Milwaukee, Wis., Jul 2, 2009 (CNA) - On Wednesday, Catholic Radio International (CRI) began its presentation on Ron Hansen’s highly praised novel, Mariette in Ecstasy, on its Cover-to-Cover show. The book is being read by CRI’s Joseph O’Brien.
The novel centers around Mariette, a young woman in 1906 upstate New York who joins the Sisters of the Crucifixion. After entering, she exhibits unusual behavior, including trances, moments of ecstasy, and extreme penances.
This intense emotion is foreign to the convent, and when the wounds of Christ appear on her hands, feet and side, the sisters are split about whether her experiences are genuine or simply a ploy for attention.
Although this question remains unanswered at the conclusion of the novel, Mariette in Ecstasy has been critically acclaimed by its reviewers, praised for both its language and the lessons it contains. Aquinas Books observes, "Mariette's stigmata may or may not be genuine; the novel's achingly gorgeous prose is the true miracle here. Mariette in Ecstasy is a brief, precious book, not a single word in excess, not a single word left out."
Ron Hansen, the book’s author, is a professor of literature at Santa Clara University in California. His other books include Hitler’s Niece, Atticus (which will also be read on Cover to Cover), and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, which became well-known when it was made into a major motion picture starring Brad Pitt in 2007. Hansen’s latest work is Exiles, published in 2008.
Mariette in Ecstasy was recently made into a play and received excellent reviews at Chicago’s Lifeline Theatre.
Washington D.C., Jul 2, 2009 (CNA) - Catholic commentator George Weigel has written an “open letter” to Dr. Miguel Diaz, President Obama’s nominated ambassador to the Holy See, advising him to focus on common agreement between the Vatican and the United States in his “difficult task.”
Writing in his weekly column, Weigel suggested Diaz, a theology professor at St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict in Minnesota, cultivate intellectual contacts during his diplomatic work. According to
Weigel—who is biographer of the late Pope John Paul II—previous Ambassadors Jim Nicholson and Mary Ann Glendon were “particularly successful” in fostering reflection upon human rights law, development and religious freedom.
He also suggested the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross and the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum are now the centers for Diaz to find real intellectual energy at the Vatican.
Citing Benjamin Franklin’s rejection of involvement in Catholic bishop appointments in the U.S., Weigel advised Diaz to avoid “entanglement” in the “internal affairs” of the Catholic Church in the United States, especially concerning episcopal appointments.
Weigel then described what he believed to be the normal duties of an ambassador: meeting with ethnic groups, trade associations, and advocacy groups interested in the country to which he is assigned.
Being “an advocate” for “specific policies of the administration you represent” is not part of this mission, Weigel remarked, warning that if the Obama administration uses Diaz as a “partisan surrogate” with Catholic audiences in the U.S. the action would be “very poorly received” by the Holy See.
Weigel advised Diaz to focus on areas of agreement, a “difficult task” when the Obama administration and the Holy See are at “cross-purposes” on several “core” issues such as the right to life.
On more practical matters, Weigel exhorted Diaz to resist U.S. State Department efforts to relocate the Embassy to the Vatican to the grounds of the Embassy to Italy.
“The Holy See deeply (and rightly) resents such cheese-paring, especially from major powers. Defend your turf, and keep your post independent of Embassy-Italy,” he wrote. “You can be their friend; don’t be their tenant.”
He also recommended the Lenten “station church” pilgrimage led by the North American College, saying it was a “great way” both to learn the city and to learn to pray.
Hanoi, Vietnam, Jul 2, 2009 (CNA) - A Vietnamese priest has denied media accusations that he has engaged in “counter-revolutionary” activities, including the possession on his laptop of documents and e-mails with “bad content” that allegedly would destroy national unity and the socio-economic policies of the government.
The People’s Public Security Newspaper and other state-owned media on Tuesday said Fr. Joseph Le Quang Uy had “bent his head admitting that he had commited crimes against people and the government.”
