Archive of December 1, 2009

Connecticut Court orders diocese to release documents in long-resolved sexual abuse cases

Bridgeport, Conn., Dec 1, 2009 (CNA) -

The Diocese of Bridgeport has been ordered to release thousands of documents connected to several sexual abuse cases settled in 2001 after their appeal was refused by the U.S. Supreme court.

A judge in the Waterbury Superior Court has ordered that the diocese release the papers, once thought to be sealed permanently, the Associated Press reports. The documents pertain to 23 lawsuits which were filed between 1993 and 1999 regarding the actions of six priests in the 1960's and 1970's.

According to the diocesan website, “of the seven priests associated with these cases, five were removed and banned from ministry, one was deceased at the time the allegation was brought forward, and the case against the seventh priest was unsubstantiated. He remains in ministry today.”

The lawsuits were resolved in 2001.

In their statement released today, the diocese made known that they have complied with the court order and noted that all of the documents which have been released “were available at pretrial activity during the 1990's.” The documents “were shared with the victims through their attorneys leading up to the settlement of these cases.”

The diocese also emphasized that “between 1993 and 2002, more than 200 media reports  were published about these cases. In fact, after obtaining copies of the sealed documents from an unidentified source and notwithstanding the court orders, the Hartford Courant published two lengthy articles on March 17, 2002, which selectively summarized the contents of the documents.”

“Over the past decade, the Diocese of Bridgeport – and, indeed, the Catholic Church throughout the United States – has brought about a significant culture change regarding the knowledge of and ability to deal with sexual abuse. The Diocese has worked and will continue to work diligently and transparently to address the issue of sexual abuse in order to prevent this tragedy from happening again," the statement said.

The diocesan site also noted that in this court battle, referred to as “The New York Times Case,” several major newspapers, including the Hartford Courant and the New York Times, are seeking access to the documents in an effort to discover how the cases were handled by the recently retired Cardinal Edward Egan of New York when he was Bishop of Bridgeport.

The documents were sealed at the resolution of the lawsuits in 2001. However, the diocese charges that a Connecticut superior court judge changed the rules “mid stream” and allowed the newspapers to sue for access to the pre-trial documents.

The Connecticut Supreme Court ruling, which rejected an appellate court ruling that the diocese was not obligated to reopen the files, was stayed pending the U.S. Supreme Court Case. It is now in effect and the Diocese of Bridgeport has delivered CD-ROMs containing copies of the requested documents to the Waterbury Superior Court and to the attorneys of the newspapers who initiated the lawsuit.

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Crucifix is essential to European identity, say bishops of Poland

Rome, Italy, Dec 1, 2009 (CNA) - The Bishops of Poland have joined in the chorus of outrage over a ruling by the EU Human Rights Court in Strasbourg that ordered all crucifixes be removed from schools in Italy.  The Polish bishops echoed the sentiments of numerous government officials from various countries, and even of one young Muslim writer.

Gathered for their plenary assembly in Czstochowa, the bishops expressed their protest “against the ruling by the Strasbourg court regarding the symbol of the cross” and rejected “the gestures of hostility that, on this occasion, have taken place in Poland against this symbol, reported the Polish Catholic information agency KAI.”

The ruling does not currently apply to the northern European nation, but it could bring about a revision of its laws governing the public display of symbols, including those in state-run schools. 

Crucifixes were only just reinstalled in public areas in Poland following the end of communism there in 1989.  The cross had been absent since the Nazis occupied the country in 1939.

According to L’Osservatore Romano, the bishops said the crucifix “is not only a sacred sign for all Christians but also an important element of European cultural identity, among the symbols of many countries and organizations.”

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Spanish bishops say politicians who vote in favor of abortion are ineligible to receive Communion

Madrid, Spain, Dec 1, 2009 (CNA) - The secretary general of the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, Auxiliary Bishop Juan Antonio Martinez Camino of Madrid, said last week that Catholic politicians who vote in favor of abortion “must go to confession and publicly recant if they wish to receive Communion.”

“The objective state of sin is resolved by going to confession and publicly repairing the damage caused,” Bishop Martinez Camino said during a press conference at the close of the Spanish bishops’ 94th Plenary Assembly.

Bishop Camino’s comments came after the bishops passed a statement reiterating that “Catholics must recall,” if they vote for pro-choice measures, they are putting “themselves publicly in an objective state of sin, and as long as it endures, they cannot receive Holy Communion.”

Bishop Camino said the response of Catholics is one of “'yes' to the life of the innocent and defenseless, 'yes' to appropriate sexual education, 'yes' to pregnant women, who should be supported in their maternity, and 'yes' to just laws that support the common good and do not confuse injustice with rights.”

He stressed that the new abortion law proposed by the government would be “even more unjust” than the current law, and noted that the bishops have always addressed this issue from a non-political perspective.

