Archive of June 17, 2009

Catholic convert from Oregon coast becomes a priest

Florence, Oregon, Jun 17, 2009 (CNA) - He grew up an evangelical Protestant in Oregon, suspicious of Marian theology. Now he’s a Catholic priest and a physicist. Dominican Father Raphael Mary Salzillo was ordained last month in San Francisco and will take up an assignment at the University of Washington Newman Center and Blessed Sacrament Parish in Seattle.

Born Wesley Salzillo in 1976, he grew up in Florence, a small coastal town. The family converted to Catholicism in the early 1990s.

"My family raised me with a strong Christian faith and a very clear sense that Christ should be the most important thing in my life," Father Raphael Mary recalls, explaining that his faith after conversion remained "generic."

"I was not fully open to the truth that the Catholic faith has to offer," he says.

But when he was 16, a spiritual experience at Mass gave him the strong feeling he was being called to priesthood or religious life. He was not open to it at the time, so tried to convince himself it was just his imagination.

A top graduate from Siuslaw High, he went on to Caltech, earning a bachelor’s degree in applied physics. He attended graduate school and there he felt his vocation being clarified. At the same time, this scientist wrestled with turning over his will so completely.

"I wanted to choose my own religion rather than accepting the Catholic one as a coherent whole," he says, aware that many people today pick and choose within a body of faith. "In a way, choice had become a God for me, as it has to so many in our society."

Through study of church history and theology and deepening prayer life, he discerned that his own intellect and judgment alone could not fulfill his deepest yearnings. He decided to trust Jesus and the Church fully.

"It was through submission of my power of choice in matters of faith, that I came to know Jesus Christ in a much deeper way," he says.

The last part of his faith to fall into place was an acceptance of Mary. That spiritual movement allowed him to love Jesus more, he explains.

"It was Mary who brought me to finally accept my vocation, and it has been her who has sustained me in this life," he says.

He chose the Dominicans for their emphasis on doctrinal preaching and study, as well as their strong community life with "a streak of monasticism."

He studied philosophy and theology in Berkeley, Calif. and also served at the University of Arizona Newman Center.

Printed with permission from the Catholic Sentinel, Catholic newspaper for the state of Oregon.

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New swine flu vaccine made by ethical means, pro-life group affirms

Murfreesboro, Tenn., Jun 17, 2009 (CNA) - As the pharmacuetical companies race to produce a vaccine for the swine flu, a Catholic pro-life group has announced that the newly developed vaccine is being made using ethical cell lines.

On Friday the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis announced it had created an experimental vaccine through a canine kidney cell-based technology that seems to be faster than the standard method, which relies on chicken eggs.

Over 30 countries have reportedly requested supply of the vaccine. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services placed a $289 million order with Novartis last month.

Debi Vinnedge, Executive Director of Children of God for Life, said in a press release that the vaccine’s announcement was “great news for families worldwide.”

“Other companies such as Sanofi Pasteur and Medimmune are using aborted fetal cell line PER C6 as their cell culture. Concerned families who may not have otherwise used the swine flu vaccine will now have a moral choice!”

Vinnedge said other companies are also using ethical sources for their cell cultures. Novavax is using insect cell lines, Baxter is using Vero cell lines and Protein Science is using caterpillar cell lines.

"There is simply no reason to use aborted fetal cell lines," Vinnedge said. "We are deeply grateful that Novartis technology is the frontrunner!" she commented.

She added that it was time that other pharmaceutical companies “start listening to the public demand.”

Children of God for Life, a Catholic group, is dedicated to monitoring the use of aborted baby tissue in the creation of vaccines.

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Watchdog group claims some Catholic universities promote pro-abortion internships

Manassas, Va., Jun 17, 2009 (CNA) - At least ten Catholic colleges and universities are promoting student internships with organizations whose missions or actions are directly opposed to Catholic morals, the Cardinal Newman Society charges. Some internships are with organizations that promote abortion or homosexual issues and include possible work in abortion “clinic defense.”

