Archive of July 9, 2009

Head Knight of Columbus hopeful about upcoming Benedict XVI - Obama meeting

CNA STAFF, Jul 9, 2009 (CNA) - Knights of Columbus leader Carl Anderson has expressed his hopes that the meeting between U.S. President Obama and Pope Benedict XVI this Friday will be a "wonderful opportunity" for sharing the Catholic faith. In an interview with CNA, Anderson said that the meeting will be a chance for the Pontiff to clearly explain Church teaching on a wide range of topics.

"I think it is always a wonderful opportunity when a Head of State meets with the Holy Father," Anderson told CNA. "Obviously, the relationship between the United States and the Vatican is very important, is very complex," he noted.

Anderson said that the upcoming meeting "provides the Holy Father with an opportunity to make clear why the Church’s teaching covers a broad spectrum, why it arises from a consistent ethic and a consistent view of the person, and why it is that those in public policy, such as the President, whether he’s a Democrat or a Republican, should try to understand the foundation for the Church’s teaching."

He went on to explain that if politicians and public figures understand this crucial foundation, hopefully they can then "understand what’s built upon the foundation, specific ethical positions or recommendations."

Anderson is hopeful that the meeting will allow the Pope to share the truths of the Catholic faith with Obama, whose early months in office have given him a reputation for violating Church teaching on fundamental issues such as abortion, same-sex "marriage" and embryonic stem cell research.

"A new president represents new opportunities," Anderson told CNA. "He has a new chance to chart different kinds of discussions on health care, immigration, peace, dealing with the Middle East situation."

He added that the Vatican should "encourage a consideration of those kinds of issues from the perspective of Catholic social doctrine, as well as fundamental issues such as abortion and the role of population control in foreign policy and economic development."

Nonetheless, Anderson stressed the idea that all these social issues are connected, pointing to Benedict’s new encyclical, "Caritas in veritate" (Charity in truth). He explained, "The Pope makes very clear that authentic economic development, human development must include respect for the unborn child, respect for the institution of marriage as between a man and a woman, and hopefully they will have the opportunity to speak at length about those issues."

"It’s not enough that we respect those who disagree with us," Anderson concluded, explaining that we need to "make clear the teaching of the Church in a way that’s respectful, but nonetheless in a way that we hope will be persuasive."

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Catholic author creates comic to foster abortion discussion

San Diego, Calif., Jul 9, 2009 (CNA) - Matthew Lickona, author of “Swimming with Scapulars: True Confessions of a Young Catholic,” is now releasing a five-part comic series about a fetus named Alphonse who survives an abortion attempt and “sets out on a mission of revenge,” while his only friend persistently reminds him that payback isn’t the answer.

The first issue, titled, “Untimely Ripp’d” is described as a story about the intersection of eight lives following an attempted abortion on Alphonse. 

For readers unfamiliar with the Japanese cartoons known as “Manga,” the powers attributed to Alphonse might seem ridiculous. But the exaggeration of emotions, actions and powers is part and parcel of the Manga style, which has become quite popular with American youth in the form of “Anime.” 

The comic’s website explains that Alphonse is "grotesquely abnormal" due to his mother’s “use of controlled substances” which has left him “both sentient and coordinated.”

“He is also deeply wounded, twisted by fear and rage after the attempt on his life, and bent on revenge,” the site says.  “But violence begets violence. Alphonse is pursued even as he is pursuing, and haunted by the claim that there may be another way... .”

Alphonse is “a living nightmare” Lickona explained in an interview with CNA.  The author likened the character to “‘the Misfit’ in Flannery O’Connor’s short story ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’ – a twisted, violent soul who nonetheless bears a kind of prophetic witness, both in spite of the violence and, in a way, through it.”


The idea for Alphonse was created when Lickona, who also writes for The San Diego Reader, saw Gary Cangemi’s “Umbert the Unborn” in the National Catholic Register.

