Vatican City, Jul 13, 2009 (CNA) -
After completing a string of international visits and issuing his third encyclical, Pope Benedict XVI left this morning for a two-week vacation in the mountainous Valle d'Aosta region of Italy.
The Pope left Rome by plane at 10:30 this morning, bound for Turin in northern Italy. Following the hour-long flight, the Holy Father was taken by helicopter to a vacation home owned by the Salesians.
The chalet, located in Les Combes, is the same place where Pope Benedict vacationed in 2005 and 2006. The building is made of wood and stone, has two floors and is surrounded by a large garden. It stands at an altitude of 3,900 feet and has views of Mont Blanc and other mountains on the French-Italian frontier as well as the Italian-Swiss Alps. The late Pope John Paul II also frequented Les Combes.
During his 16-day respite, Benedict XVI will only hold two public ceremonies—one on Sunday, July 19 and the other on Sunday, July 26. On July 19 he will pray the Angelus at Piazza Ruggia in front of the parish church of Sts. Peter and Solutor at Romano Canavese in the Diocese of Ivrea. On July 26 he will pray the Angelus at Les Combes.
Benedict XVI will stay in Les Combes - located some 12 miles from the city of Aosta within the municipality of Introd - until July 29.
Following his vacation in Valle d'Aosta, the Pope will move to his summer residence of Castelgandolfo, located 18.5 miles south of Rome, where he will remain until the end of September.
The Holy Father will resume his international travels on September 26 with a three-day trip to the Czech Republic.
New Haven, Conn., Jul 13, 2009 (CNA) - Following Friday’s meeting between Pope Benedict and U.S. President Barack Obama, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson released a statement saying that while he is pleased that the president is interested in engaging in “meaningful dialogue” with the Church, several issues must be addressed by the government to find “authentic common ground.”
During the 36-minute meeting, it was reported by the Vatican that the Holy Father and U.S. President discussed issues such as the promotion of life, the peace process in the Middle East, the global economic crisis and immigration.
In Anderson’s statement, he called the meeting an “achievement for Vatican and American diplomacy” and said it “represents a positive development for those of us who hoped that this meeting might mark a new opportunity in the important relationship between the Catholic Church and U.S. government.”
Turning then to the subject of life and President Obama’s statement to the Pope that he is committed to reducing the number of abortions, the Supreme Knight applauded Obama “for his sensitivity to the growing consensus among the American people favoring the right to life, restriction of abortion, and the protection of conscience.”
“As our Knights of Columbus-Marist Poll released today shows, there is a great deal of common ground among the American people on these issues,” Anderson pointed out, explaining that “86% would restrict abortion far more than it is today, and 79% would protect the right to conscience of health care workers.”
“This is a real consensus on the heart of the abortion issue, and it is heartening to see the president’s attention to it,” the Knights of Columbus leader said.
He added, “This is an important moment. The pope and the president have laid the foundation for trying to achieve authentic common ground. How we build on this meeting in a constructive way in the months and years ahead is critical.”
Anderson then listed several benchmarks that must be met to “provide a true gauge of progress made on achieving common ground with the Catholic community.”
Anderson's list included: “adoption of a federal conscience clause regulation that gives real protection to Catholic institutions and individuals; health care legislation that does not contain a back door mandate for abortion; abortion reduction programs that respect pro-life crisis pregnancy and teenage abstinence programs” and the “preservation of the pro-life riders that currently exist in the annual appropriations legislation.”
“These riders, which restrict federal abortion funding, also raise conscience protection issues, since their removal would force tax payers to pay for abortions against their conscience,” he explained.
The final issue would be “dropping any attempts to codify by statute the president’s rescission of the Mexico City Policy, which allows international abortion funding by the United States,” Anderson concluded.
Seoul, South Korea, Jul 13, 2009 (CNA) - The Bishops of South Korea have rejected a measure that would legalize euthanasia in the country. Supporters of the measure are euphemistically labeling the proposal “death with dignity.”
