Archive of December 4, 2009

Benedict XVI greets sister of young murderer being considered for sainthood

Vatican City, Dec 4, 2009 (CNA) -

Pope Benedict XVI greeted the sister of Jacques Fesch this week at the conclusion of his Wednesday General Audience.  Fesch was a young man in Paris who killed a police officer and was condemned to death in 1957. While in prison, his conversion was so dramatic that in 1993, then-Archbishop of Paris Cardinal Jean Marie Lustiger opened his cause for beatification.
According to L’Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Angelo Comastri, who was chaplain at the prison where Fesch was incarcerated, was also present at the brief meeting.  “This is a unique testimony,” he explained.  “A young man from a rich family became a murderer and was condemned to death. He was 27. In prison he experienced a radical, intense conversion, reaching great heights of spirituality,” the cardinal said.
Fesch’s sister Monique remarked, “I got along great with my brother. I was eight years older and I was his godmother at his baptism. As I visited him in prison I was able to see his extraordinary conversion up close.”
Together with her brother’s biographer, Ruggiero Francavilla, Monique showed the Pope some letters written by Fesch during his time in prison.
Jacques Fesch killed a policeman on February 25, 1954 in Paris after a frustrated robbery attempt. After his imprisonment he began a three year-long period in which he experienced a conversion leading him to write a series of profound spiritual letters. He was condemned to the guillotine on April 6, 1957 and on October 1 of that year he was executed.
His wife Pierette and his daughter devoted themselves to preserving his memory, and later with the help of a Carmelite sister, they published his letters as part of a book entitled, “In Five Hours I Will See Jesus.”
Upon opening his cause of beatification, Cardinal Lustiger said, “I hope one day he is venerated as a model of holiness.”

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Same-sex 'marriage' groups pull back due to lack of support

San Diego, Calif., Dec 4, 2009 (CNA) - Same-sex “marriage” organizations Courage Campaign and Lambda Legal of California and New York respectively, have announced their intent to postpone efforts to repeal Proposition 8 due to lack of popular support.

Proposition 8, which passed in California during the November mid-term elections, amended the state constitution to define marriage as being between one man and one woman. California voters approved the proposition in November by a margin of 52% to 48%. 

Rick Jacobs, leader of the Courage Campaign said in an online press release Monday that the community “must come together” to “secure the resources to win” but that “right now, the pieces are not all in place to do so confidently.”

Similarly, Lambda Legal issued a statement this week saying that “more outreach, education, research and time” is necessary to repeal Prop. 8, and that placing the repeal as a ballot issue in 2010 would not likely be successful. “While we're within striking distance,” said Jennifer C. Pizer, Marriage Project Director for Lambda Legal in an online statement Tuesday, “we believe we're not there yet.”

California Catholic Daily reports that according to a recent poll conducted by the Los Angeles Times and the University of Southern California, nearly 60 percent of California voters say they do not want to see an initiative seeking to overturn Proposition 8 on the 2010 ballot. The LA Times reported on Nov. 6 that “almost three in five Californians did not want to revisit the issue in 2010.”

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African priest and theologian new member of the Roman Curia

Vatican City, Dec 4, 2009 (CNA) -

Fr. Barthelemy Adoukonou of the Diocese of Abomey, Benin was appointed Thursday morning by Pope Benedict XVI as the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

Adoukonou took the place of Fr. Bernard Ardura, of France who moved to a new post as President of the Pontifical Committee of Historical Sciences. 

Adoukonou  is known to be extremely dedicated to the development of Africa.  In a paper published in 2003 on the Il Regno website, he wrote that "what's needed today for Africa to rise up is a humanity able to assume its own destiny and respond to so many generous development projects on the continent."