He explained to CNA that when he read about Umbert, the wheels in his head began to turn:  “What if there really was a sentient fetus, suspended upside down in the dark, barely able to move, completely dependent on its mother for sustenance and care, and constantly aware of the fact that, at any moment, it could be killed?  That if Mom made the fateful choice, there was nothing - not even the law - standing between it and violent death?  Month after month in the dark, wondering when the axe might fall.  What would that experience be like?  What would it do to a person?”

“Alphonse was born out of that question,” he explained.

Lickona began to build on the initial inspiration to draw in all sides of the abortion discussion.  He explained to CNA that in his own experiences with the topic of abortion left him feeling that “each side was dug in so deep that they were each left shaking their heads in wonder at the wrongheadedness of the opposition.”

In order to help each side enter into the other’s experience, Lickona created each of the eight characters to be as genuine as possible so people on both sides of the abortion debate can “find a way into the story.”

The author also addressed the perceived graphic nature of the comic with CNA. 

He acknowledged that there “are limits to what is helpful to show in art,” and that “there are levels of graphic violence that do a disservice to the story by removing the readers from the story and plunging them into awareness of their own revulsion.”

“Some people thought The Passion of the Christ crossed a line. Others did not.  Alphonse is a lot less bloody than The Passion, but it is not bloodless.  It's a visceral subject,” Lickona responded.

“I did my best to have the violence in Alphonse serve the story, and many people whose judgment I trust think I managed to do it.  Others may disagree.  All I can say is that I'm not out to rub anybody's face in the muck.”

Readers can access the first issue of Lickona’s comic at

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Polish group protests Madonna concert scheduled for Feast of the Assumption

Warsaw, Poland, Jul 9, 2009 (CNA) - A Polish religious group is planning prayer sessions to protest a concert by the American pop star Madonna scheduled for August 15, the Marian Feast of the Assumption, in Warsaw.

Marian Brudzynski, head of the Committee for the Defense of the Faith and Tradition, said his group would continue its “crusade” with daily prayer sessions outside Warsaw city hall beginning August 1.

"We'll start with a group of a few hundred people, but I'm convinced that the square in front of city hall will end up filled with pious Poles,” he told Agence France Presse.

Brudzynski, an independent local councilor who previously represented the Catholic political party the League of Polish Families, has advocated that city hall ban Madonna’s first-ever show in Poland.

Concert organizers reported that the 70,000-ticket event was almost sold out, the AFP reports.

In the past Madonna has held racy shows and has performed a mock crucifixion on stage.

Madonna’s name is also an alternative title for the Virgin Mary. Mary is particularly venerated in the strongly Catholic Poland, where she was declared Queen of Poland 350 years ago.

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Caritas In Veritate a ‘roadmap’ for business professionals, Catholic business writer says

El Sobrante, Calif., Jul 9, 2009 (CNA) - The founder of the Catholic Business Journal has responded to Pope Benedict’s latest encyclical “Caritas in veritate,” characterizing it as a useful and practical “roadmap for all of humanity” that should be read by all business professionals.

Karen Walker, founder and manager of the Catholic Business, discussed the encyclical in an email interview with CNA.

“From a purely business perspective, this document is a godsend,” she said. In her view, the encyclical brings “revealed and natural truths” to bear on the social and political issues of our day, ranging from finance, sustenance, the market economy, socialism and the differences between charitable and for-profit entities.

She said Pope Benedict makes it “uncompromisingly clear” that to separate from these basic principles any entity, like a business entity, or any proposed political, social or economic solutions is to endanger both the men women and children to be served and also harms “the fabric of local, national and global societies.”

Walker listed what she saw as the core principles of “Caritas in veritate.” She noted the “undeniable purpose” for every human being that is “created and fulfilled ultimately only in God.” She also spoke of the encyclical’s emphasis on the dignity of the human person as the “pre-eminent concern” in every social, political and economic consideration.

