Denver, Colo., Dec 7, 2009 (CNA) - In an exclusive interview with Catholic News Agency, Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput has explained his reasons for signing the Manhattan Declaration. He said the Declaration should “galvanize” Christians and others in defense of pro-life issues, the nature of marriage and religious freedom.
“I was glad to be invited to sign the declaration, and glad to sign because I believe in its content,” Archbishop Chaput told CNA. He described it as a “straightforward” statement defending the sanctity of life, religious liberty and the definition of marriage as a union of husband and wife.
“In a sensible world, none of these things would be in question. But we no longer live in a sensible world,” he commented.
The archbishop thought one of the goals of the declaration is to “galvanize good people,” beginning with Christians but including others, in order to organize to work to change the direction of the country and to “resist” when necessary.
Archbishop Chaput commented that the signatories of the Declaration did not create the political environment that “forced it to be written.”
“The signers didn’t create the declaration's urgency or its timing. Others did that for them,” he told CNA.
He said the effort was provoked by those who want to “force” religion out of the public square, to “redefine” marriage and human sexuality, or to “sacrifice” women and unborn children on the “altar of a fraudulent ‘right’” to abortion.
Asked about the claim that the Manhattan Declaration neglects social justice issues, Archbishop Chaput pointed to the “outstanding” track record of the Catholic Church and other religious communities in serving the poor, the immigrant, the homeless and the infirm.
In his view, the claim that the Declaration neglects such issues is “without merit” and “designed to distract.”
To the argument that the Declaration violates the separation of church and state because it features Christians telling the government what to do, the archbishop replied:
“In the United States, citizens ‘tell government what to do’ all the time. It’s called democracy.”
Nothing in the U.S. Constitution bars religious communities, religious leaders or individual believers from taking a “vigorous role” in public debate, he added.
“In fact, the American system depends on exactly the opposite: In order to survive, our democracy requires citizens to advance their beliefs energetically and without apologies in the public square.”
The archbishop explained that he was not involved in the development of the Manhattan Declaration, but said he knows and respects many of the other signatories. He reported that the main Catholic input for the Declaration was provided by Princeton University’s Professor Robert P. George.
The Declaration’s signers want people to realize “how difficult” the present moment in U.S. history is, he added.
“Our rights and liberties are never really guaranteed by words on a piece of paper. We guarantee them ourselves, under the sovereignty of God, by struggling for what we believe.”
Real hope has “a cost in sweat and hard work,” Archbishop Chaput said to CNA.
“Now and always, we need to trust in God; and then we also need to act. Right here, right now, in this country, the work of organizing and struggling in the public square for what we believe belongs to us. That means all of us, and each of us.”
As of Friday afternoon, the Manhattan Declaration’s website claimed over 252,000 signatories since its Nov. 20 release. Its website is at http://manhattandeclaration.org
Vatican City, Dec 7, 2009 (CNA) - In a meeting with a group of Brazilian bishops on Saturday, the Holy Father warned of the dangers of Marxist liberation theology and noted its grave consequences for ecclesial communities.
During the ad limina visit, the Pope recalled that “last August marked 25 years since the Instruction “Libertatis nuntius” of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on certain aspects of liberation theology. The document "highlights the danger involved in the uncritical absorption, by certain theologians, of theses and methodologies that come from Marxism."
The Pope warned that the “more or less visible” scars of Marxist liberation theology, such as “rebellion, division, dissent, offenses, anarchy, are still being felt, causing great suffering and a grave loss of dynamic strength in your diocesan communities.”
For this reason, he exhorted all those who in some way feel attracted or affected by “certain deceitful principles of liberation theology” to re-visit the instruction and be open to the light that it can shed on the subject.
Benedict XVI also recalled that “the supreme rule of faith of the Church in effect arises from the unity that the Spirit established between Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church, in such reciprocity that they cannot subsist independently of each other,” as John Paul II explained in his encyclical “Fides et Ratio.”
The Instruction “Libertatis nuntius” was published on August 6, 1984, with the approval of Pope John Paul II, by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Its purpose was to focus the attention of pastors, theologians and all the faithful on the deviations of certain forms of liberation theology that are dangerous for the faith and for the Christian life and that are based on Marxist thought.
It warned that the grave ideological deviations of Marxist liberation theology inevitably lead to the betrayal of the cause of the poor and that a Marxist analysis of reality leads to the acceptance of positions that are incompatible with the Christian vision of man.
Vatican City, Dec 7, 2009 (CNA) - The giant fir that will stand in St. Peter’s Square and serve as the Vatican’s official Christmas Tree arrived at its destination on Friday. The tree was sent from a forest in the Belgian region of Wallonia near the town of Spa and towers 98 feet.
Workers at the Vatican finished preparing the tree over the weekend, decorating it with 2,000 gold and silver colored bulbs and 1,500 lights, “of the most efficient kind with regards to consumption and upkeep,” the L’Osservatore Romano reported.