The priest has also been bold in entering with a Catholic perspective into some of the more controversial debates on issues affecting Africans.  On strategies against AIDS, Catholic Documentation Information International published that in March of 2009 the priest signed a document along with Cardinal Theodore Adrien Sarr, president of the Regional Conference of Bishops of French West Africa stating that “It is a crime against mankind to deprive children, teen-agers and young people from the training needed for his mind to master the body and its impulses which is called sexual education. In this sense, advertisements for and distribution of condoms could well be nothing else than irresponsibility and a crime against mankind. "

Most recently, Adoukonou was the secretary general of the Episcopal Conference of West Francophone Africa (CERAO) of that of Association of the Episcopal Conferences of Anglophone West Africa (AECAWA).  He was also a consultant for the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

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Greek Orthodox Church joins opposition to EU court’s ban on classroom crucifixes

Athens, Greece, Dec 4, 2009 (CNA) - The head of the Greek Orthodox Church has voiced his opposition to a court ban on crucifixes in classrooms in Italy and will hold an emergency synod to lay out a plan of action to combat the ban.

Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece said that the European Court of Human Rights (EHCR) had ignored the role of Christianity in Europe’s history. According to the BBC, he added that majorities, not only minorities, have rights.

The Orthodox Church fears the EHCR ruling could trigger similar rulings about the public display of Christian symbols in other countries.

The self-described human rights group Helsinki Monitor is seeking the removal of icons of Jesus from Greek courts and an end to Christian oaths in the witness box. It also wants Christian symbols to be removed from Greek schools.

The EHCR had ruled that the display of crucifixes in Italian public schools violates the European Convention on Human Rights’ protections of the right to education and the freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

According to the court’s ruling, the crucifix’s presence in the classroom could be interpreted by pupils as a religious sign and they would feel “that they were being educated in a school environment bearing the stamp of a given religion.”

The Strasbourg-based court argued that this situation could encourage religious pupils but could be disturbing for pupils of other religions or were atheists, “particularly if they belonged to religious minorities.

The ruling caused outcry across Italy and the Italian government plans to appeal it.

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New study on effects of pornography reveals ‘a quiet family killer,’ researcher says

Washington D.C., Dec 4, 2009 (CNA) - A new study on the effects of pornography indicates that it erodes the family, corrupts men’s sense of normal sexuality and is frequently a major factor in most divorces. The author of the study characterized pornography as “a quiet family killer.”


The study, titled “The Effects of Pornography on Individuals, Marriage, Family and Community,” was authored by Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D, who is a trained psychologist and a former Deputy Assistant Health and Human Services Secretary. He is also Director of the Center for Research on Marriage and Religion at the Family Research Council (FRC), which produced the study.


The study reports that men who regularly view pornography have a higher tolerance for abnormal sexuality, including rape, sexual aggression and sexual promiscuity.


Married men involved in pornography report feeling less satisfied with their marital relations and less emotionally attached to their wives, the study says. It also notes that men who regularly use pornography or women who engage in “cybersex” show increased infidelity.


Researcher Steven Stack of Wayne State University led a study which indicated pornography use more than triples the rate of marital infidelity.


The FRC study says pornography users “increasingly see the institution of marriage as sexually confining, have diminished belief in the importance of marital faithfulness, and have increasing doubts about the value of marriage as an essential social institution and further doubts about its future viability.


“All this naturally diminishes the importance for them of having good family relations in their own families.”


According to the study, a survey of divorce lawyers found that 68 percent of divorce cases involved one party meeting a new paramour over the internet while 56 percent involved one party having an “obsessive interest” in pornographic websites.


Pornography encourages greater sexual permissiveness, leading to a greater risk of out-of-wedlock births and sexually transmitted diseases, the study says. Severe clinical depression was also reported twice as frequently among internet pornography users compared to non-users.


Pornography on the internet also has major affects on adolescents. A reported 70 percent of youth aged 15-17 have come across pornography accidentally while online. The youth did not disclose such incidents to anyone almost half the time. Those who accidentally encountered such images were more than 2.5 times more likely to intentionally seek it out than those never exposed.


While adolescents initially experience shame, embarrassment and disgust at pornography, these feelings recede with repeated exposure.


