Portland, Maine, Dec 15, 2009 (CNA) - A localized media frenzy has ensued after a Catholic reporter was let go from his 19-year position at a Maine newspaper for voicing his opinion against same-sex “marriage” and the campaign to legalize it in Maine.
According to an article by the Maine Public Broadcasting Network, Larry Grard, a former employee of the Morning Sentinel, was sent a mass email from the pro-gay rights organization, Human Rights Campaign (HRC), following the repeal of the same-sex “marriage” law in Maine during the mid-term elections on Nov. 4.
In the email, Trevor Thomas, spokesman for the HRC, voiced his disappointment with the vote results and allegedly stated that opponents of same-sex 'marriage' built their arguments on “lies and hate.”
Thomas told CNA that Grard responded to the mass email from his personal email account and said “who are the venom-spewing ones? Hint: not the Yes on 1 crowd. You hateful people have been spreading nothing but vitriol since this campaign began. Good riddance!”
Although CNA asked Thomas for the original HRC statement that Grard responded to, Thomas did not provide it.
According to Thomas, he forwarded Grard's email response to reporter's boss and wrote, “it's frankly, just not acceptable coming from a news organization the morning after our defeat.” Though Thomas insisted that he did not ask for Grard's termination, Grard was fired on Nov. 10 and his wife's bi-weekly cooking column for the paper was canceled.
The Maine Public Broadcasting Network stated that Grard has since apologized. “He had an emotional reaction to this email and sent off a reply and he recognizes that it was a mistake – that it wasn't professional,” said Tom Bell, president of Grard's union, the Portland Newspaper Guild.
Bell continued to say that workers for the paper have a union contract that calls for “progressive discipline” which means that if someone makes a mistake, they are given a chance to rectify the situation before drastic action, such as termination, is taken. “The issue here is that we feel the company overreacted,” said Bell. “For someone like Larry, who's 58, this is a one-way ticket into poverty.”
Bill Donohue of the Catholic League has also taken up Grard's case and referred him to several pro-bono law firms that handle situations of Catholic workers who are victims of discrimination due to their beliefs.
Nashville, Tenn., Dec 15, 2009 (CNA) - Melissa Ohden, whose mother tried to have her aborted when she was six months old, is now herself a mother of a healthy 19-month old. Ohden has subsequently made it her life mission to speak out against abortion, saying “it's my calling, this is who I am; I wouldn't change a thing.”
Ohden, who was adopted at birth, did not discover that she was the survivor of a failed saline injection abortion until she was in junior high. Though she was grateful to have been given the chance to live, she struggled with feeling “ashamed, guilty and embarrassed” for being “so unwanted.”
After many years of taking the necessary time to heal, Ohden searched for and found her birth records and other information regarding her biological family. In 2007, Ohden shared her story with the public and decided to become an advocate for the unborn by campaigning against abortion.
Recently, Ohden's life came full circle when she gave birth to her first child, Olivia, at the same hospital where her own life was supposed to end.
Ohden's message of healing looks at the horrific impact of abortion on families but also focuses on the “awesome power of faith, hope, love and forgiveness,” according to a press release. She currently travels the U.S. and Canada delivering her message.
To read more about Melissa's ministry, visit, www.melissaohden.com.
Philadelphia, Pa., Dec 15, 2009 (CNA) - Cardinal Justin Rigali will host the 54th annual Cardinal’s Christmas Party for Children for about 400 children who received services from community or residential agencies of Catholic Social Services this year.
The party, held today at the Sheraton Philadelphia City Center Hotel, begins with a colorful parade of marching bands, clowns and jugglers. Students from Bishop Shanahan High School will then perform a Christmas Story play.
Afterwards, Cardinal Rigali will talk to the children and Santa will arrive.
Before the beginning of the parade, the cardinal will greet children and pose for photos with high school student volunteers.
In addition to entertainment and gift giving, the Cardinal's Christmas Party for Children raises funds to support Catholic Social Services programs.