The paper claimed the Redemptorist priest was discovered to have violated the country’s Publishing Law when customs agents at Tan Son Nhat airport discovered documents and e-mails with “bad content” on his laptop, Fr. J.B. An Dang tells CNA.
Fr. Joseph Le Quang Uy was detained at the airport on June 6 returning home from a pastoral trip abroad. His luggage was thoroughly searched and his laptop was confiscated by airport security.
The priest was later released with a citation requiring him to visit the Office of Cultural Inspection for follow-up meetings. Described as a pro-life “hero,” he is also an outspoken critic of bauxite mining efforts in Vietnam.
Fr. Joseph Le denied all accusations against him. He stated that police had altered and distorted the statements he signed at the airport on June 29, Fr. J.B. An Dang reports. He said most of the documents on his laptop were sermons. A few documents were articles reflecting his opposition to bauxite mining in the Central Highlands of Vietnam.
“As they still had been drafts on my own laptop, they could not violate Publishing Law,” he said.
The priest had previously set up a website asking Catholics in Vietnam and abroad to sign an electronic petition which called for an immediate suspension of the mining in Vietnam’s Central Highlands.
Since February, state-owned media have repeatedly accused the priest of “conducting propaganda against the state” and “plotting to overthrow the communist regime.” The media have called for his “immediate and severe punishment” on charges under Article 88 of the Penal Code. If convicted, he could face a three- to twenty-year sentence or possibly the death penalty.
Vietnamese authorities have recently arrested at least 30 dissidents, including a number of prominent lawyers, in what Fr. An Dang described to CNA as an attempt to stifle freedom of expression and association.
“There is growing concern over the imminent crackdown against the Redemptorists in Vietnam who have repeatedly struggled for the requisition of Church properties and petitioned the government not to proceed with the project to mine the bauxite in the central high plains, which would cause irreversible damage to the environment and to the local people, many of whom belong to ethnic minorities,” Fr. An Dang said.
Pope Benedict XVI recently told a delegation of Vietnamese bishops that, “Healthy collaboration between the Church and the political community is possible.” “The Church does not seek to substitute government, rather her only desire, through a spirit of dialogue and respectful collaboration, is to participate in life of the nation, at the service of all people."
Fresno, Calif., Jul 2, 2009 (CNA) - Citing the organization’s support for traditional marriage, a suspended Catholic priest who has turned to homosexual activism has called for Catholic pastors to block Knights of Columbus groups from their parishes and to borrow against the order’s insurance policies to fund homosexual groups.
He said he advocated such action in part because the fraternal charitable organization helped support California’s Proposition 8, which restored legal marriage’s definition to being between a man and a woman.
Fr. Geoffrey Farrow, former pastor of the St. Paul Newman Center at California State University at Fresno, was removed as pastor in October 2008 for defying church teaching on homosexuality and for condemning Catholic support for Proposition 8, the California Catholic Daily reports.
Writing in a June 4 post on his personal blog, Fr. Farrow wrote:
“Many priests have e-mailed me and expressed their rage and anger over the hypocrisy of the Catholic hierarchy in supporting anti-marriage equality legislation… One of the organizations, which the bishops have effectively employed to do their dirty work, has been the Knights of Columbus.”
He discussed what priests can do to fight “the anti-gay agenda of the bishops and the K of C.”
“Borrow the full amount against your Knights of Columbus life insurance policy immediately,” he advised. “Take the check and invest the funds with an LGBT friendly fund. Do not pay back the loan.”
According to the Knights of Columbus’ web site, for more than 120 years the order has sold insurance to help protect families against “financial ruin.”
Patrick Korten, Knights of Columbus Vice-President of Communications, told CNA in a Wednesday e-mail that those who hold a “whole life policy” with the order may indeed borrow against it.
“As with any loan, one is charged interest on the amount borrowed. Taking a full loan against a policy and not paying it back simply diminishes its value to the policyholder and could cause the policy to lapse.
“That, in turn, defeats the very purpose of having the policy in the first place: protection against financial adversity,” he explained.
