Archive of June 24, 2009

U.S. bishops issue guidelines for Catholic health care-labor disputes

Washington D.C., Jun 24, 2009 (CNA) - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), with leaders from Catholic health care providers and the labor movement, has released guidelines for creating a “fair process” for health care workers to decide whether or not to form a new union.

The new document outlining the guidelines is titled “Respecting the Just Rights of Workers: Guidance and Options for Catholic Health Care and Unions,” and took more than 10 years to come to a consensus about.

Parties to the agreement include the USCCB, the Catholic Health Association of the United States, the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union, the Associated Press reports.

According to the USCCB, the effort to produce the document intended to find “common ground” on “alternative approaches” for applying Catholic social teachings on the rights of workers to choose whether or not to be represented by unions.

“Though they had different perspectives and points of view in many areas, the participants shared the conviction that it is up to workers—not bishops, hospital managers, or union leaders—to decide how they will be represented in the workplace,” said Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who chaired the dialogue.

“This remarkable dialogue produced an unprecedented agreement because of the principles of Catholic social teaching and the quality of the leaders involved,” the cardinal said.

The new document lists seven key principles for appropriate conduct by employer and union representatives intended to help ensure employees are allowed to make informed decisions without undue pressure.

It suggests that unions and employers agree on specific ways they will “demonstrate respect” for each other’s organization and mission; provide workers with “equal access”  to information; adhere to standards for truthfulness and balance in communications; create a “pressure-free” environment; allow workers to vote through a fair and expeditious process and honor employees’ decisions regardless of the outcome.

The document also advises that unions and employers create a system to enforce these principles during organizing drives.

The Associated Press reports that under the agreement hospital managers agree not to use “traditional anti-union tactics” such as hiring union-busting firms to defeat organizing drives. For their part, unions agreed not to publicly attack Catholic health care organizations during labor campaigns.

Bishop William Murphy, Chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and a participant in the dialogue, said the approach depends on “civil dialogue” between unions and employers who are focusing on how workers’ “right to decide” will be respected.

“By placing workers at the center of the process, the group affirmed the core of Catholic Social Doctrine,” he said.

The “Guidance and Options” document is not binding on individual bishops, hospitals and unions but is intended to provide guidance for their conduct during organizing efforts.

The USCCB describes the document as offering “principles and practical alternatives” for leaders of Catholic health care and unions who want to avoid the “tension and conflict” that can accompany organizing drives.

Speaking to the Associated Press, AFL-CIO president John Sweeney said the dialogue has emphasized “workers' rights to organize as part of Church teachings.”

Reportedly more than 600,000 employees work in nearly 600 Catholic hospitals nationwide.

“Because Catholic Health Care is a ministry not an industry, how it treats its workers and how organized labor treats Catholic Health Care are not simply internal matters, but should reflect Catholic teaching on work and workers, heath care and the common good,” Cardinal McCarrick said.

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Clergy confraternity to observe Year for Priests with Rome convocation

Marysville, Pa., Jun 24, 2009 (CNA) - The Confraternity of Catholic Clergy has joined Pope Benedict XVI’s inauguration of the Year for Priests by announcing an international convocation for English-speaking priests in Rome in January 2010.

Pope Benedict’s declaration of the Year for Priests marks the 150th anniversary of St. John Mary Vianney, the patron of parish priests. The Pope intends to deepen all priests’ commitment to interior renewal to improve their witness to the Gospel.

“The Confraternity holds that while individual dioceses sponsor events year round, it is imperative that in the Year for Priests, the clergy themselves take ownership of their spirituality and seek to grow in wisdom and grace to better serve the People of God,” the Confraternity said in a press release.

The Confraternity, a national association of 600 priests and deacons, was founded in 1975 to provide spiritual, theological and pastoral formation for clergy. Their convocation for the Year for Priests will take place Jan. 4-8 in Rome.

The group’s convocations feature time spent together before the Blessed Sacrament, common prayer and participation in spiritual conferences, workshops and seminars.

“Vatican II and the Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests, as well as Canon Law, make it clear that ongoing formation of the clergy is not an option or luxury, it is a necessity," said Fr. John Trigilio, President of the Confraternity.

The Confraternity has also launched a revised version of its website, which Fr. Trigilio said will be “user friendly” and will help with the upcoming convocation in Rome.