The president of the bishops’ Committee on Bioethics, Bishop Gabriel Chang Bong-hun of Cheongju, said in a recent statement that euthanasia is “the deliberate murder of a person,” which supporters are attempting to portray as something moral, when in reality it is not.
The debate on euthanasia caught the attention of the public when a 77 year-old man in a coma was taken off a respirator and was still alive 17 days later.
“We do not oppose a patient’s refusal to remain on a respirator when the final moment of life comes and he or she desires to breathe on their own,” Bishop Chang said. “However, this rejection (of a respirator) should not be understood as a will to die. The removal of life support implies interrupting an artificial prolonging of the life a terminally ill patient. In any case, however, basic medical care should not be interrupted, including food and hydration,” he added.
“The serious thing about the term ‘death with dignity’ is that in order to distract from the true meaning of the issue, the word ‘dignity’ is added. But this is nothing other than a euphemism for euthanasia,” Bishop Chang said.
Washington D.C., Jul 13, 2009 (CNA) -
President Barack Obama has announced that he is nominating a rural Alabama Catholic doctor to be the U.S. Surgeon General. Reacting to the news, the rector of Mobile’s Catholic cathedral, where she serves as lector, is encouraging her to defend the unborn in her new position.
In a Monday statement President Obama said he intended to nominate Dr. Regina Benjamin as Surgeon General, the United States government’s “chief health educator.” The president’s announcement focused on health care reform as an urgent challenge.
Dr. Benjamin, the first black woman to be admitted to the American Medical Association, founded the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic in Alabama in 1990. There, she served the poor Alabama community on the Gulf Coast after 1998’s Hurricane Georges and 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.
She had to rebuild the clinic after it burned down, receiving a $500,000 MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” in 2008 for the effort.
Dr. Benjamin is known as being a national leader in improving health disparities, motivated by the need in her community. Immigrants from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos make up a third of the area’s population of 2,500.
She received the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights in 1998. Pope Benedict XVI awarded her the Pro Ecclessia et Pontifice medal in 2006.
President Obama’s announcement also noted that Dr. Benjamin received the 2000 National Caring Award which was inspired by Mother Teresa.
The nominee graduated from Xavier University in New Orleans, a Catholic school descended from the educational work of St. Katharine Drexel. Dr. Benjamin received her medical degree from the University of Alabama, Birmingham.
Dr. Benjamin has also served on the Board of Trustees for the Catholic Health Association, a position that she will resign from to take on her new job.
In a Monday statement, CHA president and chief executive officer Sister Carol Keehan, DC, said that the organization “rejoices for our nation” in Dr. Benjamin’s nomination.
“In Dr. Benjamin, we have a brilliant physician who understands health care, nationally and internationally; but even more important, she knows the health care needs of the people of Bayou La Batre, Alabama, who she meets on a daily basis.”
Sr. Keehan said the nominee will “enrich the nation” with her competence and integrity and she praised Dr. Benjamin’s daily experience working in “a very vulnerable committee.”
CNA spoke with Msgr. Michael L. Farmer, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Mobile and rector at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Mobile.
Msgr. Farmer said Dr. Benjamin is a “delightful lady” who has served as lector at the cathedral and has been “readily available” to speak with various Catholic organizations. She has also worked with Catholic Charities in Mobile and has spoken on the good the organization does.
He reported that she grew up at the historically African-American parish Shrine of the Holy Cross in the Gulf Coast town of Daphne, Alabama.
The monsignor also confirmed that then-Archbishop of Mobile Oscar Lipscomb recommended Dr. Regina Benjamin for the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice award. The medal is bestowed to lay people and clergy who have given zealous and outstanding service to the Church. The honor was instituted by Pope Leo XIII in 1888.
“He recommended her for her example in her Catholic faith as well as in her medical profession,” Msgr. Farmer said, noting the “amazing amount of work” she has done for the common good and for health care in south Mobile County.
Expressing certainty that Dr. Benjamin had opportunities to go elsewhere, he said the doctor had made a “concrete decision” to remain in Alabama and address her patients’ needs.