Fr. Farrow’s blog post also asked priests not to allow Knights of Columbus groups to publish announcements in parish bulletins and not to allow their events to be held on church property. Fr. Farrow suggested programs be created as a pretext to push out the order’s meetings.
“Pastors may grant or withhold permission for organizations to use church facilities for their meetings,” he wrote. “Most parishes have very tight facility scheduling. Create a program and tell the K of C they need to meet elsewhere.”
According to the California Catholic Daily, Fr. Farrow is the scheduled homilist for the “Eucharistic Celebration” at the 2009 Dignity USA Convention held this July in San Francisco. The event’s keynote speaker is a parishioner of Most Holy Redeemer Church, a San Francisco parish that often dissents from Church teaching on sexual ethics.
Dignity USA, itself criticized as a dissenting Catholic group, on its website says it works for the “reform of its [the Catholic Church’s] teachings and practices regarding human sexuality.” It claims more than 35 chapters across the United States.
Korten’s Wednesday e-mail to CNA also commented upon Fr. Farrow’s actions.
“We adhere to the clear teaching of the Church on marriage, whereas Fr. Farrow has chosen to publicly defy that teaching,” he said.
Korten added that the priest appeared to be “seriously at odds with the bishops” in the U.S. and around the world in his description of the Knights of Columbus’ pro-marriage activities as the bishops’ “dirty work.”
“We proudly stand with Pope Benedict XVI and the bishops and priests who are in communion with him, and stand with him on marriage,” Korten told CNA. “Not only is that not ‘dirty work,’ it is, in fact, the work of Christ and his Church. We have been supporting the Pope and our bishops for 127 years. We have no intention of changing that.”
Asked whether there were any legal issues with Fr. Farrow’s recommendations, Korten replied:
“For better or worse, giving people bad advice is not a crime.”
However, Fr. Farrow is “encouraging other priests to turn their backs on the largest and most effective lay Catholic organization that is dedicated to supporting them in their work of evangelization and pastoral care. He is attempting to undermine the tremendous work that the Knights do for charity and for the church in thousands of parishes around the nation and the world.
“I doubt that many priests would even consider following his advice,” Korten remarked.
The Knights of Columbus has 1.7 million members in more than 13,000 councils worldwide.
Tegucigalpa, Jul 2, 2009 (CNA) - The executive secretary of Caritas Honduras, Father German Calix, said the Church in that country rejects accusations that it was complicit in the ouster of President Manuel Celaya. In contrast, Fr. Calix noted that the Church has been urging dialogue and that the deposed president respect the constitutional requirements for a referendum on constitutional reform.
In an interview with Religion Digital, Father Calix, who is a close advisor to Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, said the Church completely rejects accusations of complicity in the ouster and that ten days before the incident the Church was calling for dialogue and consultation with the people.
In a statement on June 19, he noted, the bishops urged authorities to consult with the Honduran people and to ensure that any kind of referendum or reform take place in accord with the country’s laws and constitution. The bishops would be willing to assist in this kind of dialogue even now, the priest said, despite all of the criticisms that because it did not side with the deposed president, it was somehow involved in his ouster.
Father Calix pointed out that the bishops were opposed to the idea of allowing the president to run for re-election and that ten days before his ouster they had met with Zelaya to express their view that the people must be consulted on any kind of constitutional reform through a referendum.
During the meeting, the bishops “asked the president to drop his own personal bid for re-election, a request the Church had already made of him beforehand, and he had given his word that he would leave office in January,” Father Calix explained, “but the movement towards a national assembly cast doubt on the president’s statements.”
Father Calix said neither re-election nor the ouster are the solution for Honduras. “Neither of them are, because the Church believes that a coup is not democratic. The coup does not resolve the political problem that has been festering for more than decade.”
The country’s political parties need to be reformed, he said, but not through authoritarian or unilateral decisions by one person, much less by a coup, but rather greater participation is needed in order to seek the solutions to the country’s internal problems.
