Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 24, 2009 (CNA) - With the second round of presidential elections just days away, the Uruguayan bishops have reissued their voter guidelines published at the beginning of the year to assist Catholics as they head to the polls.
The bishops presented a summary of the guidelines, emphasizing that “the respect for persons should always be the fundamental criteria in our actions and decisions, rejecting the temptation to justify or obtain success at any price.”
The bishops urged voters to analyze the policies each candidate is proposing to address the issue of human life in Uruguay, especially the defense of the right to life, “from conception to natural death.”
Voters should watch for the needs of the most vulnerable, they said, as well as demand that the defense of the family based on marriage between one man and one woman be upheld.
“Each one of us must build up and defend pluralism, and at the same time defend the promote the basic and essential values of the human person,” they concluded.
St. Louis, Mo., Nov 24, 2009 (CNA) - The excommunicated priest of a breakaway St. Louis parish has said he would be willing to step down if it would help the parish.
Fr. Marek Bozek had left his previous position without the permission of his bishop to become the pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in December 2005. The parish, which is owned and governed by a secular corporation, had resisted the Archdiocese of St. Louis’ efforts to bring parish bylaws into accordance with canon law.
After years of dispute, in 2008 the then-Archbishop Raymond Burke declared Fr. Bozek and the parish board members to be excommunicated and the parish to be schismatic, though some board members have since reconciled with the Catholic Church.
"If it is necessary for me to step aside and continue my ministry elsewhere, I am willing to do that so long as I know that you will not go without pastoral care and the Sacrament," Fr. Bozek said on Sunday, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I do not want my personal circumstances to impede what is best for St. Stanislaus."
In July 2008 the archdiocese and former parishioners of St. Stanislaus Kostka, who included half of the church’s board of directors, filed a lawsuit seeking to have the church’s pre-2001 bylaws restored. The church’s board rewrote the bylaws in 2001 and again in 2004, eventually eliminating the archbishop’s authority to appoint board members and the pastor.
Fr. Bozek did not comment on whether his announcement was due to the pending litigation. The lawsuit is scheduled to go before trial in St. Louis Circuit Court in February, 2010.
Bernard Huger, an attorney for the archdiocese, said if the priest’s departure provides an opportunity for the parish’s reconciliation it would be “a wonderful thing.”
"Clearly we don't want to have a trial, we just want to have St. Stanislaus returned as a Catholic parish," he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
According to Huger, Archbishop Robert Carlson, the successor of Archbishop Burke, had made it clear to St. Stanislaus attorneys that he was “most willing to resolve this.”
Fr. Bozek has reportedly supported homosexuality in the Church and women’s ordination. In January he was laicized by Pope Benedict XVI.
St. Stanislaus member Diana Daley, speaking after Mass on Sunday, said that the priest was “bringing people back while the rest of the Catholic Church is driving them away.”
“He says he's willing to step down, but if he does, they might as well close this church.”
Grzegorz Koltuniak, a longtime parishioner critical of Fr. Bozek, told the Post-Dispatch that he had been waiting for the resignation announcement “from the beginning.”
Fort Benning, Ga., Nov 24, 2009 (CNA) - Fr. Roy Bourgeois, a Maryknoll priest who was excommunicated for refusing to affirm Catholic teaching on the ordination of women, has been officially nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by a Quaker group which admires his work in opposing the School of the Americas.
The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) spokesman John Meyer made the official announcement on Sunday at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia during the annual vigil advocating the closure of the School of the Americas (SOA).
The Quaker group also nominated Fr. Bourgeois’ organization, SOA Watch, for the Nobel Prize, according to the Examiner.com.
In 2008 the priest was excommunicated for refusing to affirm Catholic teaching that only men may be ordained to the priesthood. He has characterized the Catholic position as an “injustice” that excludes women and is “sexist.”
