Kansas City, Mo., Nov 21, 2009 (CNA) - A community of Benedictine sisters living in the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph have released a Christmas CD titled “Christmas at Ephesus.” Proceeds from their new CD, comprised of traditional carols as well as the sisters' compositions, will go toward the building of a new monastery.
The Benedictines of Mary Queen of Apostles are still new to the Kansas City Catholic community, invited by Bishop Robert W. Finn in 2006. A traditional monastic community of women who desire to emulate the Blessed Virgin Mary by living in quiet seclusion at the Priory of Our Lady of Ephesus, they are a joyful group who sing while at work, at prayer or at play.
Last year the sisters recorded their first CD, “Echoes of Ephesus,” described by the prioress, Mother Therese McNamara, as a window into the life of the community. “People didn’t know about us,” she said. “But since that CD, they’ve been bringing us their prayer requests, for priests and for vocations, and priests have been coming to us for retreats.”
The sisters recently broke ground for a new monastery near Gower, Missouri. The proceeds from the Christmas CD will go toward that building plan.
The sisters have been encouraged by the success of the CD released last year. Nearly 60,000 copies were sold or given out. Their music and charism caught the attention of Ian Byrne, a Kansas City businessman and lead singer for the local Irish band The Elders. Through Byrne, the sisters connected with Steve Phillips, a recording engineer and musician with the band. With his assistance, the CD was recorded at Conception Abbey, where the acoustics are just right. Production costs were reduced by packaging the discs in cardboard cases.
Mother Therese is pleased with the results. “A lot of the arrangements are our own,” she said. “We recorded a fresh translation of Silent Night from the original German. One of the sisters did the translation and another set it to music. The church’s organ was broken so composer Franz Gruber played the accompaniment for Stille Nacht on his guitar.”
Some of the songs are familiar carols; others are original compositions by the sisters. Almost every day, one of the sisters is inspired to write a song, Mother Therese said. “We’re not professionals,” she said. “We just love to sing.”
The CDs, Christmas at Ephesus and Echoes of Ephesus, can be purchased for $20 online at the community’s website: http://www.benedictinesofmary.org/page-musicalrecordings.html
Printed with permission from the Catholic Key.
Vatican City, Nov 21, 2009 (CNA) -
This morning Pope Benedict XVI received 400 participants in an international conference for the hearing impaired, saying to them, “you are not only recipients of the announcement of the Gospel but, by virtue of your Baptism, also its announcers.”
The conference titled, “Effata! Deaf People in the Life of the Church” is being promoted by the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care and is headed by Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski.
The Pope explained that the name “effata” was chosen as a theme for the conference was that “it is a paradigm of how the Lord works for people with a hearing impairment.” The Holy Father then referred to the passage from the Gospel of Mark where “Jesus takes a deaf man aside and, having performed certain symbolic gestures, raises His eyes to heaven and says: 'effata', that is, be opened.' In that moment...the man recovered his hearing, his tongue was loosened and he spoke plainly.”
The Pope said that Christ's actions in curing the man are full of love and compassion. “He expressed real concern, took him aside from the confusion of the crowds, and made him feel His closeness and understanding through certain highly significant gestures.”
Jesus not only heals physical deafness, said the Pontiff, but also the “deafness of the spirit which raises ever-higher barriers to the voice of God and of our fellow man, especially the cry for help of the poor and suffering, and which encloses man in a profound and destructive selfishness.”
The Holy Father then lamented that “hearing impaired people” are not always met “with ready acceptance, committed solidarity and affectionate communion.” “The many associations which have come into being to defend and promote their rights are evidence of the existence of an underlying culture marked by prejudice and discrimination,” he continued.
Despite this fact, numerous initiatives and institutions, “both ecclesial and civil,” have worked to promote justice and improve the lives and conditions of the hearing impaired around the globe.
“Yet we must not forget the serious situation in which deaf people still live in developing countries, both because of a lack of appropriate policies and legislation, and because of difficulty of access to basic healthcare,” warned the Pope. “Deafness, indeed, is often the consequence of easily-curable diseases.”
