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Archive of December 2, 2009

USCCB delegation visits tropical storm ravaged El Salvador

Washington D.C., Dec 2, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop John Manz, Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago, accompanied by Oblate Father Andrew Small, director for the Church in Latin America at the USCCB, are currently visiting communities in El Salvador affected by the recent tropical storm.

According to the USCCB, on Dec. 1 - 3, Father Small and Bishop Mainz will see the damage and flooding inflicted by the storm and also visit with Church leaders in the affected areas of San Salvador, Cuscatlán y San Vicente, and La Libertad.

Earlier this month, Hurricane Ida, followed by a low pressure tropical storm wreaked havoc on El Salvador, causing torrential rains, flooding and mudslides. The center of the country was deluged with 14 inches of rain. The storms killed 198 people, and 77 more are still reported missing.

The storm also did significant damage to the transportation infrastructure, wiping out roads and bridges. Thousands were left homeless when their homes were swept away, reports the USCCB.

The Church's response and ability to provide aid was also hindered by heavy damage inflicted by the storms and subsequent flooding. School schedules have been interrupted, and many people are having a time accessing health care.

"American Catholics care deeply about those who are hit by storms and earthquakes and are left without a home, food or running water,” said Bishop Mainz. “The Collection for the Church in Latin America is able to provide essential emergency care to the Church because of the generosity of ordinary Catholics who contribute to the annual Collection."

Last year's annual collection for Latin America raised over $7 million to help support pastoral and faith formation programs in Latin American and the Caribbean.


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‘Mean-spirited’ minority wrong to claim Christmas offends non-Christians, Bill Donohue says

New York City, N.Y., Dec 2, 2009 (CNA) - Christians should not show timidity in cultural disputes over traditional Christmas songs, displays and Nativity scenes, the head of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights says.  He charges such disputes are contrived by a small set of “mean-spirited people” who wrongly insinuate that many non-Christians are offended by Christmas.

Many reports surface each year regarding local governments putting restrictions on traditional Christmas displays, and Christmas 2009 is no exception.

A life-sized crèche was displayed for about 50 years in the public square of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. However, this year the display has been banned because one man said he wanted to have a sign which read “Celebrating Solstice – Honoring Atheist War Veterans” to accompany the manger.

Leesburg, Virginia has banned its traditional display of a crèche, menorah and a Christmas tree. A Nativity scene which since World War II has been displayed on the grounds of the Manitowoc County Courthouse in Wisconsin will also be absent.

A Manchester, Massachusetts woman was told she could not have a live nativity scene outside her church because it sits on the town commons. A menorah in a Nashville park was approved by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) but the crèche in Clarksville, Tennessee was not because the city paid $200 for the animals used in the scene.

The Capitol building in Olympia, Washington has barred all holiday displays.
Catholic League President Bill Donohue particularly noted that the West Chester, Pennsylvania Court House has created new rules allowing four holiday displays for a limited period of time if they are “content-netural” in their message.

“But symbols—religious or secular—are by their very nature content-specific, thus making the request positively oxymoronic,” Donohue said in a Monday press release.

CNA spoke with Donohue in a Tuesday phone interview. He said that the “War on Christmas” largely began with the Catholic League’s successful efforts to place a Nativity scene in the same New York City public park which hosted the world’s largest menorah.

The Catholic League also sued the City of New York because miniature menorahs were displayed in public schools but Christian symbols were not.

The hostility towards Christmas is no longer only from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Donohue said. Rather, the ACLU has been “eclipsed” by the Freedom from Religion Foundation. He charged that the group is “increasingly aggressive” in trying to “neuter the meaning of Christmas by putting up anti-religious (read: anti-Christian) posters and displays.”

Donohue contrasted this behavior with the actions of the American Humanist Association, which in his view puts up more positive signs that do not denigrate religion.

He described a number of different tactics being used to suppress Christian symbols at Christmastime. The legal strategy to bar Nativity scenes from public property was prominent in the 1980s and early 1990s but has now “exhausted itself.”

Asked by CNA about whether anti-Christmas incidents have increased or decreased, Donohue reported that biggest change is not the volume but “the diversity of tactics.”