The opening ceremony will take place the afternoon of December 18. The Belgian town of Spa has also donated 40 small fir trees to decorate the halls and rooms of the Vatican.
Vatican City, Dec 7, 2009 (CNA) -
The president of Germany paid a visit to the Vatican marking the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the German Republic and the twentieth anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. His visit included a private audience with the Pope as well as presenting a concert in the Sistine Chapel.
Horst Kohler, president of the Federal Republic of Germany, spoke with Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday morning, touching on the current economic crisis, its consequences, and the current international situation.
The meeting was preceded by a concert marking Germany's dual anniversaries in the Sistine Chapel. The performance, which was offered by the German president, featured the Augsburger Domsingknaben (Augsburg Cathedral Boys Choir) and the Residenz-Kammerorchester Munchen (Resident Munich Chamber Orchestra). The two groups were conducted by Reinhard Kammler and played Johann Sebastian Bach's Christmas Oratorio BWV 248 (Cantatas I-III).
At the end of the concert, the Holy Father remarked on the fall of the Berlin Wall. Calling it a “frontier of death which for many years divided our homeland, forcibly separating people, families, neighbors and friends,” he said that “many at the time saw the events of November 9, 1989 as an unexpected dawn of freedom after a long and harsh night of violence and oppression due to a totalitarian system which, in the end, led to nihilism, to an emptying of souls.”
The Pope also analyzed the ideology of the former East German government, saying that “under the communist dictatorship no action was held to be evil and always immoral in itself. What served the aims of the party was good, however inhuman it could be.”
Benedict XVI then noted that the current Federal Republic of Germany is proof that “the social order of the West is better and more humane.” This is due to the fact that the country's Basic Law “exhorts men and women, responsible before God the Creator, to give priority to human dignity,” he said. The Holy Father's reflection on German law led him to exhort the country's citizens to uphold it by respecting “marriage and the family as the foundation of all societies” and by showing “esteem and profound respect for what is sacred to others.”
“The history of Europe in the twentieth century shows how responsibility before God is of vital importance for moral political activity,” insisted the Pope. “God brings mankind together in true communion and shows individuals that, in their communion with others, a greater One is present, One Who is the original cause of our lives and of our joint existence. This is particularly evident in the mystery of the Nativity when this God comes close to us with His love and, as a Child, requests our love.”
Pope Benedict concluded by saying, “May the citizens of Germany - faithful to the duty established in the Basic Law concerning spiritual and political renewal in the wake of National Socialism and the Second World War - continue to collaborate for the construction of a freer and more social society.”
Palencia, Spain, Dec 7, 2009 (CNA) - The newly-elected Bishop of San Sebastian in Spain, Bishop Jose Ignacio Munilla, has called for the respect of parental rights in the education of their children as the government considers a proposal to remove crucifixes from public schools.
The bishop made his statements while presenting his new book, “Cards on the Table,” a 400 page collection of 150 pastoral letters on a variety of themes.
Bishop Munilla said the book was an expression of the awareness that “we are in an age of communication, and when Jesus said to lower your nets for a catch, I don’t know if he was also thinking about the internet, but I think this 'net' can be of use to us.”
“I have tried to be more succinct, more incisive, and even use humor to show that mysticism can and should have a place in the media in general,” he said.
Washington D.C., Dec 7, 2009 (CNA) - On Monday Dec. 7, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) gave its support to an amendment to the health care bill that would prevent federally funded abortions. The bishops' backing was made known in a letter sent to all U.S. Senators.
“We urgently ask you to support an essential amendment to be offered by Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE), Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Robert Casey (D-PA) to keep in place the longstanding and widely supported federal policy against government funding of health coverage that includes elective abortions,” the letter says.
The Senate is scheduled to vote today on the Nelson-Hatch-Casey amendment which contains language similar to the House's Stupak-Pitts amendment and prevents U.S. taxpayer dollars from funding health care plans that cover abortions.
In addition, the USCCB faults the Senate legislation for not protecting health care providers' consciences, stating that the bill as it stands “does not maintain essential nondiscrimination protections for providers who decline involvement in abortion. The Nelson-Hatch-Casey amendment simply corrects these grave departures from current federal policy.”
The letter to all senators is dated December 7 and is signed by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo and Bishops William Murphy and John Wester.
The Nelson-Hatch-Casey Amendment needs 60 votes in the 100-member Senate in order to pass.
Washington D.C., Dec 7, 2009 (CNA) - On Monday, Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, media director for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops spoke with CNA, clarifying the role of Service Employees Union executive and gay rights activist Mary Kay Henry with the bishops' conference.
Sr. Walsh noted that in the past, Mary Kay Henry was chosen by the unions to take part in a dialogue with the USCCB but left in 2006.