In response to such situations, Pope Benedict appealed to the “political and civil authorities as well as to international organizations to offer the support necessary to promote, also in those countries, due respect for the dignity and rights of deaf people, favoring ... their full social integration.”
The Holy Father concluded his address by saying, “Dear hearing-impaired brothers and sisters, you are not only recipients of the announcement of the Gospel but, by virtue of your Baptism, also its announcers.”
“Live every day, then, as witnesses of the Lord in the environments in which you live, making Christ and His Gospel known.”
Minneapolis, Minn., Nov 21, 2009 (CNA) - Responding to concerns about the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), Archbishop John Nienstedt and Archbishop Charles J. Chaput have said the CCHD still does “much good,” despite several “disturbing” incidents and “mistakes” in which the campaign funded groups that worked against Catholic teachings.
In his Nov. 19 column Archbishop Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis called attention to the collection for the CCHD on the weekend of Nov. 21-22.
He said the Campaign aims to “break the cycle of poverty” for 40 million people in the U.S. by funding local “self-help, anti-poverty” organizations. Many of these are not under the auspices of the Church, but agree to follow guidelines which prevent them from violating Catholic teachings, the archbishop explained.
He then noted recent controversies in which the CCHD had to stop funding for three projects that violated those guidelines. He said CCHD funding was “immediately cut off” when violations were made known.
As an example, he referred to an immigrant workers’ rights group that began advocating against California’s Proposition 8 and for same-sex “marriage.” Such a position, Archbishop Nienstedt said, “obviously has nothing to do with the rights of immigrants.”
In November the CCHD issued a document “For the Record – The Truth about CCHD Funding” to respond to various charges and criticisms.
In that document, the CCHD said it “fully upholds” Church teaching on the sanctity of life.
The American Life League, which is critical of the CCHD, claimed that the campaign did not address the allegation that grantees are “closely associated with pro-abortion organizations.”
“It is well and good that it affirms the sanctity of human life… but the fact remains that Catholic funds have been used and are still used to support such organizations,” the ALL’s Michael Hichborn wrote.
He said in addition to the CCHD grantees profiled by ALL, CCHD grants should be denied to every organization that has received funding from pro-abortion organizations, has been promoted by Planned Parenthood, or has been involved with “Marxist socialism.”
The CCHD’s response to concerns that all grant money is “fungible,” Hichborn said, was “inadequate and inaccurate.” If one project of an organization is well funded, he said, money in the organization’s general fund is freed up for other projects.
If an unworthy organization is running a good project, Hichborn argued, a Catholic cannot donate to that project because it “lends credibility” to the organization, causes scandal to the laity, and frees up the organization’s general fund for other “evil projects.”
The CCHD reported that the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LACAN), which was accused of promoting same-sex “marriage” and actively supporting contraception and the morning-after pill, was cleared by a review conducted by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and also had the support of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.
Hichborn charged that this was an “absolute indictment” of the archdioceses’ “complicity in supporting immoral organizations.”
He also claimed that the CCHD addressed “the exact same allegations” 12 years ago using similar fact sheets. These “striking similarities,” Hichborn said, show that these problems have persisted for some time.
Archbishop Nienstedt’s letter defended the CCHD. Though reports about some grantees’ actions are “disturbing,” he said, “one has to realize that they are four out of over 250 projects that are funded by CCHD every year.”
“I am aware that some groups have widely advertised such flaws in the CCHD system, hoping to torpedo the whole operation. This, it seems to me, is the classic ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water.’ There are imperfections, yes, but there is also so much good that is being done through this collection.”
He pointed to Bishop of Biloxi, Mississippi Roger Morin, who gave public reassurances about the CCHD grant approval process at the U.S. bishops’ fall assembly in Baltimore.
“In light of those assurances, I have no hesitation in contributing to this collection and I encourage your generous participation as well,” Archbishop Nienstedt continued.
Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput also commented on the CCHD controversy in an interview with Mike Sullivan of the group Catholics United for the Faith. He said that people should be “prudent” and shouldn’t jump to “rash conclusions.” He said that he believed that some CCHD staff has made mistakes, but he said some blogs had been “excessive in their judgment.”
“People shouldn’t believe everything they read or be upset with the kind of intensity that I’ve seen, because I think that intensity leads to blindness.”
He said that people could contribute to the CCHD collection without worrying that they are supporting causes that conflict with Church teaching.
“If people don’t like the decisions of the Campaign staff and their allocations, one of the ways they can show their displeasure is by withholding funds from their diocesan collections,” the archbishop added.
“We bishops serve ourselves and the collection well if we are honest about mistakes, try not to make them again, and move on appropriately.”
Washington D.C., Nov 21, 2009 (CNA) - Although their efforts have been unsuccessful thus far, council members in Washington, D.C are pushing for a compromise with the Archdiocese of Washington to ensure that the Church will not pull its social services contract if the council legalizes same-sex "marriage."
On Dec. 1, council members are scheduled to vote on a bill which would legalize same sex 'marriage' in D.C. and require Catholic Charities and other religious institutions to “recognize and promote” it as Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl has previously stated.
According to the Washington Post, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton has said that it would be “very much desired” that jurisdictions “accommodate” Catholic Charities. Norton, who spoke briefly with Archbishop Wuerl on Thursday, has also expressed a desire to resolve the dispute without Congress having to get involved.
In addition to this, Council members David A. Catina (I-At Large) and Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) sent Archbishop Wuerl a letter on Thursday urging Catholic Charities to adopt a policy like the one currently held by Georgetown University. The policy in effect at Georgetown is said to give benefits to same-sex couples but does not officially recognize that the couples are the same sex.
In their proposal, Catina and Mendelson have also asked Archbishop Wuerl to consider the policies in effect at the Archdiocese of San Francisco. In 1997, the San Francisco Archdiocese enacted a policy that allowed for the employed member of a same-sex union to claim his or her partner as a “legally domiciled member of the employee's household” who would then receive benefits equivalent to that of a spouse.
Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington has said that although Archbishop Wuerl is reviewing the letter, she is not confident that the proposal addresses the Church's concerns.
Previously on Nov. 17, Archbishop Wuerl had asked in an essay for “new language” to be developed “that more fairly balances different interests – those of the city to redefine marriage and those of faith groups so that they can continue to provide services without compromising their deeply held religious teachings and beliefs.”
Gibbs told the Washington Post earlier today that although staff at the archdiocese is glad that city officials are “finally responding” to the need for new language, they are not certain that the most recent proposal mitigates the Church's concerns. Archdiocesan leaders have also wondered how the council can equate domestic partnership, as is the case in San Francisco, with same-sex 'marriage'.
Archbishop Wuerl has previously written that Catholic Charities assists 68,000 people each year by by means of shelter, food, medical and legal care, job training, immigration assistance and other services and that this assistance is provided to whoever needs it, regardless of sexual orientation.
New York City, N.Y., Nov 21, 2009 (CNA) - The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) claims that climate change could become “much more extreme and conceivably catastrophic” as population growth “outpaces the Earth’s capacity to adjust.” However, several experts say the claim is alarmist and lacks clear proof.
“We have now reached a point where humanity is approaching the brink of disaster,” UNFPA executive director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid told a Wednesday news conference.
The UNFPA said it had no proof of the effect that population has on climate change, explaining that the connections are “in most cases complex and indirect.”
Saying there is no doubt that people cause “climate change,” it also added that the developing world is responsible for a smaller share of global greenhouse gas emissions than industrialized nations, the Associated Press reports.
According to the AP, policy analyst Caroline Boin of the London-based International Policy Network, said the UNFPA comments were alarmist and unhelpful.
“It requires a major leap of imagination to believe that free condoms will cool down the climate,” she commented.
