Sioux City, Iowa, Jan 6, 2010 (CNA) - The Iowa Catholic Conference has urged the state legislature to limit the interest rate on payday loans to 36 percent, saying the change should be a priority during the upcoming legislative session.
“The stated purpose of payday loans is to offer a solution to families who face a short-term crisis,” the Conference said in a press release. “But only one percent of these loans are made to one-time borrowers. On the average, Iowans who take out one payday loan end up with 12 loans.”
The Iowa Catholic Conference said these loans create economic dependency and high long-term consumer debt, with interest rates approaching or exceeding 400 percent.
"We believe these types of interest rates are unjust and should be outlawed," says Tom Chapman, executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference. "Instead of promoting the financial stability of consumers, the system actually benefits more from their failure than their success. Public policy should protect the public from outrageous practices."
The U.S. Congress in 2007 passed a law to limit payday loans’ interest rate at 36 percent for military personnel. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have capped interest rates or have prohibited payday loans.
Los Angeles, Calif., Jan 6, 2010 (CNA) - After winning $100,000, South Carolina priest Fr. Andrew Trapp lost a $1 million poker contest to a New York City detective who helped survivors during the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The 28-year-old priest was trying to win the million dollar prize for his parish’s building fund.
The contest, Fox’s PokerStars.Net Million Dollar Challenge, held the final match in mid-December. The show was broadcast on Dec. 27.
Fr. Trapp lost to New York police detective Mike Kosowski. According to the New York Daily News, Kosowski was severely injured when the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed. He started playing poker to escape the pain. Kosowski went on to defeat poker champion Daniel Negreanu.
Fr. Trapp, who placed second overall, had defeated Negreanu in an earlier round to win $100,000 for St. Michael Catholic Church in Garden City, South Carolina.
The Augusta Chronicle reports that the priest said his loss was “definitely disappointing.”
“The guy who wins is a hero from Sept. 11. His family's been going through a rough financial time, so I think he was meant to win it. I think it was all in God's plan," he said.
He planned to gather with parishioners and family members at St. Michael’s to watch his last appearance. The producers of the show taped a one-minute segment at the church.
"I'm talking about the church, and preaching," Fr. Trapp reported. "I know everybody's really excited to see that. We'll have a lot of people cheering."
He said he was probably finished with game shows and that the poker contest was “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
The priest’s mother, Beth Trapp, said she and her husband were proud of their son.
"It was pretty exciting, and I'm happy for his church. He did something awesome,” she said, according to the Augusta Chronicle.
St. Michael’s is experiencing significant growth and has over 3,000 parishioners. There are also safety code issues with its present structure and concerns it could not withstand a strong hurricane.
As of Christmas, the church has raised nearly $4 million for a building that can hold more than 900. Its fundraising goal is over $5 million.
Previously, Fr. Trapp had explained that he hopes to teach people that gambling is acceptable in Catholicism, so long as it is done in moderation.
“The Catholic Church teaches that there’s nothing morally wrong making a bet or games of chance,” the priest had remarked, according to Fox News.
Madrid, Spain, Jan 6, 2010 (CNA) - The press director for the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, Isidro Catela Marcos, has written a letter on behalf of the bishops reiterating that Catholic politicians cannot support abortion. The letter comes in response to pro-choice statements made by a Catholic who is head of Spain's Congress, Jose Bono.
In a January 3 interview with the Spanish daily, El Mundo, Bono twisted the words of John Paul II's encyclical, "Evangelium Vitae" to justify his pro-choice stance. In response, the bishops rejected Bono's reasoning and noted that Catholic politicians cannot vote for pro-abortion policies.
The bishops also commented on the country's abortion reform that is currently in the hands of the Senate. In December, Spain's House of Representatives voted 184 to 158 to pass a reform to the country’s abortion laws that would allow for the procedure up to the 14th week of pregnancy and limit the conscientious objections of medical professionals.
The bishops also criticized the law for treating abortion “as a woman’s right, and because women’s health is understood to be ‘social well-being,’ in addition to ‘physical and psychological well-being.’ It should also be condemned because it imposes abortion propaganda on the educational system.”
For this reason, the bishops’ letter recalled, “nobody in their right mind could support this law; Catholics cannot do so either in virtue of coherence with their own faith.”
The bishops said their letter was an expression of their duty to “explain the teachings of the Church on these matters, which are valid all over the world for every Catholic regardless of political affiliation.”