Teens are more likely to view pornography if they have high levels of computer use, fast internet connections, personal dissatisfaction, younger friends or a sensation-seeking personality.


Adolescents who watch the most explicit sexual content available on television doubled the likelihood that they would initiate sexual intercourse, an action with long-lasting consequences. Studies indicate that marital stability in later life decreases as the number of pre-marital sexual partners increases.


Dr. Fagan discussed the study in an FRC statement announcing its release.


“This is a ground-breaking review of what pornography costs families trying to create a life together. Men, women and sometimes even children are saturated by sexual content, and more significantly, are told that it has no real effect. It's just a little amusement,” Fagan said.


"Pornography corrodes the conscience, promotes distrust between husbands and wives and debases untold thousands of young women. It is not harmless escapism but relational and emotional poison.”


Fagan said that although the steady drop in marriage rates is well known, the impact of pornography on marriage has been little discussed.


“The data show that as pornography sales increase, the marriage rate drops,” he reported.


The decline in the family especially affects children without married parents. These children have much higher poverty rates, poorer health and other socio-economic problems.


“And underlying the social trends is the impact of pornography on family formation. It's a quiet family killer," Fagan wrote.


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Formation essential in fight against AIDS says Vatican council member

Washington D.C., Dec 4, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop Jose Luis Redrado Machite, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Health Workers spoke with CNA in his office in the Vatican City on World AIDS Day. In battling the AIDS epidemic he said, “We should focus our efforts not just on material and physical needs, but also on all-around formation of individuals as human beings."


"We've come a long way since the 1980's," said Redrado in reference to development in knowledge and treatment of the virus, "but there's a tremendous fight going on right now."


UNAIDS reports that 33.4 million people were infected worldwide as of 2008, and there are an estimated 7,400 new cases daily.


Educational institutions have made great inroads in preparing people to battle the realities of poverty, accessing medical care, and surviving in the developing nations most affected by the AIDS epidemic, continued the Secretary, "but it runs deeper than that, for a lasting solution we must concentrate on the individual person."


"Today, we so often speak only of prophylactics, politics or economics when discussing strategies for eliminating AIDS. We should also speak about the formation of people and ways to orient them to be better prepared for the fight! This is a fight for life!"


"We're talking about a need to form people completely so they have a lifestyle based on values, thus a platform from which to react to, and act in, the world."


Pope Benedict XVI, noted Redrado, transmitted this message through his encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” as he has on other occasions during his Pontificate.


"The answers are there, we just have to be open to them. You have to be listening."


In the encyclical, the Pontiff wrote of education:


“The term 'education' refers not only to classroom teaching and vocational training — both of which are important factors in development — but to the complete formation of the person. In this regard, there is a problem that should be highlighted: in order to educate, it is necessary to know the nature of the human person, to know who he or she is. The increasing prominence of a relativistic understanding of that nature presents serious problems for education, especially moral education, jeopardizing its universal extension. Yielding to this kind of relativism makes everyone poorer and has a negative impact on the effectiveness of aid to the most needy populations, who lack not only economic and technical means, but also educational methods and resources to assist people in realizing their full human potential.”


The bishop continued, "This is what we must invest in... and this is true for everyone. We often speak of Africa, because (AIDS) is such a scourge there, but we must also speak of the West and the East. We are all involved, and we must receive proper formation so as to make good decisions based on respect, respect for ourselves and respect for others."


With the guidance of a solid value system, discussion about condoms becomes less relevant to the debate, said the bishop, referring to the the media backlash after a comment the Holy Father made last March in Africa about prophylactics aggravating the AIDS epidemic.


Condoms don't teach anything but reckless disregard, said Redrado. "It's more difficult to educate."


"Values are the key."

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Advent meditation series in Papal chapel contemplates origins of priesthood

Vatican City, Dec 4, 2009 (CNA) -

The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, reported today that the Apostolic Preacher, Capuchin Friar Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, will be starting the traditional Friday meditations for Advent in the Papal chapel, Redemptoris Mater, today. The subject of the meditations will be "Ministers of Christ and dispensers of the mystery of God."