These ideas are an “essential foundation” for solutions proposed by anyone regardless of his or her influence, she stated.

“Quite simply, Caritas In Veritate gives us what has always been the roadmap for all of humanity, yet in a manner that is immediately useful and practical for the pressing issues of our day!” she told CNA.

“He brings light to bear on issues of social justice, environmental concerns, profit-making, private-public partnerships and so forth. But he does not stop there.

“He shows us, repeatedly, that each of these issues can be, and often are, easily twisted to serve purely human ends in order to manipulate or coerce a body of people against their free will, or to deceive or prevent people against pursuing their highest and truest good. And in every case, Pope Benedict brings us back to the reality of human existence – we are creatures, we can only find our ultimate end, fulfillment, satisfaction and purpose in God. This defines everything we do.”

Walker summarized the practical outcomes of Pope Benedict's teaching:

“When authentic charity and the pre-eminence of individual human dignity, based on an authentic understanding of God and of man, is not included in any human equation—whether it is a corporate, charitable, political, environmental, social or economic consideration— then some level of destruction of innocent life and of society follows.”

She also noted Pope Benedict’s emphasis on gratitude as a response to the gift of human life and the gift of God to us.

“Caritas in veritate could be described as providing universal, undeniable, fundamental criteria against which we must test and evaluate business, corporate, political, social, economic, family, and charitable activities and decisions. I personally encourage every business professional to read and study this document, especially Catholics.”

The encyclical can guide business leaders, regardless of business size, in their responsibility and duty to lead others to Christ, she told CNA.

“If an authentic understanding of God and of our highest human purpose is left out of the equation in a decision, mission, strategy or policy, then something is fundamentally wrong and dangerous,” Walker concluded.

“On the other hand, if an authentic understanding of God and of our highest human purpose is pre-eminent, then a political structure, corporate entity, decision, or social solution has value beyond itself and all will benefit and all will be better for it.”

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Archdiocese of Sydney announces fourth adult stem cell research grant

Sydney, Australia, Jul 9, 2009 (CNA) - The Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney has invited Australia-based researchers to apply for a $100,000 AUD grant to support and foster research on the therapeutic potential of adult stem cells.

The research grant is the fourth announced by Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney. It is intended to advance science and to circumvent human embryonic stem cell research, which requires the creation and destruction of human embryos.

Announcing the grant, Cardinal Pell said that the Church “promotes and encourages medical research, and we strongly support stem cell research and other forms of biotechnology that respect the dignity of every human life, including that of the unborn.”

"Every human life should be accorded the full protection of the law without regard to race, ethnicity, sex, religion, age, condition of dependency or stage of development. And this includes the smallest members of the human family.”

“Advances in adult stem cell research have been extremely impressive. Achievements in this area have surpassed anything that has been achieved in the field of embryonic cell research,” he added.

The grant will be awarded based on the recommendation of an independent assessment panel, whose members include experts in science and ethics.

The Archdiocese of Sydney’s grants have funded three previous efforts in stem cell research. 

A 2003 grant of  $50,000 funded an investigation into the therapeutic potential of adult stem cells derived from the nose to be used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. A 2005 grant in the amount of $100,000 helped investigate therapies using skin-derived stem cells to regenerate skin for catastrophic burn victims.

Another $100,000 grant, announced in 2007, helped research the capacity of stem cells derived from human dental pulp to transform into neuron cells, which may be useful in treating stroke victims.

Adult stem cells may be harvested from a patient’s own body and have been used in the treatment of heart and liver disease, strokes and spinal cord conditions. Though such therapies are still in early stages of development, adult stem cells avoid many of the technical and ethical problems surrounding the use of human embryonic stem cells.

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Holy Father recalls WYD 2008, discusses situation on Korean peninsula

Vatican City, Jul 9, 2009 (CNA) - This morning Pope Benedict recalled the joyful memories of World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia in a meeting with the country’s prime minister before sitting down with South Korea’s president and focusing on the concerns currently facing his country.