According the Cardinal Newman Society (CNS), a Catholic higher education organization, a web page at Boston College lists as “Non-Profit Internship Sources” two pro-abortion groups, the Feminist Majority Foundation and the National Organization for Women.

A Boston College Law School website recommends the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, ACLU-Massachusetts and the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders as opportunities for “pro bono” legal work. The latter two organizations advocate homosexual “marriage.”

The Georgetown Law School, following a 2007 policy change, allows students to receive university funding for interning at abortion advocacy organizations, CNS reports. A student had been refused funding for an internship at Planned Parenthood, but protests from pro-abortion students and faculty successfully changed the policy.

The Gender and Women’s Studies department at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University in Minnesota promotes internship opportunities with groups including the Feminist Majority Foundation. Its intern responsibilities include “clinic defense.” CNS believes this most likely means efforts to oppose pro-life protesters at abortion clinics.

DePaul University’s Women’s and Gender Studies program notes that students have interned with Planned Parenthood and the Chicago Women’s Health Center, which offers “emergency contraceptive” services and “alternative insemination” for single women, lesbian couples and others.

Loyola University of Chicago’s Women’s Studies and Gender Studies website lists internship and volunteer opportunities for pro-abortion groups such as Chicago National Organization for Women, the Feminist Majority Foundation, Planned Parenthood and the Chicago Abortion Fund.

The University of San Francisco’s Media Studies program promotes internships at Girlfriends Magazines, which is a lesbian publication, as well as the California Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League.

Additionally, the University of Notre Dame’s Gender Studies Program in 2008 funded a student’s internship at the National Organization for Women in Washington, D.C.

Other institutions mentioned by the CNS include St. Edward’s University in Texas and St. Norbert College in Wisconsin.

Patrick J. Reilly, CNS President, said the information validates concerns that public scandals at Catholic colleges are “just the tip of the iceberg.”

“Under what definition of ‘Catholic education’ do students receive academic credit to work for leading pro-abortion organizations?” he asked.

CNS says it wrote to the presidents of the colleges and universities to inform them of the internship programs, reporting that none have yet indicated that they will take action.

The organization added that these internship programs help explain why a recent survey showed most students and recent graduates of Catholic institutions believe that abortion and homosexual “marriage” should be legal, despite Catholic teaching.

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Conscience protections sought for Nebraska psychologistsis

Lincoln, Neb., Jun 17, 2009 (CNA) - Responding to concerns that psychologists might be required to counsel homosexual couples about strengthening their relationship, Catholic leaders in Nebraska are asking for conscience protections for psychologists who refuse to treat or refer clients because of religious or moral convictions.

Speaking during a licensing rules hearing before the Board of Mental Health Practice, Nebraska Catholic Conference executive director Jim Cunningham proposed a “convictions of conscience” rule for psychologists.

The Lincoln Journal Star reports that he warned that Catholic Charities in Omaha and Catholic Social Services in Lincoln might have to stop hiring licensed counselors and psychologists if they are not protected by the law. The Lincoln agency provides about $100,000 in free mental health services.

While most ethics codes for professional counselors and psychologists permit refusing to offer services based on ethical convictions, the codes generally require the professional to provide a referral for the client.

Cunningham said that even referrals could be a violation of conscience.

Edward Stringham, a Lincoln psychologist, said that the lack of a moral exemption could require a psychologist who believes homosexual relationships are immoral to counsel homosexual couples on improving their relationship.

According to the Journal Star, Stringham pointed to a 2001 federal court case which supported an employer who fired a counselor who refused on moral grounds to provide relationship enhancement counseling to a lesbian.

This is cause for legitimate concerns, Stringham said.

James K. Cole, who represented the Nebraska Psychology Association at the hearing, said that conscience exemptions could allow any provider to discriminate against virtually everyone as long as they claim a conflicting moral or religious belief.