Brussels, Belgium, Nov 24, 2009 (CNA) - A paralyzed man who was misdiagnosed as comatose for 23 years is again communicating with the world after new brain scans showed he was in fact conscious. A Catholic bioethics expert suggests the case shows the wisdom of Catholic teaching on the duty to provide sustenance for those believed to be comatose.
Rom Houben, a former martial arts enthusiast, was paralyzed in a 1983 car crash. The Daily Mail reports that his doctors in Zolder, Belgium used the internationally accepted Glasgow Coma Scale to assess his physical and verbal responses, but each time he was graded incorrectly.
“I screamed, but there was nothing to hear,” said Houben, who after therapy now communicates with the aid of a computer. “I dreamed myself away.”
Three years ago, new technology scans showed Houben’s brain was still functioning almost completely normally. His case has just been reported in a scientific paper by the doctor who discovered the mistake, neurological expert Dr. Steven Laureys of the Coma Science Group and Department of Neurology at Liege University Hospital.
Laureys’ re-evaluation of Houben showed that the patient had lost control of his body but was still fully aware of what was happening.
“Frustration is too small a word to describe what I felt,” Houben said. “I shall never forget the day when they discovered what was truly wrong with me - it was my second birth.”
Dr. Laureys explained that medical advances caught up with the patient. His study claims that there may be many similar cases of false comas around the world, the Daily Mail reports.
According to Dr. Laureys, in Germany alone about 100,000 people suffer from severe traumatic brain injury each year. About 20,000 injuries are followed by a coma of three weeks or longer.
“Some of them die, others regain health. But an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 people a year remain trapped in an intermediate stage - they go on living without ever coming back again,” he added.
“Anyone who bears the stamp of ‘unconscious’ just one time hardly ever gets rid of it again,” he remarked.
Houben may never leave the hospital, but he now has a special device which lets him read books lying down.
“I want to read, talk with my friends via the computer and enjoy my life now that people know I am not dead,” he said, according to the Daily Mail.
Catholic News Agency spoke about the case in a Monday phone interview with John Haas, President of the Philadelphia-based National Catholic Bioethics Center.
Houben’s mistaken diagnosis was a “perfect example” of why artificial nutrition and hydration should be continued, Haas said.
He reported that the U.S. Catholic bishops last week passed a modified version of Directive 58 of the Ethical and Religious Directives (ERDs) for Catholic healthcare. This directive spoke of “the moral obligation to continue to provide hydration and nutrition to patients in a compromised state,” Haas said.
“This obligation extends to patients in chronic conditions (e.g. the 'persistent vegetative state') who can reasonably be expected to live indefinitely if given such care,” the ERD read.
“The bishops have always held to that position,” Haas explained, but some other Catholic voices have not.
In 2004, Haas noted, Pope John Paul II delivered an allocution in which he again said it is necessary to provide hydration and nutrition as long as it is “achieving its end” of nurturing the body.
Houben’s recovery, he said, would seem to be “a case where the Church’s position was actually ahead of the curve.”
Asked about Dr. Laureys’ comments about the difficulty of a patient permanently labeled as “unconscious,” Haas said he hoped health care providers would not have negative attitudes towards such patients.
However, he noted that Pope John Paul II described how “regrettable” it was that the medical term for such patients was “persistent vegetative state.”
Some doctors’ comments and medical terminologies “do tend to devalue and demean these people, which is really unfortunate.”
He said the case could help confirm the position of those who oppose physician-assisted suicide, but where the practice is legalized the patients are generally required to be conscious and responsive.
However, Houben’s case would be relevant to those with advanced medical directives who say they want artificial hydration and nutrition removed if they are unconscious and unlikely ever to wake.
The Catholic tradition holds that hydration and nutrition cannot be removed if a person will die of dehydration and starvation, Haas reiterated.
Rome, Italy, Nov 24, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Genoa and president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, remarked last week that, “Christianity rejects and will always reject being reduced to a civil religion at the service of those in power, whoever they may be.”