In his meeting with the Prime Minister of Australia Kevin Rudd, the Holy Father recalled the 2008 World Youth Day festivities that took place in Sydney, particularly “the great spirit of collaboration between the ecclesiastical and civil authorities that characterized the organization of that event.” 

The two heads of state then turned their discussion to the current regional and international issues, “with reference to both respect for religious liberty and environmental problems," reports the Vatican press office.

The Holy See also released information about the Pope’s meeting with Lee Myung-bak, President of the Republic of Korea, in which they discussed the world’s economic crisis, especially in the poorest countries, as well as the current political and social situation on the Korean peninsula.

The Korean peninsula is home to South Korea (Republic of Korea) as well as North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea).  North Korea has made headlines in the past week after launching at least seven missiles on July 4 into the Sea of Japan (East Sea).  The country has also recently been blamed for cyber attacks against several American and South Korean government agencies.

During the meeting with President Myung-bak, the Pope noted the favorable relationship between South Korea and the Vatican, as well as the religious dialogue and cooperation that exists between the Church and State in social and educational settings.

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News media failing to fulfill its role in our democracy, Archbishop Chaput warns

Colorado Springs, Colo., Jul 9, 2009 (CNA) - At a Wednesday evening gathering of the Catholic business group Legatus, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver analyzed the influence of the media upon American Catholics. The news media, he said, has the important role in our democracy of protecting truth and pursuing reason, but it is failing to deliver.

"America’s news media have enormous opinion-shaping power," Chaput explained. "Therefore it’s vital for Catholics to understand how the media work, and especially how they work on us."

"The media’s power to shape public thought is why it’s so vital for the rest of us to understand their human element."

Instead of some impersonal organization, Catholics need to realize that the men and women who report the news bring their own cultural and political views, economic pressures and social ambitions to their reporting and editorial decisions, the Denver archbishop said.

"When we don’t recognize the personal chemistry of the men and women who bring us our news … then we fail the media by holding them to too low a standard. We also –and much more importantly—fail ourselves by neglecting to think and act as intelligent citizens."

But the media also has "an obligation to the public," Archbishop Chaput stated, "a duty to illuminate public discourse by presenting the facts of a story in a full and truthful context, regardless of the intellectual fashions of the moment."

While he noted that while "many of the reporters I talk with try to be diligent and fair," the prelate lamented, "too many news professionals don’t live up to this standard. And some, quite candidly, don’t seem to try."

There are many contributing factors to this failure, the archbishop noted, citing the "constant churn" of breaking news events created by the internet and cable news networks, the victory of visual over print media and the upsurge in tabloid-style news coverage.

The deluge of information, he said, has led to a difficulty in discerning what really matters from what doesn't. At the same time, the weakening of the longstanding American tradition of using print media to discuss the truth and matters of national importance has led to a loss of the intellectual discipline required to absorb printed thoughts.

"Visual and electronic media, today’s dominant media, need a certain kind of content. They thrive on brevity, speed, change, urgency, variety and feelings," he observed. "But thinking requires the opposite. Thinking takes time. It needs silence and the methodical skills of logic."

"Today’s advances in technology have increased the sources of human information that the average layperson can access. That’s a good thing. But they’ve also undermined the intellectual discipline that we once had when our main tools of communication were books or print publications."

"This is not a good development. In fact, it’s a very dangerous thing in a democracy, which is a form of government that demands intellectual and moral maturity from its citizens to survive," Chaput told the Catholic business leaders.

More than just focusing on important issues, the Archbishop of Denver said, the media need to "focus on them with a right spirit. In other words, journalists need to remember their profession’s proper role in America’s public order."

This role can be understood as presenting the public with reason and truth, he said, drawing on the writing of President Thomas Jefferson. In other words, the archbishop said that the media's role involves the natural law.