Fr. Cantalamessa told L'Osservatore that the series will "follow in line with the scope of Holy Father Benedict XVI's designation of the Year of the Priest..."

This year, he said, "should serve to bring the priest back to the inner core, to the source of each apostolate, of each priesthood, that not only gives efficacy to his ministry, but also joy to the presbyterium."

"The nature and duties of the priesthood, as presented in the two texts of the New Testament most directly pertaining to the theme" will be contemplated in the talks.

These two texts, are "Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. " (1 Corinthians 4:1) and "Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. " (Hebrews 5:1)

Thus, the meditations will "shed light on the original identity of 'the spirit of each priesthood,' returning to the foundation among all of the historic tasks and details taken on over the course of the centuries."

According to Cantalamessa's website, he has been the Apostolic Preacher at the Vatican since 1980 when he was appointed by then Pope John Paul II. His position requires that he give meditations on Fridays during Lent and Advent in the Papal chapel. He is also a member of the delegation for dialogue with Pentecostal churches and presents the Sunday Gospel during the week on Italy's RAI, a national television station.

Besides the Pope, those present at the meditations include members of the Papal chapel among them Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops, Secretaries of the Congregations, Prelates of the Roman Curia and of the Vicariate of Rome, Superior Generals and Procurators of the religious orders.


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Holy Father rejoices with Archbishop of Albania in spiritual renewal

Vatican City, Dec 4, 2009 (CNA) - Benedict XVI hosted His Beatitude Anastas, Archbishop of Albania at the Vatican this morning as rain poured down on St. Peter's square just outside. The Pope praised the Orthodox Church of Albania and the personal contributions of the prelate in keeping the faith alive there and maintaining fraternal relations with Roman Catholics.

In his address, the Pontiff called attention to the witness of the "wonderful and indelible traces in the first lines of history, literature and the arts" left by our Christian forefathers on the culture of Albania. The Gospel, he noted, arrived to the region in Apostolic times.

"Yet the most impressive witness is surely always found in life itself," said Pope Benedict of the fact that Christianity has survived in Albania despite the presence of "repressive and hostile atheistic regime" in the last century.

The Pope praised the "missionary activity" of Anastas "in the reconstruction of places of worship, the formation of clergy and the catechetical work now being done, a movement of renewal which (he) has rightly described as Ngjallja (Resurrection)."

The Pope also reflected on the ability of the Orthodox Church of Albania "to participate fruitfully in the international theological dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox" since the fall of the regime.

"Your commitment in this regard happily mirrors the fraternal relations between Catholics and Orthodox in your country and offers inspiration to the entire Albanian people, demonstrating how it is possible for fellow Christians to live in harmony."

Benedict XVI referred to new initiatives the Albanian Church has made to improve and maintain inter-faith relations. "These are timely efforts to promote mutual understanding and tangible cooperation, not only between Catholics and Orthodox, but also among Christians, Muslims and Bektashi."

"I rejoice with Your Beatitude and with all the Albanian people in this spiritual renewal."

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Archbishop in London resigns for health reasons

London, England, Dec 4, 2009 (CNA) - On Friday, Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Archbishop Kevin McDonald of the Archdiocese of Southwark in London, England.  Archbishop McDonald, who has had triple bypass heart surgery and suffers from severe osteoarthritis, submitted his resignation in response to medical advice.

“I feel great sadness at having to relinquish my post as Archbishop of Southwark,” said Archbishop McDonald on Thursday in a letter to his archdiocese. “Although I have to contend with illness over the last three years, this appointment has been a great grace. It has been a privilege to lead this great Diocese and I have received a wonderful response to everything I have tried to do.”

According to the website, Catholic Hierarchy, Archbishop McDonald was ordained a priest in 1974 and became secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in Rome from 1985-1993. He was ordained as the Bishop of Northampton in 2001 and eventually installed as archbishop of Southwark in 2003.

