Dublin, Ireland, Jul 17, 2009 (CNA) - An Irish priest has defended one of his homilies against criticism from Ireland’s justice minister, reiterating that legislation to promote civil partnerships is immoral and undermines marriage.
Fr. John Hogan, a priest in the eastern port town of Drogheda, in his homily last Sunday criticized civil partnership legislation.
“Catholic members of the Oireachtas (national parliament) cannot support it while remaining in good standing with the Church,” he preached, according to the Irish Times.
He also quoted from a 2003 Vatican document on such legislation which said voting for such a law “so harmful to the common good” is “immoral.” The document was promulgated by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.
A delegate to the lower assembly of the Oireachtas was in the congregation.
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern, whose constituency includes Drogheda, reacted to the homily on the radio station LMFM.
“I am a republican. My party is a republican party. As always from the foundation of the State, there has been a very definite line between issues of Church and State and that is exactly my position.”
“When I legislate, particular as a Government Minister, I don’t bring whatever religion I have to the table,” he said.
Fr. Hogan defended his homily, saying that as a Catholic priest he is “bound to Christ’s church’s teaching on this issue.”
“I have a duty to remind the faithful of this teaching.”
In November 2008, Cardinal Seán Brady reacted to a bill aimed at giving legal recognition to civil partnerships by saying that marriage must be specially protected in the Irish Constitution.
“Those who are committed to the probity of the Constitution, to the moral integrity of the Word of God and to the precious human value of marriage between a man and a woman as the foundation of society may have to pursue all avenues of legal and democratic challenge to the published legislation,” he remarked.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin supported the cardinal's reaction to the bill, but his remarks were construed by the press as being in favor of the legislation.
London, England, Jul 17, 2009 (CNA) - Prominent biblical scholar and Anglican Bishop N.T. Wright has said the Episcopal Church’s recent decision to allow homosexuals to be ordained as bishops will mark a “clear break” with the Anglican Communion and formalizes a “schism.” He also insisted that chastity is not “optional” for Christians.
On Tuesday the General Convention of the Episcopal Church (TEC) voted by wide margins to pass a resolution allowing homosexuals to enter “any ordained ministry” in the church.
Responding to the news was Anglican Bishop of Durham Nicholas Thomas Wright, a scholar of the New Testament who has authored both scholarly works on the historicity of the Resurrection and popular works for the lay reader.
Comparing international Anglicanism to a “slow-moving train crash,” he wrote in a Wednesday column for The Times that the Episcopal Church’s vote marks “a clear break” with the rest of the Anglican Communion.
Saying the Episcopal bishops “knew exactly what they were doing,” he characterized the move as a rejection of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s and other Anglicans’ moratorium on consecrating practicing homosexuals as bishops.
“They were formalizing the schism they initiated six years ago when they consecrated as bishop a divorced man in an active same-sex relationship, against the [Anglican] Primates’ unanimous statement that this would ‘tear the fabric of the Communion at its deepest level.’”
V. Gene Robinson was installed as Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire in 2004.
Using the words of the 2004 Anglican Windsor Report on Anglican controversies, he said the Episcopal Church has chosen to “walk apart.”
He then described TEC’s claims that they are willing to remain in the Anglican Communion as “cynical double-think.”
He noted that the controversy began even before the consecration of Bishop Robinson, naming a church court’s 1996 acquittal of a bishop who had ordained active homosexuals as a key moment.
“Many in TEC have long embraced a theology in which chastity, as universally understood by the wider Christian tradition, has been optional,” Bishop Wright wrote in The Times.
“Jewish, Christian and Muslim teachers have always insisted that lifelong man-plus-woman marriage is the proper context for sexual intercourse,” he explained. “This is not (as is frequently suggested) an arbitrary rule, dualistic in overtone and killjoy in intention. It is a deep structural reflection of the belief in a creator God who has entered into covenant both with his creation and with his people (who carry forward his purposes for that creation).”
Saying that ancient and modern paganism has always found this “ridiculous and incredible,” he said the biblical witness is consistent and “the uniform teaching of the whole Bible, of Jesus himself, and of the entire Christian tradition.”