The conscience clause is already part of a proposed rule change for counselors. Its compromise language was worked out between the Nebraska Catholic Conference and the Board of Mental Health Practice this winter.

The Nebraska Catholic Conference has also argued for conscience protections for social workers and marriage and family therapists.

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Janet Smith says criticisms of West ‘unfair’ and ‘unsubstantiated’

Detroit, Mich., Jun 17, 2009 (CNA) - Continuing the discussion about Theology of the Body speaker Christopher West, Prof. Janet E. Smith has argued that theologian Prof. David Schindler’s criticism of West has been “unfair” and has focused upon “unsubstantiated” and “out of context” examples of errors he sees in West’s work.

Smith, a moral theologian at Detroit’s Sacred Heart Major Seminary, is teaching a June immersion course on Pope John Paul II’s “Love and Responsibility” with West through the Theology of the Body Institute.

Schindler, a dean at the John Paul II Institute at Washington, D.C., initially criticized West’s interpretation of the late pontiff’s Theology of the Body for significantly misrepresenting the thought of John Paul II, for being “too much about sex and too romantic,” and for neglecting a sound understanding of mankind's fallen nature.

In the second of his two criticisms published at, Schindler said West’s views can encourage a “dangerous imprudence” and argued that those not at ease with his presentation have some cause for concern.

Smith’s second response to Schindler, also published at, repeated her praise for West, saying he is a “pioneer” who has taught the public and has created an “excellent tool” for scholars with his commentary on the Theology of the Body.

“Criticism of his work is to be welcomed but it must be delivered in a way as to be useful,” Smith wrote, expressing her continued “serious misgivings” about the manner of the conversation about West’s work.

“It surprises me that Prof. Schindler defends his use of unsubstantiated examples taken out of context in his critique of the work of West,” she said, adding that if sufficient evidence against West exists it should be evident in his many CDs and DVDs.

Smith said she could not respond to Schindler’s criticisms of West without knowing the context of the disputed elements.

“Schindler seems to me to risk sliding into sound bites as criticism rather than textual citation as criticism. It is time for more citation of texts; not sound bites, not implication, but substantiated criticism.”

Some critics of West, she remarked, refer to “impressions” of the speaker whom they may have seen more than ten years ago and are not reacting to his more recent work and presentations.

She then responded to one of Schindler’s specific criticisms, namely that West has used “phallic symbolism” to describe the Easter Candle.

“I wouldn’t use the example myself, but I don’t think it worthy of a wholesale attack or a wholesale defense; the issue is very overblown,” she said.

“I know that West’s talks have elements that challenge the sensitivities of many. When I heard West in his first series of talks claim that the submersion of the Easter Candle into the holy water font was sexual imagery used by the Church to show that, through baptism, spiritual children are born, I was appalled.”

Smith explained that her response may have been “prudish” but she thought West’s reference was “vulgar and irreverent.”

However, she said, she was surprised to learn that liturgists and theologians “from the early days of the Church” have understood the Easter Candle “just as West does.”

“Schindler thinks that some things ought never to be discussed in public,” Smith continued, suggesting that if West told an audience he would only address certain issues in a private discussion, the whole audience would show up.

Smith said Schindler had justified West’s status as a public figure to “use the media and create a firestorm” by making his arguments. She argued that it was “unjust” for someone of Schindler’s influence to raise “very serious objections” in a public forum.

“I believe here that he is stepping outside of the arena where the kinds of concerns he raises are best and appropriately addressed – the academic arena where issues can receive patient reflection and prolonged and careful assessment; not the arena of the Internet blog which invites hasty and unreflective judgment,” she wrote, referring to the news aggregator

Smith reported that a bishop and a conference organizer have both said they received a copy of Schindler’s critique from someone who sought to dissuade them from sponsoring West’s appearance at a conference. While Schindler does not want West to fail, she said, some will attempt to use the scholar’s authority to make the popular speaker fail.