The prelate continued in his statement Thursday saying that he has been “very appreciative of the prayers of so many people while I have been ill” and that “the Diocese will continue to be very much in my thoughts and prayers in the time ahead.”

According to the Southwark Archdiocese website, a Diocesan Administrator will be appointed as temporarily in charge until a new archbishop takes possession of the archdiocese.

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Wisconsin group argues Catholics can use contraception in good conscience

Milwaukee, Wis., Dec 4, 2009 (CNA) - A Wisconsin group claiming to be Catholic has launched a series of television ads which state that using contraception doesn't make you less of a Catholic. The group, Young Catholics for Choice, has partnered with the Wisconsin Family Planning Health Services and is advocating the use of the controversial morning after pill.

Member of Young Catholics for Choice, Marissa Valeri, told Milwaukee's Fox 6 news, “They may have heard differently from the hierarchy and they may have heard differently from their parish priest and we're here to let them know that they are not alone and that you can be a good Catholic and use contraception.”

She added, “I'm sure there will be some conservative voices out there that will not agree with that we are saying in these ads and we're not speaking to them. We're speaking to the vast majority of Catholics that use contraception and are supportive of emergency contraception and use that as well."

“As a young Catholic myself, Young Catholics for Choice does not speak for me,” said Virginia Zignego, communications director of Pro-Life Wisconsin. “The Catholic Church clearly opposes contraception and abortion. It is unfortunate that Catholics for Choice are using the label ‘Catholic’ to push their agenda and normalize risky sexual behavior.”

Archbishop Jerome Listeki, the new Archbishop of Milwaukee, says there isn't any room for interpretation on the issue of “choice.” He noted that to say one is a Catholic, but also embraces “a position of choice,” denies “an inherent aspect.  He told Fox News, “That inherent aspect is the dignity of the human individual right from the very moment of conception.”

“That strikes at odds with the Church's teachings,” concluded the archbishop.

Young Catholics for Choice presented the “Plan B” pill as “the get it before you need it pill” at this press conference. However, they fail to mention the series of negative affects it has on the woman's body.

Pro-Life Wisconsin cited the FDA website which warns that “Plan B is not designed for frequent use, because of its negative health consequences, which include blood clots and a high risk for ectopic pregnancy.”

The pill itself works by creating a chemical abortion within the woman's body. The morning-after pill “can act to terminate a pregnancy by chemically altering the lining of the uterus (endometrium) so that a newly conceived child (human embryo) is unable to implant in the womb, thus starving and dying,” noted Pro-Life Wisconsin.

“When Young Catholics for Choice and Family Planning Health Services recommend women ‘should have [the morning after pill] on hand before they need it,' women's health is not being respected,” Zignego concluded.

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Holy See and Russia moving towards full establishment of diplomatic relations

Vatican City, Dec 4, 2009 (CNA) - At the conclusion of the meeting this week at the Apostolic Palace between Pope Benedict XVI and Russian President Dmitrij Medvedev, the Vatican announced that full diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Russian Federation will be established.

According to a statement from the Holy See’s Press Office, the meeting included "an exchange of views on the international economic and political situation in light of the encyclical, 'Caritas in Veritate'” and a discussion on "the current challenges in terms of security and peace.”

“There was also discussion of various cultural and social issues of common interest, such as family values and the contribution of believers to Russian society. "

Following the meeting, which lasted just under 30 minutes, the Pontiff and the Russian president exchanged gifts, with the Russian leader presenting the Holy Father with a picture of St. Basil's Cathedral in Red Square and 22 volumes of the Orthodox Encyclopedia. "I won’t know how to read them," the Pope joked, to which Medvedev replied, “Someone will help you.”

For his part, Pope Benedict XVI gave the Russian president a gold medal from his pontificate and the first copy of the Russian translation of the encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate.”