Catholic Social Services assists more than 137,000 children, adults and families throughout the five-county area of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Charleston, W.Va., Dec 15, 2009 (CNA) - A Nov. 9 decree from the Congregation for Divine Worship, recently received by Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston Michael J. Bransfield, has elevated the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Charleston, West Virginia to a minor basilica of the Catholic Church.
The day of the decree was the Solemnity of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome, the mother church of all cathedrals and basilicas throughout the world.
Speaking in a statement from the diocese, Bishop Bransfield said he was “very pleased” for all of the people of the basilica.
“This is a beautiful gift for the parish, and having a minor basilica here distinguishes the Charleston community as well as the entire Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. I sincerely thank the Vatican for this decision,” the bishop commented.
The Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart is the 63rd minor basilica designated in the United States. All four of the world’s major basilicas are in Rome.
Minor basilicas enjoy special rights and privileges, such as being pilgrimage sites for plenary indulgences.
Msgr. P. Edward Sadie, rector of the newly elevated basilica, said he and parishioners are grateful to Pope Benedict and senior Church leaders for approving the action.
He also expressed gratitude towards Bishop Bransfield for encouraging him in his request and for approving and supporting the petition.
Msgr. Sadie reported that Msgr. Kevin M. Quirk, the rector of the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling and judicial vicar of the diocese, was also instrumental in the effort.
The Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart was established as a parish on Aug. 1, 1866. It has continued to function as a parish even after its October 1974 designation as a co-cathedral. Construction began on its current structure in July 1895. It was dedicated in 1897.
The parish has played a unique role in West Virginia and the Kanawha Valley. It began with only 63 Catholic families within a 50-mile radius. Now more than 1,000 families are parishioners and thousands more worship in its daughter parishes.
On Jan. 12, 2008 Bishop Bransfield designated the basilica a diocesan shrine of Santo Niño de Cebu, the patron and protector of the Philippines.
Filipinos from the tri-state area and the general population regularly visit the church.
Msgr. Sadie said he hoped the new status of the basilica would encourage more visitors and “make our parishioners even more proud of the church.”
Washington D.C., Dec 15, 2009 (CNA) - In a case which could greatly affect organized Christian activity on college campuses, the United States Supreme Court has decided to consider whether it was constitutional for a public university to bar a Christian student group on the grounds the group’s rules against sex outside of marriage were discriminatory towards homosexuals.
The Christian Legal Society (CLS) chapter at the University of California’s Hastings College of Law applied to the college for standing as a registered student organization, United Press International (UPI) reports.
The national CLS requires voting members to affirm a commitment to its Statement of Faith. The group also reaffirmed in March 2004 its understanding of eight biblical principles of sexual morality.
“In view of the clear dictates of Scripture, unrepentant participation in or advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle is inconsistent with an affirmation of the Statement of Faith, and consequently may be regarded by CLS as disqualifying such an individual from CLS membership,” the 2004 statement read.
The Hastings College of Law chapter of the CLS put the reaffirmation into effect in the 2004-05 school year. While the school at first appeared to accept the application, it later decided the society’s restrictions on membership violated its non-discrimination policy.
In an exchange of letters, the CLS chapter told the college that anyone could attend its meetings but only adherents to its Statement of Faith could become voting members, the only type of membership available. The chapter said its exclusion applied only to practicing homosexuals, not those who remain chaste.
Hastings College, which is based in San Francisco, said that because it accepted public funds, it was bound by state and federal laws against discrimination, including discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The CLS chapter’s removal from the list of recognized organizations meant that the school would no longer officially pay travel costs for CLS chapter officers to attend national meetings, the group could not officially reserve rooms for meetings, and the group was excluded from some mailings to law students. However, the school continued to allow the group to reserve rooms.
Both the trial court and the appeals court ruled against the CLS chapter. The appeals court claimed the college’s conditions on recognition are “viewpoint neutral and reasonable.”