During a recent conference on pastoral ministry, the cardinal explained that Christianity “unites man with God, earth with heaven.” Referring later to religion classes in Italian schools, Cardinal Bagnasco said it is not “a privilege Italy is granting to the Church” since the classes do not consist of “an hour-long catechesis.”
The Church-State accords permit the teaching of religion not as catechesis but rather as the basis of recognizing that the “Catholic religion has inspired the culture,” and not only in Italy but in all of Europe, he said.
Religion in schools is not an intrusion into education, but rather part of the Church’s mission in education, the cardinal said.
Washington D.C., Nov 24, 2009 (CNA) - In a teleconference Monday afternoon, representatives of the USCCB reiterated that the current Senate health care bill needs "substantial improvement" before it can be considered anything but morally unacceptable for Catholics.
Present at the teleconference were John Carr, Executive Director of the USCCB's Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development; Kevin Applby, Director of the Office of Migration Policy and Public Affairs; Kathy Saile, Director of the Office of Domestic Policy; and Richard Doerflinger, Associate Director of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.
The spokesmen for the USCCB noted that the Senate's version of the health care bill falls short in three regards: abortion funding and conscience protection, immigrants rights in regards to health care, and accessibility and affordability.
The current version of the Senate bill does not allow undocumented immigrants to purchase federal health insurance with their own money and maintains the five year ban on legal immigrants having access to Medicaid.
For 24 million Americans who are well below the poverty line, the bill does not affect their access or ability to afford health insurance.
"To lose the precedent of no federal funding for abortion for the first time since Roe v Wade, to say that people, by law, have to pay for other peoples' abortions would be a fundamental failure," said John Carr. "Keeping in place the existing protections against federal funding for abortion seems frankly like a modest goal" as is "making sure that affordable and accessible health care is really affordable and accessible," he added.
The representatives made it clear that they were not changing any existing laws in their calls for change to the Senate bill. "For better or for worse, the status quo in this country is that abortion is legal and available and no one is required to pay for somebody else's abortion with their tax payer dollars or their premiums required by law," Carr said.
"Part of what's going on here," Carr remarked, "is the people on the other side have felt the need to dramatically exaggerate what the Stupak amendment does. What we're trying to do here is simply apply the Hyde amendment, which has been the law of the land for decades."
Not all of the Senators who voted to open discussion on the bill agree with what it currently says. "I, along with others, expect to have legitimate opportunities to influence the healthcare reform legislation that is voted on by the Senate later this year or early next year,'' said Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.)
Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) told NBC's "Meet the Press" that he voted to move the bill to discussion because he wants the chance to amend it.
Political analysts are predicting the need for some delicate maneuvering on Reid's part to get this bill through the Senate.
In the mean time, John Carr noted, "when it comes to the abortion funding question, we clearly have precedent with us and we clearly have public opinion with us, you've all seen the CNN poll."
"Our hope is that having come this far, the Senate, and ultimately the Congress, and ultimately the country, will achieve the goal the bishops have set: which is genuine health care reform which will respect and protect the life, dignity, health, and consciences of all of us," Carr concluded.
Vatican City, Nov 24, 2009 (CNA) - The Vatican announced today that it will be holding two press conferences at the end of the week: one to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Patrimony of the Church and the other to present the Pope's message for the 96th World Day of Migrants and Refugees.
On Thursday Nov. 26 in the Holy See Press Office, Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi and Francesco Buranelli, respectively president and secretary of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Patrimony of the Church, will hold a press conference announcing the 20th anniversary of their dicastery.
This Pontifical Commission presides over the guardianship of the historical and artistic patrimony of the entire Church including works of art, historical documents, books, museums artifacts, libraries and archives. Its purpose is to safeguard these items and promote a greater awareness of them within individual churches.
On Friday Nov. 27, a presentation of the Holy Father's Message for the 96th World Day of Migrants and refugees will take place. The day will be celebrated on Jan. 17, 2010 and it's theme will be “Underage migrants and refugees.”
Earlier this year in January, Pope Benedict XVI spoke on the 95th World Day in honor of the Pauline Year and how St. Paul was a migrant himself, and an apostle of all peoples.