She then suggested that Schindler’s aims differ from those of Pope John Paul II and Christopher West:

“John Paul II and West have not undertaken the same project that Schindler undertakes. Their approach to topics is chosen for pedagogical reasons and thus they may not go into some of what Schindler considers essential for understanding the relation of the person to God and the body to love.”

Concluding her response, Prof. Smith said “some good things” are coming out of the conversation about West. She expressed hope West will “just keep getting better and better,” will convert many people, and will take present criticism “as graciously as he had taken criticisms in the past.”

“I also hope West’s critics, after patient and prolonged reflection AND a close look at the evidence, will be very open to the possibility that they are not being altogether fair to him,” she wrote.

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Bring the Gospel to people using their language and customs, Pope urges

Vatican City, Jun 17, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI dedicated today's general audience to the example of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, apostles of the Slavs and co-patrons of Europe, who modeled the importance of bringing the Gospel to new cultures using their own language and customs.

The Pope began by sketching a brief biography of the saints for the 25,000 pilgrims in St. Peter's Square. Cyril, born in Thessalonica around the year 826, was ordained at an early age. His older brother Methodius, born about the year 815, abandoned his own administrative career soon after his brother's ordination and retired to a monastery on Mount Olympus, where he was joined by Cyril.

Some years later the imperial government entrusted Cyril with a mission to the peoples living around the Sea of Azov who had asked to be sent "a man of letters capable of discussing with Jews and Saracens." During his time there, Cyril learned Hebrew and found the tomb and relics of Pope Clement I, who had been exiled there.

On his return to Constantinople, the emperor Michael III, who had been a school friend of Cyril, sent the two brothers to Moravia where Prince Ratislav had requested "a teacher capable of explaining the true faith to us in our own language. It was at this point that Cyril began translating the Gospel into Slavic.

"Their mission," the Holy Father explained, "soon met with unexpected success. By translating the liturgy into Slavic the two brothers earned great affection among the people. This, however, also aroused the hostility of the Frankish clergy who had arrived in Moravia earlier and considered the territory as part of their own ecclesial jurisdiction."

Travelling to Rome to justify their actions, the brothers stopped in Venice where they opposed the so-called trilingual heresy, which sustained that there were only three languages in which God could legitimately be praised: Hebrew, Greek and Latin.

The brothers eventually reached Rome, where Pope Hadrian II welcomed them. That Pope recognized the importance of their “ecclesial mission,” to the extent that he saw in the Slavic peoples a bridge between the two parts of the Empire. He did not hesitate to approve the use of Slavic in the liturgy.

While in Rome, Cyril fell seriously ill and died on February 14, 869.

Methodius was ordained a bishop, and a year later he returned to Moravia and Pannonia, only to be  imprisoned by the Frankish missionaries. He died on April 6, 885.

"To give a brief spiritual profile of the two brothers," Pope Benedict XVI continued, "we must first note the passion with which Cyril studied the writings of St. Gregory of Nazianzus from whom he learnt the importance of language in transmitting the Revelation."

Pope Benedict recalled: "Cyril and Methodius were convinced that individual peoples could not claim to have fully received the Revelation until they had heard it in their own language and read it in the letters of their own alphabet."

The brothers’ example, the Pope concluded, “is a classic example of that which today is defined enculturation: every nation must set the revelation in their own language and express the salvific truth with a language that is their own.”

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Vatican meeting on Austrian problem diocese concludes

Vatican City, Jun 17, 2009 (CNA) - Following the reaction of Austrian Catholics in the Diocese of Linz against the Pope's appointment of an auxiliary bishop and liturgical abuses in the diocese, Pope Benedict XVI convoked a two-day meeting of leading bishops from Austria to address the situation.

The gathering was held at the Vatican and included Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, Archbishop Alois Kothgasser of Salzburg, Bishop Egon Kapellari of Graz-Seckau and Bishop Ludwig Schwarz of Linz. The Austrian prelates were joined by the heads of five different dicasteries of the Roman Curia, which included the Congregations for Clergy, Bishops and Doctrine of the Faith.