The Supreme Court on Monday, December 7 agreed to hear the case, known as Christian Legal Society v. Martinez.
According to UPI, the CLS group’s brief relies heavily on the Supreme Court’s year 2000 decision Dale v. Boy Scouts of America, which by a 5-4 ruling held that the Boy Scouts’ right to free association, including denial of membership to homosexuals, trumped New Jersey’s public accommodations law which barred discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The CLS affiliate’s brief to the Supreme Court said the issue in the case is whether a religious student group may draw its officers and voting members from “among those who share its core religious commitments.”
It argued the Court has “consistently protected” a viewpoint group's First Amendment right to deny leadership and membership to persons “who could adversely affect the association's ability to express its message.” It has also consistently required public universities to recognize “disfavored student organizations, including religious groups, under the First Amendment's protection of both the rights of expressive association and free speech.”
Hastings College’s brief said that the group does not prove that complying with the anti-discrimination policy would “significantly affect its ability to advocate public or private viewpoints,” UPI states.
It also argued that the group was able to meet during the academic year without “any significant impediment to its activities or its ability to communicate.”
Owensboro, Ky., Dec 15, 2009 (CNA) - Fr. William F. Medley of St. Bernadette's Parish in the Archdiocese of Louisville was nominated on Tuesday by the Holy Father to be the new bishop of the Diocese of Owensboro in western Kentucky. He will succeed Bishop John J. McRaith, who resigned in January of 2009.
According a biography on the Diocese of Owensboro's website, in the previous 27 years of his priesthood, bishop-elect Medley served as parish priest in a number of parishes in the Louisville and Bardstown areas and was also the Diocesan Director of the Office of Clergy Personnel.
Among his other responsibilities in the Louisville Archdiocese, he held positions in the College of Consultors, the Planning Commission of the Archdiocese and the Priests’ Council. He was also the president of the Bardstown/Nelson County Ministerial Association and served on the Nelson County Human Rights Commission.
With his ordination to the episcopate, Fr. Medley will remain within the Metropolitan See of the Archdiocese of Louisville, which is composed of six dioceses in Tennessee and Kentucky including those of Memphis, Nashville, and Owensboro.
On Dec. 15, the bishop-elect will hold a press conference in which he will respond to his appointment. This will be televised at 12:00 CST on the Diocese of Owensboro's website.
His episcopal ordination will take place at 2:00 p.m. local time, on February 10, 2010 at the Owensboro Sportscenter.
According to the Diocese of Owensboro, Bishop-elect Medley will lead close to 52,000 Catholics, 79 parishes, 19 schools (including one university) and a hospital.
Vatican City, Dec 15, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI and the Bishops’ Conference of Italy have spoken out against the assault of the Prime Minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi, who was struck in the face Sunday following a rally in Milan. Italy's leader suffered two broken teeth, a minor nose fracture and cuts on his face following the attack.
According to the BBC, a man hit Belusconi in the face with a souvenir-sized replica of the city's cathedral.
In a telegram sent to Berlusconi signed by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Holy Father expressed his “paternal closeness” and hopes for a “quick recovery.”
The Italian bishops said the attack was “an episode of singular and abominable gravity. As we express our sincere closeness to Minister Berlusconi, we hope for a more serene and respectful cultural climate for our country so that the good of everyone will be realized in society and in political life.”
The director of the Holy See’s Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, said the attack was “a very grave and worrisome act that manifests the real risk of violence when words are translated into actions.
“All violence must be firmly condemned immediately by all political parties and all levels of society.”
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Dec 15, 2009 (CNA) - This week, Cardinal Nicolas Lopez Rodriguez of Santo Domingo called on families in the Dominican Republic to celebrate Christmas in a spirit of family unity and respect for human life.
During a Mass celebrated in thanksgiving for the beatification of the Spanish Cardinal Ciriaco Sancha, Cardinal Lopez called on the people of the Dominican Republic to pray fervently for a solution to the latest wave of violence between rival gangs in the country.