This shift to a “cultural strategy” has generated a “contrived competition” with Christmas that takes place every December.

Disputes about Christmas displays, he charged, are “contrived by elitists of a secular mindset.” They are “bringing forth every possible secular holiday that might fall in December and trying to give it equal billing with Christmas.”

According to Donohue, many Jews will acknowledge that Hanukkah is a minor holiday. He added that the Hindus he knows celebrate Christmas as part of being Americans.

“Now in the workplace, in the schools, we have to be ever-conscious of offending people who are not Christians,” he charged.

Donohue blamed this situation on the “language police” and diversity consultants, whom he claimed to be part of a $1 billion industry active in the private and public workplace.

“These people are the ones selling the propaganda that non-Christians are offended by Christian symbols in December. There is no evidence to this,” he said, reporting that about 96 percent of Americans do not object to Christmas displays or greetings.

He blamed Christmas disputes on “a very small percentage of mean-spirited people year after year.”

He suggested Catholics respond to the suppression of Christmas displays by filing lawsuits or showing up at town hall meetings and school board meetings when the displays become an issue.

“Christians should not be accepting of a secular symbol for Christmas, the tree, when religious symbols, like the star and crescent or menorah are allowed in the same setting,” he commented. “Christians have been far too timid and shown far too much reticence. The problem is with the objectors, not those celebrating.”

In the Catholic League’s press release Donohue also pointed out positive signs. The Christmas Boat Parade in Patchogue, Long Island undid last year’s name change to a Holiday Boat Parade. The Capitol’s Christmas tree this year will not be a generically named Holiday Tree. And a Colorado sheriff is allowing crèches and menorahs and selling shirts reading “Lighten Up. Just say ‘Merry Christmas’.”

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March for life attracts 50,000 in Costa Rica

San José, Costa Rica, Dec 2, 2009 (CNA) - Some 50,000 people participated in the “Costa Rica March for Life and the Family” on November 28, which concluded with an address calling on officials to reject any law that would attack these fundamental values.

The address encouraged participants “to defend all human life” from conception to natural death. It also urged that marriage and the family be protected, “and for this reason we oppose, and we call on our representatives in the executive branch, legislative assembly and municipalities to reject any bill, policy or institutional activity” to the contrary.

“We are committed to exercising our sacred right to vote in a responsible way, voting for those who propose and are committed to defending and promoting human life, marriage and family in public office,” the statement indicated.

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Bishop-elect of Cheyenne an outdoorsman from a faith-filled family

Indianapolis, Ind., Dec 2, 2009 (CNA) - Fr. Paul D. Etienne, the bishop-elect of Cheyenne, is an Indiana outdoorsman whose vocation was nourished by a faithful mother and relatives in the priesthood and religious life.

Fr. Etienne, 50, will become one of the youngest Catholic bishops in the U.S. when he is installed as Bishop of Cheyenne on Dec. 9. The Indianapolis Star reports that he celebrated his final Masses as pastor in his two parishes in Perry County, Indiana where he has been assigned since July.

The bishop-elect earned a business degree at a Minnesota college and struggled to resolve his doubts about his vocation during his studies at the Gregorian in Rome.

His resolution became firm in 1990, two years before his ordination.

The priest explained that while in Rome he sensed God speaking “within the depths of my heart.”
“It was as if I was able finally to bring my will into line with God's will for me," he said, "and the priesthood was something that I wanted for myself. And life changed for me.”

He and his brother Bernard, who is also a priest, have maintained a 145-acre tract just north of Tell City, Indiana as their retreat. On hillside land that was once heavily logged, they have planted oaks, clover patches and a thousand pine trees to make the area hospitable for rabbits, turkeys and deer.

The brothers also built a small pond as a water source for the game and for a place to fish.

Fr. Etienne told the Star that caring for the land takes a lot of investment with “little to show for it at first.”

“Preaching is a lot like that,” he explained.

He and his brother have visited the forest for years on Sunday afternoons and Mondays. They had intended to build a retirement cabin on the land, though Bernard believed his brother would be appointed a bishop someday.