“If Saint John Vianney himself was alive today, he would be online helping his parishioners and his brother priests," he remarked.

The Confraternity’s website is at

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Former Episcopalians launch Anglican Church in North America

Bedford, Texas, Jun 24, 2009 (CNA) - Former Episcopalian leaders from across North America gathered in Bedford, Texas on Monday to launch the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), described as an “alternative” to the U.S. Episcopal Church within the Anglican Communion.

The new denomination claims 100,000 members from several varieties of Anglican spirituality described as evangelical, charismatic or catholic. A union of eight groups, it is seeking recognition as part of the Anglican Communion.

The new denomination's constitution emphasizes biblical authority, church discipline and evangelical missionary outreach.

The Episcopal Church has been afflicted by controversies over theological and moral issues, including the authority of Scripture, the ordination of women and the ordination of an openly homosexual man as bishop.

Former Episcopalian Bishop of Pittsburgh Robert Duncan leads the group, which expected 300 delegates including 50 bishops for its meeting.

Bishop Duncan addressed a crowd of leaders in St. Vincent’s Cathedral, telling them that it is a “new day” in which God the Father is “drawing His children together again in a surprising and sovereign move of the Holy Spirit. He is again Re-forming His Church."

According to the Anglican news site, the bishop warned those gathered that Satan will attempt to “lure us back to old ways and old hurts and old fights.”

On the topic of women’s ordination, Bishop Duncan said that Anglicans should be “in mission together until God sorts us out. It is not perfect, but it is enough.”

Discussing conflicts with the Episcopal Church, he said that many of those gathered have lost “properties, sacred treasures, incomes, pensions, standing and friends.” He called for a return to “muscular Christianity,” saying, “No cross, no crown. No pain, no gain.”

Jim Naughton, canon for communications for the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, D.C., was critical of the endeavor.

“There's already a crowded marketplace on the right wing of the American religious spectrum. I think the challenge is to move beyond the events that spawned them,” he told USA Today.

Many overseas Anglican churches have sent observers to the assembly. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, head prelate in the Anglican Church, has sent retired Seychelles Bishop Santosh Marray to the gathering as a pastoral visitor.

Ecumenical speakers such as Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in California and Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America will offer keynote addresses later in the week.

Jeff Walton, the Institute on Religion and Democracy’s Director of Anglican Action, said that the ACNA event was “remarkable” because it is uniting multiple churches rather than splitting off from an existing church.

“After over 30 years of splintering, traditionalist Anglicans are setting aside many of their differences in order to pursue common mission,” he said. “This is clearly not a schismatic quest for purity by a small group of discontents. Rather, it is a theologically diverse group that sees how much is held in common.”

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Wichita 'miracle' causes Vatican to send investigator

Wichita, Kan., Jun 24, 2009 (CNA) - The Congregation for the Causes of Saints is preparing to investigate an alleged miracle in Wichita, Kansas, where doctors are baffled by the unexplained recovery of a young man who had suffered a severe head injury in an accident that had broken his skull.

When her 20-year-old son Chase was seriously injured in a pole-vaulting accident on October 2, Paula Kear and her family began to pray fervently for the intercession of Fr. Emil Kapaun, and asked their friends to do the same.

“It was my sister who had the presence of mind, on the night of the accident, to ask if we should put Chase on the Church prayer line to pray to Fr. Kapaun,” Paula explained to CNA. The family also added Chase to the CaringBridge website and had prayer cards printed out to distribute to people at the hospital.

Chase’s father, Paul Kear, told The Wichita Eagle that the family was informed “that it was really severe, and that he had fractured his skull from ear to ear, and that there was some…bleeding on his brain.” The Kears were told by the doctors that they “didn’t have a lot of hope” for Chase, and that he would likely die either in the necessary surgery to remove the damaged piece of his skull or from an infection after the surgery.

Asked how she first heard about Fr. Emil Kapaun, Paula said his story is commonly known in the Wichita area. “My parents were about the same age as Fr. Kapaun, so I heard his name a lot growing up,” she told CNA.

“We have a prayer in our parish to Fr. Kapaun that we have prayed for several years,” Paula added. She said that the prayer for Kapaun’s intercession was said every day at  Mass.