“We are seeing many acts of bloodshed, murders and conflict among adults. These are being carried out by out-of-control gangs and for this reason we believe that this Christmas we must turn our attention to respect for human life.”
Spanish Cardinal Ciriaco Sancha was beatified on October 18, 2009. Though he was born in Spain, after becoming a priest, he was sent to the Caribbean to minister to the poor.
Known as “the Father of the Poor,” he founded an order of nuns dedicated to the care of orphans. He later returned to Spain where he became the Archbishop of Toledo.
He died on February 25, 1909 and on his tomb it was written, “he lived in poverty, and he died in utmost poverty.”
Vatican City, Dec 15, 2009 (CNA) -
Pope Benedict XVI made his message for World Day for Peace public on Tuesday morning in preparation for its observation on January 1, 2010. In his message, he calls for global solidarity in action to provide for the world's needs and to protect the environment. However, the Holy Father also stresses that we must be continually aware of the value of people over and above all other living things.
An attitude of "global solidarity" is essential in shaping our efforts to protect creation through a better internationally-coordinated management of the earth's resources, writes the Pontiff, emphasizing that this is important "particularly today, when there is an increasingly clear link between combating environmental degradation and promoting integral human development."
The "real motivation" to protect nature and ensure the future of humanity must be based on the "quest for authentic worldwide solidarity inspired by the values of charity, justice and the common good," he explains.
Reflecting on the specific role of the Church in this battle, Pope Benedict says that its duty is "towards creation, and she considers it her duty to exercise that responsibility in public life, in order to protect earth, water and air as gifts of God the Creator meant for everyone, and above all to save mankind from the danger of self-destruction."
"Our duties towards the environment flow from our duties towards the person, considered both individually and in relation to others."
To be successful in this venture, we must be "trained in love of neighbor and respect for nature," continues Pope Benedict.
However, he underscores, "A correct understanding of the relationship between man and the environment will not end by 'absolutizing' nature or by considering it more important than the human person."
We must not succumb to the "notions of the environment inspired by eco-centrism and bio-centrism" because these "eliminate the difference of identity and value between the human person and other living things," the Pontiff warns in his message.
Responding to the attitudes of some environmental groups, Pope Benedict cautions against assuming an "egalitarian vision of the 'dignity' of all living creatures," since this mentality causes the "distinctiveness and superior role of human beings" in the world to cease carrying weight.
This attitude, he warns, can "also open the way to a new pantheism tinged with neo-paganism, which would see the source of man's salvation in nature alone, understood in purely naturalistic terms."
The Holy Father concludes his World Day of Peace message by reiterating the theme "if you want to cultivate peace, protect creation" and an affirmation that "the quest for peace by people of good will surely would become easier if all acknowledge the indivisible relationship between God, human beings and the whole of creation."
Santiago, Chile, Dec 15, 2009 (CNA) - After casting his vote in Chile’s presidential elections, the president of the country’s bishops’ conference, Bishop Alejandro Goic, reminded Chileans they must work together to serve the common good of the country.
Speaking on Chilean radio, the bishop expressed his hope that once the results of the election are determined, both the winning and losing candidates must "be humble" and "become servants of all."
The prelate added that a characteristic of democracy is the opportunity "for citizens to express their will by freely electing their leaders." Those elected, he continued, "become servants, while those who lose in the elections continue to have a voice and rights."
Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz of Santiago noted that elections are "an act of trust on the part of those who can vote, and it is important to make use of this right."
He also urged the winners not to gloat over their victories and asked that the losers to continue collaborating with their ideas for the good of the country.
Caracas, Venezuela, Dec 15, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Caracas, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, drew attention to the political prisoners in Venezuela who have been imprisoned for holding beliefs contrary to the government. The prelate remarked that political differences should not be a reason for division.
