Washington D.C., Oct 16, 2009 (CNA) - As part of the bishops’ efforts to promote Catholics’ “renewed commitment” to strengthening marriage, a pastoral letter on marriage will be a major topic of the U.S. bishops’ fall general assembly in Baltimore.
During its assembly, which lasts from November 16-19, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will vote on the approval of “Love and Life in the Divine Plan.” A USCCB press release says the letter is an important component of the bishops’ National Pastoral Initiative for Marriage.
“Our pastoral letter is an invitation to discover, or perhaps rediscover, the blessing given when God first established marriage as a natural institution and when Christ restored and elevated it as a sacramental sign of salvation,” the bishops explained.
Essential points of Catholic teaching on marriage are presented, including the foundations for understanding its nature and purposes and for living it faithfully. The letter also discusses how to preserve and defend it as a necessary and unique social institution.
The letter is reportedly written with a broad audience in mind, aiming to appeal to young unmarried adults, married couples, those running pastoral ministries and those who shape opinion and public policy about marriage.
The bishops urge a “renewed commitment” by the entire Catholic community to help those called to marriage so that they may live their vocation “faithfully, fruitfully, and joyfully.” The prelates pledge to be a “marriage-building Church” that draws strength from God’s grace while “creatively using the gifts and resources entrusted to us.”
The letter is offered both to the Catholic faithful and also to all men and women in hopes of inspiring them to embrace Catholic teaching.
“Today, more than ever, people are asking whether and how it is possible to make and keep a lifetime commitment in a marriage,” explained Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, chairman of the bishops’ Subcommittee on Marriage and Family and a key developer of the pastoral letter.
“The Catholic Church has a vision for marriage that can sustain spouses in good times and in bad times – one that can lead them to happiness and holiness in their relationship. This message is based on both reason and faith; it is God’s plan for the good of the spouses, their children and family, and society as a whole.”
The letter on marriage is part of the bishops' goal of strengthening of marriage, which is one of their five national priorities.
Dr. Richard McCord, Executive Director of the USCCB Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, said that the letter will launch several new projects for local pastoral ministries.
He reported that the USCCB also plans to continue developing its successful projects, such as its public service media campaign on the benefits of marriage and its website For Your Marriage which provides resources for engaged and married couples.
The For Your Marriage website is located at http://www.foryourmarriage.org.
Los Angeles, Calif., Oct 16, 2009 (CNA) - Delivering an acceptance speech for a GLSEN award, a wealthy homosexual activist has attacked Catholic leaders, saying they are among his movement’s “greatest adversaries.” He called on his allies to combat “head-on” religious organizations opposed to homosexual causes and to take “active measures” against them.
At its Oct. 9 Respect Awards event in Los Angeles, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) honored David Bohnett, the cable network HBO and screenwriter Shonda Rhimes with its Lifetime Achievement Award. They were awarded for what GLSEN called “their commitment to all America's students, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.”
Bohnett was the founder of the 1990s internet venture Geocities, which was purchased by Yahoo in 1999 near the peak of the technology stock bubble. He now heads the David Bohnett Foundation, an organization which says it is “committed to improving society through social activism.”
The foundation reports that it has given out more than $34 million in grants, with $10.8 million going to non-profits that “benefit gays and lesbians.”
According to a copy of Bohnett’s acceptance speech on the foundation website, the honoree thanked Mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa for his introduction and praised a recent New York Times Magazine article about young people “coming out” as homosexuals in middle school.
“This is the welcome, unstoppable, and inevitable result of the positive shift in generational attitudes toward being lesbian or gay, supported by the work that’s been done over the last several decades by GLSEN, GLAAD, and countless other groups and activists,” he said.
Bohnett then used his acceptance speech to attack religious groups opposed to homosexual political concerns.
“We must treat the causes of intolerance and bullying as well as the symptoms of them,” he remarked. “And as we see most often, it is the evangelical and fundamentalist groups that teach homosexuality is a sin, who stand in the way of fairness and equality.
“It’s time to combat head-on the religious organizations that are funding the opposition to marriage equality and safe school legislation.”