Friends and family of the Kears joined in praying to Fr. Kapuan. “Copies of the prayer were passed around and e-mailed,” said Paula. “Everyone was praying.”

Miraculously, Chase survived the surgery and walked out of the hospital only a few weeks after the accident that had broken his skull.  “It was shortly after we got to the rehab hospital and I just saw these people that work there just amazed,” Paula told The Wichita Eagle.  The doctors were unable to explain the recovery, Chase’s parents added.

To members of the Kear family, the reason is clear. “It was a miracle,” Paula told CNA. “Absolutely a miracle.”

Chase has made a nearly-full recovery and is currently working a summer job and planning to coach pole-vaulting.

Devotion to Fr. Kapuan is strong in the Diocese of Wichita, whose website includes information about his case for canonization. 

Father Emil Kapaun was a Wichita priest and Army chaplain born in Kansas, about 60 miles north of Wichita.  During the Korean War, he was assigned to the U.S. Army's Eighth Cavalry regiment, which was overrun in late 1951 by the Chinese army in North Korea.

Kapaun courageously rescued wounded soldiers from the battlefield, risking his own life to save them from execution at the hands of the Chinese. Later taken as a prisoner of war, he heroically worked to tend to the starving and sick, praying for and ministering to his fellow prisoners.

Eventually suffering from a blood clot in his leg, Kaupan was moved to a hospital but denied medical assistance.  He died in May 1951, two years before the end of the war.

Surviving soldiers praised Kapaun for his courage and faith.  His story has been celebrated in Wichita for years, with local parishes praying to him and a Wichita high school named after him.

Fr. John Hotze, the judicial vicar of Wichita, explained to CNA that the diocese has been working with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on Fr. Kapaun’s case for over a year.  This coming Friday, the Congregation will begin its investigation into the alleged miracle in Wichita, moving the process for beatification forward.

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Pope Benedict explains why he created Year for Priests

Vatican City, Jun 24, 2009 (CNA) - During Wednesday's general audience address to 30,000 people in St. Peter's Square, Pope Benedict XVI focused his remarks on why he initiated the Year for Priests and what it means to be a priest.

"Why a Year for Priests?" the Pope asked. “The aim of this Year for Priests," he said, "is to support each priest's struggle towards spiritual perfection, upon which the effectiveness of his ministry particularly depends, and to help priests, and with them the entire People of God, to rediscover and revive an awareness of the extraordinary and indispensable gift of Grace which the ordained ministry represents.”

The priesthood is an indispensable gift for “the person who receives it, for the entire Church, and for the world which would be lost without the real presence of Christ," the Pope explained.

"In a world in which the common view of life leaves ever less space for the sacred, in place of which 'functionality' becomes the only decisive category, the Catholic concept of priesthood could risk losing its due regard, sometimes even in the ecclesial conscience," the Holy Father cautioned.

Pope Benedict identified two conceptions of the priesthood: on the one hand, "a social-functional conception which identifies the essence of priesthood with the concept of 'service;'” on the other hand, “a sacramental-ontological conception…as determined by a gift called Sacrament, granted by the Lord through the mediation of the Church."

“Priests are Christ's servants, in the sense that their existence, ontologically configured to Him, has an essentially relational character. The priest is in Christ, for Christ and with Christ at the service of humankind,” the Pontiff explained. “Precisely because he belongs to Christ, the priest is radically at the service of man."

Benedict XVI concluded by expressing his hope that "the Year for Priests may lead all the clergy to identify themselves completely with Christ Who died and rose again, so that, imitating St. John the Baptist, they may be ready 'to diminish' that He may grow; and that, following the example of the Cure of Ars, they may be constantly and profoundly aware of their mission, which is both sign and presence of the infinite mercy of God."

At the end of today's general audience, the Holy Father greeted a delegation headed by Radhika Coomaraswamy, Under-Secretary of the United Nations and Special Representative for Children in Situations of Armed Conflict.

The Holy Father told the group that he is “thinking of all the children of the world, especially those who suffer fear, abandonment, hunger, abuses, sickness and death. The Pope remains close to all these young victims and always remembers them in his prayers."