The Spanish bishops also referred to a 2004 note from then-prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (today Benedict XVI), which stated that a Catholic who supports abortion or euthanasia cannot be admitted to Holy Communion.  Cardinal Ratzinger wrote that “not all moral issues have the same weight as abortion and euthanasia,” which are quite different from the death penalty or war.

“All sins are detestable,” Bishop Camino pointed out, but “taking the life of an innocent being is a very grave sin.”  “Some sins are of greater seriousness, other of less,” he added.

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Car safety researchers using ‘pregnant’ crash-test dummy to protect mothers and unborn

Detroit, Mich., Dec 1, 2009 (CNA) - Responding to an increasing number of women who continue to drive late in their pregnancies, car manufacturers are researching safety devices to help protect expecting mothers. The research includes a crash test dummy of a pregnant woman named MAMA 2B.

Researcher Stefan Duma of Virginia Tech told USA Today that although states are not required to report fetal deaths in accident data, between 300 and 1,000 unborn babies die in car accidents each year. This accident fatality rate is about four times the rate for victims between infancy and four years old.

Ford Motor is funding the research on fetal accident deaths at Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.

Duma reported that the research’s new mathematical models measuring crash forces’ effect on pregnant women and unborn babies are a step in the process. He said the automobile industry is 15 years away from new technology that will help protect the unborn.

The models simulate what happens to the placenta, the baby’s skeleton and the baby’s brain in a crash.

A crash test dummy of a pregnant woman, called MAMA 2B, has a uterine area filled with fluid, USA Today says. The pressure on the fluid is measured in the tests.

The biggest danger in a crash is placental abruption, in which the placenta tears from the uterine wall. This causes bleeding in the mother, with the danger of hemorrhage, and also cuts off the blood supply to the baby.

Steve Rouhana, the senior technical leader for safety in Ford’s passive safety research and advanced engineering department, told USA Today that many pregnant women are scared to use seatbelts until late in their pregnancies. This can lead to even greater injury.

Safety experts say that a pregnant woman should wear the lap part of a seat belt low over her pelvis, not over her soft belly. If driving, she should also sit as far from the steering wheel as possible.

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Fall meeting of Catholic-Jewish dialogue focuses on witnessing

Washington D.C., Dec 1, 2009 (CNA) - The fall dialogue between the U.S. bishops and the National Council of Synagogues (NCS) of America Catholic and Jewish leaders took place in early November. Participants discussed their different views of witnessing, recent controversy over a bishops’ statement, and the situation of Christians in the Holy Land.

The meeting between representatives from the NCS and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) took place at Jewish Theological Seminary on Nov. 11 in Manhattan.

Two speakers discussed the theme “dialogue and witness in the perspective of our faith traditions.”

Rabbi Alan Brill of Seton Hall University said that witness is a less significant category in Jewish theology, a USCCB press release says. For Jews, witnessing means a public proclamation about a special event or a fundamental teaching of Judaism, such as the Sabbath, which is “a witness to God’s creation.”

Jews prefer the terms of “education” and “continuity” to define how faith is passed on within families and cultures, Rabbi Brill told the meeting. The idea of Jews witnessing to their faith only became more prominent recently in response to the horrors of the Holocaust.

Father Arthur Kennedy of St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Mass. explained that for Catholics witness means “uniting one’s life with Jesus Christ, even sacrificing one’s life as a martyr.” Witnessing to the truth in word and action is a fundamental duty, he added.

He said that since the Second Vatican Council Catholics have distinguished authentic witness from a “forced, manipulative, coercive, intimidating and cajoling” kind of proselytism.

According to the USCCB, the priest said that Catholic-Jewish dialogue is a model for inter-religious witnessing that shows both mutual respect for one another’s beliefs and a desire to understand another’s core religious convictions.

This is a dialogue “across the divide of religious belief that maintains a sense of God in our midst,” Fr. Kennedy commented.

Participants in the dialogue discussed the June 18 USCCB document “Note on Some Ambiguities in Reflections on Covenant and Mission.” The original document was authored in 2002 by scholars involved in the USCCB-NCS consultation and caused theological concerns within the Catholic community.

However, the 2009 note on perceived ambiguities contained a sentence that disturbed Jewish dialogue partners. It said that Christian participation in inter-religious dialogue is “always giving witness” to following Christ and “implicitly” invites others to do so.

After interaction with Jewish partners and internal discussion, the bishops re-issued the note without the controversial sentence. They also released the “Statement of Principles for Catholic-Jewish Dialogue” which said that dialogue “has never been and will never be used by the Catholic Church as a means of proselytism—nor is it intended as a disguised invitation to baptism.”