"I have thought that he had a target on his back for quite a while,” Fr. Bernard told the Star. “I wasn't ready for it to happen yet. I wasn't ready for the dramatic change that this was going to be in our relationship.”

Two of the brothers’ six siblings are also in religious life. Their mother, Kay, had felt a call to the religious life but desired a family more strongly. On a pilgrimage to Lourdes, she asked God to give her a husband and a family and she would devote her children to His service.

Her brother was a priest and her sister was a nun. This uncle and aunt brought many other priests and nuns to Fr. Etienne’s grandparents’ home in Tell City for meals and fun.

"They came to family gatherings. They played softball with us when we were growing up. They played football with us. They played cards with us. And when we got older, they drank with us," Fr. Etienne told the Star. "It was just very human experiences with them. It wasn't just them presiding over the sacraments of the Church."

Archbishop of Indianapolis Daniel M. Beuchlein told the Star that he had submitted Bishop-elect Etienne’s name as a candidate fit to become bishop.

"I think the outdoorsman part probably caught the papal nuncio's interest," Archbishop Buechlein said. "They were looking for somebody like that for Wyoming."

Bishop-Elect Etienne said a friend has given him a new fly rod for trout fishing in his new home.

“I can’t wait,” he told the Indianapolis Star.

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Cardinal Cipriani invites woman repentant of abortion to become an 'apostle of life'

Lima, Peru, Dec 2, 2009 (CNA) - During a radio program this week, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani of Lima invited a woman who repented of having an abortion to become an “apostle of life “and help others who have experienced the same tragedy.

During the program, Dialogue of Faith, the cardinal took a call from a woman who underwent an abortion four years ago and later repented and sought God’s forgiveness in the Sacrament of Confession.

“God has forgiven you because He is of infinite mercy and kindness, but He also wants to use your suffering and your desire to change,” the cardinal told her. He encouraged her to become an apostle of life and thus help women undergoing similar experiences, in order to help them realize the gravity of abortion.

“Remember the case of Dr. Bernard Nathanson,” he said, “the American abortion doctor who by the help of God and scientific knowledge was touched and discovered the evil of what he had done, and he became an apostle of life throughout the world.”

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Irish clerical sex abuse report reveals ‘betrayal of sacred trust,’ bishops say

Dublin, Ireland, Dec 2, 2009 (CNA) - Last week an Irish government investigation released its report about the Irish bishops’ failure to combat and report clerical sexual abuse. Irish prelates have reacted with dismay and shame about their predecessors’ “betrayal of the sacred trust.”

The report focused on why church leaders in the Archdiocese of Dublin did not report to police a single abuse complaint against a priest until 1995.

Archbishops and their senior deputies had compiled confidential files on more than 100 parish priests accused of sexually abusing children since 1940. The files were locked in the Dublin archbishop’s private vault, the Associated Press says.

Archbishops of Dublin John Charles McQuaid, Dermot Ryan and Kevin McNamara did not report cases of abuse but tried to avoid public scandal by moving offenders from parish to parish and also overseas to U.S. churches.

The present Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, said his predecessors, including Cardinal Desmond Connell, must have known that priests’ molestation and rape of boys and girls was “a crime in both civil and canon law.”

“For some reason or another, they felt they could deal with all this in little worlds of their own,” Archbishop Martin said, according to the Associated Press. "They were wrong, and children were left to suffer."

Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, reacted to the publication of the Report of the Commission of Investigation into the sexual abuse of children by priests, saying "I am shocked and ashamed." 

"I want to apologize to all those who have been hurt and their families. I also want to apologize to all the people of Ireland that this abuse was covered up and that the reputation of the Church was put before the safety and well-being of children."

"I also want to reassure everyone that the Church’s policy of Child Safeguarding in Ireland today puts the welfare of the child as the paramount concern. That policy is also based on the practice of full cooperation with the Statutory authorities and ongoing monitoring of the implementation of best practice in Dioceses by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland," the Cardinal also said.

Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam said in a statement that "everyone is deeply disgusted and disillusioned by the awfulness of the abuse, the vulnerability of the victims and the betrayal of the sacred trust placed in those who carried out this abuse. With our priests, I share these strong sentiments."