He then went on to recall that 150 years ago today was born the idea for a movement to assist the victims of war, a movement which later took the name “Red Cross.” "With the passage of the years," the Holy Father observed, "the values of universality, neutrality and independence of service have aroused the support of millions of volunteers all over the world, creating an important bulwark of humanity and solidarity in numerous contexts of war and conflict, and in many emergency situations.

The Pope also gave a special call for young people to “make a concrete commitment to this most worthy organization.”

Benedict XVI finished by appealing for the “release of all people held hostage in areas of conflict and, once again, for the release of Eugenio Vagni, Red Cross worker in the Philippines."

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Vatican announces Pope 'available' for Obama visit

Vatican City, Jun 24, 2009 (CNA/Europa Press) - The director of the Vatican press office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, has confirmed that the Pope is available to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama on July 10 at the Vatican.

Pope Benedict XVI is “available” to meet with President Obama “on the afternoon of July 10,” Fr. Lombardi told Europa Press on Wednesday.

Obama will be in Italy July 8-10 for a meeting of the Group of Eight industrialized nations in the earthquake-ravaged town of L'Aquila, east of Rome.

The afternoon meeting between Obama and the Pope is out of the ordinary, since the Pontiff usually meets with heads of state at midday.

To be sure, the Catholic Church vigorously disagrees with President Obama on abortion, embryonic stem-cell research and same-sex “marriage,” but the announcement shows that Pope Benedict wishes to engage the new U.S. president.

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Jalisco challenging norm that authorizes abortion in cases of rape

Guadalajara, Mexico, Jun 24, 2009 (CNA) - The governor of the Mexican state of Jalisco, Emilio Gonzalez Marquez, has filed an appeal with the country’s Supreme Court challenging the new Official Mexican Norm, which was published on April 16 and obliges public hospitals to provide abortions in cases of rape. If the appeal is successful, Jalisco would not be forced to implement the norm.

According to the newspaper Reforma, the constitutional challenge was filed on June 15. It must be addressed within 30 days.

“If the court decides by a majority of eight votes that the norm is unconstitutional, Jalisco will be exempt from the obligation to implement it,” the newspaper reported. It said this was the first time a state has filed a constitutional challenge against the application of a health care norm.

The newspaper also reported that in early June a group of doctors from various hospitals in fourteen Mexican states signed a petition against the norm, arguing that criminal investigations to determine whether or not a woman was raped or assaulted should be left in the hands of law enforcement, rather than hospitals, as the new norm stipulates.

In Mexico City, some 40 clinics and private practice doctors have signed briefs challenging the norm.

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Archbishop Wuerl leads prayer service for victims of D.C. Metrorail crash

Washington D.C., Jun 24, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop of Washington Donald W. Wuerl on Tuesday led a prayer service for the staff of the Washington, D.C Metro transit agency following Monday’s crash of a Red Line Metrorail train. Seven died and dozens were injured in the accident.

"Confident that God always remembers the good we have done and God is good and gracious, let us remember those who have died … (and) those who were injured both physically or emotionally," Archbishop Wuerl prayed. "Let us also remember and place before God in prayer the first responders and emergency personnel who came quickly to the aid of the injured and dying. Let us remember the entire Metro family and thank God for their service to this community."

Before the short service, Metro General Manager John Catoe spoke with employees who had gathered outside of Metro headquarters, an Archdiocese of Washington press release says.

Other prayers were offered by Metro employee Carlotta Tyler and Pastor Tony Connelly, a Metro employee and minister at the Greater Lighthouse Church in Lanham, Maryland.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the crash.

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Catholic University laments passing of ‘renowned’ alumnus Ed McMahon

Washington D.C., Jun 24, 2009 (CNA) - Following the death of entertainer Ed McMahon on Tuesday, Catholic University of America has issued a statement praising his “long and distinguished career” and his service to the university as a “most renowned” alumnus.

McMahon was most famous as the announcer and sidekick for Johnny Carson, host of “The Tonight Show.” He earned his bachelor’s degree in drama from Catholic University in 1949 as a World War II veteran studying under the GI Bill.

University President Msgr. David M. O’Connell said the university was “greatly saddened” by the death of McMahon, describing him as one of the school’s “most renowned alumni.”

“He took such great pride in his alma mater and rarely missed an opportunity to speak positively about his time here in various interviews and books.”