The GLSEN honoree said he favored “the pursuit of spirituality” and “the wisdom and comfort and experience that can be gained through the study and belief in a higher power.”
He also said it was important to support religious leaders and institutions that embrace “full equality” for homosexuals and their families.
“Let us make it known, however, that we will challenge those religious leaders and institutions that shamefully and cowardly use the imprimatur of their church and the name of god [sic] and Jesus to promote hatred and bigotry toward lesbians and gay men,” Bohnett declared. “Among our greatest adversaries who actively work against us are the leaders of the Catholic, Mormon, and evangelical churches who seek to deny equal protection for us and for our children.”
“The bible [sic] is all too often used as a weapon against us, quoted and mis-quoted by those who seek to deny us freedom and equality,” he continued, arguing that children taught that the Bible condemns homosexuality may become “school bullies” and later become the adults who vote “to deny marriage equality.”
“It’s time we raise our children to be independent thinkers and deeply suspicious of bible beating organized religion. We’d be much better off if parents were honest with their children about the hypocrisy of some churches with regard to homosexuality.”
Bohnett then outlined tactics to counter “faith based discrimination,” saying it is an obligation to take “active measures” to create a world “free of bigotry and intolerance.” He advised an “aggressive response” to critics that “confronts lies with facts” and also a “pre-emptive campaign” that anticipates the arguments of homosexual activists’ opponents and undermines their credibility.
He said activists should speak with friends, family and co-workers about “religious intolerance as one of the main impediments to progress in the march toward full equality for lesbians and gay men and their families.”
He added that children should also be taught to “respect differences in sexual orientation.”
Bohnett declared that “many groups and individuals” are supportive of GLSEN’s “quest for safe schools and full civil equality.”
“On the other hand, there are other groups and individuals who actively work against our efforts, and that our work in education and outreach further emboldens their hatred and zeal to deny us our equal rights. Let us say to these folks; ‘we condemn their intolerance’ and we will expose their hypocrisy, choke off their financial support, and shine the bright light of shame and humiliation on their cowardly prejudices.”
Bohnett’s speech is evidence of a growing trend in which churches and religious groups are targets of vocal criticism.
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as Mormons, were singled out for criticism for their support of California’s Proposition 8, which restored the definition of marriage in California.
Harry Knox, a leader with the homosexual activist group Human Rights Campaign and an appointee to President Barack Obama’s advisory council on faith-based partnerships, has called Pope Benedict XVI and Catholic bishops “discredited leaders” and has attacked the Knights of Columbus as an “army of oppression” for their work to preserve the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
According to the GLSEN website, the group claims a national network of 10,000 “students and allies working to create safer schools.” It reports that more than 3,000 student clubs commonly known as “gay-straight alliances” have registered with the organization.
President Barack Obama appointed GLSEN founder Kevin Jennings as director of the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools, the “Safe School Czar.”
Jennings, a former teacher, has come under fire for not referring to the police a male student who came to him for advice after being involved in a sexual incident with a man he met in a bathroom. Critics also question his qualifications for the office because of his past drug use and his praise for Harry Hay, a homosexual activist connected with the pedophile group NAMBLA.
Irondale, Ala., Oct 16, 2009 (CNA) - A French priest has brought a relic of St. Mary Magdalene on its first visit to the United States to share the story of the relic and the saint who is recorded as the first witness of the Resurrection.
Fr. Thomas Michelet, a Dominican priest, is touring with the permission of Bishop Dominique Rey of Frejus-Toulon, the relic’s home, EWTN reports.
A letter of authentication from Bishop Rey reports that the relics were hidden at the time of the Saracen invasions and rediscovered in 1279, from which date they have been venerated without interruption.
“They are presently kept by the Dominican priests in the cave of St. Baume, a part of my diocese. A new reliquary has been constructed to allow one of the relics, a piece of the tibia, to travel to different countries for veneration by the entire Church.”
Fr. Michelet will appear on a special EWTN Live with Fr. Mitch Pacwa on Tuesday, Oct. 27 at 10 p.m. Eastern Time.