Neary also said that Catholics can respond to the revelations in two ways.

“We can, in anger, allow ourselves to be overcome by despair. We can opt for a world where sin and selfishness have the final say, where there is no such thing as faith, reconciliation or hope. On the other hand, we can work and pray together so as to ensure that the child safeguarding structures, already in place across the country, will greatly help to prevent such evil deeds from ever recurring in a Church environment."

"I am mindful of the perceived hollowness of repeated apologies. I must, however, be even more mindful of the many and life-long effects of clerical abuse on children. In this context, as a Bishop whose diocese has also had to confront evidence of child abuse on the part of some priests, I wish to apologize again, humbly and without reservation, to all who have suffered and to their families," he added.

Bishop Philip Boyce of Raphoe said that the report "lays bare the immense betrayal of sacred trust and duty on the part of priests. It is horrific to think that an innocent child could be sexually abused by any adult, let alone by a priest."

Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor stated that the report is “a shameful reminder to us of the pain and suffering experienced, both directly and indirectly, by children at the hands of those who should have cared for and protected them."

"As a Church, we must continue to apologize to those who have suffered for our failure to act and to listen to them in their hour of need. This abuse should never have happened and is contrary to the Christian call to reach out to the vulnerable in our society. Dreadful and painful as it is to address these issues, it is important to get to the truth of what happened and to find forums to discuss this problem," he added.

Bishop Treanor assured all parishioners that bishops will be examining the report “carefully” in order to “explore what lessons can be learned.”

“We also wish to take this opportunity to affirm that we are committed both morally and legally to upholding the rights of children and young people and will continue to work openly and collaboratively with all statutory authorities to ensure that we, as a Church and as a society at large, address these issues."

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Holy Father highlights JPII document on the Sacrament of Penance

Vatican City, Dec 2, 2009 (CNA) -  At the end of his general audience, Pope Benedict XVI reminded those present that today is the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Exhortation on the Sacrament of Confession, “Reconciliatio et Paenitentia.”  The Holy Father then drew attention to several saints who were “tireless dispensers of divine mercy.”

After noting that “Reconciliatio et Paenitentia” notes the importance of the Sacrament of Penance in the life of the Church,”  Benedict XVI listed a few saints who are “apostles of the confessional.”

He explained that St. John Marie Vianney, St. Joseph Cafasso, St. Leopold Mandic and St. Pio of Pietrelcina were all  “tireless dispensers of divine mercy.”

The Pope implored young people, may the saints' "witness of faith and charity encourage you, dear young people, to shun sin and to plan your future as a generous service to God and mankind.”

May the witness of these saints also “help you, dear sick people, to experience the mercy of the crucified Christ in your suffering. May it stimulate you, dear newlyweds, to create a family in an abiding climate of faith and mutual understanding”

The Holy Father concluded  by praying that, in light of the current Year for Priests, “the example of these saints, assiduous and faithful ministers of divine forgiveness be for clergy, and for all Christians, an invitation always to trust in the goodness of God, faithfully practicing and celebrating the Sacrament of Penance.”

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Benedict XVI recalls life of William of Saint-Thierry and his teachings on love

Vatican City, Dec 2, 2009 (CNA) - In today's general audience, Pope Benedict XVI delved into the life and teachings of William of St. Thierry, a Cistercian monk who wrote extensively about the nature of love.

Today's audience continues the Pope's tradition of tracing the history of the Church beginning with the Apostles and continuing with the Doctors of the Church and influential saints throughout the ages.

William of St. Thierry was a friend of Bernard of Clairvaux and helped reform monasticism in the 12th century.  He also wrote prolifically on monastic theology and on love, which, he claims, “is the principal force that moves the human soul.”

William was a member of a noble family and was well-educated. He became a Benedictine and entered the Monastery of Saint-Nicaise in Reims. He then went onto become abbot at the Monastery of Saint-Thierry, where he was unable to institute the reforms he desired. He abandoned the Benedictines and became a Cistercian at the Abbey of Signy, where he continued to write.

