Turin, Italy, Aug 25, 2009 (CNA) - A woman who suffered from a severe nerve disease now no longer uses her wheelchair and has even gone for a run, after she visited to Lourdes earlier in August. The woman credits the baths at Lourdes for the ‘gift’ of her improved health.
Antonia Raco, 50, had been in a wheelchair for four years because of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. She made a trip to the shrine at Lourdes on August 5.
''Ever since I came back I have been walking, doing everything normally, and I've even run,'' Raco told ANSA.
Raco, who is from a village near the southern Italian city of Potenza, said she would rather talk about the change as “a gift, an act of mercy, rather than a miracle.”
She reported to ANSA that when she was in the healing bath at Lourdes, “I felt a voice encouraging me and a strong pain in my legs.”
On Tuesday, Raco will be examined by a specialist at the prestigious Molinette Hospital in Turin. The hospital’s specialist, Adriano Chiro, has been treating her since 2006, according to Italian news reports.
Lourdes, France has been the site of pilgrimage and devotion since the 1858 Marian visions of peasant girl St. Bernadette Soubirous at a grotto.
Following the guidance of the Virgin Mary, Bernadette scraped away soil besides the grotto until a spring of water began trickling out.
The spring produces 27,000 gallons of water every day. Many miracles have been attributed to the shrine’s waters and Our Lady of Lourdes.
Bridgeport, Conn., Aug 25, 2009 (CNA) - Fr. Michael Jude Fay, a Connecticut priest who was found guilty of embezzling $1 million from his parish, died of prostate cancer on Saturday at the age of 58.
His death was reported in a statement sent to CNA by the Diocese of Bridgeport.
The diocese also encouraged the faithful to “pray for the repose of Father Fay's soul” and offered its “prayers and condolences to his mother and family.”
Fr. Fay had been senior pastor at St. John’s Catholic Church in Stamford, Connecticut from 1991 to 2006. After a 2007 trial, he pleaded guilty to interstate transportation of money obtained by fraud.
According to the Stamford Advocate, he used the money to buy expensive designer clothing, Cartier jewelry, limousine rides and Ethan Allen furniture.
The priest died after having served almost one year of his three-year sentence.
His crimes gained additional attention when it was revealed that his assistant pastor, then-Fr. Michael Madden, had joined with parish bookkeeper Bethany D’Erario to hire a private investigator to look into the pastor.
Madden, who has since left the priesthood, has claimed that Bishop of Bridgeport William Lori retaliated against him for his actions.
D’Erario has also filed a lawsuit charging that the diocese forced her to resign and cut her benefits. The diocese denies the charges.
Reacting to the death of Fr. Fay, current senior pastor of St. John’s Church Msgr. Frank McGrath said that most people are looking forward to “moving on.”
“It was a great shock spiritually and people were inundated with so much media information," he told the Stamford Advocate.
Other parishioners are grieving for Fr. Fay despite his actions.
In the aftermath of the scandal, Msgr. McGrath said, the parish has strengthened.
“They pulled together and thought about what's fundamental and basic," he explained.
Ken Byrne, a member of the parish council, said the investigation prompted a “reawakening” and turned complacency into activity.
Sioux Falls, S.D., Aug 25, 2009 (CNA) - A federal court has upheld portions of South Dakota’s informed consent law which require doctors to tell women considering an abortion that they are terminating a human life. However, the court ruled doctors did not have to inform women they are terminating a legally protected relationship with an unborn human being.
According to the legal definition of the term, the preborn are not “persons,” the judge ruled.
The case concerned the 2005 South Dakota law House Bill 1166, which instated additional informed consent requirements for an abortion procedure.
Planned Parenthood, the operator of the state’s only abortion clinic, challenged the law and secured a court injunction against it.
In June 2008 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled 7-4 to lift the injunction and returned the case to district court.
In an August 20 decision, Judge Karen Schreier of the U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota, Southern Division, upheld the law’s provision that the doctor must inform a woman that the abortion will “terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.”
However, according to the Alliance Defense Fund, she overturned the law’s provision requiring the woman to be informed of her existing relationship with the unborn child and that an “increased risk of suicide ideation and suicide” is a “known medical risk” of abortion.
Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota celebrated the ruling as a victory, saying that Judge Schreier had "recognized these provisions of the statue for what it is, pure ideology, not medical information... ."
“[I]n the legal context, a pregnant mother cannot have a ‘relationship’ with a ‘human being,’ as that word is defined in the statute,” Judge Schreier ruled.
Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) authored and filed a friend-of-the-court brief defending the law on behalf of the Family Research Council.
ADF Senior Legal Counsel Steven H. Aden commented on the court ruling, saying “A woman’s life is worth more than Planned Parenthood’s bottom line, so we’re pleased the abortion industry failed in its attempt to strike down this law.”