“EWTN is honored that the relic will be coming to the Network and that viewers will be able to not only see one of the relics, but to listen to Fr. Michelet discuss its storied history,” commented EWTN Executive Vice President Doug Keck.
The relic's itinerary can be found here: http://www.jp2trainingcenter.com/mm%27sitinerary
Vatican City, Oct 16, 2009 (CNA) - Hindus around the world are celebrating the festival of lights known as Deepavali and for the occasion, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran has written a letter to them calling upon everyone, including political leaders, to work to ensure that human life and religious freedom are protected, thus fostering full human development.
The message sent to Hindus was signed by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, and the council's secretary, Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata.
The letter, published today, is entitled: "Christians and Hindus: Committed to Integral Human Development."
During Deepavali, which is being celebrated this year in October, Hindus light a lamp to thank their gods for their prosperity and the blessing of peace.
Drawing on this theme, Cardinal Tauran said in his message that “in the process of integral development, protection of human life and respect for the dignity and fundamental rights of the person, are a responsibility of everyone, both individually and collectively."
"Respect for others therefore implies the recognition of their freedom: freedom of conscience, thought and religion."
The two Catholic prelates also reminded the Hindu world that seeking integral human development requires “the political will to work towards ensuring greater protection of human rights and peaceful co-existence.
“Development, freedom and peace are inextricably linked together, and they complete one another,” they said.
Vatican City, Oct 16, 2009 (CNA) - During the presentation of the book, “Harvesting the Fruits. Fundamental Aspects of the Christian Faith in Ecumenical Dialogue. Consensus, Convergences and Differences,” the president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, Cardinal Walter Kasper, announced that Pope Benedict XVI will soon visit the Lutheran Church of Rome.
During the ceremony, Cardinal Kasper explained that “the Pope has the intention of visiting the Lutheran Church of Rome,” although a date has not yet been set.
Regarding the book, the cardinal said it was the result of “two years of intense efforts I undertook with officials of my pontifical council, in collaboration with our consultors and ecumenical partners.”
He further explained that the work analyzes “the main Protestant communities that were the first to establish ties with the Church following the Second Vatican Council, as well as examining the current situation, "with an eye both to the past and to the future.”
Cardinal Kasper also announced that a symposium, due to be held in February 2010, will use the book as its starting point to discuss the future of Western ecumenism.
Rome, Italy, Oct 16, 2009 (CNA) - Catholics, Muslims, Protestants, Buddhists and Hindus have joined together to protest the liberalizing of Indonesia’s abortion laws. Although the bill has been approved by the country's Parliament, it still needs to be signed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
At a press conference at the headquarters of the Indonesian Ulemas Council in Jakarta, religious leaders and diverse non-governmental organizations condemned the “moral defect” of the norm that has legalized abortion in certain instances. Leaders underscored that “all religious creeds respect human life from the moment of conception.”
“No reason can justify abortion, the killing of a human life,” they said. The new law would allow abortion on demand up to the sixth week and when the life of the mother is in danger.
Father Sigid Pramudji Pr, the secretary general of the Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia, underscored: “We reject any proposal for induced abortion.” Ma’ruf Amin, director of the Indonesian Ulemas Council, said his organization would be filing a constitutional challenge against the new law.
Originally the battle against the new law began with Catholics and Muslims, who were later joined by Protestants, Buddhists, Hindus and members of pro-women organizations.
Madrid, Spain, Oct 16, 2009 (CNA) - This week, Professor Jose Maria Barrio of the Department of Educational Sciences at the Complutense University in Madrid warned that the main problem with the Spanish educational system is that it is based off of sociological categories such as gender ideology and stanch pseudo-progressivism.
During the presentation of a study on education by the organization, Professionals for Ethics, Barrio noted that those who seek to define education in Spain often impose certain pedagogical models on other peoples’ children.
The coordinator of the study, Mariano Bailly-Bailliere Torres-Pardo, called for the course “Education for the Citizenry” to be taken out of schools, saying it “constitutes an obstacle to reaching a lasting agreement on education,” as the curriculum is extremely ideological.