One of William's fundamental ideas, the Pope said, is found in his  "De Natura et Dignitate Amoris" (The Nature and the Dignity of Love).  This idea is that “The principal force that moves the human soul is love. The truth is that only one task is entrusted to each human being: learning to love sincerely, authentically and freely.”

Though man himself was made to love, “learning to love is a long and arduous path,” said the Holy Father. This journey of love requires that “people impose an effective asceticism upon themselves in order to eliminate any disordered affections and unify their lives with God - source, goal and power of love - until reaching the summit of spiritual life, which William defined as 'wisdom',” the Pope continued.

“At the end of this ascetic itinerary, we experience great serenity and sweetness,” said the Holy Father.

Pope Benedict also spoke of the incarnation, and explained that William contributes considerable importance to “the emotional dimension” because “our heart is made of flesh and when we love God, Who is Love, how can we not express our human feelings in this relationship with the Lord?” Because the Lord himself took on the flesh and became a man, he “chose to love us with a heart of flesh.”

Love, for William of St. Thierry, “illuminates the mind and enables a better and more profound understanding of God and, in God, of people and events.” It “produces attraction and communion to the point of effecting a transformation, an assimilation, between the lover and the loved.”

“This holds true, above all, for knowledge of God and of His mysteries, which surpass our mind's capacity to understand. God is known if he is loved," Benedict XVI affirmed.

The Holy Father concluded his address by quoting the “Epistola Aurea” which was originally addressed to the Cistercians of Mont-Dieu and is a good summary of William of St. Thierry's ideas on the subject of love. 

“The image of God present in man impels him towards resemblance; that is, towards an ever fuller identification between his will and the divine will.”

William calls this drive towards resemblance, towards perfection, “unity of spirit.” It cannot be achieved through individual effort, the Pope said. But it is done “by the action of the Holy Spirit which purifies and transforms into charity all the desire for love present in the human being.”

“In this way man becomes by grace what God is by nature,” the Holy Father concluded.

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Archdiocese in D.C. still committed to serving, despite same-sex 'marriage' bill

Washington D.C., Dec 2, 2009 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Washington D.C. and Catholic Charities are still “committed to continuing to serve the people of the District of Columbia as we have done for more than 80 years,” despite D.C. Council members voting in favor of same-sex “marriage” in the nation's capital yesterday, said the archdiocese

Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the archdiocese said in a statement yesterday that they will move forward “with the resources available to us,” though the current legislation could threaten to cut government funding of faith-based organizations, such as Catholic Charities, if they do not compromise their religious beliefs.

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.

Gibbs continued to say in her statement  that “as the legislation moves forward, the Archdiocese of Washington will continue its dialogue with the Council to seek a balance of interests in the legislation – that of the city council to legalize same sex marriage and that of religious organizations to protect religious liberties.”

Yesterday's 11-2 vote of approval for same-sex “marriage” in D.C. is the first of two necessary in order for it to be signed into law by D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, a supporter of the bill. The second vote, to be held on Dec. 15, is expected to pass as well.  

The Archdiocese of Washington D.C. concluded it's remarks yesterday by saying that Catholic Charities currently serves 68,000 people a year in the District of Columbia through a range of services including shelter, nutrition, counseling, employment and job training services, legal and health care assistance and immigration assistance.

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American expert speaks on significance of Papal vision of beauty

Vatican City, Dec 2, 2009 (CNA) -

On November 22, Pope Benedict XVI attracted the eyes of the world to the Sistine Chapel where he welcomed a group of 250 international artists and urged them to renew an old friendship in the "quest for beauty."  CNA interviewed Abbot Michael John Zielinski, Vice President of the Pontifical Council for the Cultural Heritage of the Church and Sacred Archeology, for further insight into the meaning of this 'quest' and its significance in this Papacy.

Commenting on the “via pulchritudinis,” beauty as a way to God, and the Holy Father's recent emphasis on it, the Benedictine abbot replied, "This is nothing new.  Take a look at Pope Benedict XVI's liturgy.  The Pope's liturgy is not a return to tradition, it's the way to tradition.  It is clearly the expression of... continuity.  He's bringing out, as it were, making manifest the way of beauty to God."