“The interesting thing about this coup,” the priest stated, “in which the military was just briefly the visible face, because later they turned the power over to civilians, was that it was produced among members of the same Liberal Party.”
Rome, Italy, Jul 2, 2009 (CNA) - Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, Poland, who was Pope John Paul II’s personal secretary for more than 40 years, unveiled an impressive 15 foot statue of the late pontiff at the Gemelli Hospital in Rome.
“Be Not Afraid” is the title of the statue made by Stefano Pierotti, who used marble to make the 47-ton sculpture.
Pope John Paul II spent 153 days at Gemelli Hospital recovering from the assassination attempt on his life in 1981.
During the ceremony, Cardinal Dziwisz recalled that “from this place, (Pope John Paul II) taught the entire Church how to live and how to die with the Lord. The Gemelli Hospital was a unique ‘chair’ for him. For this reason, the name of this hospital will remain inseparable from the memory of this Pope.”
“From the window of the tenth floor,” he recalled, the Pope “blessed the sorrowful multitudes, and now from the center of this small square, where his likeness has been raised with exquisite sensibility, he will continue watching over this place and blessing all those who arrive here, as well as those who serve man in his suffering.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 2, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop Jose Fernandez Arteaga wrote in an article this week that after the elections in Mexico this coming Sunday, Christians “have the duty to collaborate” with those who are elected. In doing so, they should defend non-negotiable values such as the defense of life and the family.
“All citizens have the right and at the same time, the duty to cast their free vote to promote the common good. The Church praises and inspires the work of those who, in the service of mankind, devote themselves to the public good and accept the burdens of office,” the archbishop said.
“Christians are prepared to exercise this duty in a responsible way,” he continued. “They have objective reasons for exercising their free and thoughtful vote. They are willing to accept those who end up elected, and since no one is able to fulfill his or her responsibilities alone, they are willing to collaborate in that task.”
At the same time, he pointed out, Christians understand that all authority comes from God. “God accepts our system, which nowadays is democratic, to present him our candidate. This is effective suffrage,” he said.
In order to facilitate the exercising of voters’ civic duties this Sunday, Archbishop Arteaga informed the faithful that he is dispensing some of the faithful from attending Mass on Sunday. Those permitted to miss Sunday worship are “those who have duties to perform that are incompatible with the obligation, as well as those who in order to cast their vote at the proper polling place would undergo special difficulties in fulfilling the Sunday obligation.”
Washington D.C., Jul 2, 2009 (CNA) - At a meeting today with press members in the White House's Roosevelt Room, President Obama revealed the difficulties that he and his family have undergone in choosing a place of worship. The president hopes to decide on a church in the "second half of the year."
The meeting, which touched on topics ranging from abortion to the state of the Catholic Church in America, was held with eight members of the media, including the National Catholic Register, Catholic News Service, National Catholic Reporter and Commonweal.
According to the National Catholic Register, the president said that he and his family will continue to attend services at Camp David when they are there, but finding a D.C.-area church is proving more difficult.
"Michelle and I decided that we would wait a few months after arriving before we made a decision on this, partly—let’s be blunt: I mean, we were pretty affected by what happened at Trinity and the controversy surrounding Reverend Wright," Obama said. The Register reports that the president said the saga involving the First Family's former church was "deeply disturbing" and "disappointing for us personally."
"It made us very sensitive to the fact that as President the church we attend can end up being interpreted as speaking for us at all times."
The logistics of President Obama and his family attending a church also makes the decision more complicated.
The Obamas will probably have decided on which District-area church to attend by the "second half of the year," but added the president, "We may choose, rather than to join just one church, to rotate and attend a number of different churches."
Washington D.C., Jul 2, 2009 (CNA) - President Obama promised a “robust conscience clause” in a 41-minute meeting with some members of the Catholic press this morning.
The president met in the White House’s Roosevelt Room with eight members of the press who were picked by the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Initiatives. Attendees included respresentatives of the National Catholic Register, Avvenire/Vatican Radio, Commonweal, America and Catholic Digest.