According to the Vatican's press office, "The meeting, characterised by lively 'collegial affection,' served to examine, in a fraternal exchange of ideas and with a constructive spirit, certain questions concerning the situation of the diocese of Linz and of the Church in Austria, proposing solutions to current problems.”

The Vatican has recently encountered opposition to its attempts to bring about liturgical reform in the diocese. The most obvious manifestation of this opposition was the refusal to accept the appointment of Fr. Gerhard Maria Wagner as an auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of Linz.

During the June 15-16 meeting with the bishops from Austria, Pope Benedict highlighted the “urgent importance of strengthening faith and of maintaining integral faithfulness to Vatican Council II and to the Church's post-conciliar Magisterium, as well as the need to renew catechesis in the light of the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” the press office communiqué said.

Attention also turned to doctrinal and pastoral questions and to the situation of the clergy, the laity, the major seminaries and the theological faculties in Linz and in other dioceses of Austria.

The Austrian bishops, led by Cardinal Schonborn, thanked the Holy Father for his fatherly care for their local Church and for the opportunity to meet with him. The prelates said that the meeting shows that Benedict XVI is close to the Church in Austria, and gave him assurances of their full communion and their affection.

The Austrian bishops also thanked the Roman Curia for its fruitful collaboration and openness.

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Vatican warns against Society of St. Pius X ordinations

Vatican City, Jun 17, 2009 (CNA) - News that the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) intends to ordain 23 priests in late June caused the Vatican to issue a statement on Wednesday saying that the ordinations will not be legitimate.

The statement from the Vatican made reference to the Holy Father’s “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church” from last March. The letter states, “As long as the Society (of St. Pius X) does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church.”

The status of the SSPX within the Catholic Church remains in question because it has previously rejected certain portions of some key Vatican II documents.

“Until the doctrinal questions are clarified,” the Holy See's press office said, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers ... do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.”

Created by Archbishop Lefebvre in 1969, the Society of St. Pius X has rejected the modern rites of the Mass, refused to accept portions of the Second Vatican Council and challenged papal authority on several occasions.

In 1988, Lefebvre consecrated four bishops against the will of Pope John Paul II, a move Rome declared to be “a schismatic act.” Archbishop Lefebvre and the four bishops were excommunicated by John Paul II in 1991.

In December of 2008, Pope Benedict lifted the excommunications in hopes of restoring “full communion with the Church on the part of the whole Society of St Pius X.”

In his “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church,” the Pope had also announced that he would make the ‘Ecclesia Dei’Commission, tasked with reconciling the Society to the Church, a part of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The change in the commission's status is intended to foster dialogue with the leaders of the SSPX and to resolve questions and disagreements over doctrinal matters.

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Italian newspaper reveals details behind Hitler’s plan to kill Pius XII

Rome, Italy, Jun 17, 2009 (CNA) - The Italian bishops’ newspaper Avvenire published an article on Tuesday revealing the details behind Hitler’s plan to kidnap or kill Pope Pius XII as a way of “punishing” the Italians for the arrest of Mussolini.

The paper reported information about the plan was revealed from a direct source in 1972, when the son of one of the German officials involved in the plan, Niki Freytag von Loringhoven, testified in Munich. The article in Avvenire featured new details about the Nazi plan.

According to Freytag von Loringhoven, a secret meeting was held in Venice on July 29 and 30, 1943 with Italy’s head of counter-espionage, General Cesare Ame, to inform him of Hitler’s intention to punish the Italians for arresting Mussolini by kidnapping or killing Pius XII or the king.

Among those present at the meeting were the German head of counter-espionage, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, and two German colonels, Erwin von Lahousen and Wessel Freytag von Loringhoven (the father of Niki).

Upon returning to Rome, General Ame revealed the news in order to block Hitler’s plans.