TEC supporters’ appeal to justice, he said, is misguided. “Nobody has a right to be ordained: it is always a gift of sheer and unmerited grace.” Further, justice means not “treating people the same way” but “treating people appropriately” and making distinctions.
“Justice has never meant ‘the right to give active expression to any and every sexual desire’,” he added.
Noting that everyone has “deep-rooted inclinations and desires,” he said Christians should love what God has commanded and desired, rather than ask God to command what they already love and desire.
Turning to divisions within TEC, he said that while breakaway traditionalist Episcopalians’ motives can be sympathetic, Anglicans should not forget the Episcopalian bishops who voted against the resolution and worshippers who share their beliefs.
TEC is now “distancing itself” from the fellowship of the Anglican Communion, Bishop Wright warned.
“Ways must be found for all in America who want to be loyal to it, and to scripture, tradition and Jesus, to have that loyalty recognized and affirmed at the highest level.”
Santa Rosa, Calif., Jul 17, 2009 (CNA) - Comparing the Sacrament of Penance to “an oil change for the soul” and weeding one’s garden, Bishop of Santa Rosa, California Daniel Walsh has urged Catholics to return to regular confession of their sins.
Writing in the Summer 2009 of the diocesan newsletter The North Coast Catholic, Bishop Walsh noted that car engines which don’t receive oil changes build up minor impurities and eventually result in “major and costly problems.”
Likewise in other common tasks, failing to clean hard-to-reach parts of a house will result in areas “filthy with dust.” Failing to weed a garden allows weeds to “take over” and crowd out the garden.
“The sacrament of penance is like an oil change for the soul,” the bishop said. “It’s like moving the furniture of our souls and getting to the places that escape everyday cleaning. It is like periodically checking the garden of our souls for weeds that hamper our discipleship.”
He cited Pope Benedict XVI’s exhortation for Catholics to rediscover the “liberating power” of the Sacrament of Penance in which an honest confession is met by “God’s merciful words of pardon and peace.”
“Since the Second Vatican Council and the cultural revolution of the 1960’s, the Sacrament of Penance has experienced a decline,” Bishop Walsh pointed out. “We can list many reasons but I don’t think one of them is that we have stopped sinning! I think in our permissive society we have lost the sense of sin.”
He encouraged all his readers, clergy and lay, to return to the sacrament.
“I know there are many people who for many reasons haven’t been to confession for a long time and may not remember how to go, or may not feel comfortable going. Whatever the reason, I invite all to come back home, come back to the Lord.”
In confession, Bishop Walsh said, Jesus asks us what he can do for us. After unburdening our hearts, the bishop said, we will hear Him say “Go in peace, your faith has made you well.”
Aosta, Italy, Jul 17, 2009 (CNA) - Only three days into his vacation near the Italian mountain town of Aosta, Pope Benedict XVI fell last night at his chalet and fractured his wrist. Despite the pain, the Pope celebrated Mass and had breakfast before going to the hospital on Friday morning.
The incident occurred on Thursday night when the Pope fell and slightly fractured his right wrist.
On Friday morning, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said that the Holy Father “celebrated Mass and had breakfast early.” He was then taken 12 miles to the town of Aosta, arriving at the local hospital at 9:45 a.m.
When the Pope arrived, other patients were waiting for X-rays and he insisted on waiting his turn, ANSA reports.
Later the Pope underwent a 20-minute operation under local anesthetic to realign the fractured fragments and reduce the fracture. Benedict was then fitted with a cast which he will have to wear for about a month.
“The Holy Father's general condition is good" added the Pope's doctor Patrizio Polisca, saying that "the Pope will return shortly to his residence."
Benedict XVI began a 16-day vacation at the Les Combes chalet on July 13 and is scheduled to only make two public appearances two pray the Angelus prayer with locals.
Sydney, Australia, Jul 17, 2009 (CNA) - Last year at this time, hundreds of thousands of Catholic youths journeyed to Australia to grow in their faith at World Youth Day. To remember and reflect on the blessings of the event, the Archdiocese of Syndey will be holding a Mass and broadcasting it live on its website.