Other topics included the plight of Christians in the Holy Land. Catholic Near East Director Msgr. Robert Stern said the 147,000 Christians in Israel and the 30,000-40,000 who live in the occupied territories face a “very serious” and “tenuous” situation.

The meetings’ participants also spoke of Pope Benedict XVI’s upcoming visit to the Roman synagogue, saying it is a hopeful sign that past advances will continue to strengthen the relationship between Judaism and Catholicism.

NCS President and co-chair Rabbi Alvin Berkhun praised his Catholic counterpart, Cardinal William Keeler, who at the fall meeting served his last session as co-chair and USCCB Moderator for Jewish Affairs. Several other rabbis and Jewish leaders joined Archbishop of Atlanta Wilton Gregory in praise for the cardinal’s work.

Cardinal Keeler’s role in the dialogue will be filled by Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan.

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Movie about Fatima released on DVD

San Francisco, Calif., Dec 1, 2009 (CNA) - “The 13th Day,” a movie based on the memoirs of Sister Maria Lucia de Jesus, is being released today on DVD by Ignatius Press. The movie is a “dramatic and artistic presentation with a powerful message about what Our Lady requested at Fatima," said Fr. Andrew Apostoli, CFR, a Fatima expert.

The film, which is the first major motion picture from directors Ian and Dominic Higgins, recounts the appearances of the Blessed Mother to three shepherd children at Fatima, Portugal during the year 1917.

The Blessed Mother first appeared to Lucia dos Santos and her two cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto on May 13, 1917. She asked the children to pray the Rosary every day and to return on the 13th of the month for the next five months. In her revelations to the children, Mary showed them a vision of Hell, foretold the role Russia would soon play in the world arena, and gave them a vision of the assassination of a Pope.

Though the government kidnapped the children, prevented them from going to meet the Blessed Mother on Aug 13, 1917, and threatened them with torture, they made up their minds to face death instead of betraying “the Beautiful Lady,” as they called Mary. On October 13, 1917, her last apparition, 60,000-70,000 people gathered and watched as the sun spun and danced in the sky, then dried the rain-soaked earth.

The movie is true to the memoirs of Lucia dos Santos, the oldest of the Fatima visionaries. Though Francisco and Jacinta died in 1919 and 1920, Sister Lucia obeyed Mary's orders and learned to read so she could pass on the message of Fatima. She went on to become a Carmelite nun and a friend of Pope John Paul II, who claimed that the Fatima revelations saved his life. Sister Lucia died in 2005 at the age of 97.

"The 13th Day film is a dramatic and artistic presentation with a powerful message about what Our Lady requested at Fatima," said Fr. Andrew Apostoli, CFR, a Fatima expert. "These children had such courage; they were willing to die because they loved Our Lady so much."

The movie, which was filmed on site in Portugal and the U.K., features three Portuguese actors portraying Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta. A cast of thousands was necessary in order to accurately depict the crowds present at the miracle where the sun danced. According to a press release from the Maximus Group, though the movie is mostly black and white, the directors use an interesting blend of color when the divine or the miraculous is present.

"Advance screenings of The 13th Day have been extremely successful, allowing thousands of people to be exposed to the Message of Fatima," Anthony Ryan, Director of Marketing for Ignatius Press, said. "We are excited to offer the DVD to the public. This message is more than relevant for today. Every Catholic, perhaps every person, should see this film."

For more information visit:

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Bible reading is central in conversions to Catholicism in Shangai, reports organization

Shangai, China, Dec 1, 2009 (CNA) - Many conversions are taking place in Shanghai, China, in part thanks to the encouragement of Bible reading and youth outreach programs. One convert’s story began in a classroom encounter with Catholicism and led to the conversion of another young man he met while reading the Bible at McDonald’s.

While most Catholics in China are born to Catholic parents, many of the nearly 300,000 Catholics in Shanghai are converts, the United Bible Societies China Partnership reports.

One convert, 27-year-old Shen Cheng, had little exposure to the Catholic faith as a youth. He became interested in Catholicism when one of his professors introduced him to a book by American legal scholar Harold J. Berman. The book so interested Cheng in Catholicism that he bought a Catholic Bible.

Exploring Scripture convinced him to convert to Catholicism. He calls the Bible his “daily bread,” essential to his soul’s well-being.

Shen would often read the Bible wherever he went. At one McDonald’s restaurant he frequented he would read the Bible with a crucifix in front of him.

Lu Xiaochen, now 25, was working at the same restaurant part-time during his university vacation. He became curious after seeing Shen reading the Bible each day and began a conversation with him.

Shen shared his faith with Lu. According to United Bible Societies, Shen’s sincerity in answering questions and his love for God made a huge impression on Lu who then decided to be baptized. 

