, 2009 (CNA) - Hindu extremists in Nepal have demanded that the country’s one million Christians leave the country, prompting churches to reject threats of violence. They emphasized that their mission in the country will not change.

Last week militants bombed the Catholic cathedral in the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu, killing several people.
The extremist Hindu Nepal Defense Army (NDA) took responsibility for the attack in a statement distributed during May 31 public demonstrations organized by the Church, CISA reports.

“We want all the one million Christians out of the country,” their statement said.

Members of local churches make up about 2.4 percent of the Nepalese population. There are about 7,000 Catholics in Nepal.

The Catholic Church in Nepal is involved in social services with the poor, the sick and the marginalized and is generally well-received by the people.

In response to the threats the Christian community, with the support of local authorities, has alerted its members. Christians have taken security measures, with guards being organized to protect their churches.

The NDA since its inception has been fighting for the return of the Hindu monarchy which ruled Nepal for centuries, CISA says. They are protesting the democratic secular system and the rise to power of former Maoist groups.

The extremist group has already carried out several attacks on Muslims and Christians. Last year, Salesian priest Fr. Johnson Moyalan was killed in an attack.

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UCLA student protests ban on mentioning Jesus in graduation speech

Los Angeles, Calif., Jun 10, 2009 (CNA) - A graduating student at the University of California at Los Angeles has charged that a department advisor forbade her from saying “I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” in her graduation speech, prompting the university to say it will allow the student statements to be read “as originally submitted.”

Student Christina Popa backed up her claim by posting on Facebook e-mails showing that other students would be permitted to have their speeches read aloud at a pre-graduation ceremony. Popa’s speech would have been allowed only if she did not mention Jesus.

Dr. Pamela Hurley, a student affairs advisor for the Department of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology, e-mailed Popa’s speech back to her, saying “UCLA is a public university where the doctrine of separation of church and state is observed.”

Prof. Hurley proposed a version of Popa’s speech without the reference to Jesus.

After Popa objected to the proposal, Prof. Hurley replied: “If you prefer, Christina, I can read none of what you wrote. I am very sorry that this is a problem for you.”

Chaplain Gordon James Klingenschmitt, a former Navy chaplain who was disciplined for praying publicly “in Jesus’ name” before being vindicated by Congress, commented on the reported ban.

“Jesus is not an illegal word, and UCLA has no business censoring her speech, especially if they claim to celebrate 'academic freedom,'” he said.

Klingenschmitt accused the professor of misapplying a “twisted idea” of the separation of church and state.

Elizabeth Kivowitz Boatright-Simon of the UCLA Office of Media Relations provided CNA with a statement from the university that said Popa's original word's, including Jesus' name, will be read aloud.

The statement said the reading of “words of wisdom” at the Department of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology involves graduating students’ submitting a short message to be read onstage by a member of the university administration.

“Because the reading is by the University, not the students, to avoid the appearance that the University was advocating one religion over the other, guidelines were established so that messages would not include references to particular religions,” the statement said. “The department and the University support the First Amendment and in no way intended to impinge upon any students’ rights.”

“Thus, upon review, and recognizing that the intent of the ceremony is for all students to have a chance to say something at graduation, the department will continue to make clear to the audience that the statements are the personal statements of each student and will read statements as originally submitted by the students.”

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Pope Benedict XVI teaches on 'true authority'

Vatican City, Jun 10, 2009 (CNA) - Fifteen thousand people were present in St. Peter’s Square for today's general audience with Pope Benedict XVI. In his address, the Pope summarized the work of St. John Scotus Erigena, an Irish theologian of the ninth century who taught that true authority and reason can never contradict each other.

Scotus had an intimate knowledge of both the Greek and Latin Patristic culture, and developed a particular love for the writings of Dionysius, which led the Irish theologian to study the latter’s works thoroughly and to translate them into Latin, the Pope explained.

According to Pope Benedict, Scotus’ writings are important because they highlight the need to “constantly search for truth.” The Irish saint "develops certain stimulating theological and spiritual ideas which could indicate interesting avenues for further study, even for modern theologians," said Benedict XVI, referring to his understanding of “true authority.”

“He is convinced that authority and reason can never be in contrast with one another,” the Pope explained, summarizing the saint's teachings. “True religion and true philosophy coincide.”

Scotus warned: “No authority should ever distract you from what helps you understand the persuasion of true rational contemplation.” Authentic authority, the saint taught, never contradicts true reason, neither can the latter ever contradict true authority.  Both originate from the same source that is divine wisdom.

Turning to Scripture, the Pontiff laid out St. John Scotus' observation that God gifted Scripture with a teaching aspect so that man could remember “everything that was engraved on his heart from the moment of his creation 'in the image and likeness of God,' and that original sin had caused him to forget.”

“Only thanks to constant purification of the eye, heart and mind can we achieve true comprehension,” Benedict XVI expounded. “This path brings the intelligent creature to the very portal of the divine mystery.”