According to local media, the cardinal called for the release of these individuals. "This is a very complex issue, but there is no doubt that there are people in prison simply because they are accused of some crime simply because they do not agree with the political agenda of the national government," he explained.
"We cannot consider ourselves to be enemies of one another," the cardinal continued, "and despite all the differences we may have, even in politics, we are members of one nation.
"For this reason, we must live as brothers and sisters. This is part of the great message that Jesus Christ brings to us this Christmas."
After celebrating a Mass to mark the 150th anniversary of the Salesians, Cardinal Urosa invited Venezuelans to take advantage of the Christmas season "to work intensely for peace and to come together as one people."
Vatican City, Dec 15, 2009 (CNA) - After the Angelus this past Sunday, Pope Benedict directed a special message in Spanish to the newly ordained priests of the Legionaries of Christ from the window of the papal residence.
Fifty-nine priests, representing four continents, were ordained to the order on Saturday, Dec. 12, in the Roman basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls. The ordinations took place on the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
There was a large contingent of priests, family members and members of the Regnum Christi movement in St. Peter's Square, to whom the Pontiff addressed an "affectionate greeting." The hundreds of members received the salute with raucous applause.
The Legionaries of Christ are currently the subject of an Apostolic Visitation, following the revelation that their now-deceased founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel, led a double life.
Denver, Colo., Dec 15, 2009 (CNA) - This morning the Vatican published a Motu Proprio from Pope Benedict called “Omnium in Mentem” and dated October 26. According to J.D. Flynn, a canon lawyer for the Archdiocese of Denver, the new document clarifies the nature of a deacon's orders and the impact of defections from Catholicism on the validity of a marriage.
“Omnium in Mentum,” roughly translated as “Everything in Mind,” deals with two unrelated topics, a fact that caused Flynn to observe that it's probably easier to publish one Motu Propio than two.
Writing in an explanatory note for the Motu Proprio, Archbishop Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, commented on the modified canons (1008, 1009, 1086, 1117 and 1124). These variations, he said, "concern two separate questions: adapting the text of the canons that define the ministerial function of deacons … and suppressing a subordinate clause in three canons concerning marriage, which experience has shown to be inappropriate."
The first issue addressed by the Motu Propio is the role of the diaconate.
Part of the current canon “describes sacred orders as participating in the headship of Christ,” Flynn explained. “The Motu Proprio clarifies that priests and bishops participate in the headship of Christ 'in persona Christi,' whereas deacons serve the Church, the people of God, through the ministry, services, or 'diaconias' of liturgy, word, and charity.” Thus, Flynn said, the document emphasizes that there is a “clear distinction between the diaconate and the presbyterate.”
“The distinction is between the deacon who acts “in imago Dei” and the priest who acts 'in persona Christi,'” Flynn explained.
What this means in layman's terms is that “we see the diaconate as a unique ministry unto itself and not simply a step along the way to the priesthood,” he added.
The second item considered by the Motu Propio is an obscure clause regarding a dispensation in canon law.
The reason for this allowance under the 1983 Code of Canon Law was to attempt to support the institution of marriage, even for Catholics who had renounced the Faith, Flynn said. Catholics who defect from the faith, or formally renounce it, must do so by writing a letter to their bishop stating their defection.
The only consequence of a defection prior to “Omnium in Mentem” was that the defector would subsequently be able to “get married validly without observing canonical form,” noted Flynn. This would mean that a defecting Catholic could validly be married in a civil ceremony, for example, without a dispensation.
“This Motu Proprio eliminates the impact of defections on marriage and requires that defectors follow canonical form for marriage,” he stated.
Stressing that “this idea that you can defect from the church by formal act for the purposes of marital validity has always been a sort of anomaly to our theology,” Flynn explained that the document abolished the anomaly.
He also noted that, “in the United States, we get very, very few defections by formal act.”