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IVF treats embryos as expendable, bioethicist says, reacting to British story

New York City, N.Y., Jun 17, 2009 (CNA) - Two years ago, a British couple using in vitro fertilization discovered that their frozen embryo was accidently implanted in another woman, who later aborted the child. Commenting on the story, a bioethicist explained to CNA that in vitro fertilization violates the Catholic Church's teaching on the equal value of all life.

The couple, known simply as Paul and Debra, described their dismay at learning that their last surviving embryo had accidently been given to the wrong woman.  When the mistake was discovered, the woman took an abortion pill to end the pregnancy.

Paul and Debra explained to ITV that they had already produced one son through in vitro fertilization.  Four years later, they decided to have a second child with the last living embryo of the nine that had originally been created.  But upon returning to the clinic in Wales where the frozen embryo was being stored, they were informed of the mistake. 

The couple received thousands of dollars in damages from the clinic.  Representatives of the clinic have called the accident “unacceptable” and said that measures have been taken to ensure that this type of mistake will not happen again.

Speaking about the tragic mistake, Debra said, “The actual mention of the termination part of it really upsets us because we tend to think of the embryo as the little boy that we have got because he was from the first batch of embryos.”

Jennifer Miller, Executive Director of Bioethics International, analyzed the situation for CNA, saying, “approximately two-thirds of IVF attempts are unsuccessful, indicating that the majority of created embryos are lost rather than born in the process." 

"This indicates that embryos are viewed as expendable, or possessing less value, by a good portion of the general public and medical community," Miller added.  This violates Catholic moral teachings which state that all life from conception to natural death possess dignity and value.

In 1987, the Catholic Church officially addressed the dangers of in vitro procedures in  “Donum Vitae,” emphasizing that “human embryos obtained in vitro are human beings” with dignity and rights that must be respected.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in vitro fertilization is immoral because it separates the unitive and procreative meanings of the sexual act.  Conception of children should be the “fruit of the conjugal act, that is to say, of the specific act of the spouses’ union.”

The Church warns against man trying to take the place of God through in vitro fertilization by saying that in such methods of artificial conception, “The act which brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person.”

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Vatican newspaper editor: We support the U.S. bishops but have hopes for Obama

CNA STAFF, Jun 17, 2009 (CNA) - Gian Maria Vian, the editor-in-chief of L’Osservatore Romano who has come under fire for his  his alleged “pro-Obama” stance, clarified today in an interview that the Vatican’s daily newspaper is and has always been supportive of the U.S. bishops, but it is also hopeful that Obama will be a pro-life president.

In a lengthy interview with Delia Gallagher published today by the National Review Online, Vian spoke first about his recent book “In Defense of Pius XII.”

Later, explaining his controversial assertion that “Obama is not a pro-abortion president,” Vian said, “I made that statement in an interview with an Italian journalist of Il Riformista who called me on the day the president was at Notre Dame for the controversial ceremony of the conferring of the law degree honoris causa. I was in Barcelona; I gave the interview over the phone and based my observation primarily on the speech President Obama gave on that occasion — a speech which demonstrated openness. In this sense, I said that he didn’t seem a pro-abortion president.”

Vian conceded in the National Review interview that “Senator Obama made decisions that certainly cannot be defined as pro-life, to use the American term. He was, rather, pro-choice. Yet I believe that the senator’s activity prior to his presidential election is one thing, and the political line he is following as president of the United States is another.”

“We have noticed,” the editor of L'Osservatore said, “that his entire program prior to his election was more radical than it is revealing itself to be now that he is president. So this is what I meant when I said he didn’t sound like a pro-abortion president. Besides, he stated that the Freedom of Choice Act is no longer a top priority of the administration.”

“Naturally,” he added, “it is also a sort of wishful thinking. Let’s hope that my conviction is confirmed by the political actions of the administration. This is basically the same attitude of watching, waiting, and hope of the Catholic bishops of the United States.”