Zielinski then mused on the Pope's awareness, "Have you seen him around people?  He listens very carefully.  He observes.”  The abbot recalled that during the Pope's audiences, “he has these penetrating eyes.  He doesn't observe the mass (of people), he observes the individuals...  In his spiritual life, he is also very observant.  He understands the needs of the Church."

"I think we'll truly understand this Pontificate in the future because he's taking us to our principles," opined the abbot.  "In a world where there's inflation of words and images, his life of silence, prayer and study is truly a prophetic act today."

Abbot Michael John alluded to a quote from Thomas Merton, the 20th Century Catholic writer, who once said, "prayer is losing time for God."

"The Pope believes that 'losing' that time is important... You are prepared for the next life in that time."

You might notice also, said the Benedictine, that the Pope's "physical self is not over the top, you never see him moving about (exaggeratedly)..., whereas his thought is extensive, it has infinite horizons."

"His Pontificate is so different from the last one and yet so complementary."

The abbot remarked that there is a reform going on in the Church, "the reform of Benedict XVI."

Abbot Michael John said we will soon begin to see the fruits of the Pope's “reform.”  "He's preparing the younger generations.  He's offering them a vision, a vision of life, the world and the church and what it means to be a Christian today.  He's preparing us, opening the eyes of our hearts.”

“The vision," Zielinski added, "is a hidden sense, a hidden desire, that of energy and force, and from this vision will come forth new life, ... new forms, new expressions, new representations."

"In Australia at World Youth Day, the young boys and girls returned home with eyes full of vision, and now," he said, "the world is waiting to see what that vision is going to produce; they'll write books, write music, build their houses, churches and cities."

"Hopefully, it will be a life of peace and justice, ... a life that can give witness to the Giver of life."

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Judge bars same-sex 'marriage' from taking place in Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dec 2, 2009 (CNA) - A federal judge in Buenos Aires has barred same-sex “marriage” from taking place in the Argentinean capital this week, overturning a decision by a lower court judge who had previously ruled it to be unconstitutional to prohibit marriage between two persons of the same sex.

Judge Martha Gomez Alsina ruled that the lower court judge did not have the jurisdiction to rule on the country’s Civil Code, which states that marriage is a contract between one man and one woman.

The lower court ruling had struck down two articles of the Civil Code as unconstitutional for prohibiting marriage between two persons of the same sex. Judge Gomez suspended the ruling until further review.

Lawyers appealing the lower court decision said they were driven by “the concern of many married couples that two men were going to be allowed to marry, and thus the foundations of an institution that forged the greatness of Argentina...would be destroyed.”

“We want to be clear that this is not a religious issue.  The civil institution of marriage is not the result of some lawmaker 100 years ago.  Lawmakers then simply recognized what common sense, history and nature tell us about what is best for the good of a society: that marriage is the union of one man and one woman and that this was the foundation of the Argentinean family.”

The Arcbhishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, recently commented on the unease Catholics felt over the failure of the Buenos Aires government to appeal the initial ruling, saying the government officials “failed gravely in their duty as leaders.”

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N.Y. lawmakers vote against same-sex 'marriage'

New York City, N.Y., Dec 2, 2009 (CNA) - On Wednesday Dec. 2, the New York Senate voted 38-24 against a bill to legalize same-sex "marriage" in the state.

“We are extremely pleased that the New York State Senate in a bipartisan vote rejected the concept that marriage can be anything other than the union of one man and one woman,” said Richard E. Barnes, executive director of the New York Catholic Conference on Wednesday.

“It has become clear that Americans continue to understand marriage the way it has been understood, and New York is not different in that regard,” continued Barnes in a statement on the New York Catholic Conference website. “This is a victory for the basic building block of our society.”

The Democratic-controlled state assembly had passed a same-sex “marriage” bill three times in the past with no difficulty but this was the first instance of it being voted on in the Senate. Though New York is politically one of the most liberal states in the U.S, a recent poll has shown the public to be split on the issue of same-sex “marriage.”

Speaking to CNA, Canon lawyer Fr. Gerald Murray commented:  "It is wonderful that the State Senate voted down the proposal to change the legal definition of marriage in New York. Pressure from concerned citizens, and notably Catholic voters, had a very good effect."