The “First Year Youth Day Anniversary Mass” will be held on Monday, July 20 at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney and be celebrated by Cardinal George Pell.
Mass will begin at 6:30 p.m. local time and be streamed live on the Archdiocese of Sydney's website www.sydneycatholic.org.
Mark Vincent, a 15 year-old soloist who won this year's Australia's Got Talent competition, will be singing at the Mass.
Rome, Italy, Jul 17, 2009 (CNA) - The Italian parliament approved a motion Thursday obliging that country’s government to sponsor a resolution before the United Nations that would condemn the use of abortion as a method of population control.
The resolution also reiterates the right of every woman not to be forced to undergo an abortion. The measure is being backed by lawmakers from various parties, including some members of Italy’s left-wing Democratic Party.
The president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Renato Martino, said he was “excited” about the news. “I hope now that this motion will move forward at the U.N. and once there can bring about a greater consensus,” he said.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 17, 2009 (CNA) - The Mexican State of Yucatan has passed a reform of its constitution enshrining the right to life from conception to natural death as the first and fundamental of all human rights.
The Mexican daily Milenio said an overwhelming majority of the state’s legislature voted to modify the constitution to explicitly recognizing the fundamental right to life, “without which all other individual guarantees would not exist.”
The newspaper called it a “reform that defends the human dignity of persons, especially of women and of the boys and girls of the Yucatan yet to be born, as with the new constitutional norms there is no conflict between the rights of the mother and the rights of the unborn, nor is one above the other, but rather they both complement each other.”
Twenty four of the 25 representatives present for the vote supported the measure, which does include some exceptions for cases of rape or fetal deformation.
Yucatan now becomes the fourteenth Mexican state to pass a pro-life constitutional reform.
La Paz, Bolivia, Jul 17, 2009 (CNA) - During his greeting to mark Bolivia’s Bicentennial celebration yesterday, Archbishop Edmundo Abastoflor of La Paz encouraged all Bolivians to work for an increase in authentic freedom that respects the dignity of each and every person.
In a video-taped message, the archbishop said, “Let us grow in freedom. Freedom is fundamental gift for the person. If there was a cry for freedom from the attachments that existed at that time [200 years ago] to the power that dominated Bolivia, today there still exist attachments in the life of our nation and the lives of our people.” He also underscored the need to grow in mutual respect for each other.
The archbishop went on to explain that growing in freedom “means at heart to increase respect for the dignity of persons. I hope we all grow in dignity and I hope we respect the dignity of all, not only of the powerful and of those who have money and knowledge, but also of the humblest and poorest among us, those who are on the fringes of our society and suffer from a lack of knowledge, perhaps because of a lack of education but also because of a lack of access to health care because they don’t have the means, a decent place to live or work.”
He ended his message encouraging all Bolivians to work for a more “harmonious, authentic and integral development for the entire country.”
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jul 17, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop Eduardo Taussig of San Rafael, Argentina warned this week that the Christians roots that have forged the Argentinean identity are in jeopardy because of secularism, “an icy ideological position” that considers the exclusion of any reference to God from the public square to be a good.
During the Te Deum (hymn of thanks to God) at the local cathedral, Bishop Taussig said that while secularism is being promoted by a small minority, it is nonetheless very harmful. It is an ideology that seeks “to reduce man’s religious dimension to merely the realm of conscience or, in any case to the interior of churches, or as is commonly said, ‘to the sacristy.’”
The bishop said secularism acts by disdaining religious rites and ceremonies at significant moments in social and political life, as well as through campaigns “to exclude religious symbols from public buildings.”
He also noted that secularism in the schools “has enormous consequences.” In particular, he lamented that fact that what students are taught about Argentinean culture has been unhinged from its religious roots and traditions, “which have been defended and upheld” by many of the country’s liberators and forefathers.
Nevertheless, the bishop expressed his satisfaction that various government officials took part in the Te Deum celebration “despite the cold of winter and the threat of the flu … in order to nourish our faith, as we have since our beginnings, with the Word of God.”