Lu was so serious about his new faith that he went against doctors’ advice and underwent his baptism ceremony the same day he was scheduled for a hospital surgery. He returned to the hospital just before his operation.

He said he was sustained by Philippians 3:8: “Yes, I will go further: because of the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, I count everything else as loss. For him I have accepted the loss of all other things, and look on them all as filth if only I can gain Christ.”

Shen, who started a Catholic newsletter as a university undergraduate, now heads the distribution arm of the Guangqi Research and Publication Center in the Diocese of Shanghai. He is fervent about outreach, especially to youth, and attends a weekly young adult Bible study at his church.

Father Anthony Chen, director of the Guangqi Research Center, told United Bible Societies that the diocese has had a youth outreach program for several years. It has organized youth and children camps during school holidays for both believers and non-believers.

“These camps have been very well-received by the public,” he said.

The Diocese of Shanghai is encouraging Catholics to read their Bibles more regularly through a campaign to promote daily reading. The diocese also encourages congregational reading of scripture passages before and after Mass.

“Unfortunately, not all the believers in China own a Bible, especially the rural folks who are too poor to own one. That’s why we are so thankful for the continual support of the United Bible Societies to the poorer Chinese Catholics,” Fr. Chen reported.

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Long Island religious sisters say apostolic visitation will be helpful

New York City, N.Y., Dec 1, 2009 (CNA) -  

An order of Benedictine nuns living a life of prayer and care for the elderly on Long Island, New York says it welcomes the apostolic visitation investigating women’s religious institutes.

The Missionary Sisters of St. Benedict start their day at 5:15 a.m. to gather in their chapel, where they pray for half an hour and silently meditate for another 30 minutes. They care for the 43 elderly residents of St. Joseph’s Guest House for an hour, then return to the chapel for morning Mass. Newsday reports that they spend about four hours each day in prayer.

"Something inside you feels you want this," said Sister Matea Mirecka, the superior of the house. "I am very happy and I will never change."

Though some orders have reacted critically to the Vatican’s three-year apostolic visitation to survey the lives of religious sisters in the U.S., the nuns’ superior said they welcomed the inquiry.

"They want to help us," Sr. Mirecka told Newsday. "I will be happy if they come. This is good."

The Sisters of St. Benedict in Long Island are all natives of Poland. They are a traditional order and wear a long black habit.

Sister Bernarda Krajewsak said the habit is “very precious” to the sisters.

“It's a sign to the whole world we belong to Christ. We are the brides of Christ," she told Newsday.

The sisters bathe, dress, medicate and entertain the residents of the adult home. At least one sister is on duty throughout the night and they rarely leave the convent grounds in any case.

Sr. Joachima Mystkowska told Newsday that in her 30 years at the convent the only movie she has gone out to see was The Passion of the Christ, which she saw twice.

The sisters live in obedience to their superior and must ask her if they can write to their families in Poland and get money for postage. She usually says yes.

Mary Gautier, co-author of a new study on religious vocations done by Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), told Newsday that people are clearly being attracted to religious life “but apparently not to religious life as it has been practiced in the United States for the last 20 or 30 years" by most orders.

The CARA study finds that though traditional orders make up only 10 percent of nuns in the U.S., they attract half of all new vocations.

The Sisters of St. Benedict have attracted several American-born women as novices but they have either left or have transferred to other orders. Their membership is still young, with many sisters in their thirties.

The 35-year-old Sister Pia Wojtak told Newsday that she loves the time spent in prayer in the chapel.

“You want to spend as much time with your beloved, Jesus Christ himself,” she said.

Fr. Charles Kohli, one of three retired priests from the Diocese of Rockville Centre who lives at the sisters’ Guest House, said the sisters’ prayer makes them “so exquisitely effective with us."

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AIDS victims need effective compassion and a ‘message of conversion,’ Catholic Medical Association leader says

CNA STAFF, Dec 1, 2009 (CNA) - The head of a Catholic medical organization says that World AIDS Day is a time to show “effective compassion” to those affected and to recall the Church’s leadership in helping AIDS victims. Lamenting the “unfair” criticisms of the Catholic response to AIDS, he advocated charity, scientific research and a “message of conversion” to combat the threat.

Dr. John Brehany, Ph.D, Executive Director of the Catholic Medical Association (CMA) spoke with CNA in a Monday interview.

He said that World AIDS Day is a time to remember those who suffer from AIDS and to reach out to them with “effective compassion.”

“The Church has been a leader on this,” Brehany commented, adding that the Church provides “not only hands-on caring, but a healing love.”

Catholics should remember that many people get AIDS in a variety of ways and compassion is needed for everyone. He added that scientific research is also important.

“The Church does affirm the legitimate and good role of human knowledge and science in preventing and effectively treating this very horrible disease.”

However, he told CNA, a religious response is needed as well.