"We can also thank Democrat Senator Ruben Diaz Jr., who is a Protestant Minister, for his vocal defense of marriage. Civil order and harmony are based on laws founded in truth. To define the union of two men or two women as marriage is to falsify reality. Our laws must reflect reality, not attempt to redefine it."

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Christian Life Movement to place greater emphasis on promotion of life, dignity and rights of the human person

Guayaquil, Ecuador, Dec 2, 2009 (CNA) - The General Coordinator of the Christian Life Movement, Eduardo Regal, announced Tuesday that the ecclesial movement will place a new emphasis in its apostolic work on the promotion of life, dignity and the rights of the human person.

During the opening conference of the 3rd Plenary Assembly of the CLM which is taking place this week in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Regal explained that the founder of the CLM, Luis Fernando Figari, has decided to add this emphasis to the four other characteristics of the movement’s work, which are evangelical service to the young, solidarity with the poor, the evangelization of the culture and the evangelization of the family.

CLM leaders said the new emphasis is the result of the need to respond to the constant attacks against life in all of its stages in today’s world.

The 3rd Plenary Assembly of the CLM has brought together 250 delegates from 17 countries in the Ecuadoran city of Guayaquil.  Among the special guests is Cardinal Estanislao Karlic, Archbishop Emeritus of Parana, Argentina, and member of the drafting committee of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which was published in 1992.

The previous CLM assemblies took place in Rome in 1999 and in Lima in 2004. The Christian Life Movement is an international association of Catholics that was recognized by the Holy See in 1994.

More information can be found at: http://www.asambleaplenaria.org/home.html

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Abortion amendment to Senate health care bill will have Stupak language, senator’s spokesman confirms

CNA STAFF, Dec 2, 2009 (CNA) - A bipartisan group of senators opposed to taxpayer funding for abortion is preparing an amendment to the Senate health care bill which uses the language of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, a senator’s spokesman has confirmed to CNA.

The Stupak Amendment, sponsored by Reps. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-Penn.), restricted abortion funding in the House version of the health care bill.

The group supporting a Senate version of the amendment includes Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

On Wednesday afternoon CNA spoke with Sen. Nelson spokesman Jake Thompson about the proposed amendment.

“It will be Stupak language,” Thompson told CNA by phone.

Asked to clarify his description of the bill as “Stupak-like,” Thompson explained that the difference between the House and Senate versions will be that the latter conforms to Senate rules.

Sen. Nelson will not “water down” the amendment, his spokesman stated.

“It’s going to seek to accomplish the goal that the Stupak Amendment does, to ensure that federal funding dollars cannot be used for abortion.”

Thompson said that Sen. Nelson will introduce the amendment as early as Wednesday and is seeking co-sponsors on the proposal.

He also confirmed that Sen. Nelson will not vote for the health care bill or for cloture on the debate unless it has such an amendment.

“There has to be Stupak-like language,” Thompson explained.

Sen. Hatch has also backed the proposed amendment.

"We're not talking about doing away with abortion. We're talking about refusing to have federal funds pay for it," Sen. Hatch said, according to Fox News.

The senator said it may be difficult to get the 60 votes needed to pass the amendment.

Sen. Nelson, a pro-life Democrat, had voted for the first cloture motion on Nov. 21, thus allowing debate on the bill to proceed. In a statement issued the same day, he said that his vote only began debate and was “an opportunity to make improvements.”

“If you don't like a bill why block your own opportunity to amend it?” he commented.

In the same statement he also said he would oppose the second cloture motion if the parts of the health care bill he opposed were not changed.

The House bill’s inclusion of the Stupak Amendment has triggered intense opposition from pro-abortion groups. According to Fox News, one group, the Coalition to Pass Health Care Reform and Stop Stupak, plans to hold a rally on Wednesday against the Stupak language.

Kristin Day, President of Democrats for Life of America (DFLA), on Wednesday told CNA she had not yet seen the proposed amendment but assumed it was “quite similar” to the Stupak Amendment.

Day said she was unsure of its prospects in the Senate, but noted a similar amendment to Indian Health Service legislation has passed.