Also participating in Friday's press conference are Archbishop Antonio Maria Veglio, Archbishop Agostino Marchetto and Msgr. Novatus Rugambwa, president, secretary and under secretary respectively of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples.
Knoxville, Tenn., Nov 24, 2009 (CNA) - After attorneys for the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) filed an emergency court motion on behalf of a nine month-old baby whose doctors wanted to cease giving care, the hospital's board of ethics has changed its mind and allowed the baby a chance at life.
Baby Gabriel Palmer was born prematurely with a club foot and pulmonary vascular problems, reports OneNewsNow. In October, his mom brought him back to the hospital because he was having trouble breathing. He responded to treatment by going into shock and developing pulmonary vascular disease. Since then, he has been on a respirator and medication.
Though Baby Gabriel is stable and doctors say he could live a long time, the East Tennessee Children's Hospital informed his mother that they may cease giving him medical care, which includes taking him off the respirator.
Neither the mother's complaints nor a letter sent by the ADF on her behalf changed the hospital's decision. Yesterday, the ADF filed a lawsuit against the hospital, which prompted the hospital's ethics board to change its mind and say the hospital will continue providing care to the child.
However, just to be safe, the ADF has not withdrawn the lawsuit until they have confirmation in writing that the hospital will continue treatment.
“We are pleased at the ethics panel’s decision and look forward to full resolution in writing so that Baby Gabriel’s life will no longer be in danger,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman.
Washington D.C., Nov 24, 2009 (CNA) - On Monday Bishop Thomas Tobin tangled with television pundit Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s “Hardball” about the relation between religion and politics as well as the legal status of abortion. Matthews’ comments, which charged that the bishop has overstepped his authority, were criticized as a “rant” and an “extended lecture.”
Bishop Tobin, of the Diocese of Providence has been critical of Rhode Island U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy’s attacks on the Church for opposing abortion. Rep. Kennedy recently revealed that the bishop had asked him to refrain from receiving Holy Communion in 2007 because of his public contradiction of Catholic teaching.
Chris Matthews began the Monday evening “Hardball” segment with a clip of remarks by Rep. Kennedy’s uncle President John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic U.S. president. In his political campaign President Kennedy had said that a politician should not accept “instruction on public policy” from the Pope or any other ecclesiastical source.
In response, Bishop Tobin emphasized that all religious believers, including Catholic politicians, should put their faith before their career.
“Nothing can become more important than your relationship with God,” he told Matthews, who is Catholic.
Bishop Tobin endorsed a return to U.S. law before the pro-abortion Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. Matthews pressed him on this point, asking what laws he would write if he were a member of Congress.
“I am not a member of Congress, but if I were, I would never be in a position of supporting any abortion legislation that encourages abortion,” the bishop replied.
“What law would you pass?” Matthews pressed. “You’re coming down on Congressman Kennedy and other public officials. …Would you outlaw abortion?”
“That’s the direction our nation ought to move,” the prelate responded.
Asked to tell Catholics how they should vote as members of Congress, he said Catholics should vote for laws that “preserve and protect human life.”
Matthews asked Bishop Tobin to be specific, asking whether women who procure abortions should be thrown in jail.
“I have no idea what the penalty would be,” the bishop replied.
Matthews professed agreement with the bishop’s moral views, but then claimed Bishop Tobin had “transgressed” into the area of lawmaking. He characterized the bishop’s reluctance to name specific penalties for a woman who procures abortion as an expression of “hesitancy” from the clergy.
“Words like ‘murder’ and ‘killing’ are used in the case of abortion but they do not seem to apply in terms of writing the law,” Matthews commented. “And I would urge you to consider the possibility of error here, because in getting into telling public officials how to set public policy, you’re stepping beyond moral teaching, and you’re basically assuming a moral authority which I don’t think is yours.
“As you admitted tonight four or five times, you don’t know how to write law, and writing law is very tricky in our secular society,” Matthews’ comments concluded.