“We agree with the decision of the court to allow South Dakota women to be informed of the indisputable fact that her baby is a human being.
“We find it incredible, however, for the court to determine that the law cannot acknowledge that a ‘pregnant woman has an existing relationship with that unborn human being’ because some human beings are somehow not ‘persons.’
“The court ruled that a woman has more of a relationship with the abortionist than her preborn baby. All human beings are persons,” Aden said in a press release.
Defenders of the overruled provisions plan to appeal to the Eight Circuit Court.
Rome, Italy, Aug 25, 2009 (CNA) -
Famed Hollywood actor Mickey Rourke, who was at the Sarajevo Film Festival last week, told a Bosnian newspaper that he thanks God and his Catholic faith for giving him a “second chance” in life to overcome his addictions, which almost led him to commit suicide.
Speaking to the Bosnian daily “Avaz,” Rourke said, “God gave me a second chance in life and I thank Him.”
Rourke achieved fame in the 80s with action films and erotic thrillers. At the beginning of the 90s he left film for boxing and fell into heavy drug and alcohol addiction.
According to the newspaper, during the most difficult moments of his life, his psychiatrist and his priest were his best friends.
“When you fall people push you down even more. The world is full of materialism and envy. When you are famous and you fall, people don’t want you to come back. It is almost impossible to come back. It’s hard enough the first time, but the second time it’s like you don’t even exist …God gave me a second chance, the guy upstairs helped me out,” he said.
Several years ago Rourke began his return to the big screen and this year he won his first Golden Globe Award for the film “The Wrestler.” Rourke was also an Oscar favorite.
Now, he says, he doesn’t think about Hollywood much. “I don’t care about Hollywood and what the people of Hollywood think. I don’t think about how it works because I simply don’t care. I don’t even dream about it.”
In 2005, when he began to land bigger roles in films, he revealed to a magazine that he was meeting often with his pastor in New York and was on the verge of suicide. “If I weren’t Catholic I would have blown my brains out,” he said.
Fort Wayne, Ind., Aug 25, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop John M. D'Arcy, whose diocese encompasses the University of Notre Dame, is not letting the issues raised by the university's honoring of President Obama lie dormant. Instead, the Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend has penned a poignant article for the upcoming edition of America magazine that calls on the renowned university to evaluate the consequences of its failure to respect the authority of the bishops.
In an article that will be the cover story of the Jesuit-run America magazine on August 31, bishop D’Arcy writes that "as summer plays itself out on the beautiful campus by the lake where the young Holy Cross priest, Edward Sorin, C.S.C., pitched his camp 177 years ago and began his great adventure, we must clarify the situation that so sundered the church last spring: What it is all about and what it is not about."
According to the bishop, who had asked Notre Dame's president, Fr. John Jenkins, not to honor Obama, "it is not about President Obama... It is not about Democrats versus Republicans… It is not about whether it is appropriate for the president of the United States to speak at Notre Dame or any great Catholic university on the pressing issues of the day."
The response of the faithful, Bishop D’Arcy writes, "is not about what this journal [America magazine] called ‘sectarian Catholicism.’ Rather, the response of the faithful derives directly from the Gospel."
The real question posed by the situation is whether or not a Catholic university has a responsibility to give a public witness to the faith, D'Arcy states. "If not, what is the meaning of a life of faith? And how can a Catholic institution expect its students to live by faith in the difficult decisions that will confront them in a culture often opposed to the Gospel?" he wonders.
"In its decision to give its highest honor to a president who has repeatedly opposed even the smallest legal protection of the child in the womb, did Notre Dame surrender the responsibility that Pope Benedict believes Catholic universities have to give public witness to the truths revealed by God and taught by the church?" the bishop also asks.
Bishop D’Arcy then takes Notre Dame to task for its multi-year sponsorship of the play "The Vagina Monologues."
"Although he spoke eloquently about the importance of dialogue with the president of the United States, the president of Notre Dame chose not to dialogue with his bishop on these two matters, both pastoral and both with serious ramifications for the care of souls, which is the core responsibility of the local bishop," he says.
"Both decisions," Bishop D’Arcy reveals, "were shared with me after they were made and, in the case of the honorary degree, after President Obama had accepted."
Noting that he has "never interfered in the internal governance of Notre Dame or any other institution of higher learning within the diocese," D'Arcy explains that "the diocesan bishop must ask whether a Catholic institution compromises its obligation to give public witness by placing prestige over truth."
"The failure to dialogue with the bishop brings a second series of questions," he says.
"What is the relationship of the Catholic university to the local bishop? No relationship? Someone who occasionally offers Mass on campus? Someone who sits on the platform at graduation?"