Obama began the meeting with brief remarks, describing his conversation with the Holy Father just after his election, the National Catholic Register reported. The president said he looks forward to his meeting with Pope Benedict next week, especially to discuss immigration, climate change and the Middle East.
President Obama said he views the Holy See in some ways like a government, with whom he will sometimes agree and sometimes disagree, but also as more than a government, because of the influential role played by the Church across America and throughout the world.
Father Owen Kearns, editor in chief and publisher of The National Catholic Register, observed, “The most noteworthy thing during the meeting was his dispelling of what you might call the expectation of the worst regarding conscience clauses.”
Obama told those gathered that he had only reversed the Bush-administration’s conscience provisions because “it hadn't been properly reviewed” and there were questions about “how broad it might be and what its manifestations would be once implemented.”
Yet Obama assured people that “my underlying position has always been consistent, which is I'm a believer in conscience clauses.”
Once the review of the “hundreds of thousands” of comments on the clause takes place, “there will be a robust conscience clause in place.” He promised that it will not be weaker than the previous one added by the Bush administration, but admitted, “It may not meet the criteria of every possible critic.”
Father Kearns also commented on Obama’s treatment of the divide between conservative and liberal Catholics. “After the first question, from the National Catholic Reporter‘s Joe Feuerherd, the president jokingly asked, ‘Was there really [a controversy at Notre Dame]?’”
Regarding the division of opinions within the Church, Obama said he believes that “the American bishops represent a cross section of opinion just like other groups do,” said the National Catholic Reporter.
“The president said he had fond memories of Cardinal Bernardin and that when he started his neighborhood project, they were funded by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development,” the Register said, noting the president’s remarks about U.S. bishops of that time speaking about the nuclear freeze, immigration, and the poor.
Obama recalled how “Cardinal Bernardin was pro-life and never hesitated to make his views known, but he had a consistent ‘seamless garment’ approach that emphasized the other issues, as well. The president said that that part of the Catholic tradition continues to inspire him. Those issues, he said, seemed to have gotten buried by the abortion debate.”
According to The National Catholic Reporter, Obama again made references to finding common ground on the issue of abortion, saying he soon expects to hear recommendations from a working group including advocates from both sides of the abortion debate.
“On the idea of helping young people make smart choices so that they are not engaging in casual sexual activity that can lead to unwanted pregnancies, on the importance of adoption as a option, an alternative to abortion, on caring for pregnant women so that it is easier for them to support children, those are immediately three areas where I would be surprised if we don’t have some pretty significant areas of agreement.”
While acknowledging disagreement in areas such as contraception, Obama went on to say that “to the extent that we can help women avoid being confronted with a circumstance in which that’s even a consideration, I think that’s a good thing.”
Madrid, Spain, Jul 2, 2009 (CNA) - The organization Women Against Abortion in Spain has collected more than 30,000 signatures against the government’s plan to liberalize abortion laws.
The petition, which was started during the program “Afternoons With Christina” on the COPE Radio Network, is being supported by a number of well-known political and professional figures in Spain, including Flamenco singer Nina Pastori.
Cristina Lopez Schlichting, who hosts the show, underscored that there are many women who oppose abortion and have the right to be heard. A “decent society has the duty to protect the right to life,” she stated.
Lopez criticized the government for covering up the consequences of abortion and said post-abortion syndrome must be addressed in public policy. “Taking the life of a child could stay in a mother’s heart forever,” she said.
The petition emphasizes that “human life is a right and a good that must be preserved from the moment of conception and any human being, regardless of age, must enjoy the full protection of the State and its laws.” It also says motherhood is “a fundamental right” and that there is a social and political responsibility to make it compatible with the right of holding a job and freely choosing one’s way of life.”
"Abortion is unethical and legally unacceptable, not only because it annihilates a defenseless human being, but because it constitutes violence against the dignity of women. With this manifesto we expressly renounce the so-called ‘right to abortion’ that others insist on granting us,” the petition reads.