Pope Benedict closed his reflection by recalling the affirmations of the Irish theologian that people must desire the joy of the truth that is Christ and nothing more and that the greatest torment for a rational creature is His absence.

“These are words,” Benedict said, “that we can make our own and which constitute our hearts deepest desire.”

After his discourse, the Holy Father greeted all the English-speaking visitors present, especially seminarians from the United States participating in “The Rome Experience Program” as well as pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Karachi in Pakistan.

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Archbishop Vigneron to head CUA Board of Trustees

Washington D.C., Jun 10, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop Allen Vigneron, the new head of the Archdiocese of Detroit, is taking on another new role as the head of the Catholic University of America's Board of Trustees.

The election of Vigneron took place on Tuesday during the final meeting of the board for the year.

Archbishop Vigneron earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in philosophy from the university and was on the school’s board for four years.

"I have enjoyed my service on the Board of Trustees and look forward to the opportunity to lead my fellow members in the years ahead," Vigneron said after the board meeting, according to a university news release. "I owe a great debt to Catholic University. It is here where I studied philosophy 20 years ago, an intellectual discipline and experience that has helped me be the bishop I am today."

The archbishop added that, "Catholic University has tremendous potential to serve the Church. In my new capacity, I will do everything I can to advance the school’s mission to my brother bishops, to fellow Catholics and beyond."

The President of CUA, Fr. David O'Connell expressed his pleasure at hearing of Vigneron's election. "I am delighted that Archbishop Vigneron has accepted his election as chairman of the university’s Board of Trustees."

"He has been an outstanding and loyal trustee over the years, with a tremendous interest in teaching, scholarly research and the whole academic life of The Catholic University of America, particularly its Catholic identity and mission. I have been impressed by his comments and questions at board meetings and by his profound knowledge of Catholic higher education. He will be a great advocate for CUA as the national university of the Catholic Church in our country. I look forward to working closely with him," Fr. O'Connell added.

Archbishop Vigneron succeeds Bishop William E. Lori, Bishop of Bridgeport, who has served as Catholic University’s board chairman for the past eight years.

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Catholic Church agrees to mediate in Peruvian Amazon conflict

Lima, Peru, Jun 10, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the Peruvian Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos, announced this week that the Church has agreed to participate in mediation intended to re-establish order in the Amazon region, where confrontations between natives and police have left dozens dead.

After meeting with the head of the cabinet, Yehude Simon, Archbishop Cabrejos said the purpose of the Church’s participation in a dialogue is to achieve “reconciliation” among Peruvians.

“We want what is good, peace, reconciliation and the restitution of social peace,” the archbishop said, explaining that the bishops’ conference would soon select a representative for the mediation.

He called on Peruvians to “avoid every kind of violence,” and called for calm and serenity.

Simon said the Church’s mediation represents “a guarantee of total independence” for the native communities.

The crisis in the Amazon resulted from objections by the native community to legislative decrees promulgated by the Peruvian government about the right to ownership of their lands.

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Archdiocese calls on Mexicans not to leave ballots unchecked

Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 10, 2009 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Mexico’s weekly “Desde la Fe,” has called on voters not to leave their ballots unchecked or to abstain from voting during the July 5 elections, saying that doing so would lead the country to democratic failure.

In a recent editorial, the weekly responded to some commentators who have urged voters to leave some boxes unchecked or to abstain from voting. “Desde la Fe” warned that such action would be a concession to “those who think that Mexico can only function with totalitarianism.”

“Although non-participation is an expression of repudiation, in a democratic system like the one Mexicans are building, non-participation or annulling the vote can be truly irresponsible,” the editorial warned.

“Desde la Fe” added that the bishops are determined to remind citizens that in a democracy what counts in electing lawmakers and leaders are the votes. It also reaffirmed the right of religious associations to freely express their doctrinal principles and moral values. “The Church does not only have the right to express her principles, but also to ask the faithful to act consistently with them, in their consciences and in their public and political commitments,” the newspaper stated.

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Archbishop Chaput gives 'Stoning of Soraya' two thumbs up

Denver, Colo., Jun 10, 2009 (CNA) - As the movie industry prepares to roll out its summer blockbusters, a sobering film from Steve McEveety explores the gripping story of an Iranian woman who is victimized by her husband. After seeing the movie, Archbishop Charles Chaput gave it his seal of approval and said it should remind people "how vigilant over our own hearts each of us needs to remain if we want to be human."

"The Stoning of Soraya M." is the work of Steve McEveety, perhaps best known among Catholics for the movies "The Passion of the Christ" and "Braveheart." He also co-founded Mpower Pictures, which in 2007 released the extraordinary portrait of a young man’s conversion, "Bella."

This year, McEveety and his Mpower colleagues bring "The Stoning of Soraya M." ( to limited screens across the country on June 26.

After screening the film, Archbishop Chaput told Catholics, in his weekly column for the Denver Catholic Register, "Don't let the summer go by without somehow seeing this film."