“I admit that it is legitimate to be diffident in the face of the words of a president who previously has demonstrated a pro-choice line, but I hope that he changes. I hope that he understands that a politics of pro-life is good politics, not because it is religious, not because it is Catholic, but because it is human,” Vian told Gallagher during the interview.

Gian Maria Vian also spoke about what he called “the infamous article on (Obama’s) first 100 days” published by L’Osservatore Romano.

“The article on the first 100 days,” he revealed, “was written by the head of international news, Dr. Giuseppe Fiorentino. I reviewed it and added some things on the ethical questions saying, again, that this greater moderation shown by the President compared to the propaganda of then-Senator Obama does not mitigate criticism, especially in the field of bio-engineering, the use of embryonic stem cells, and, in general, with respect to ethical questions. That he is more moderate than expected does not mean that there is approval, obviously, on the part of the Holy See, or of its newspaper.”

Vian also strongly denied that L’Osservatore Romano’s  editorial line is undercutting the U.S. bishops.

“In our international religious news we systematically support the position of the U.S. bishops. I said very clearly that to consider L’Osservatore Romano as distant or not supportive of the U.S. bishops’ conference is false, it is a game played by those who want only to use our paper to paint a picture of divided Catholics.”

“Unfortunately,” he lamented, “L’Osservatore Romano is misused by everyone for their own agenda: The theo-cons, the neo-cons use it for their purposes; liberals try to use it to say the Vatican is distancing itself from the bishops. This is unacceptable; it has never happened and I deny that accusation most fervently. L’Osservatore Romano has never distanced itself from the bishops. In fact, after the comments which appeared primarily on the Internet from the U.S., we reiterated that the paper is absolutely at the side of the American bishops.”

Vian also revealed that he learned “indirectly” of the reactions of cardinals and bishops in the United States, mostly critical to the stance taken by the Vatican newspaper.

Nevertheless, he said that “in politics, there are no dogmas; there are no dogmas of faith. A Catholic can vote Republican or Democrat. In fact, there were Catholics who voted Democratic.”

The editor-in-chief of L’Osservatore Romano said he understand why some U.S. Catholics feel that the Vatican, predominantly European, does not understand their particular situation.

“Naturally, any American who is versed in politics will be more prepared than I am on the topic. I am European, Italian, and have a cultural formation obviously different from an American, but this does not equal a liberal point of view, in the American meaning of liberal. Or a socialist point of view. I don’t recognize myself in this description,” he said.

Nevertheless, Vian insisted that he doesn't think “Obama has yet defined a precise line on certain questions. Of course his decisions on international help for reproductive health are dangerous because they could signify supporting the campaign in favor of abortion, which is unacceptable. Were this to be confirmed, it would be unacceptable.

“But I don’t think one can ask for a condemnation or a benediction a priori. We need to see day by day what happens. At L’Osservatore Romano we are doing that — waiting and seeing — and we hope that the wishes of the bishops find confirmation and we hope that Obama does not follow pro-choice politics.” 

“Obama is now president of the United States. He is president of the United States! Let’s hope his politics are good and if not, we will criticize him,” Vian said.

Vian said that he thinks that if American Catholics could read L’Osservatore Romano every day, and did not trust wire reports — although some of the agency writers are very good—they would be better informed. … “[B]ut getting information from bloggers is like going to the bar where everyone has his own opinion,” he concluded.

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Spanish bishop assaulted in Bolivia

La Paz, Bolivia, Jun 17, 2009 (CNA) - The retired bishop of the Spanish Diocese of Palencia, Bishop Nicolas Antonio Castellanos Franco, who won the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award in 1998, was assaulted at his residence in the city of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, on June 14.
According to the Associated Press, Prosecutor Clara Cespedes said, “The robbery occurred in a poor section of a city of one million inhabitants where the bishop of Spanish nationality resides and carries out important social work.”