“I will reflect on that if you reflect on the teachings of the Church,” Bishop Tobin responded.
Bill Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights characterized Matthews as having “spun out of control.”
“Matthews proceeded with an extended and quite insulting lecture,” Donohue charged in a Tuesday press release. “He had absolutely no interest in a discussion on the question of the morality and legality of abortion—all he wanted to do was to make the bishop sit there and listen to his rant. Indeed, his tirade was simply over-the-top.”
Donohue claimed that no non-Catholic would treat a bishop in such a way.
“But too many liberal Catholics, especially Irish Catholics, think they are exempt from the same standards of civility that apply to others.”
Pro-life advocate Jill Stanek wrote on her blog that she thought the Matthews interview should have focused on the question “Are preborns human or not?”
“If they are, then we need laws to protect them, just as we do all other innocent human life. If we're not sure - if the answer is above one's pay grade - then we should err on the side of life,” she wrote.
The question of criminal penalties for women who seek abortions is a common talking point among supporters of permissive abortion laws. The issue was considered in an August, 2007 symposium titled “One Untrue Thing” on the conservative web site National Review Online.
In that symposium, Villanova University law professor Joseph Dellapenna said “none of the anti-abortion laws overturned by Roe v. Wade… treated the woman as a criminal.”
Rather, he explained, the laws treated the woman as a victim in part because of the dangers of abortion and in part because of the need for her testimony to convict the abortionist.
In the same symposium Clarke D. Forsythe of Americans United for Life pointed out that before Roe the abortionist, not the prosecutor, tried to argue that an abortion-seeking woman should be treated as an accomplice. This was done “for the obvious purpose of undermining the state’s criminal case against the abortionist,” he wrote.
According to an announcement from pundit Bill O’Reilly, Bishop Tobin will appear on Fox News’ O’Reilly Factor tonight. The show airs at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time and reruns at 11:00 p.m.
Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 24, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the College of Catholic Lawyers of Mexico, Armando Martinez, criticized a proposed measure this week that would make homosexual unions equal to marriage.
Martinez said the new measure being promoted by the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) is a “legal monstrosity,” and that the existing civil union laws could be modified to address such issues as social security.
Overhauling the country’s laws for the sake of rights that are “supposedly” not recognized is “a huge lie,” he said adding that the only thing that would be created is a legal contradiction between the Federal District and the states. Martinez slammed lawmakers for being “scatterbrains” and for allowing themselves to be the spokesmen for “small-minded intellectuals” who are promoting such measures.
“It is untrue that reforming the Civil Code would give homosexuals rights in the area of social security, since in order for that to happen federal law must be changed,” he pointed out.
Martinez also criticized lawmakers in Mexico City for being out of touch with the Mexican people, as 17 states have enacted constitutional reform in support of “the culture of life.” If they are so sure their agenda is what the people want, he added, then they should hold a referendum and allow voters to participate in the decision of whether or not to legalize homosexual unions.
Chicago, Ill., Nov 24, 2009 (CNA) - Not long after criticism that the Archdiocese of Chicago hasn't reached out to Latinos, the archdiocese has announced that it is investing in more affordable housing in parts of the city that have large Latino populations.
According to Chicago Public Radio, in a Monday press conference, the Archdiocese of Chicago announced that it would be investing in affordable housing in the southwest side of Chicago. Cardinal Francis George announced that the first $500,000 of the $2.8 million dollar loan fund project would be going to The Resurrection Project (TRP.)
TRP is a community organization which serves the Chicago neighborhoods of Back of the Yards, Little Village, and Pilsen by challenging people to act on their faith in order to create healthy communities.
As a result of the partnership between TRP and the archdiocese, working families will be given opportunities to find safe and affordable housing. TRP will use the money to help with the development, construction, marketing, and promotion of affordable housing units the project is building for low-to-moderate income families and individuals.