McMahon studied under Fr. Gilbert Hartke, O.P., who created the drama department at CUA. The entertainer would later lead the effort to build a theatre on campus in Fr. Hartke’s name.

“Ed was devoted to CUA's legendary Father Hartke only to follow in his footsteps to legend status. ‘I owe so much to CU,’ McMahon told me at Bob Hope's funeral a few years ago,” Father O’Connell continued. “‘That's where my career got its start.’”

McMahon was active in the CUA Alumni Association and was its national president from 1967 to 1971. In fall of 1970, he and actors Helen Hayes and Sidney Poitier attended the dedication of Hartke Theatre. In the spring 1985, which was Hartke's Jubilee, McMahon announced the establishment of the Ed McMahon Scholarship Endowment to assist CUA undergraduates aspiring to careers in broadcasting.

In April 1987, McMahon joined comedian Bob Newhart in a performance at the university’s centennial celebration. He received an honorary Doctor of Communication Arts degree from CUA in 1988.

Marion Gosney, director of alumni relations, said his celebrity status added excitement to alumni events, especially Homecoming.

“Ed helped strengthen the Alumni Association because of his big personality,” Gosney said. “He brought people together and was a loyal alumnus. He will certainly be missed.”

“The university is saddened by the loss of yet another great alumnus whose long and distinguished career bears witness to what he learned here,” Msgr. O’Connell added. “May Ed now know the peace of the Lord forever as he joins so many of his beloved CUA friends who have gone before him.”

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Cardinal Cipriani says new ecclesial movements to be embraced and helped

Lima, Peru, Jun 24, 2009 (CNA) - At a recent meeting in Lima, Peru, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne encouraged leaders and members of ecclesial movements from Latin American and the Caribbean to embrace and help new movements within the Church.

During a Mass for the Meeting of Ecclesial Movements and New Communities of Latin America and the Caribbean, the cardinal recalled that the Catechism, the liturgical norms, the Word of God and the sacrament of Reconciliation “are like the pillars of doctrine and life which make it possible to help, guide and encourage all the new realities and movements in the Church.”

“For this reason, the Church calls on upon us pastors in these times to study these novelties and initiatives with respect and affection in order to extract from them all of the wonders desired by the Holy Spirit, and also to weed out with strength what perhaps might be a passing enthusiasm that does not belong in the Church,” the cardinal said.

The cardinal also warned that the new movements should never be treated with superficiality, but always with the truth. 

“This is the great service that Pope Benedict XVI is asking of us pastors, to welcome all of these realities without fear, with appreciation and affection, and at the same time, to help them, bless them and correct them,’ he said.

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Archbishop Aguer denounces invasion of ideologies in Argentinean schools

La Plata, Argentina, Jun 24, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata has denounced the government for imposing new materials on Argentinean schools that are based on controversial ideologies instead of the comprehensive formation of students.

In his television program, “Keys to a Better World,” the archbishop explained that the State is imposing a particular ideology that is evident in the materials being distributed to teachers and in some “policies of the State” that are being established the Ministries of Health and Education.

“The new material, ‘Building the Citizenry,’ imposes a critical theory that is intended to make the child or the student into a miniature critical theorist in order to change society, thus altering the order that is supposed to exist in the transmission of knowledge. Basic subjects are neglected and instead this critical perspective that is markedly ideological is emphasized,” the archbishop said. 

“The source of inspiration is the neo-Marxism of the Frankfurt School.  Do we want illiterate revolutionaries to come out of Argentinean schools?” he asked.

After denouncing the implementation of gender ideology for sexual education in schools, the archbishop explained that “according to this perspective, sexuality does not belong to the nature of the person, it is not a biological, psychological, affective and spiritual reality, but rather an historical and socio-cultural construct. One is a man or a woman not because one was born such, but because one was made such by the culture, which molds the gender of persons.

“A spilt between sex and gender is being proposed, such that one can speak of diverse sexual options, all equally valid,” Archbishop Aguer criticized.

He also went on to address the lack of appreciation for motherhood.  “It’s curious how, in the name of promoting women, the feminine figure is denigrated; above all, her maternal vocation is not accepted, because maternity is seen as a burden, since sexuality is totally separated from marriage ...What kind of education can be founded upon these principles?” the archbishop asked.

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