Hartford, Conn., Jul 17, 2009 (CNA) - The Diocese of Bridgeport is involved in a protracted legal battle to keep the personnel files of some of its employees private and plans to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The diocese argues that granting the request of several major newspapers to unseal the files violates privacy rights and the First Amendment.
The lawsuit, Rosada v. Bridgeport Roman Catholic Diocesan Corp., is being brought by several newspapers, including the New York Times. The publications are attempting to gain access to personnel files in order to determine how the recently retired Cardinal Edward Egan handled sexual abuse cases while he was the Bishop of Bridgeport.
The diocese maintains that access to the files should not be granted because doing so would reveal personal information that is not relevant to the sex abuse cases.
Additionally, diocesan officials point out that the files related to sex abuse allegations were available prior to a 2001 settlement on the more than 20 lawsuits. The files were sealed by the court following the settlement.
In a July 17 statement the Diocese of Bridgeport said, “We note at the outset that the Rosado matter involves cases long settled by the Diocese involving allegations that date back to the 1960’s and 1970’s. The attorneys and victims had access to the sealed documents at issue.”
“As a matter of fact,” the statement says, “the cases, and the settlement of them, were exhaustively reported on by the media. The names of the accused priests involved in this matter as well as the names of all abuser priests were made public in 2002 by Bishop William E. Lori and again in 2003 when a second global settlement was reached.”
Also at issue, the diocese asserts, are First Amendment rights which prohibit the State from intervening in Church matters. These rights would be waived if the Church is forced by the court to present the documents.
The Diocese of Bridgeport is appealing the case to the U.S. Supreme Court following a decision by the Connecticut State Supreme Court that it must released the 12,000 pages of documentation.
Augusta, Maine, Jul 17, 2009 (CNA) - Marriage restoration advocates have raised almost $350,000 between June 3 and July 3 in their effort to return the state’s legal definition of marriage to being between a man and a woman. Their latest fundraising efforts have netted nearly $500,000.
The Maine legislature recently enacted a same-sex “marriage” law, which may be overturned by a “people’s veto” on the ballot. Supporters must submit 55,087 signatures to have the proposal placed on the ballot and to stop the law from going into effect in September.
Between June and July, Stand for Marriage Maine, the group spearheading the effort to defend traditional marriage, received $100,000 from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland from a special fund, which did not use church collections. The New Jersey-based National Organization for Marriage, which helped pass Proposition 8 in California, contributed $160,000.
Other donations from organizations included $50,000 from the Knights of Columbus, and $31,000 from the Focus on the Family Maine Marriage Committee.
However, the group only received $400 from individuals. Documents at MaineCampaignFinance.com showed all individual donors were Maine residents.
“It’s a long haul, but we’ve got a good start,” Mark Mutty, one of the group’s campaign leaders, told the Bangor Daily News.
Discussing the small number of individual donations, he said the group’s website has been up for less than two weeks. He predicted a significant increase in donors as the campaign advances.
He predicted his group would seek the “People’s Veto” with an amount of signatures “well in excess of the minimum” by early August.
An organization seeking to retain the same-sex “marriage” law, Maine Freedom to Marry, reported it raised almost $140,000 during the same period. Its leaders said more than $81,000 of that money came from Maine residents.
However, $50,000 of that donation total came from a single individual, Emergent Music CEO Diane Sammer. The anti-marriage group also received a $10,000 donation from the ACLU and a $25,000 contribution from the Human Rights Campaign.
Documents at filed with the state showed that just under half of the individual donors for the group were from out of state.
“This campaign is going to win because we have extraordinary grass-roots support from regular Mainers,” said Jesse Connolly, Maine Freedom to Marry’s campaign manager. He said the group expected to be outspent by “those who would deny lesbian and gay couples the right to marry.”
“This is an issue that speaks to people’s hearts,” he said.
Speaking to the Maine Public Broadcasting Network, Stand for Marriage’s Mutty said he regretted the amount of money required for the campaign.
"Certainly it's a shame that this kind of money has to go into these kinds of efforts, but that's the nature of the beast these days. These campaigns cost a lot of money and you can't prevail unless you're competitive."
Stand for Marriage Maine’s website is at http://standformarriagemaine.com/