“One of the most important things we can do is preach the necessity of converting to the truth,” Brehany said, emphasizing that a “message of conversion” is needed for everyone.

He advocated not being judgmental “in an improper way” but also called for conversion to the Gospel and not leading “the kind of life that is conducive towards either spreading or receiving AIDS.”

“I hope there will be a day we could all join together and acknowledge and support one another in these things.

“Unfortunately many times the Church’s efforts have been met by unfair criticism,” Brehany told CNA. “I hope that on a day like this the Church’s efforts can be acknowledged by everybody who is working together against this disease.”

CNA asked Brehany about the advocacy of condom use in AIDS prevention. He explained that the CMA is guided by the moral teachings of the Church and so has two points of criticism of such advocacy, ethical and scientific.

Catholics do not believe that the use of condoms is a truly ethical response to infection with AIDS, he explained.

He added that research has discredited the idea AIDS can be stopped with condom distribution, citing Harvard researcher Edward Green.

Green, the Senior Harvard Research Scientist for AIDS Prevention, in March told CNA that condom use is effective HIV/AIDS prevention only in certain limited cases. In his view, the advocacy of a reduction in the number of sexual partners, with a stress on fidelity and monogamy, is most generally effective.

Condom use is “not a prudent or practical way,” Brehany commented.

“Unfortunately the teachings and the approach of the church have been criticized and even blamed,” he told CNA on Monday.

Brehany also pointed to the African bishops’ World AIDS Day message as a good guide for Catholics.

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African bishops send World AIDS Day message: 'the Church is second to none in facing HIV in Africa'

Accra, Ghana, Dec 1, 2009 (CNA) - In light of World AIDS Day, the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM)  released a statement in which the bishops noted the struggles Africa faces while highlighting the work the Church is doing “facing HIV in Africa and caring for people infected and affected.”

World AIDS Day is celebrated each year on December 1. This year's theme, "Universal Access and Human Rights,” seeks to challenge discriminatory laws, practices and policies that stand between people with HIV/AIDS and prevention, treatment, care, and support.

The letter, signed by Cardinal Polycarp Pengo of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on behalf of SECAM began by stating that the “Church is second to none in facing HIV in Africa and caring for people infected and affected. Earlier this year, responding to a journalist en route to the continent, Pope Benedict XVI said: 'The most efficient, most truly present player in the fight against AIDS is the Catholic Church herself.' And we African Bishops know he is right.”

The statement then noted that the bishops are “constantly present among millions of Africans who are badly affected by the pandemic.” Because of this, they “see how AIDS continues to ravage our populations, even if it is slipping down the agenda of governments, civil society and international organizations.”

“The global recession and economic downturn have a detrimental impact on our brothers and sisters infected and affected by HIV and AIDS. Climbing prices of food and other basic necessities are hampering progress of treatment, because people cannot afford the food essential to support their medication.”

“At a time when official concerns about the pandemic are receding, we re-affirm theologically that the Body of Christ has AIDS, and express our pastoral determination as Family of God to provide fitting responses. For our continent is still the worst afflicted,” the statement continued. 

In looking for a solution, the bishops called for a comprehensive approach. “For the tide to turn, the impact of all contributing factors must be recognize and tackled holistically: wars; fragile or failing states; inequality between men and women; the ravages of climate change and many more. All these make the poor even poorer, more dispossessed, more vulnerable to HIV and, if infected, more likely to develop AIDS,” they added. 

“HIV/AIDS is not just a medical problem and investing in pharmaceutics alone will not work.”  They noted that AIDS cannot be overcome “by relying exclusively or primarily on the distribution of prophylactics. Only a strategy based on education to individual responsibility in the framework of a moral view of human sexuality, especially through conjugal fidelity, can have a real impact on the prevention of this disease.”

“The Church's understanding of marriage as the total, reciprocal and exclusive communion of love between a man and a woman prompts the most effective behaviors for preventing the sexual transmission of disease: namely, abstinence before marriage and fidelity within marriage.”

The bishops also expressed great confidence in the youth of their continent, exhorting them, “ Let no one deceive you into thinking that you cannot control yourself… Formation of the human person is the true recipe, the key to it all, and we are intent on preparing you to be tomorrow's salt of the earth and light of the world, active, generous and responsible members of society and Church.”

The statement concluded by expressing the hope that Catholics around the world would “continue supporting the long-term commitment of the Church in Africa to raise awareness, to accompany the infected and the affected, to form the youth, and to face this great challenge - along with many others - in a spirit of inclusivity, reconciliation, and greater harmony in families, communities, parishes and all dimensions of Church life.”