She reported that there have been some changes in Senate membership, adding that the proposed amendment is “going to be a close vote.”

“For the overall chances of the health care bill passing and getting to President Obama’s desk, I think it’s important to pass this amendment,” Day continued.

The amendment would be important for the smooth progress of the Senate-House conference which will reconcile both bodies’ health care reform bills, she explained.

“We’re going to be very interested in what the language looks like and in working hard to pass it,” Day told CNA.

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S.F. Archdiocese to take $14.4 million tax battle to court

San Francisco, Calif., Dec 2, 2009 (CNA) -

Nearly two years after Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco initiated a corporate restructuring of the archdiocese, and a year after the city of San Francisco attempted to levy a $14.4 million property transfer tax on the archdiocese, the dispute will be moving to a civil court.

On November 30, the San Francisco Transfer Tax Appeals Board ruled orally in favor of San Francisco Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting who initiated the process to levy this tax on the archdiocese.

Noting that “more than 19 months have gone by since we first presented a straightforward transaction for recordation by City Recorder Phil Ting’s office and were met with inexcusable delays, and at times, arrogance,” a statement released by the archdiocese said, “We are glad that having exhausted the required administrative process we can finally proceed to a formal, neutral civil court forum.”

The story began in December 2007 when San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer initiated a corporate restructuring of the archdiocese. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the restructuring took land from the “Roman Catholic Welfare Corporation” and  the “Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco” and transferred them to a new corporation called “the Archdiocese of San Francisco Parish and School Juridic Persons Real Property Support Corp.”

Conflict arose in December 2008, seven months after the archdiocese finished the restructuring, and one month after California voters approved Proposition 8 which added a defense of traditional marriage to the California constitution. 

At the time, San Francisco Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting claimed that the archdiocese owed the city $14.4 million in  property transfer taxes.

The taxes are typically collected when properties are sold or transferred to a separate and distinct legal entity.

According to the Chronicle, the archdiocese says that the taxes cannot be levied on the transfers because they were part of an internal reorganization within the archdiocese intending to create "simple ownership models" for schools, parishes and the archdiocese as a whole.

Ting's position is that the three archdiocesan corporations are legally separate entities because they have different boards of directors. 

"The city has applied the law in an uneven fashion (e.g. We are aware of non-Archdiocesan, non-Catholic charities which have transferred property to other charities and no transfer tax has been levied)," wrote Jack Hammel, legal counsel for the archdiocese, in an e-mail to the assessor's office last January, reports the Chronicle.

The transfer tax would be the second largest in San Francisco history. One of the high-value, well known properties is the Mission Dolores, a church and mission founded in 1776, long before California was a state or the city council of San Francisco had the authority to levy transfer taxes.

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'Homosexuals will not get into Heaven' is not the true Catholic teaching, Vatican spokesman clarifies

Rome, Italy, Dec 2, 2009 (CNA) - Following the release of comments attributed to Mexican Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, according to which allegedly he said that homosexuals will not go to Heaven, Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J., explained that such statement is not the official teaching of the Catholic Church.

Cardinal Lozano Barragan, former President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers, who is now retired but lives in Rome, was quoted by the Italian news website "Pontifex News" saying “trans(sexuals) and homosexuals will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven, and it’s not me who says it, but Saint Paul.”

Responding to a follow-up question from Italian religious journalist Bruno Volpe, the Cardinal allegedly added that those who feel homosexual impulses “perhaps aren't guilty, but by acting against the dignity of the body they will certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Pressed for comment, Fr. Federico Lombardi said that Pontifex News “should not be considered an authority on Catholic thinking,” especially “on complex and delicate issues such as homosexuality.”

Pontifex News has previously been involved in controversies regarding the accuracy of their quotes. Last year, Cardinal Juan Sandoval of Guadalajara, Mexico, strongly denied a quote attributed by Pontifex to him, in which he allegedly said that a former Mexican president was responsible for the murder of his predecessor, Cardinal Juan Posadas.

Despite repeated complaints, Pontifex never posted a correction, so Cardinal Sandoval requested that other Catholic media –including CNA- set the record straight.

Fr. Lombardi also quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2358, which says that “the number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”

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