Archive of August 17, 2009

Judge in Spain to rule on sex change for minor

Barcelona, Spain, Aug 17, 2009 (CNA/Europa Press) - A judge in Barcelona, Spain is set to be the first in the country to decide whether to allow a 16 year-old boy to undergo a sex change operation according to his wishes and with the consent of his parents.
Europa Press reported that Spanish law allows such operations as long as there is parental consent.
The 16 year-old boy has spent the last year undergoing hormonal and psychiatric treatment and doctors have said the boy has no health issues that would pose a problem for a sex change operation.

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Knoxville bishop suffers mild heart attack

Knoxville, Tenn., Aug 17, 2009 (CNA) - Catholics in the Diocese of Knoxville, Tennessee are praying for their new bishop after he suffered a mild heart attack while on a trip this past weekend.

According to Deacon Sean Smith, chancellor of the Diocese of Knoxville, Bishop Richard F. Stika, was paying a visit to a friend who is sick in Florida. Things took a turn for the worse when the bishop "became ill with severe flu-like symptoms, which precipitated a diabetic crisis," Smith said.

The "diabetic crisis" caused Bishop Stika to suffer a mild heart attack, but after doctors conducted a thorough examination, they found his heart to be "in great shape."

"He had a very good night and is stable and responding well to his treatment. He is looking forward to returning home to Knoxville," said Deacon Smith in a statement from the Diocese of Knoxville.

Deacon Smith said that he will continue to provide updates on the bishop's condition and asked Catholics to "give thanks for this encouraging information and pray for his continued recovery."

Bishop Stika chosen by Pope Benedict XVI to be the third Bishop of Knoxville this past January and was consecrated a bishop on March 19, 2009.

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Catholic university in San Diego to open graduate school of Biblical Theology

San Diego, Calif., Aug 17, 2009 (CNA) - A local Catholic university is responding to one of the Church’s greatest needs by opening a graduate school of biblical theology. The new graduate school at John Paul the Great Catholic University will open in September.

Before beginning their graduate-level studies, students will first complete a series of prerequisite courses in philosophy, theology and Scripture; by January 2010, they will begin working toward a master’s in biblical theology.

"The Church teaches that the Bible needs to be the soul of theology, but in a lot of places, you can get a degree in theology and only take one or two courses in Scripture," said Michael Barber, who serves as the university’s professor of theology, Scripture and Catholic thought.

What makes the curriculum at the new school so unique, he explained, is that it will teach dogmatic, moral and liturgical theology with a "heavy scriptural emphasis" and require students to study the various books of the Bible in depth.

Founded in 2003, John Paul the Great Catholic University welcomed its first undergraduate students in September 2006 and currently offers bachelor’s degrees in communications media, business and technology. Starting this fall, it will also offer an MBA with an emphasis in entrepreneurial business.

University president Derry Connolly said there were initially no plans to establish a graduate school of theology when the university first opened. But in August 2007, a conversation with Catholic author and theologian Scott Hahn convinced him that "there’s no greater need in Catholic higher education."

Connolly said plans for the graduate school proceeded with the full awareness of Bishop Robert H. Brom and the Diocese of San Diego.

The graduate school curriculum will be "authentically Catholic" and faithful to the magisterium of the Church, Barber said.

Bishop Brom has granted Barber the mandatum, an official ecclesiastical recognition that a professor teaches in communion with the Church; the mandatum will be a requirement for all faculty members who teach theology at the school.

The program will not only prepare students for careers in "the world of academia," but it will also teach them how to make scriptural theology accessible to regular, church-going Catholics. Students will take two practicum classes, which will allow them to teach Bible studies or other parish-level courses and receive constructive criticism on their efforts.

The program has been designed so that students can work at their own pace, taking as long as needed to complete their studies and making use of independent study and other educational options.

Some students with careers and families cannot attend weekday classes, Barber said, but "we still want to work with them; we want to help them." He added that being a theologian is "a vocation" and the school wants "to assist people in finding God’s will for their lives."

Since 2006, John Paul the Great Catholic University has accomplished much, Barber said, despite having less than 100 students and being housed on a temporary campus with limited facilities.

"I think God is able to do things through our students and through this university that far surpass even our wildest expectations, and I would expect that to … continue with the graduate school of theology," he said. "Anybody who would want to discount [the university] … should recall that it was David who [slew] Goliath. And he wasn’t able to do it because he was a great military hero; he did it because he really did have that great trust in the Lord."