Cespedes said an initial investigation indicated that “the doorbell was rung, the bishop opened the door, and four assailants robbed him and the other helpers who live at the home. Although no one was injured during the assault, the thieves made off with money, cell phones and other belongings.”

“The thieves took wallets and other belongings from the bishop and his assistants,” she said.

Bishop Nicolas Antonio Castellanos Franco submitted his resignation from the Diocese of Palencia to do missionary work in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, in 1991. Pope John Paul II accepted his request in September of that year and named him a Bishop Emeritus in 1992.  His missionary work has included the founding of Hombres Nuevos (New Men), a ministry to help improve living conditions in the poor areas of the city.

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Nicaraguan bishops chide Ortega: Justice requires action and not just prayer

Managua, Nicaragua, Jun 17, 2009 (CNA) - In response to Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s recent “invitation to pray” and to refrain from giving opinions on political issues, the bishops of Nicaragua reminded that justice requires action and not just prayer. The one who prays, they said, must always speak out to defend the truth.
Ortega responded to recent criticism of his administration by “exhorting” the bishops to “pray everyday.”  According to El Nuevo Diario, Archbishop Leopoldo Brenes of Managua said, “We don’t belong to any political party, but we do exercise political action at a general level, which means for the common good … .” “Generally as pastors we are always in tune with the sense of our people, and we convey that to those who have the capacity to bring about solutions to problems.”
For his part, the vice president of the bishops’ conference, Bishop Juan Abelardo Guevara, responded to Ortega’s comments by saying it was “abominable to use the word of the Lord to justify absurd positions.”
“Tax dollars are not for a specific family or person but for the entire people, and the people have a right to know how the money is being spent in their name,” Bishop Guevara said.  He called on Ortega to be “honest and transparent” in his governance of the entire nation.
Auxiliary Bishop Silvio Jose Baez Ortega of Managua said, “Praying does not exempt you from speaking or working for justice.” He also reminded the president to listen to the opinions of others, to examine his own conscience and to practice self-correction. 
“To speak about prayer is to speak of the experience of a relationship with God. Whoever speaks about prayer must be a person who lives his faith,” the Bishop Baez Ortega said.
“He who prays has the obligation to raise his voice in support of the truth,” he added. “Praying does not exempt one from working for justice, from being a prophet. In the Bible, the prayer and the prophet go hand in hand. He who prays, he who speaks with God, speaks also of God and also denounces the situations in which God is not present.”

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U.N. council’s sex ed proposal imposes ‘hedonistic values,’ Fr. Euteneur says

Front Royal, Va., Jun 17, 2009 (CNA) - Pro-life leader Fr. Thomas J. Euteneur has criticized a United Nations council’s proposal for early childhood “comprehensive sexuality education” as an imposition of “hedonistic values” and a violation of the rights of parents.

Earlier in June, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) issued a resolution at a Jamaica meeting calling for “comprehensive sexuality education starting in early childhood." The resolution said that scientific evidence shows that “comprehensive sexuality education” does not accelerate “sexual debut” and does not increase the frequency of sexual relations.

Commenting in a press release, Human Life International president Fr. Euteneur said the claim was “absolute nonsense,” since “almost every study on the topic” shows the exact opposite.

“Condom promotion has not stopped HIV in the developing world. And propagandizing young children about a value-neutral approach to sex, and telling them that they'll be safe if they use condoms is exactly how you get them to start practicing sex before marriage.”

“This outrage is perpetrated by pagans forcing their hedonistic values on the families of the only Catholic continent in the world. It is a violation of sovereignty of nations and of the rights of parents to teach their kids on these delicate matters,” he said.

Fr. Euteneur, noting that a 1995 Vatican document called The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality has condemned this type of sex education, said children’s innocence is “too precious of a gift to throw away in deference to government and its coercive modern amorality.”

“Parents, teachers, and all people of good will, let's tell them to get their grubby hands off our kids!" he exhorted.

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