Turning to Fr. John Courtney Murray's thought, Chaput explained that the Jesuit "argued that the natural law – the idea that human nature is hardwired with universal, basic understandings of right and wrong – gave all Americans a common language for their democracy, regardless of their creed."

"But today our knowledge classes – the people who shape our universities, think tanks, mass media and political party leaderships -- no longer believe in the natural law. In fact, they’re often very fuzzy about what those two words – 'human nature' –even mean. They also tend to distrust religion in general and Christianity in particular. And that has consequences," Chaput stated.

"That brings us to my key point about the press," the archbishop said.

"Given the huge role Christian faith has always played, and still plays, in American life, any conversation about important public issues in our country that attempts to exclude religion will be incomplete. Yet it seems that, when it comes to religion, journalists and the people they cover are very different creatures. A 2005 study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center showed that 40 percent of Americans attend church services once a week or more -- but only 17 percent of press professionals do."

"The idea that this deep difference in religious practice doesn’t flavor our press coverage would be too strange to take seriously. In a sense, we are what we believe."

In the face of the media's failure to give a voice to the truth religion offers, Archbishop Chaput urged the audience of Catholic business professionals to "refuse to be stupid."

"We can decline to be sandbagged by our news establishment into thinking that marriage for homosexual partners is inevitable or an obligation of social justice; or that Islam and Christianity lead to pretty much the same conclusions about freedom, society and the nature of the human person; or that the abortion issue is somehow 'settled' when thousands of unborn children continue to be legally killed everyday," he said.

As he brought his address to a close, Archbishop Chaput called for Catholics to let their public moral witness "on abortion and every other vital social issue" be formed "not by the nightly news, but by learning and living an authentic Catholic faith."

Archbishop Chaput's full address to Legatus can be read at

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Soccer star Pele says violence is sport’s greatest problem today

Rome, Italy, Jul 9, 2009 (CNA) - In an interview with L’Osservatore Romano, Brazilian soccer legend Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as “Pele,” said he was grateful to God “for giving me the gift of playing soccer,” and denounced the violence that has become a part of the sport in recent times.
During the interview, Pele said that what he “hates most” about soccer today has nothing to do with technique, tactics or other athletic aspects of the sport.  “What displeases me the most is the violence, which is a plague that characterizes our entire society as well.  The violence linked to soccer truly bothers me,” he said.
He also commented on the exorbitant salaries paid to soccer players today.  “Today players from a young age begin thinking about how much money they can amass. They don’t care where they play.  A player goes to Real Madrid and kisses the jersey. The next day he switches teams and kisses the new jersey, swearing their eternal love.” “In reality,” he said, “the only thing they love is the money. And all of this is dangerous for the future of the sport.”
Pele said he owed his love of soccer to his father, who he said taught him “about life and respect for one’s neighbor.”  “God gave me the gift of knowing how to play soccer—because it really is a gift from God—and my father taught me to use it, he taught me the importance of always being ready and prepared, and that in addition to being a good player I should also be a good man.”
Pele recalled that he has had “the privilege of speaking with three Popes. I consider myself very lucky to have met and received the blessings of Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.  I treasure the pictures I was given at the Vatican of these meetings. I was able to talk about life and about God with these three Pontiffs. They were very important for me and have stayed in my heart,” he said.
He went on to encourage young athletes to stay away from drugs and other social ills and then recalled some of the more memorable moments of his career.

Specifically he mentioned the World Cup of 1958, when his coach had to intervene to allow the young 17 year-old to play despite recommendations from a team psychologist that he was too young to compete.  He also recalled his 1000th goal, which he scored as a penalty shot on November 19, 1969.  “I remember a journalist said that God himself had arranged that game so that my 1000th goal would coincide with that penalty shot. Thus the entire world would be able to see it,” he said.

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Obama to present Pope with stole of St. John Neumann

Baltimore, Md., Jul 9, 2009 (CNA) - When President Barack Obama visits the Holy Father tomorrow, he will present a stole worn by St. John Neumann, a 19th century Redemptorist priest who is the patron saint of sick children and immigrants.