“She’s noted not only for clinic work, but for going on site to these people’s homes. And they’re not necessarily the nicest places to go to.”
He said it was “remarkable” and “bridge-building” that Dr. Benjamin, an African-American woman, has done her work in the bayou, which he described as a majority white community with “a lot of poor people in it.”
Given the appointments and policy decisions of the Obama Administration that favor the promotion of abortion, CNA asked Msgr. Farmer if he knew what Dr. Benjamin's position is on abortion. He explained that he did not “explicitly” know Dr. Benjamin’s position on abortion and other life issues and had never discussed it with her.
“I would hope that her position would be in line with the Church’s position,” he told CNA. “As far as I know she has been in conformity with the Catholic Church.”
“I would hope that that would continue,” he added, noting that it could be “difficult” to adhere to Catholic moral teaching in a position with the Obama Administration.
In a Monday morning telephone interview with CNA, Sr. Keehan pointed out that Dr. Benjamin isn't “in a specialty that would do abortion” and that her work to provide health care to the poor and elderly demonstrates her “tremendous attention to the issue of life.”
“And you've got her own archbishop who asked the Holy Father to give her the Pro Ecclesia medal.
“You don't get that for just being a token Catholic,” she told CNA.
In December 2008 a coalition of several dozen pro-abortion groups released a strategy document titled “Advancing Reproductive Rights and Health in a New Administration” calling on Obama to improve access to “abortion care.” The document named the surgeon general’s office as a “position of interest.”
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jul 13, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop Emeritus Carmelo Giaquinta warned last week against “the false illusion that abolishing celibacy would lead to an increase in the number of priests.” Unfortunately, he noted, some priests “give in to temptation, and instead of nurturing their ideal of consecration in the Word of God, adopt the opinions of the media that often pontificates about divine things.”
After warning that this is “a trap that both the faithful and pastors should not fall into,” the archbishop underscored the need to “clearly state that the candidate for holy orders in the Latin Church must have a double vocation: to the life of consecration to God through voluntary and perpetual celibacy, and to the exercise of pastoral charity. And that must be proven by the subject and shown to the Church through an adequate journey that includes having acquired the habit of personal prayer.”
“Priestly celibacy is not an extrinsic condition that is added on after ordination, but rather a prior condition, whose foundation is living faith in Jesus Christi, who invites one to leave all for love of Him in order to follow Him,” the archbishop said.
Archbishop Giaquinta also underscored that “the Church will never abolish the apostolic criteria” according to which each person should continue living “in the condition the Lord assigned to him and in which he found himself when he was called.”
He added that the Church's ecclesiastic norm that “the minister who was ordained while celibate should remain celibate, and that the one ordained while married should remain married” will not be changed either. For this reason, he explained, “celibacy will never be optional in the sense that many in the media understand it: that ordained ministers who are celibate can contract marriage.”
After referring to the infidelity of some ministers, Archbishop Giaquinta said these cases should “fill us with humility and be an incentive for the clergy” to live their fidelity more profoundly.
Rome, Italy, Jul 13, 2009 (CNA) - In an article titled “What if the Cynical Dr. House was Good?” L'Osservatore Romano reviews the book “Dr. House: Madness and Fascination of a Cult Series,” which examines the popular TV program “House” and how its “evil” protagonist conveys positive but often politically incorrect messages in support of life.
The book’s introduction points out that few programs on television escape today’s political correctness, a censor that teaches “very little culture and impresses just two values on the minds of viewers: self-determination (which culminates by turning into loneliness) and separation.”
The authors of the book, Carlo Bellieni and Andrea Bechi, call it surprising that “the protagonist (the hero)” of the popular series “is an open cynic.”
“Here lies the genius of the creators of the series House: not taking it for granted but actually putting forth a decent ethical itinerary using words, pictures and even the human weaknesses that normally convey another kind of message,” the authors wrote.
“With his clichés, his apologies, his idiocies and jokes about his colleagues, this series reaffirms strong and firm values, despite its contradictions, its cynicisms and its atheism (which is probably only there to provide ‘tone’),” they continued.