For more information, visit

Printed with permission from The Southern Cross.

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Cardinal says Chavez government seeking monopoly on education

Caracas, Venezuela, Aug 17, 2009 (CNA) - Cardinal Jose Urosa Savino of Caracas defended the rights of parents to request schools provide religious instruction for their children and warned that the Chavez government is seeking to monopolize both public and private education in the country.
Cardinal Urosa said there was a “tendency” on the part of many government officials to monopolize education and that in the process the government is ignoring the rights of parents as well as preventing the Church from establishing new schools.
He went on to note that the Venezuelan people have been caught off guard by the proposed educational reforms that would eradicate religion from schools, “despite that the Constitution guarantees the right of parents to ask for religions formation for their children in accord with their own convictions.” The elimination of religion from schools would go against centuries of tradition in Venezuela, he added.
Its one thing for the state to be secular and for education to be secular in the sense that no one religion is favored over another, but it is quite another to eliminate the religious aspect from the comprehensive formation of children and young people,” the cardinal said.
While religion could be taught after school, Cardinal Urosa said, in practice children would not feel the incentive to have to stay after for an additional class.
He also thought it was odd that debate on the new bill would be taking place during a school holiday, and he called on the National Assembly to postpone discussion of the measure until teachers and administrators return to school from vacation.
The cardinal warned that even Catholic schools would be affected by the new law and would not be permitted to teach religion.  “A religious institution that has the right to educate and has established schools has the right to pass on its religion to the children who attend that school,” he said.
Cardinal Urosa urged Venezuelans to get involved in the debate on the proposed law and to attend meetings and peaceful protests to raise awareness about the issue.

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Pope appoints new undersecretary, sends important diplomat to Venezuela

Vatican City, Aug 17, 2009 (CNA) - This morning Pope Benedict XVI appointed Bishop Ettore Balestrero as the new Undersecretary of the Section for Relations with States, a department within the Vatican Secretariat of State.

Bishop Ettore Balestrero was born in Genoa, Italy on December 21, 1966. After attending law school, he entered the Almo Collegio Capranica for the Diocese of Rome and was ordained priest on September 18, 1993.

He earned a degree in theology and a doctorate in Canon Law. After serving in the Parish of Santa Maria Mater Ecclesiae al Torrino in Rome, he became a student at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy.

He joined the diplomatic service of the Holy See on July 1, 1996 and was assigned to work at the Apostolic nunciatures of Korea, Mongolia and the Netherlands.

Since 2001, Bishop Balestrero has served in Relations with States section, where he will now serve as the Undersecretary. Besides Italian, he speaks English, French, Spanish, German and Dutch.

Bishop Balestrero will be taking the place of  Archbishop Pietro Parolin, who was appointed today as the new Apostolic Nuncio to Venezuela. Archbishop Parolin had served as the undersecretary for the Secretary of State since 2002.

The new assignment for Parolin will be a difficult one since conflicts between the State and Church in Venezuela are on the rise as Hugo Chavez attempts to further implement his socialist revolution. 

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Uruguayan bishop warn against law that would allow homosexual adoption

Montevideo, Uruguay, Aug 17, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop Nicolas Cotugno of Montevideo, the president of the Bishops’ Conference of Uruguay, issued a statement last week warning that a new law intended to allow homosexual couples to adopt children would have serious consequences for society, especially for the young.
“The adoption of children by homosexual couples is not a question of religion, philosophy or sociology.  It has to do with respect for human nature itself,” he said. “To accept the adoption of children by homosexual couples is to go against human nature itself, and consequently, it is to go against the fundamental rights of the human being as a person.”
In his statement, Archbishop Cotugno recalled the 2003 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which stated that to legally recognize homosexual unions and make them equal to marriage would not only mean the approval of a deviant form of behavior but also the obscuring of fundamental values that are part of humanity’s common heritage.
The archbishop also pointed out that in such adoptions, the interests of the child are made secondary to those of the adoptive parents and that the children are made into instruments at the service of the desires and wishes of others rather than being given what they truly need. 