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AIDS orphans need meaning, not just medical assistance

Vatican City, Dec 1, 2009 (CNA) - The Pontifical Mission of Austria reaffirmed its commitment to supporting victims of AIDS in a declaration sent to Fides News agency on Monday.  This year's letter from the mission casts light on the plight of orphaned children and promotes the objective of giving them dignity in life and in death.

"AIDS is a terrible scourge. Particularly with regard to orphans from AIDS.  The challenge is not only medical care but above all we must try to give meaning to a life that is too often very brief for these children. The joy of life in these sick children teaches us the ultimate goal of our life: to love and be loved!" said Monsignor Leo-M. Maasburg, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies of Austria.

The intention of Missio Austria, as the Mission is also known, is to "attract attention primarily to the serious consequences of the pandemic in children, creating an awareness of the causes and contexts, to show real possibilities of solution."  They added that they have been aiding in the psycho/social and spirituals treatments of AIDS victims, their widows and orphans for years.

Missio Austria is not without work.  The letter included the statistic that 98% of deaths from AIDS occur in developing nations, where the pandemic has a greater grip and health care is scarcer.  This is telling statistic for the reason behind this year's World AIDS Day theme, which is "Universal Access, Human Rights."

Missio Austria's magazine "Alle Welt" has published the testimony of a young Camillian priest named Father John Phuong Dinh Toai who works with AIDS orphans in Vietnam.  He manages an orphanage for 60 children whose parents are sick, suffering or already dead.  "We're almost the only ones that help mothers with AIDS and their children," Fr. Phuong said of the lack of care available in his region.  He says that there are 300 more children now being cared for by their families who could be served.

"We try to make the children stay with their parents as long as possible."

The goal of his work and that of the people he collaborates with in caring for the children is to "give them a dignified life, but also a dignified death."

He does so by living out his greatest desire, which is " to serve people, to serve God and bring Christ to men."

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Same-sex 'marriage' expected to be approved in D.C.

Washington D.C., Dec 1, 2009 (CNA) - On Tuesday, Dec.1, council members in D.C. are expected to vote in favor of a bill that will legalize same-sex “marriage” in the nation's capital, a move that will potentially sever the partnership between the city and Catholic Charities.

Archbishop Donald Wuerl of the Washington D.C. Archdiocese stated in an interview last week that not only does the new bill change the definition of marriage but also prohibits Catholic Charities “from carrying out our social service ministry” if they do not accept the redefinition.

The bill, if approved today, will come up for a second vote of the full Council on Dec. 15. If it is voted in favor of a second time, as predicted, it will then go to supporter Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty for his signature.

On Nov. 17, Archbishop Wuerl stated that the same-sex “marriage” bill would cause the city itself to withhold contracts and licenses since Catholic Charities and other religious institutions cannot comply with city mandates to “recognize and promote” it.

The prelate clarified that even if contracts between the city and Catholic Charities end, “the archdiocese and Catholic Charities are committed to continuing to provide services in the District,” despite the fact that “the new requirements by the city for religious organizations to recognize same-sex marriages in their policies could restrict our ability to provide the same level of service that we do now.”

Catholic Charities currently assists 68,000 people in D.C. each year by means of shelter, food, medical and legal care, job training, immigration assistance and other services.

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Pope's December prayer intentions emphasize respect for children

Vatican City, Dec 1, 2009 (CNA) - Pope's December prayer intentions emphasize respect for children

Tuesday, the Holy See press office released the Holy Father's prayer intentions for the month of December.

The Pope's general prayer intention is: “That children may be respected and loved and never be the victims of exploitation in its various forms."

Also released was his mission intention.  That all people answer the “common vocation to sanctity and mission,” and that it may be “promoted and fostered, with careful discernment of the charisms and a constant commitment to spiritual and cultural formation."

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Same-sex ‘marriage’ support is overstated, New York Catholic Conference cautions state legislature

Albany, N.Y., Dec 1, 2009 (CNA) - Responding to reports that the New York Senate could vote on same-sex “marriage” today, the New York State Catholic Conference noted that opinion polls “routinely overstate” support for the redefinition of marriage. The Conference argued that New York citizens do not want the legislature to redefine marriage.

The Conference’s executive director Richard E. Barnes issued a statement on Tuesday which noted the success of Maine’s Question 1, which overturned the Maine legislature’s approval of same-sex “marriage.”

“Just last month in Maine, advocates for reinventing marriage outspent their opponents by two to one and still could not sway voters in that socially liberal state, who easily overturned a law passed by the Maine legislature, despite pre-vote polling predicting a dead heat,” Barnes said.

He commented that opinion polls “routinely overstate” support for “this radical social experiment.”

“There is no reason to believe the same is not true in New York. It would be wise for our Senators to keep in mind the lessons of Maine, California and all of the others states that have stood up in favor of marriage: The citizenry does not want their state legislature redefining marriage.”