“The purpose of education is not to defend ourselves from youth, but to allow its development,” he said, emphasizing that the State should foster an atmosphere that facilitates the task of education and that parents must not neglect their rights and obligations towards their children.
The Professionals for Ethics study reaffirms the right of parents as the primary educators of their children, and it says that the State should foster national unity in schools through the study of the history and common culture of Spaniards. It also argues that the State must ensure “ideological neutrality” in all school curriculum.
Madrid, Spain, Oct 16, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop Jesus Garcia Burillo of Avila, Spain announced this week that he will be sending an invitation to Pope Benedict XVI to visit the diocese in 2015 to mark the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Teresa. The bishop added that he will also ask the Holy See to “declare a Jubilee Year” to celebrate the occasion.
Although he acknowledged that it may be difficult for the Pope to grant his request, Bishop Burillo said he would nonetheless extend a formal invitation to the Holy Father requesting “the inestimable grace of his presence among us.”
The bishop expressed his “deepest desire that His Holiness the Pope visit Avila for this centenary, as did his predecessor John Paul II in 1982 on the occasion of the closing of the 400th anniversary of the death of St. Teresa.”
Regarding the request for a Jubilee Year, Bishop Burillo said it would be a time “in which the Church would grant singular spiritual graces to the faithful to mark the anniversary of the birth of this Doctor of the Church.”
St. Teresa was proclaimed the first female Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI on September 27, 1970.
The bishop also invited the faithful of his diocese to enthusiastically join with the Carmelite Order, founded by the saint in 1562, in preparing for the celebrations.
Vatican City, Oct 16, 2009 (CNA) - As the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) celebrated its anniversary today, Pope Benedict XVI sent a message to the group's director, Jaques Diouf. The Holy Father asserted in his message that truly helping man requires measures aimed at both his spiritual and material dimensions. Technology alone will not suffice, he said.
As it does on each of its anniversaries, the FAO observed World Food Day, which commemorates its founding on October 16, 1945. The theme of this year's day is: "Achieving food security in times of crisis."
Pope Benedict began his message to Diouf by reflecting on the current global economic crisis.
"The current crisis, which affects all sectors of the economy without distinction, strikes particularly seriously at the agricultural world where the situation has become dramatic," he said. "The crisis calls on governments and on the various components of the international community to make decisive and effective choices."
Defeating hunger, the Pope wrote, means ensuring people have "real access to adequate and healthy nourishment."
"This is, in fact, a concrete expression of the right to life which, though solemnly proclaimed, all too often fails to be fully implemented," he stressed.
Thinking about the theme for this year's World Food Day, Benedict XVI stated that "agriculture must be able to command a sufficient level of investment and resources." The theme also "helps us to understand that the goods of creation are by their nature limited, and hence they require responsible management capable of favoring food security, also with a view to that of future generations."
"Achieving this objective," the Pope noted, "calls for a modification in lifestyles and ways of thinking."
What is needed is "a form of cooperation that protects the cultivation methods of each area and avoids the thoughtless exploitation of natural resources."
Pope Benedict also pointed to the spiritual realm, writing that efforts to preserve natural resources should also safeguard "the values specific to the rural world and the fundamental rights of people who work the land."
The Pontiff also offered guidance for finding alleviating world hunger.
"Experience shows that technical solutions, advanced though they may be, are ineffective if they do not focus on the person, who remains the principle protagonist and who, in his spiritual and material dimension, is the origin and aim of all activity," he said.
Pope Benedict closed his message by recalling that access to food "is a fundamental right of individuals and peoples, and will become a reality, and hence a form of security, if adequate development is guaranteed in all the various regions.
Phoenix, Ariz., Oct 16, 2009 (CNA) - God will “demand an accounting” from Catholics and from societies who fail to welcome the poor, the weak and the unwanted unborn, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput told a Catholic doctors’ group in Phoenix on Friday. Each of these people is “an icon of God’s face and a vessel of his love,” he said.
The Archbishop of Denver urged the Phoenix Catholic Physicians’ Guild not to be among those who refuse to defend the sanctity of life or those who abuse the freedoms given to them by God and their forerunners.