Two experts in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) “Bulletin” also have criticized linking fertility to climate change.
"Using the need to reduce climate change as a justification for curbing the fertility of individual women at best provokes controversy and at worst provides a mandate to suppress individual freedoms," wrote WHO's Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum and Manjula Lusti-Narasimhan.
In a Friday e-mail to CNA, Colin Mason, Director of Media Production for the Population Research Institute (PRI), said the claims about population growth affecting the climate were “completely unfounded.”
“I find it ironic that, on the one hand, the UNFPA admits that it has no proof of the effect that population control would have on climate change but yet it still has no doubt that ‘people cause climate change.’ Which is it? Is this science, or baseless conjecture? The evidence points toward the latter.”
According to Mason, in 1987 the UNFPA had predicted disaster if the global population reached five billion, but the population is now approaching seven billion.
“Why are we being asked to support something that even they cannot prove?” Mason said. “We believe that it is nothing more than an attempt to attach the obsolete idea of overpopulation to the currently trendy issue of climate change, which is currently the focus of international obsession.”
He said that human ingenuity and attention to justice, not “a forceful lowering of fertility,” would address humanity’s ills. He said his PRI colleague Steven Mosher has said poverty, rather than people, is the environment’s primary enemy.
“Poverty forces people to degrade their surroundings just to survive. Wealth, on the other hand, brings with it the resources to clean up and protect the environment,” Mason argued. “Economic and population growth is not destroying the Earth, it is making it possible to restore much of it to its pristine state.”
Washington D.C., Nov 21, 2009 (CNA) - The U.S. Senate voted 59-39 to confirm the appointment of U.S. District Judge David Hamilton to the Chicago-based Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The judge has ruled against Indiana’s informed consent law and has also ordered the cessation of “sectarian prayers” in the Indiana House of Representatives.
Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana was the only Republican to vote for the confirmation of Judge Hamilton, who is also from Indiana. According to Reuters, Sen. Lugar said the judge was ‘superbly qualified.”
The Democrat-controlled Senate lifted a Republican procedural roadblock against Judge Hamilton, who was President Obama’s first judicial nominee in 2009.
Federal judges serve for life and have great power in their court decisions. Appeals courts establish binding precedent within their jurisdictions.
As a district judge, Hamilton ruled against the Indiana informed consent law which required abortionists to inform women about the risks of abortion. The Indiana law was identical to a Pennsylvania statute upheld by the Supreme Court.
Judge Hamilton claimed the law imposed an “undue burden” on a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion.
However, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals he will now join reversed Judge Hamilton’s decision on appeal and strongly criticized his ruling as an “abuse of discretion.”
Some critics of Hamilton have objected to his 2005 order to the Speaker of the Indiana House to stop the delivery of “sectarian prayers” at the opening of the legislation. The judge ordered that the prayers “should refrain from using Christ’s name or title.”
Judge Hamilton is the seventh of the president’s 27 district and federal appeals court nominees to be confirmed.
Vatican City, Nov 21, 2009 (CNA) -
Pope Benedict XVI and the Anglican Primate Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, have agreed to maintain momentum in the ecumenical dialogue between the two churches despite the fact that the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus will imply the reception of some half a million Anglicans into the Catholic Church.
The Pope received Williams this Saturday morning, and according to a Vatican press release, "in the course of the cordial discussions attention turned to the challenges facing all Christian communities at the beginning of this millennium, and to the need to promote forms of collaboration and shared witness in facing these challenges."
The private meeting also “focused on recent events affecting relations between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, reiterating the shared will to continue and to consolidate the ecumenical relationship between Catholics and Anglicans," the press release said.
Both the Holy Father and the Anglican Primate expressed their hope in the Anglican - Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), due to meet in the next days to start the "third phase" of ecumenical dialogue.
ARCIC was established by Pope Paul VI and the Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey in 1967. It worked in two phases. The first phase was completed with the publication of a report in 1981, dealing with three topics: the Eucharist, Ministry and Authority.