Kremlin spokesman Natalia Timakova said, "President Medvedev told Pope Benedict XVI during the meeting today that he has signed a decree on the establishment of full diplomatic relations with the Vatican. He has instructed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to lead the talks for establishing diplomatic relations and raising the status of each party’s representatives, at the embassy level and the Apostolic Nuncio.”

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National Migration Week to focus on plight of migrant and refugee children

Washington D.C., Dec 4, 2009 (CNA) - The Catholic Church in the U.S. will celebrate National Migration Week from January 3-9 to focus on the needs of migrant and refugee children.

Pope Benedict XVI has chosen minor migrants and refugees as the theme for the 2010 World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration, said that children are an “exceptionally vulnerable population” who are easily exploited and abused.

“This is particularly true when they are undocumented and unaccompanied in a foreign country and, all too often, with nobody to turn to for help,” he said in a USCCB statement.

The Committee on Migration is producing materials in English and Spanish which include bulletin inserts, prayer cards and an Advent booklet. These can be ordered through the USCCB publishing office.

The Committee is also coordinating the creation of a new educational website with the Catholic University of America to focus on the role the Catholic Church played in the U.S. immigration debate throughout the twentieth century.

A small grants program is also being developed to provide seed money to parishes, schools and local Catholic organizations who want to launch a migration-related project or program.

The U.S. National Migration Week is based on the theme “Renewing Hope, Seeking Justice.”

Its website is at

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Holy See endorses study analyzing priests' use of internet

Rome, Italy, Dec 4, 2009 (CNA) - An international research project is attempting to discover how priests perceive and use the internet. The project, titled PICTURE, hopes to contribute to more effective use of the internet on the part of the Church.

PICTURE stands for “Priests – ICT – Use in their Religious Experience.” The project is being run by the NewMinE – New Media in Education Lab of the Università della Svizzera Italiana in Lugano  with the collaboration of the School of Institutional Communications of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome.

PICTURE hopes to sample more that 400,000 priests worldwide to understand how they view the medium of the internet and what use they have made of it.

Daniel Arasa, professor of Digital Communications at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross said in a press release that the project “represents an original contribution of university research to the priestly year declared by Benedict XVI.”

The results will be made public before the end of the Year for Priests, which is June 2010.

Priests are invited to participate in the study by filling out a questionnaire available in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. The survey can be found at

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Apostolic Visitation is moving forward despite ‘boycott’ reports

Washington D.C., Dec 4, 2009 (CNA) - Responding to a report which claimed that the majority of women religious are not complying with the apostolic visitation, the Apostolic Visitation Office has said that “some congregations” have sent incomplete responses but the effort is moving ahead as planned.

The National Catholic Reporter in a Nov. 24 article cited unnamed sources who claimed a significant number of religious congregations were not cooperating with the Apostolic Visitation.

“There's been almost universal resistance” said one unnamed women religious who reportedly was familiar with the congregations’ responses. "We are saying 'enough!' In my 40 years in religious life I have never seen such unanimity."

Nov. 20 was the deadline for questionnaires to be returned to the apostolic visitator, Mother Mary Clare Millea, who is superior of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The National Catholic Reporter, citing “an informed source,” said many women religious submitted only partial answers to the questionnaire. Some sent in copies of their orders’ religious constitutions, arguing that this contained the information requested.

However, a statement from the Apostolic Visitation Office casts doubt on the extent of this uncooperativeness.

The Apostolic Visitation’s assistant for communications, Sr. Kieran Foley, FSE, responded to a CNA inquiry about the reported boycott.

She said the office continues to receive responses from major superiors to the questionnaires and has not yet completed its review of these responses.

“In a spirit of confidentiality, as I am sure you will understand, we are not at liberty to disclose how many we have received or from whom,” Sr. Foley told CNA. “While some of the congregations did send incomplete answers to the questionnaire, the Apostolic Visitation will be moving ahead as planned with the phases as described on the Apostolic Visitation web site, that is, at the completion of the data collection from the questionnaires (Phase 2), we will proceed to Phase 3, conducting selected on-site visits to congregations.”