“There is a dramatic necessity in our city neighborhoods for this kind of development that has shown to be a critical component necessary to helping reduce poverty, homelessness and other forms of social disruption,” Cardinal George said at the press conference.
“We are very pleased that the archdiocese can partner with The Resurrection Project, which has realistically challenged people and institutions to act on their faith and values to help create healthy neighborhoods and communities. They have repeatedly shown credibility with the city, local neighborhoods, and the banking and investment communities to accomplish their mission and have demonstrated the capacity to make quality living options available in the Chicago areas which lack sufficient numbers of affordable homes,” he continued.
Madrid, Spain, Nov 24, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Madrid and president of the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, criticized the Spanish government this week for the deterioration of moral formation in the country's education system.
During his remarks opening the bishops’ 94th Plenary Assembly, Cardinal Rouco noted that the “deterioration” of religious and moral formation in schools “is not good for anyone and much less so for the young people who in practice are derived of it or forced to receive it under difficult and discriminatory circumstances.”
He also noted that the bishops continue to be concerned about the obligatory nature of the course “Education for the Citizenry.”
“It ought to have been designed as strictly civic and juridical teaching material instead of as teaching material that is moral in nature or based on a particular vision of man, as is typical of ideological or indoctrinating teaching.”
Cardinal Rouco remarked that the Spanish school system is suffering from “serious problems,” including high drop-out rates, the loss of authority of teachers and sexual education imparted without discretion. He said these problems must be addressed from an educational perspective but also keeping in mind “the human person.”
Kansas City, Mo., Nov 24, 2009 (CNA) - From November 19-21, 21,000 teens and 3,000 adult chaperones descended on Kansas City for the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC), but instead of the usual damage, the teens left a wake of grace that impacted the city.
According to the Catholic Key, the NCYC, whose theme this year was “Christ Reigns,” brought Catholic youth together for three days of prayer, adoration, praise and worship, fellowship, talks, Mass, and dancing. Teens came from all across the continental United States as well as Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.
“One of the things that makes the conference truly unique,” MC of the conference Steve Angrisano told CNA, “is, other than going to World Youth Day, I don't think there's an experience you can have that really conveys to a young person how big the Church really is.”
“You have all these groups that come from places where their entire youth group is eight people and they are in an arena filled with young people who are Catholic and who believe what they believe and stand up for what they believe,” he continued. “I think it truly is one of the most encouraging things that they can see. They may sometimes feel alone, but they are not alone.”
Conference organizers were faced with a problem when registration exceeded the capacity of the Sprint Center, where all the general sessions were going to be held. The organizers scrambled to find a “satellite” location so that they wouldn't have to turn anyone away.
The solution was the grand ballroom of the H. Roe Bartle Convention Center, which was linked to the Sprint Center “big screen, high-definition, closed-circuit television. It worked so well that the masters of ceremonies at each site, musicians Steve Agrisano at Sprint and Jesse Manibussan at Bartle, were able to sing duets together across downtown Kansas City,” reports Kansas City's Catholic Key.
“I think one of the most unique experiences was doing something like that,” said Angrisano. “We could talk to each other and even sing the song together from 10 blocks away, that was a real interesting experience.”
To prevent any of the teens from feeling like second class citizens, groups were rotated between sites so that no one was relegated to the Bartle ballroom for more than one session. Bennett Coughlan, a conference participant from the Diocese of Winona, Minn. whose group was in the ballroom for the opening session told the Catholic Key, “I thought they were treating us like overflow, and I didn’t like that,” he said. “But we started a conga line, and it went on so long. After we got started, Jesse made it so much fun.”
The NCYC also featured a 22,000 person Eucharistic Procession along the ten blocks from the Sprint Center to the Kansas City Convention Center led by Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn.
“I could have never dreamed how devoted the kids were. They were praying the rosary and singing songs as they walked,” said Angrisano. “It was a real statement. It wasn't just a stroll through the neighborhood. We were there to say “Christ Reigns,” which was the theme of the conference. And I think I really saw that in the way they all lived it.”