The second phase covered a vast range of topics including: Salvation and the Church, in 1986; The Church as Communion, in 1991; Life in Christ: Morals, Communion and the Church, in 1993; The Gift of Authority, in 1999. It culminated with the publication of "Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ," in 2005.
Despite the advancement in theological dialogue, the effort toward unity was critically damaged by the 1992 decision of the Anglican Communion to allow the ordination of women.
A preparatory commission for a third phase of ARCIC met in London in October 2007. Over coming days, the commission entrusted with preparing the third phase of the international theological dialogue is due to meet and establish the next issues to be discussed.
During a conference in Rome early this week, the Archbishop of Canterbury said that "divisive" issues such as the ordination of women should be avoided to focus on other ecclesiological, less conflictive issues.
But well-known British Catholic commentator Damien Thompson asked skeptically on Saturday:
"There’s going to be a 'third phase' of this waffle? To discuss what? Tips on where to buy the tastiest organic biscuits to serve after Sunday morning services?"
Vatican City, Nov 21, 2009 (CNA) -
Today Pope Benedict XVI extended a warm personal welcome to artists from all over the world who met with him in a private audience hosted at the Sistine Chapel. In a moving address he challenged the artists, as "custodians of beauty," to be "heralds and witnesses of hope for humanity."
Artists from many countries, who represented the gamut of artistic categories including architecture, sculpture, music, dance and film, met with the Holy Father this morning in the Sistine Chapel just off St. Peter's square. Around 250 artists, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, responded to the Holy See's invitation to all professionals in the arts to take part in the event.
The Pope read a moving letter to the group in which he invited the artists to "friendship, dialogue, and cooperation" with the church. Profusely citing a wide variety of artists' interpretations of beauty throughout history and also quoting the particularly art-conscious Popes Paul VI and John Paul II numerous times, Pope Benedict illustrated a simple message very clearly: with their vision and skill, artists have a unique ability to use their vocations to promote beauty in the world, which is a gift from God.
The Pontiff explained this phenomenon, "thanks to your talent, you have the opportunity to speak to the heart of humanity, to touch individual and collective sensibilities, to call forth dreams and hopes, to broaden the horizons of knowledge and of human engagement."
He asked them to "be grateful, then, for the gifts you have received and be fully conscious of your great responsibility to communicate beauty!"
The Holy Father expounded on the need for beauty in the world as a source of inspiration, happiness and unity.
"Beauty, like truth, brings joy to the human heart, and is that precious fruit which resists the erosion of time, which unites generations and enables them to be one in admiration," he said.
Encouraging those who filled the Sistine Chapel to seek out opportunities to share this beauty with others, he advised them not to be afraid "to approach the first and last source of beauty, to enter into dialogue with believers, with those who, like yourselves, consider that they are pilgrims in this world and in history towards infinite Beauty!"
He added that they must not view this as a weakness, explaining that faith “takes nothing away from your genius or your art: on the contrary, it exalts them and nourishes them."
The address to the artists of the world echoed a similar call Pope Paul VI made to the artistic community in 1964 to assume "individual responsibility, courageously and passionately, for a newer and deeper journey in mutual acquaintance and dialogue in order to arrive at an authentic ‘renaissance’ of art in the context of a new humanism."
In the year 2000, Pope John Paul II renewed this appeal in his popular Letter to Artists.
Concluding his visit, Pope Benedict left the artists with a final message to guide them in their work: "My wish for all of you, dear artists, is that you may carry this vision in your eyes, in your hands, and in your heart, that it may bring you joy and continue to inspire your fine works."
Journalists were not permitted inside the Sistine Chapel for the event, due to its small size.
Following the audience, CNA spoke with Alvaro Siviero, a professional pianist from Brazil, about how the audience received Pope Benedict's comments.
"In the moments following the address," he said, "there was a tremendous silence for about 20 seconds, and then there was an explosion of applause. This lasted for two minutes. It was a great moment for the church and the art community."