“We urge the New York State Senate to stand firm in defense of marriage. The people expect nothing less,” Barnes’ statement concluded.

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Kenyan conference calls for urgent methods of AIDS prevention

Nairobi, Kenya, Dec 1, 2009 (CNA) - Participants at the Fifth Pan-African Youth Alive Education for Life Conference have called for urgent programs which address behavior change to fight HIV and AIDS.  Youth Alive founder Miriam Durgan stressed that each person has a “great responsibility” in the fight against AIDS.

The conference, which began on Nov. 30 and will run until Dec. 5, brings together participants from South Africa, Mauritius, Zambia, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Kenya under the co-sponsorship of the Youth Alive clubs and Education for Life in Africa.

According to Catholic Information Service Africa (CISA), the conference hopes to foster common goals, policies, standards and values which will bring young people together across different regions of Africa to work for AIDS prevention.

Sr. Felicia Matola, Director of Education for Life said, “We are responsible for our own lives and the lives of those youth and adults we are privileged to serve to uphold the values that we preach to others.” She also spoke of the huge responsibility those who are infected with AIDS have to avoid infecting others.

Miriam Durgan, the founder of Youth Alive, added, “So often we hear people say government should do.., or the Church should do.., but the truth is that each one of us has a great responsibility.” Durgan also noted that HIV is still spreading rapidly, with 2-3.2 million new cases each year.

The results in the treatment of AIDS comes from medical research which examines the behaviors connected to the spread of HIV, Durgan noted. However, she expressed the widely-felt fear that the current global recession, the funding of this research will be cut and the economies of developing countries won't be able to afford treatment to the millions of new cases, reported CISA.

“Many of the global players in the fight focus on solution  before addressing the root cause of the disease. They shy away from addressing the two basic issues contributing to the spread of the disease –premarital sex and promiscuity,” Fr. Daniel Mureithi from the Commission for Pastoral and Lay Apostolate of the Kenya Episcopal Conference said. He also noted that condoms are not the solution to HIV and AIDS because they promote the disease. The solution is abstinence and faithfulness.

Edward Mariega of the Kenya National AIDS Control Council also called on youth and adults alike to work together in fighting the disease and advised the youth to demand more resources in preventing and treating AIDS.

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Benedict XVI reminds theologians to be humble in their search for truth

Vatican City, Dec 1, 2009 (CNA) - During a Mass with members of the International Theological Commission, the Pope reflected on the virtues of both St. Damien of Molokai and St. Therese of Lisieux and also spoke of how humility leads theologians in their quest for truth.

In his homily, the Holy Father described the true theologian as someone who does not rely merely on the measure of his intelligence to fathom the mystery of God. He gave examples of “great specialists and... masters of the faith who have penetrated into the details ... of the history of salvation.” However, he said, “they were unable to see the mystery in itself, the central nucleus:  that Christ truly was the Son of God.”

Nevertheless, the history of the Church does include a great many men and women who were capable of reaching the truth and of humility. He mentioned the recently canonized St. Damien of Molokai, as well as St. Therese of Lisieux who were both “touched in the depths of their hearts.” These “little people who were also wise” are models from which to draw inspiration, the Holy Father said.

The Pope also recalled Saul, who became Paul after his conversion. Benedict XVI explained that Saul was “one of the wise who could not see,” until “he became blind and thus truly came to see.”

“The great man becomes a small man and so sees the ... wisdom of God.”  This wisdom, he continued “is greater than all human wisdom.”

All of this happened, however, not because of any action on Saul's part, but rather, because "following His Resurrection the Lord touched the heart of Saul on the road to Damascus,” the Pope concluded.

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First vote for same-sex 'marriage' approved in D.C.

Washington D.C., Dec 1, 2009 (CNA) - On Tuesday, D.C. council members voted 11 to 2 in favor of a bill that will allow same-sex “marriage” in the nation's capital, a “tragic choice” says Catholic political advocate.

“The decision to legalize same-sex marriage in the District of Columbia is a tragic choice for marriage generally, and a troubling encroachment on the freedom of the Church to practice its faith free of governmental interference,” said Brian Burch, President of to CNA.

The Dec.1 vote is the first of two necessary for the legislation to be signed for approval by D.C Mayor Adrian Fenty. On Dec. 15, the second vote, which is also expected to be in favor of bill, will take place.

“Engaged Catholic citizens have worried for years that legally sanctioned same-sex marriage was destined to infringe upon the religious freedom of the Church,” Burch told CNA on Tuesday. “The more honest gay marriage activists have admitted as much. This is in part why voters have overwhelmingly affirmed the traditional definition of marriage when offered the choice.”

Burch continued to say that “while a sensible compromise may still be worked out between the District and the Archdiocese, today’s decision confirms the need to remain vigilant in the struggle to protect marriage between a man and a woman.”