She was not appointed by the bishops, Sr. Walsh explained.
Last Friday it was discovered that 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.”
The same day, CNA had asked Sr. Walsh about Henry's involvement with the USCCB, and she replied via email, “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 she is “active in the fight for immigration reform and gay and lesbian rights.”
Los Angeles, Calif., Dec 7, 2009 (CNA) - This past Saturday, the six-county Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles elected the Rev. Cannon Mary Glasspool to the office of bishop suffragan. Glasspool, who is an openly partnered lesbian, was elected on a ballot taken by clergy and lay delegates in Riverside, California. Archbishop Rowan Williams said that the selection of Glasspool “raises very serious questions” for the Anglican Communion.
“I am very excited about the future of the whole Episcopal Church, and I see the Diocese of Los Angeles leading the way into that future,” Glasspool told Episcopal News after her election.
After seven ballots, Glasspool received 153 clergy votes and 203 lay votes, which met the required majority.
Glasspool, 55, is the first openly lesbian Episcopal priest to be elected bishop after a ban on such elections was recently lifted. In 2003, Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire sparked controversy in the Anglican Communion after his election as an openly gay bishop, which prompted a temporary restriction on homosexual clergy being elected to high office.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams reacted to the choice of Glasspool on December 6, stating, “The election of Mary Glasspool by the Diocese of Los Angeles as suffragan bishop-elect raises very serious questions not just for the Episcopal Church and its place in the Anglican Communion but for the Communion as a whole.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury continued to say that the process of selection is only partially complete and that “the election has to be confirmed, or could be rejected, by diocesan bishops and diocesan standing committees.”
“That decision will have very important implications,” Archbishop Williams said.
Portland, Ore., Dec 7, 2009 (CNA) - As the bankruptcy case of the Society of Jesus’ Oregon Province proceeds, more than 500 people have filed claims accusing Jesuits of the of sexual abuse in the northwest U.S.
Plaintiffs include Native Alaskan villagers abused as children and preparatory school students, the Spokane Spokesman-Review reports.
The filing deadline of Nov. 30 was set by the federal judge overseeing the Chapter 11 bankruptcy of the Oregon Province, which includes Jesuits in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.
The Oregon Province has already settled 200 additional sex abuse claims, including 110 Alaska Natives who received a $50 million settlement last year. About $45 million of that settlement was paid by insurers.
The Jesuits report they have spent about $25 million on settlements. Their bankruptcy documents claim $4.8 million in assets and liabilities of $61.8 million.
Many of the alleged victims still seeking settlements charge that the province has misstated its financial standing, contending the Jesuits control and own Gonzaga University, Gonzaga Preparatory School, Seattle University and other schools and properties.
Attorney James Stang, who is representing a committee of victims, has court approval to take limited depositions and to conduct some discovery of internal documents.
“The judge gave us a toe in the door,” he said, according to the Spokesman-Review. His team will try to develop a “viable theory” that Gonzaga and other properties are owned by the province.
The 7,200-student Gonzaga University was separately incorporated and registered 125 years ago. Mike Casey, Gonzaga’s corporation counsel, said the college will not volunteer money or other resources to settle the bankruptcy.
The Oregon Province is also in a dispute with insurers regarding the extent of its policies’ coverage. The province has hired James R. Murray, who is credited with securing $20 million from insurance companies to settle the bankruptcy of the Diocese of Spokane.
Baghdad, Iraq, Dec 7, 2009 (CNA) - Chaldean Catholic religious sisters will distribute Christmas food parcels to impoverished people in the northern Iraq town of Zakho near the Syrian/Turkish border, the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) says.
The sisters will use a van packed full of cheese, tinned meat, powdered milk, cooking oil, salt, sugar, soap and other urgent items as part of their outreach in and around Zakho, ACN exlpains.
Immense hardship and poverty have been reported in the Kurdish north of Iraq.
ACN provided about $37,000 for the Christmas mercy mission as part of its own effort to support persecuted and suffering Christians. It is the third aid package of its kind since the initiative began last Christmas. It is expected to benefit thousands of people, especially the elderly, the disabled and others with special needs.
ACN Iraq projects coordinator Marie-Ange Siebrecht recently returned from a visit to the region. She reported that the sisters are “very much appreciated for their work.”
“What they are doing will give many people a real boost this Christmas and remind them that they are not alone – that their brothers and sisters in faith elsewhere are thinking about them and trying to help,” she commented.
The aid is part of ACN’s commitment to the ancient Christian community in a region whose Christian population has dropped from one million in 2003 to less than 350,000 today.
The exiled Christian population is also in need of aid. In the spring, the charity gave about $30,000 to Iraqi Christians in Syria who are desperate for help. They are living in very basic accommodations, mostly in and around the capital Damascus.
Other ACN projects support refugees in Jordan and Turkey.