“It’s a delight that something of one of our Redemptorist saints would be given to our Holy Father,” said Very Rev. Patrick Woods, provincial of the Redemptorists’ Baltimore Province. “We’re delighted as Americans that our president is visiting the Holy Father, and delighted that something belonging to our province would be given to him.”

The Redemptorists, founded by St. Alphonsus Liguori in 1732, are priests who minister to the needs of the faithful, particularly the poor and the spiritually abandoned.  Currently there are 300 Redemptorist priests serving in the United States alone.

Fr. Woods further explained that the stole was an appropriate gift for the Pope as a symbol of the priesthood because that was “at the heart of St. John Neumann’s life as a Redemptorist.”

In light of Neumann’s extensive service to immigrants, Woods said the gift was also symbolic of the new wave of immigration occurring in the United States, and his order's continued service to these often marginalized and over-looked groups.

The stole was discovered by Louis DiCocco, president of the St. Jude Shops and the St. Jude Liturgical Arts Studio, who was contacted by the Obama administration for assistance in finding a gift for Pope Benedict.

“They wanted to find an antique chalice, but I suggested it was important to get something more personable,” DiCocco said. “I told them about this stole that was something that belonged to an immigrant who was so instrumental in serving immigrants and building Catholic schools. What better than the stole that represents the priest?”

St. John Neumann was born in 1811 in Bohemia, but traveled to New York to become a missionary priest.  After his arrival, he was sent to Buffalo where he lived off bread and water and joined the Redemptorist order until he was elected Bishop of Philadelphia in 1852.

As bishop, John Neumann built 50 churches and nearly 100 schools.  He died suddenly on January 5, 1860.

He was canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1977 and is the patron saint of sick children and immigrants.

For more information about the Redemptorists of the Baltimore Province, visit

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Church in Mexico calls for Honduran refugees to be welcomed

Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 9, 2009 (CNA) - The Commission on Human Mobility of the Mexican Bishops’ Conference has asked Catholics in Mexico to offer hospitality to Hondurans who are fleeing their country over the current political crisis.

According to the Archdiocese of Mexico’s news service, Sister Leticia Gutierrez Valderrama, the committee’s executive secretary, called for charity in response to "the grave situation Honduras finds itself in and that unfortunately is creating instability among an already hurting people driven to leave their own country."

Sister Gutierrez said she was convinced that the generosity of Mexicans would be abundant, and added that some Catholic-run immigrant support centers are already working to protect the rights of Hondurans in Mexico. Due to the political crisis, their status has changed from immigrants to refugees.

She added that the bishops’ committee is committed to working with government agencies to provide refuge for Hondurans who seek assistance.

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DOMA challengers trying to judicially export homosexual 'marriage,' critic charges

Boston, Mass., Jul 9, 2009 (CNA) - The state of Massachusetts is challenging the constitutionality of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), claiming that the federal law which defines marriage as a union of a man and a woman violates states’ rights and is unjustly discriminatory. One pro-marriage advocate said the move was an attempt to “judicially export” homosexual “marriage.”

DOMA was enacted in part to help protect other states from being required by the full faith and credit cause of the U.S. Constitution to legalize same-sex “marriage” if one state were to do so.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, who filed the anti-DOMA suit in U.S. District Court in Boston, charged that the law interferes with the state’s right to define the marital status of residents. The suit also argues the law forces the state to discriminate against same-sex “married” couples on certain health benefits and burial rights or risk losing federal funding, the Boston Globe reports.

“Congress overstepped its authority, undermined states’ efforts to recognize marriages between same-sex couples, and codified an animus towards gay and lesbian people,” the suit says.

More than 16,000 same-sex couples have reportedly “married” in Massachusetts since a state Supreme Court decision which ordered the unions be recognized as legal marriages went into effect in 2004. The suit argued that the practice strengthens “the security and stability of families” in important ways.