More information on the petition can be found in Spanish at: http://www.mujerescontraelaborto.com.
Washington D.C., Jul 2, 2009 (CNA) - Today the White House announced that President Obama will nominate Douglas Kmiec, a Catholic and self-described pro-life law professor, as the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Malta.
If approved, Kmiec would become the ambassador to the Catholic island nation, located in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Sicily.
Dr. Kmiec, who is currently a law professor at Pepperdine University, came under fire last year when he announced his support for Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election. He has held firm that Obama will reduce abortions through his policies, though the President favors legalized abortion.
In contrast to the Obama Administration, Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Mercieca of Malta has previously spoken out about the role Christian politicians must take in respecting life in all stages. During a Maltese Independence Day celebration in 2004, he noted that these politicians “should reject abortion and euthanasia, work for sustainable economic and social development and be in solidarity with the weakest and most vulnerable.”
Along with the announcement of Kmiec’s nomination, President Obama named four other ambassadors to the countries of: Mongolia, Burkina Faso, Swaziland and the Netherlands.
He added, “I am confident that these fine individuals will represent our nation abroad with distinction, and strengthen our diplomatic efforts to meet 21st century challenges. I look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead."
Washington D.C., Jul 2, 2009 (CNA) - Pro-lifers and defenders of marriage reacted critically on Tuesday to an Obama administration proposal to use taxpayer funds for abortions in the District of Columbia and to a federal court's denial of a referendum involving same-sex “marriage.”
Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia and chair of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a Tuesday letter that no one can support funding abortions in the nation’s capital and still claim to support reducing abortions.
“The evidence is overwhelming, and universally recognized by groups on all sides of the abortion issue, that the availability of public funds for abortion greatly increases abortions,” he wrote.
The budget alterations proposed by the Obama administration and passed by a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee permit “local” but not “federal” tax dollars to be used in the District of Columbia. It will also expand exemption from cases of rape or endangerment of the mother’s life to any cases in which a woman suffers from “a physical disorder, physical injury or physical illness.”
The subcommittee’s action “effectively nullifies” the Dornan Amendment, Cardinal Rigali charged, explaining that the amendment has prevented public funding of elective abortions in Washington, D.C. in most years since 1989. He criticized the proposed budget’s distinction between “federal” and “local” funds as a “bookkeeping exercise,” saying Congress already controls and appropriates public funds for the District of Columbia.
“The impact in terms of human lives will be exactly the same as if the amendment were reversed in its entirety,” he remarked.
The cardinal said “numerous surveys” showed that public funding of abortion is rejected by the American people. He also cited “tens of millions of postcards” Catholics sent to their Congressional representatives opposing “any weakening or reversal” of appropriations riders on abortion.
Cardinal Rigali also warned that funding abortion came at “the worst of all possible times” when Congress must win broad support to enact “major” health care reform.
The House Appropriations Committee will hold a full committee hearing on the Financial Services appropriations bill, which includes the D.C. funding, after the Fourth of July congressional break.
The issue of same-sex “marriage” has also come to the fore in the district.
The District of Columbia Catholic Conference said it was “deeply disappointed” by the D.C. District Court’s Tuesday’s decision to deny district citizens the right to hold a referendum on whether to recognize same-sex “marriages” contracted outside of the district.
“This once again denies residents of the city a voice on the important issue of marriage,” The Conference said.
Last month, the D.C. City Council voted 11-1 to recognize same-sex “marriages.” The decision was especially opposed by the city’s African American citizens and religious leaders.
The district’s Catholic Conference argued that the city council’s decision “disenfranchised” residents by bypassing hearings and public input.
“Civil governments have recognized marriage throughout time as between a man and woman because of its unique purpose: to form a stable unit where children are created and raised with the complementary gifts of father and mother,” the Conference’s statement continued. “This stability for children in turn forms a stable foundation for society.
“The DC Catholic Conference will continue to strongly advocate for the long-standing and proper definition of marriage as the union between one man and one woman.”