He illustrated his concerns with a lengthy discussion about American society’s treatment of the physically disabled, especially those with Down syndrome.
“Currently about 5,000 children with Down syndrome are born in the United States each year,” the archbishop said. “They join a national Down syndrome population of roughly 400,000 persons. But that population may soon dwindle.”
He lamented the use of prenatal testing to encourage women to abort children whose tests show an increased likelihood of genetic disorders. He quoted a British medical school professor who noted the risk of false positives in such tests and blamed them for “causing the death of normal babies.”
“Those words sound almost humane – until we realize that, at least for the med school professor, killing ‘abnormal’ babies like those with Down syndrome is perfectly acceptable,” Archbishop Chaput commented.
He also described how his friends who are parents of the seriously disabled have responded to their children.
“None of my friends who has a daughter or son with a serious disability is melodramatic, or self-conscious, or even especially pious about it,” he added, explaining that they speak about their child with an “unsentimental realism” that flows out of real love.
This love is “the kind that courses its way through fear and suffering to a decision, finally, to surround the child with their heart and trust in the goodness of God. And that decision to trust, of course, demands not just real love, but also real courage.”
The archbishop suggested that such love, or its lack, proves the true nature of individuals and the true state of society.
“Every child with Down syndrome, every adult with special needs; in fact, every unwanted unborn child, every person who is poor, weak, abandoned or homeless – each one of these persons is an icon of God’s face and a vessel of his love. How we treat these persons – whether we revere them and welcome them, or throw them away in distaste – shows what we really believe about human dignity, both as individuals and as a nation.”
Because God will “demand an accounting,” Archbishop Chaput warned, Catholic public officials cannot support laws that attack human dignity without lying to themselves, misleading others, and “abusing the faith” of Catholics. Doctors who are Catholic cannot support procedures or policies that attack the sanctity of the unborn or the elderly or that undermine the dignity of human sexuality and the family.
Further, Catholic citizens “cannot claim to love their Church, and then ignore her counsel on vital public issues that shape our nation’s life,” the Archbishop of Denver said.
Archbishop Chaput also criticized the “compulsively” misleading nature of marketing and entertainment, which misrepresents the sustainability of youth, the indignity of old age, the avoidance of suffering, the denial of death, the impermanence of human life, the dysfunctions of family, and the place of virtue and religious faith.
“It’s a culture of fantasy, selfishness and illness that we’ve brought upon ourselves. And we’ve done it by misusing the freedom that other -- and greater -- generations than our own worked for, bled for and bequeathed to our safe-keeping.
“What have we done with that freedom? In whose service do we use it now?” he asked.
The archbishop noted the dependence of the United States upon a moral people shaped by their religious, particularly Christian faith.
“Without that living faith, animating its people and informing its public life, America becomes something alien and hostile to the very ideals it was founded on,” he warned.
He praised the Phoenix Catholic Physicians’ Guild members for serving the “sacred vocation” of the medical profession.
“That vocation of healing comes from Jesus Christ himself. I don’t mean just curing people’s aches and pains, although physical healing is so very important. I mean the kind of healing that comes when a suffering person is understood and loved, and knows that she’s understood and loved.”
“The task you need to take home with you tonight is this. Be the best doctors, nurses and medical professionals you can be. Your skill gives glory to God. But be the best Catholics you can be first. Pour your love for Jesus Christ into the healing you do for every person you serve.”
He encouraged his audience to love the Church and defend her teachings while trusting in God, believing the Gospel, and refusing to be afraid.
“Changing the course of American culture seems like such a huge task; so far beyond the reach of this little gathering tonight. But St. Paul felt exactly the same way.
“Redeeming and converting a civilization has already been done once. It can be done again. But we need to understand that God is calling you and me to do it. He chose us. He calls us. He’s waiting, and now we need to answer him,” Archbishop Chaput emphasized, bringing his address to a close.
To read Archbishop's full address to the Catholic Phsycians Guild of Phoenix, visit, http://www.archden.org/index.cfm/ID/2791.