On July 28 the Apostolic Visitation sent to congregation leaders a working document called an Instrumentum Laboris, which outlines the aims of the Visitation. The document presented “reflection topics” for all members of religious orders to consider in preparation for the visitation. Topics included the religious identity of the respondent’s order, its governance and financial administration, and its spiritual and common life.

Questions were presented concerning religious orders’ vocation promotion, admission and formation policies, and fidelity to and expression of their vows. The reflections also asked respondents about their concerns for the future of their religious order.

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Apostolic Visitors of Legionaries of Christ gather for first evaluation

Rome, Italy, Dec 4, 2009 (CNA) - The five bishops taking part in the Apostolic Visitation of the Legionaries of Christ are meeting at the Vatican for their first evaluation.

The meeting is being held today and Saturday at the office of the Vatican Secretary of State and is being led by Archbishop Fernando Filoni, Substitute for General Affairs.

The five bishops present at the meeting are Bishop Ricardo Watti Urquidi of Tepic, Mexico; Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, United States;  Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati Andrello of Concepcion, Chile; Bishop Guiseppe Versaldi of Alexandria, Italy; and Bishop Ricardo Blazquez Perez of Bilbao, Spain.

Officials said media reports of an emergency meeting between the bishops that supposedly took place in October were completely false.

Earlier this year on March 13, the Superior General of the Legionaries of Christ, Father Alvaro Corcuera, announced the decision of Pope Benedict XVI to carry out an Apostolic Visitation of the order, which began on July 15.

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Civil rights activist demands Spanish government respect right to hang crucifixes in schools

Madrid, Spain, Dec 4, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the civil rights watchdog site in Spain,, Ignacio Arsuaga, demanded on Thursday that the government “respect the will of the majority of parents, who pay for public and charter schools with their taxes, by keeping crucifixes in schools where it is the wish of families.”

Arsuaga said a recent move by left-wing lawmakers to have the government remove them “is another imposition more proper to a dictatorship than to a democracy.”

“Crucifixes should neither be obligatory, nor should they be forcibly removed. We ask that the freedom of the  parents and teachers to decide be respected,” he said.

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Connection between USCCB and gay rights activist sparks controversy

Washington D.C., Dec 4, 2009 (CNA) - Conservative blogs were buzzing on Friday with the discovery that a member of the USCCB's Subcommittee on Catholic Health Care is an active homosexual and gay rights activist. However, though Mary Kay Henry's bio states that she is a labor adviser to the U.S. bishops, the USCCB communications director told CNA “she is not a consultant.”


Henry, the international executive vice president for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) was recently named one of the nation's "Top 25 Women in Healthcare" for 2009 by Modern Healthcare.  Her biography at the SEIU website explains that “Her faith and values as a practicing Roman Catholic led her to pursue union organizing as a vocation.”


“Mary Kay is also active in the fight for immigration reform and gay and lesbian rights. She is a founding member of SEIU's gay and lesbian Lavender Caucus,” her description continues.


According to SEIU, “The Lavender Caucus is the Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/ Transgender (L/G/B/T) Caucus of the Service Employees International Union whose purpose is to facilitate open and respectful communication between the L/G/B/T community and the labor movement.”


The last line of Henry's SEIU bio reads, “She and her partner, Paula Macchello, have been together for 20 years.”


Henry is listed on the USCCB website as a member of the Subcommittee on Justice, Peace, and Human Development who helped produce the working paper, “A Fair and Just Workplace: Principles and Practices for Catholic Health Care.” also mentions that Henry is a labor adviser to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Catholic Health Care & Work Subcommittee.


However, in an email asking to confirm Henry’s advisory role at the USCCB, Sister Mary Ann Walsh, the conference media director simply told CNA, “She is not a consultant.”


CNA spoke with another woman in the Justice, Peace and Human Development office at the USCCB who said a press release on the topic would be available on Friday afternoon. 


But by Friday night, no press release had been posted on the USCCB’s website.


Similarly, a call from CNA to Henry was not returned.


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