"Or is the bishop the teacher in the diocese, responsible for souls, including the souls of students—in this case, the students at Notre Dame? Does the responsibility of the bishop to teach, to govern and to sanctify end at the gate of the university?"
"In the spirit of Ex Corde Ecclesiae," he says, "I am proposing these questions for the university."
Bishop D’Arcy then points to the strong spiritual life of many of the faculty members and students at the university, and acknowledges that "the theology department has grown in academic excellence over the years, strengthened by the successful recruiting of professors outstanding in scholarship, in their knowledge of the tradition and in their own living of the Catholic faith."
"Yet," he adds, "the questions about the relationship of the university as a whole to the church still stand, and what happened on campus leading up to and during the graduation is significant for the present debate about Catholic higher education."
Regarding the large number of students and faculty opposed to Obama's commencement address and honoring, the bishop says that America magazine "and others in the media, Catholic and secular, reporting from afar, failed to make a distinction between the extremists on the one hand, and students and those who joined in the last 48 hours before graduation. This latter group [ND Response] responded with prayer and substantive disagreement. They cooperated with university authorities."
"In this time of crisis at the university," he notes, "these students and professors, with the instinct of faith, turned to the bishop for guidance, encouragement and prayer."
Although he had originally intended to stay away from the graduation ceremony, Bishop D'Arcy writes that "As graduation drew near, I knew I should be with the students. It was only right that the bishop be with them, for they were on the side of truth, and their demonstration was disciplined, rooted in prayer and substantive."
Bishop D’Arcy also takes aim at the university's board of trustees for saying "nothing" when they met in April for their long-scheduled spring meeting.
"When the meeting was completed, they made no statement and gave no advice. In an age when transparency is urged as a way of life on and off campus, they chose not to enter the conversation going on all around them and shaking the university to its roots," he says.
What the board must do is "take up its responsibility afresh, with appropriate study and prayer… with greater seriousness and in a truly Catholic spirit," the bishop urges.
D'Arcy concludes his article by posing some key questions to Notre Dame "and to other Catholic universities."
Bishop D'Arcy asks:
"Do you consider it a responsibility in your public statements, in your life as a university and in your actions, including your public awards, to give witness to the Catholic faith in all its fullness?
"What is your relationship to the church and, specifically, to the local bishop and his pastoral authority as defined by the Second Vatican Council?
"Finally, a more fundamental question: Where will the great Catholic universities search for a guiding light in the years ahead? Will it be the Land O’Lakes Statement or Ex Corde Ecclesiae?"
The Land O’Lakes Statement was signed in July 1967 by a group of Catholic educators led by then University of Notre Dame president Fr. Theodore Hesburgh. The famous Catholic historian Philip Gleason characterized the statement as a "declaration of independence from the hierarchy," adding that it divorced the Catholic university from the life of faith and set in motion the decline in Catholic identity of several major institutions of higher education.
Bishop D’Arcy describes the statement as coming "from a frantic time, with finances as the driving force. Its understanding of freedom is defensive, absolutist and narrow. It never mentions Christ and barely mentions the truth."
"The second text, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, speaks constantly of truth and the pursuit of truth. It speaks of freedom in the broader, Catholic philosophical and theological tradition, as linked to the common good, to the rights of others and always subject to truth."
"On these three questions, I respectfully submit, rests the future of Catholic higher education in this country and so much else," Bishop D’Arcy finishes.
Armagh, Ireland, Aug 25, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, spoke out last Sunday against recognizing civil unions for homosexuals during a homily at the Cathedral of St. John in Limerick. He said that natural law cannot be violated by legislative norms, and that natural law forms the basis for integral human development.
The cardinal recalled that nature must be used wisely, as Pope Benedict XVI explains in his encyclical “Caritas in Veritate.”
“The book of nature is one and indivisible. It takes in not only the environment but also life, sexuality, marriage, the family, social relations—in a word—integral human development. Our duties towards the environment are linked to our duties towards the human person, considered in himself and in relation to others. It would be wrong to uphold one set of duties while trampling on the other,” he said, quoting the Pope’s encyclical.
For this reason, Cardinal Brady urged the faithful to oppose a measure being debated in the Irish Parliament that would grant legal recognition to same-sex unions.
Cardinal Brady also argued that those who refuse to officiate at a same-sex "marriage" ceremony could be punished and described this as "an alarming attack on the fundamental principle of freedom of religion and conscience."
He added that the bill has the potential to allow religious organizations to be sued for "upholding their belief that marriage is an institution exclusively for men and women."
Rome, Italy, Aug 25, 2009 (CNA) - During celebrations marking the “Day for Peace and Harmony” in various states in India, Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar insisted, “Acts such as anti-Christian violence must never happen again.”