Children “cannot be used as instruments by certain groups or persons for [the purpose of] demanding rights,” he added, nor can adoption be made subject to political expediency.  Adoption by homosexual couples is discrimination against children, “because they could be adopted by natural parents,” the archbishop stated.
“Those who freely chose a life of homosexual relations have assumed a life style that is unconnected to procreation and to the ability to be parents. If you reject the cause you cannot lay claim its natural effect.  Notwithstanding, to accept adoption by homosexual couples would be to grant those who opted for the life style of not being parents the right to be such, thus prioritizing their interests over those of the child.  And this is inadmissible from every point of view,” the archbishop said, underscoring that his statements were not in reference to homosexuals as persons, who as such “deserve the highest respect.”
Children are the poorest, most vulnerable and neediest members of society,” Archbishop Cotugno said, “and they deserve special care and protection.  It is the duty of the human family and of society itself to defend them and promote them in accord with their fundamental rights and with the demands proper of human nature,” he said.

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Pope Benedict’s teachings on the family presented in new volume

Washington D.C., Aug 17, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI’s thoughts on the family have been collected in a new volume from the publishing arm of the U.S. bishops. Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, who heads up the bishops' effort to promote marriage, praised the volume as a ‘consistent defense’ of family and marriage.

The volume is a part of the “Pope Benedict XVI – Spiritual Thoughts Series,” and is simply titled “Family.”

According to a USCCB press release, the new book collects the Pope’s “strong teaching and witness to the unique value and truth of marriage and the family” all in one place.

Pope Benedict addresses the range of Catholic teaching on marriage and focuses on the unique nature of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, who chairs the USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage, expressed gratitude for the Pope’s support for families.

“Our Holy Father has modeled for us a consistent defense of the family founded on marriage as the permanent and exclusive union of one man and one woman. His witness is a call and encouragement for all of us to stand for the truth and beauty of marriage and family and the intrinsic dignity of every person.”

One recent example of the importance of the Pope's teaching on marriage comes from the Knights of Columbus' 2009 convention. The Knights cited Pope Benedict twice in their August 5 resolution to support bishops’ conferences in protecting and promoting the true nature of marriage.

Archbishop Kurtz commented on this resolution, saying “We are deeply grateful for the generous support of the Knights in standing for the sanctity of all human life and of marriage and the family. This resolution is an affirmation of the significant work that the Knights have undertaken in this country and abroad.”

Copies of “Family” cost $6.95 each and may be obtained from USCCB Publishing at the website

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Catholic bishops appeal for life of Florida inmate as deadline nears

Tallahassee, Fla., Aug 17, 2009 (CNA) - A judge has denied a request to delay the execution of a Florida death row inmate convicted of rape and murder. The convict’s attorney claims his accomplice confessed to the murder instead, while the state’s Catholic bishops have appealed to the governor for a stay of execution.

John Richard Marek was convicted in the 1983 killing of Adela Marie Simmons. Despite the concerns of a friend, she accepted a ride from Marek and his co-defendant Raymond Wigley after her car had broken down. Her body was found raped and strangled near a lifeguard stand on a beach the next afternoon.

Wigley was sentenced to life in prison and was killed there in 2000. Marek was sentenced to death in 1984 at the age of 22.

Marek’s attorney Martin J. McClain asked Circuit Judge Jeffrey Levenson to hear the testimony of a prison inmate who claims Wigley once confessed to the killing. Six other inmates had testified last week that Wigley had confessed to the murder.  The Palm Beach Post reports that Judge Levenson dismissed their claims and was upheld by the Florida Supreme Court.

Jean Trach, a friend of Simmons who had tried to persuade her not to leave with the men, said she has had persistent nightmares that Marek would leave prison and get her.

Sometimes she has wondered whether Marek should be executed, but she now wants the case to be over.

"He keeps getting chance after chance," she told the Palm Beach Post. "My friend didn't get any chances."

The Bishops of Florida on Monday released a copy of their letter to Republican Florida Gov. Charlie Crist asking him to stay the execution and commute the sentence to life in prison.

Marek’s execution is scheduled for Wednesday August 19.

“Even those who have done great harm are human beings with dignity, created in the image and likeness of God. Life in prison without possibility of parole satisfies the need for punishment and allows the inmate the opportunity to reflect on their offenses and feel sorrow for the pain they have caused others,” the bishops wrote.

Their letter said that executions do not make society safer and do not act as a deterrent but rather add to daily violence and numb people “to the truth that every human being has worth.”

“We express our genuine sympathy for the victim, Adella Marie Simmons, and her loved ones,” the bishops said. “The media attention surrounding executions brings back the pain experienced by victims through the recounting of the crime details. The death of the convicted does not heal the wounds of those grieving the loss of a family member or friend.”

Noting that many U.S. states are reconsidering the death penalty as a punishment, they implored Gov. Crist to commute Marek’s sentence and to declare a moratorium on executions in Florida.

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