“Today’s vote is a disturbing reminder of the far reaching consequences wrapped up in the efforts to redefine marriage.”

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U.S. Ambassador pledges continued cooperation between USA and Vatican in global AIDS battle

Vatican City, Dec 1, 2009 (CNA) - Dr. Miguel H. Diaz, U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, calls the cooperation of the United States and the Church in the fight against AIDS "one of the most relevant in the global fight against the virus." This collaboration is credited with being able "to reach even poorest and most isolated areas of the planet."

In a letter published on the Italian Episcopal Conference's Avvenire news agency website, Diaz recognized the "great steps" that have been made in the world's struggle against the HIV epidemic in the last 25 years. He cited World Health Organization estimates that put the figure at 4 million people, the number of individuals in developing countries currently with access to anti-retroviral drug treatments.

Cooperation with the Catholic Church and its extensive network of sanitary assistance has been instrumental in reaching these people, he wrote.

Collaboration between the Holy See and the U.S. government extends beyond “fieldwork.” In November of this year, the Church and the American Consulate teamed up to educate other “partners” on the issue of pediatric AIDS in an international conference designed to "encourage greater collaboration between governments, NGOs, and religious organizations to prevent mother-child HIV transmission."

"We've already begun to see positive outcomes of the conference and we're expecting more concrete results shortly," said Diaz, who was appointed to his position in May by President Obama.

The ambassador added that the United States pledges "to continue working together with its world partners, among them the Holy See and the many organizations tied to it, to break through the many barriers that are still in our path."

"On this World AIDS Day, the United States is glad to recognize its collaboration with the catholic organizations in the global effort to combat AIDS."

Under the Obama administration, the Vatican and the U.S. have found themselves at odds over AIDS prevention.

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Research abandoned on contraceptive vaccine to ‘immunize’ women against pregnancy

Washington D.C., Dec 1, 2009 (CNA) - A leading contraceptive researcher has abandoned her attempts to create a vaccine that would render a woman “immune” from pregnancy. The Population Research Institute lauded the end of the research, which it said tried to make a woman’s body treat pregnancy as a disease.

Based on research into women who are infertile because of antibodies that inhibit sperm from fertilizing the egg, Dr. Donnie Dunbar had hoped to develop a vaccine that would trick a healthy woman’s immune system into a hostile reaction to her own eggs. She intended the vaccine to help combat what she saw as the “world population problem.”

Tests which injected rabbits with pig proteins caused an autoimmune response, but it completely destroyed the ovaries.

“Unfortunately, we weren’t just looking at preventing fertilization now; we generated a complete autoimmune disease, which is also known as premature ovarian failure,” Dunbar said, according to the Population Research Institute.

“I am responsible for killing this vaccine for further human research, and I made some people in my biotech company and some other people very unhappy.”

The Population Research Institute (PRI) described her vaccine as “an insidious attempt to make the body treat pregnancy as a disease.” However, the organization said her refusal to develop the vaccine for humans showed “an integrity often absent among anti-fertility researchers.”

The former contraceptive vaccine is now being developed for possible use as a sterilizing agent for dogs and cats and for the culling of the African elephant population.

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Christian Life Movement begins 3rd plenary assembly in Ecuador

Guayaquil, Ecuador, Dec 1, 2009 (CNA) -

Some 250 delegates from 17 countries are participating in the 3rd Plenary Assembly of the Christian Life Movement, which is taking place December 1-8 in the Ecuadoran city of Guayaquil.  Others at the assembly include: Cardinal Estanislao Karlic, Archbishop Emeritus of Parana in Argentina; Founder of the CLM, Luis Fernando Figari, and the CLM General Coordinator, Eduardo Regal.

Cardinal Karlic was named by Pope John Paul II as a member of the drafting committee of the Catechism of the Catholic Church that was published in 1992, and he will be the main the celebrant at the opening Mass of the assembly.

In a message prepared for the meeting, Eduardo Regal recalled the words Fernando Figari addressed to Pope Benedict XVI on Pentecost at the conclusion of the Pope’s meeting with ecclesial movements:  “The Lord Jesus knocks on our door and invites the men and women of today to freely respond.” 

Regal urged the members of the CLM to offer their prayers for the success of the assembly.  “We commend our 3rd Plenary Assembly to the sweet intercession of our Mother Holy Mary, the Star of the New Evangelization,” he said.

The Christian Life Movement is an ecclesial movement with its own spirituality and style within the communion of the Church. It is an International Association of the Faithful of Pontifical Right recognized by the Holy See in 1994.

The CLM is present on all five continents, with most of its activity centered in Peru, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, the United States, Canada, Italy, England, Spain, Mexico, Australia, Angola and the Philippines.

More information can be found at:

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