"Superbly written, directed and photographed, with compelling lead performances by two astonishing actresses, The Stoning is the most moving screen story I’ve seen in years. Once you’ve watched it, you’ll never forget it," he wrote.

The movie is based on real events and is adapted from the book of the same name by the French-Iranian journalist Freidoune Sahebjam, played by Jim Caveziel, the archbishop explained. "In the aftermath of the Iranian revolution, a husband grows tired of his young wife, who has borne him two sons and two daughters. Under Islamic law, a man may have up to four wives – but he’s also obligated to care and provide for each of them properly. Interested in a potential child bride and unable to afford the added expense of a second wife, the husband maneuvers his wife into tending house for a recent widower. Then he falsely accuses her of infidelity, after blackmailing other male village elders, including the mullah – the town’s religious leader -- into colluding in his lie."

"The rest of The Stoning needs to be experienced to be fully understood," the archbishop said.

Archbishop Chaput also addressed the claim that the movie could be seen as anti-Islamic.

"While The Stoning implicitly shows the deep differences between Christianity and Islam regarding the role of women, the film is not a critique of Islam. Quite the opposite: What happens to Soraya is an abuse of Islamic law fueled by revolutionary extremism, personal corruption and rural tradition."

Watching the film brought to the archbishop's mind the years he served on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, during which he came to see "how unusual our nation really is."

"For all its flaws," the Denver prelate said, "the United States has a respect for religious freedom, equality under the law and the dignity of the individual that very few other societies can rival. We need to take pride in those qualities. We need to remember the moral and religious roots from which they come. We also need to protect those qualities and advance them without apology in our dialogue with other cultures."

Archbishop Chaput closed his review by noting that "The Stoning of Soraya M." succeeds because "it is a moving drama of abused innocence and eventual vindication."

"But it also reminds us of the soul-destroying power of a lie; how tempting and easy it can be to victimize the weak; how precious the truth is; and how vigilant over our own hearts each of us needs to remain if we want to be human -- even when we claim to believe in God."

The full review can be accessed here:

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New archbishop of St. Louis vows to fight secular culture, promote vocations

St. Louis, Mo., Jun 10, 2009 (CNA) - The Cathedral of Saint Louis was packed on Wednesday afternoon as Archbishop Robert J. Carlson was installed as the Archbishop of Saint Louis. In his homily, the new archbishop pledged to oppose the prevailing secular culture and to continue his dedication to fostering priestly vocations.

Large crowds gathered at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis as early as 10:30 a.m. for a Mass that began at 2:00 p.m.  The eager attendees included not only priests and religious, but many lay faithful as well.

The new Archbishop greeted the people with “great affection,” thanking them for their “warm welcome.”

In his homily, Carlson spoke of the Church’s spiritual unity in Christ, while at the same time celebrating “the diversity of gifts and graces” present in the local community. In the Archdiocese of St. Louis, the archbishop mentioned “a strong Catholic school system, contemplative and active religious communities, dynamic outreach to the poor, excellent Catholic health care, the presence of a diocesan seminary and a commitment to evangelization”as some of the strengths.

The archbishop also challenged his new flock, saying, “If we want to share in the glory of Christ we must do what He tells us in today's Gospel: Take up our cross and follow Him. I can tell you from my experience — and you know from your own — it is no easy task!”

“But we can strengthen and encourage each other if we do it together,” he continued, asking for prayers from the community of the faithful.

Vowing to stand strong against the secular culture, Archbishop Carlson proclaimed, “We will never compromise our commitment to life!”

The new Archbishop also spoke of the rich and abundant religious communities present in the Archdiocese as an inspiration along the path to holiness.  “With your vowed commitment to poverty, chastity and obedience you teach us all how to live after the mind of Christ,” he said.

Reaching out to his brother priests with his promise of prayers and support, he also told them, “You will be my closest collaborators in ministry.”

“I will never ordain a priest that I do not know,” he added.

In his previous assignments, Carlson was known for his success at fostering vocations through efforts that included holding dinners for young men, Eucharistic adoration within parishes, and seminarian visits. During his homily today, he promised the people of St. Louis that he would be committed to “raising up new and worthy vocations” in the archdiocese.

Looking forward, Carlson expressed his eagerness to become a part of the parish communities and serve the needs of the people.  He concluded his homily with the words of St. Jose Maria Escriva, “In the Church there is a diversity of ministries, but there is only one aim — the sanctification of all.”

Following the Installation Mass, a public reception was held at Rosati-Kain High School, where Archbishop Carlson greeted hundreds of the faithful.

Bishop Robert Carlson was appointed by Pope Benedict last April to succeed Archbishop Raymond Burke as the Archbishop of Saint Louis.  Prior to this appointment, Carlson, a native of Minneapolis, MN, had been bishop of Saginaw, MI since 2005, and bishop of Sioux Falls, SD since 1994.


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