The Italian authors go on to state that “in the end the moral is not merely eschatology but also the reaffirming of the truth about man.
“Nevertheless, it must be noted: House is ‘evil’ and cynical. Thus we are asked to make an effort to overcome the impact of this negative conduct in order to understand the main message of the fictional story and not limit ourselves to just what we see, but rather to focus on the decisive point: change and the amazement of a cynical mind.”
Belliene and Bechi also found an intersection between “House” and bioethics. While the Church always seeks to help people understand their own desires and limits in concert with reason, the reviewers said that today's medical advances often isolate people from reason.
These bioethical advances “have as their ideal isolation and so-called ‘self-determination.’ They demonstrate the restrictive use of reason: they are no longer capable of calling a ‘child’ a child (only because it has not yet been born) or they are terrified by the supposed ‘aggressiveness of the cure,’ which often is nothing more than an attempt to save a life.”
“It is not a coincidence that abortion and euthanasia as ‘rights’ originate with the idea that nobody should interfere with decisions that have perhaps been made in a moment of loneliness or desperation. Even House experienced this when he wanted to save the life of a patient, despite his biological state.”
The article notes that in the book’s “fascination with the character of a fictional television series, we get to know him better and discover that in the stories told by him there is a positive way of seeing reality that emerges and greatly surprises us.”
This way of seeing things, the authors said, is at the foundation of the Christian message, is everything that today’s society wishes to hide: “the powerful and unceasing use of reason and the strength of human contact (which in this case, displays its therapeutic power even when the protagonist wants to reject it, but within him something prevents him from doing so).”
For this reason, they conclude, “that these positive messages come from an ‘evil’ character pleases us; they serve to reduce sentimentalism and increase trust in ourselves as fallible (but redeemable) human beings.”
“House” was watched by 82 million people in 66 countries in 2008.
Caracas, Venezuela, Jul 13, 2009 (CNA) - The vice president of the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Roberto Luckert, said last week the Church neither supports nor encourages coups and that he never felt the coup carried out by President Hugo Chavez was justified.
According to the “Diario Catolico,” the archbishop said the Church condemns military coups and that in the case of Honduras, the democratic rule of law was not broken during the process that led to the ouster of President Manuel Zelaya.
Nevertheless, he said there was a “somewhat dark connotation” to the forced change of power in that country and that the case should be reviewed. “Institutionally speaking, with the legal tools they have in their hands, they should have carried out an investigation of the president,” he said.
Archbishop Luckert also questioned the impartiality of the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza. “Insulza is worried about OAS elections. Right now this organization is nothing more than a president’s club which caters to them but not to the people,” he said.
The archbishop went on to defend his right to express an opinion. “The thing is they don’t like it when the Church doesn’t remain silent about the problems occurring in the country,” he said.
Columbus, Ohio, Jul 13, 2009 (CNA) - R. Eric McFadden, a former leader of several Democrat-leaning Catholic groups, has pled guilty to two counts of compelling prostitution for prostituting a 17-year-old girl on the internet.
Five other counts of pandering obscenity and promoting prostitution were dismissed.
McFadden, 46, was former director of Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland’s Office of Faith-Based Initiatives. He worked for Catholics for Kerry in 2004 and served as the president of Catholics for Faithful Citizenship in 2005. In 2006 he served as a spokesman for Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and was an outreach organizer for Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.
He had been accused of putting nude photographs of a girl on a website to promote prostitution. Police learned of the activity during an online sex sting.
Assistant Prosecutor Anthony Pierson said McFadden had met the girl in an internet chat room and offered her services to other men on the site as a “recommended” prostitute.
McFadden used complex encoded postings on Craigslist that would look like useless or corrupted data, in which he would embed information about the woman available for prostitution. He used several aliases, including “mcfaddencatholic” and “God O Thunder.”
Keith Golden, McFadden’s defense attorney, said that McFadden is not charged with having sexual relations with the girl but with promoting her sex services on Craigslist.
McFadden, now free on $100,000 bond, faces up to 10 years in prison. His sentencing has been set for August 20.