“What this really is, is an affirmation of our theology. Theologically we understand that what makes us Catholic is our Baptism or our reception in to the Church. Whether we want to be Catholic is not germane to the question of whether we are Catholic. Whether we follow the teachings of the Church or not is not germane to the question of whether or not we are Catholic. The thing that the church says is that all Catholics are bound to the teachings of the Catholic Church.”
Thus, at the theological level, the document establishes “that the Church does not participate in a congregational ecclesiology,” said Flynn. “Our ecclesiology is sacramental.”
Washington D.C., Dec 15, 2009 (CNA) - The City Council of Washington D.C. voted today to legalize same-sex “marriage,” causing the Archdiocese of Washington to state that it failed to “balance the Council’s interest in redefining marriage with the need to protect religious freedom.”
The contentious measure passed today by a vote of 11-2, despite concerns raised by the archdiocese about the impact the law would have on its ability to provide social services.
The passage of the measure was also marked by the refusal of the City Council to put the approval of same-sex “marriage” before D.C. voters in a referendum.
In November, Mayor Adrian Fenty said that the D.C. Council was capable of making a decision regarding same-sex "marriage" because the council was elected by the citizens of the District of Columbia. The Board of Elections Chairman, Errol R. Arthur, added in a November 17 statement that allowing a referendum would run afoul of D.C.'s Human Rights Act, since it “would authorize discrimination prohibited under the [District's] Human Rights Act.”
The “Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009” will now go to the desk of Mayor Fenty, who has promised to sign it.
However, Concerned Women for America president Wendy Wright is not pleased with the approval.
"The DC City Council has reached the heights of arrogance by deliberately ignoring what they know is the will of their constituents to impose a measure that will damage the most vulnerable in the city. Imposing same-sex 'marriage' on D.C. residents will threaten the religious freedoms of those who disagree,” Wright said on Tuesday evening.
Citing the federal Defense of Marriage Act, Wright called on Congress to override the City Council's vote. “Congress should do what the DC Council refused to do -- respect the views of the citizens and affirm that marriage, which provides unique benefits that cannot be replicated by any other living arrangement, is a union between a man and a woman," Wright said.
Mosul, Iraq, Dec 15, 2009 (CNA) - As Iraqi Christians prepare for Christmas, bombs have caused explosions at two Christian churches on Tuesday. More attacks are feared.
A bomb at the Al Gahera (Our Lady of Purity) Syrian Orthodox Church in Mosul’s city center caused a major explosion on Tuesday afternoon. The church received significant damage and a number of people were injured, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) reports.
The Al Beshara (Annunciation) Syrian Catholic Church in Mosul was hit earlier that day at 10:30 Tuesday morning by a bomb placed against an outside wall of the building. The bomb caused a minor explosion and damaged the wall, but nobody was hurt. A kindergarten occupied by children was near the explosion.
The Baghdad government has warned Church leaders of further attacks over Christmas, saying priests and religious sisters should be especially vigilant.
Fr. Bashar Warda, a Redemptorist priest of northern Iraq, told ACN that Christians felt very strong “fear and shock” at a time when they look forward to Christmas to “lift our spirits.”
He reported that the Church would continue its Christmas preparations undeterred.
“Normally Christmas is a time when we lift our spirits with a number of festivities so you can imagine what the atmosphere is like here now.”
Fr. Warda said he had talked to Fr. Nazen Eshoa, a parish priest at Al Beshara, who had returned to Mosul to minister despite being kidnapped for a few days last year.
“Fr. Nazen – like all of us – is shocked but he wants to continue preparing for Christmas as much as possible,” Fr. Warda explained to ACN.
The identity of the attackers is not yet known. Church leaders do not know if there is a link between the attacks in Mosul and the threats against Christians in Baghdad.
The latest attacks in Mosul come less than three weeks after bomb attacks there caused serious damage to St. Ephrem’s Chaldean Church and a nearby convent.
No one was hurt in the attacks, but at least five Chaldean Sisters were in the convent at the time.