The archbishop’s comments came on the first anniversary of the attacks carried out against Christians by Hindu extremists in the state of Orissa, leaving 70 people dead and hundreds of Christian homes destroyed. According to L’Osservatore Romano, the archbishop said, “The world must know what peace and harmony mean, and we must combat the tendencies that cause such extreme crimes. Violence and the shedding of blood only lead to the destruction of humanity. We must work for love, which means working for peace.”
“Now that a year has passed,” the archbishop said later, “many people still live in refugee camps and in the cities of neighboring states. Many others have been able to return home, but our people still live under threats.”
The archbishop urged Hindu fundamentalists not to obstruct the rebuilding of churches destroyed during their attacks, and warned that as long as those responsible for such violence are not apprehended by police, “the attacks against the defenseless and innocent people will continue.”
“The extremists will not back down and will continue in their efforts to erase all signs of Christianity in Orissa. But the mission continues and the violence will not stop us. The cross of Christ is our strength and our hope,” he maintained.
Caracas, Venezuela, Aug 25, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Caracas, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, has called on Venezuelans to do more than just complain about the new education law canceling all religion classes in state-run schools. Instead, he urged his countrymen to to work against the new laws, pointing to the fact that they can be submitted to a constitutional review through a national referendum.
During a television interview, the cardinal referred to the recent laws on education and said Venezuelans should use every means possible to defend “a series of rights that cannot be taken away.”
The recent law on education was passed by the National Assembly without input from opposition leaders and others who called for more debate and consensus on the plan.
Cardinal Urosa slammed the government for fostering confrontation instead of unity among Venezuelans. He also rejected comments by National Assembly Vice President Saul Ortega, who called the cardinal a liar. “It’s one thing to have differing views from those of government representatives, it’s quite another to tell lies,” he stressed.
The cardinal said religious education in schools is not a privilege of the Church—as the government claims—but rather a service that has been rendered to the Venezuelan people “for centuries” and a right that cannot be abrogated with the stroke of a pen.
Cardinal Urosa noted there was widespread opposition to the new laws on education, especially from teachers and from some media outlets. The country’s bishops oppose the measure because it promotes a secularist education, “taking away the right of children to receive religious education in accord with the parents’ preferences.”
The Church will do everything possible to continue providing religious education, in accord with the law, he said, adding that after school ends it is almost impossible to bring “that uplifting spiritual and moral [message] to Venezuelan kids.”
Managua, Nicaragua, Aug 25, 2009 (CNA) - At the “Emergency Contraceptives” symposium organized by the Nicaraguan Association for Life, various pro-life experts explained how the morning-after pill is indeed an abortifacient.
Dr. Rafael Cabrera, president of the Association for Life, said science has shown that one of the actions or effects of the pill is to block implantation of the embryo in the womb, which translates into an “abortifacient action,” since human life begins at conception.
“We can say that an abortion does not occur just because one takes the pill, since sometimes it is taken when ovulation has already passed, but if it is taken one day before or six days after ovulation, there is an 80% chance it will cause an abortion,” Dr. Cabrera said.
Regarding the legal aspects, attorney Adolfo Miranda Saenz explained that the possibility of the morning-after pill killing a newly conceived child makes this a kind of abortion, which is a crime in Nicaragua.
“Even assuming that killing a fertilized ovum not yet implanted in the uterus were not an abortion—even though for us it is—you are at least committing an injury causing offense against the unborn and that is illegal,” he said.
Mexico City, Mexico, Aug 25, 2009 (CNA) - Experts on religious freedom in Mexico, the U.S. and Canada will be meeting for a symposium in Mexico City next month to help bolster their international efforts.
The symposium “Voices: The Lay State and Religious Liberty” will meet at Mexico City’s El Hotel Presidente InterContinental from September 25 to 26. There, religious liberty experts will analyze the right to religious liberty as defined in international human rights law and discuss how the right is exercised in Mexico and other countries of the Americas.
According to a press release from organizers, the symposium aims to inspire “nascent voices of religious liberty,” particularly in Mexico, and to encourage collaboration between academics and cultural and opinion leaders.
Patrick Kelly, Vice President for Public Policy and spokesman for the Knights of Columbus, said the symposium will create a new network of experts on religious liberty in the Americas.
“We will become, in effect, the Facebook of religious liberty for the Americas,” he claimed.
Kevin “Seamus” Hasson, founder and chairman of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said that religious freedom is the “cornerstone of any healthy democracy.”
Speakers at the symposium include Supreme Knight Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus, and Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard professor who is a former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See.
The symposium is organized by the Becket Fund under the auspices of the Archdiocese of Mexico. It is sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and is free and open to the general public.
The symposium’s web site is at http://www.voices-symposium.org