Some speculated that Coakley’s action was a preparation for a bid for higher office, possibly for the Massachusetts governorship or for the seat of ailing U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy.

Charles Miller, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said that President Obama supports “legislative repeal” of DOMA because “it prevents LGBT couples from being granted equal rights and benefits.”

“We will review this case,” Miller’s two-sentence statement said, according to the Boston Globe.

The federal government has told Massachusetts that it cannot provide federal funding for MassHealth benefits given to same-sex “spouses.” Further, the state will lose Veterans Affairs funding if it buries the same-sex “spouse” of a veteran in a cemetery, as the state does for regular spouses of veterans.

Tony Perkins, president of the Washington-based Family Research Council, responded to the suit by asking the Justice Department to fulfill its “constitutional duties” and to continue its defense of DOMA against “such frivolous lawsuits.”

Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, said his organization believed the suit will have “no credibility” in the federal courts, pointing out they have already ruled that DOMA is constitutional.

According to the Boston Globe, Arline Isaacson, co-chair of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, noted that the Attorney General used a traditionally conservative argument about states’ rights to challenge the federal law.

CNA spoke about the lawsuit in a Thursday phone interview with Edward F. Saunders, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference.

Making clear that Attorney General Coakley is challenging federal, not state law, Saunders emphasized that the bishops of Massachusetts have “always” held that marriage is “a lifelong union of one man and one woman.”

He said he believed the bishops would question the purpose of the lawsuit, adding that in his view it appears to be “another attempt to weaken traditional marriage.”

Saunders said Catholics should be willing to speak out about the nature of marriage and ask “Where are things going here?”

“They need to remind society of what the institution of marriage is. Actions such as this are attacks on that tradition and institution,” he said.

Saunders explained to CNA that after the initial Massachusetts court decision a constitutional amendment had been proposed to restore the definition of marriage. It required the affirmative votes of two consecutive sessions of the legislators sitting in a constitutional convention. Massachusetts legislators approved the proposal in the first session but did not vote on it in the second.

“They denied their citizens right to vote on the definition,” he said. While this was technically not illegal, Saunders said legislators denied citizens their right to vote on the issue.

C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League, issued a statement on the group’s website which characterized the suit as an effort to “judicially export homosexual marriage to the rest of the country.” He called it “another flagrant attempt by a minority to use the courts to impose its will on the American majority.”

Coakley’s invocation of states’ rights was a “cynical” move, in his view.

“One cannot help but note the shameless hypocrisy of a state government which had refused to allow its own citizens -- the people of Massachusetts -- to vote on the definition of marriage, now claiming that an act of Congress is intruding on its sovereign right of self-government,” Doyle said.

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President of Colombian bishops’ conference calls for release of all hostages

Bogotá, Colombia, Jul 9, 2009 (CNA) - Following an announcement by Colombian president Alvaro Uribe to allow the participation of the Catholic Church in negotiations for the release of some hostages held by the rebel group FARC, President of the Colombian Bishops’ Conference Archbishop Ruben Salazar called for the liberation of "absolutely all the hostages," so that nobody will "continue to be held in the jungle."

Speaking with reporters at the bishops’ plenary assembly, Archbishop Salazar said the release of all hostages "would be a great gesture of good will on their part (the FARC) that would imply that they are listening to the cry of the country for an end to kidnappings and the release of all the hostages."

The archbishop said the announcement by President Uribe is "a very important step towards the release of the hostages. The liberation of them is something very important for the country."

He went on to say there are no specifics yet about the nature of the Church’s involvement in the release of hostages, or about the motives behind Uribe’s announcement.

Bishop Fabian Marulanda Lopez, secretary general of the bishops’ conference, called the announcement both hopeful and "a step forward." "I hope the FARC accepts this proposal by the president and does everything possible to release the hostages they are holding."

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