Jerusalem, Israel, Jan 6, 2010 (CNA) - The Holy Land Coordination, an annual event intended to advance work and solidarity with the local Christian community, will meet in Jerusalem again this January. Catholic prelates and bishops’ conference delegates will make pastoral visits and meet with Palestinian and Israeli leaders while learning about the present situation of the Holy Land.
The Holy Land Coordination is mandated by the Holy See and has been organized by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW) since 1998. Its 2010 meeting will be led by Archbishop of Liverpool Patrick Kelly.
Archbishop Kelly noted that the visit will take place between last year’s papal visit and the planned Synod on the Middle East.
“The focus will be on East Jerusalem, so we become wiser about this issue,” the archbishop said in a statement. Israel announced in late December that it would go ahead with the construction of 700 homes for Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem, drawing sharp criticism from the U.S., Europe and Palestine.
On Sunday Jan. 10 delegates will conduct pastoral visits across the West Bank. The official opening session of the Coordination will take place the next day.
Archbishop Kelly explained that he will visit Nablus, whose parish is twinned with a parish in Liverpool.
“This attachment between our cities and the binding of the links between ordinary people is the way to ensure a better future in this Land that we call Holy,” he commented. “We hope to strengthen both the people of the Holy Land and also ourselves as people committed to justice and reconciliation.”
Among the many addresses of the opening session will be those delivered by the Patriarch of Jerusalem Archbishop Fouad Twal and Archbishop Antonio Franco, the apostolic nuncio to Israel. The two prelates will give overviews of the situation of the Holy Land, where the Church experiences intense political, social and economic pressure.
Delegates will be briefed and will visit people in areas of Jerusalem which have suffered evictions and confiscations.
On Jan. 12, after the Jerusalem visits, delegates will be able to visit the housing project of Beit Safafa. They will also meet with some of the young couples who are beneficiaries of the project.
The Holy Land Coordination will end with a midday press conference on Thursday, Jan. 14 in the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem.
Bishop William Kenney, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham, will act as chair for the plenary sessions.
Bishop of Tucson Gerald F. Kicanas, vice-president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), will be among the delegates. Other delegates include Canadian Bishops’ Conference (CBC) president Bishop Pierre Morissette and CBC General Secretary Msgr. Mario Paquette.
Vatican City, Jan 6, 2010 (CNA) -
Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the Mass of the Epiphany this morning at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, accompanied by hundreds of clergy and thousands of the faithful. In his homily, the Holy Father called for authentic humility to “start walking the road” indicated by "the star" of the Lord.
On the feast of the Epiphany, the church celebrates the arrival of the Magi to the nativity. These Eastern Kings, said the Pope, came from a distant land to give homage while those who were in nearby Bethlehem and Jerusalem neglected the signs and remained ignorant of the savior's birth.
We run the same risk today "even though the few in Bethlehem have become many, the believers in Jesus Christ always seem to be few,” the Holy Father cautioned.
"Many have seen the star, but only a few have understood the message."
Despite possessing the knowledge to see and find the Lord, many are impeded by "too much confidence in themselves, the pretext of perfectly knowing the reality..." he added.
The presumption of forming a definitive judgment on the workings of the world, continued the Pontiff, closes a person's heart and makes it "insensitive to the novelty of God." This trust in self rather than in God makes many think it impossible that He could be great enough to reduce himself to our size and to be approachable, he explained.
"What is lacking is authentic humility to know how to submit to that which is great with authentic courage, which leads us to believe in that which is truly great, even if it is manifested in a defenseless Child," the Pope stated.
The answer, he said, is that we must have the "evangelical capacity to be children at heart ... and to allow ourselves to start walking on the road indicated by the star, the way of God."
The Pontiff added that "The Lord ... has the power to render us capable of seeing and of saving us. So, we want to ask Him to give us a wise and innocent heart, one that permits us to see the star and his mercy, to start walking on his road (and) to find him and be inundated by the great light and the true joy that he brings to this world."
Vatican City, Jan 6, 2010 (CNA) -
Following the Epiphany Mass in the Vatican basilica, Pope Benedict XVI recited the Marian Angelus prayer with the public in St. Peter's Square. In his traditional message, the Pontiff exalted the unity between intelligence and faith, which was manifested in the actions and openness of the Magi.
The wise men were men of science, but their knowledge was open to "higher revelations and divine calls," the Pope said.
He also highlighted the humility of the Eastern Kings in stopping to ask directions to the prophesied site of the savior's birth. Despite their status and intelligence, said the Pope, they consulted scribes and priests along the way to ensure that they were on the right path.
This path led them to Bethlehem where they would find the Child with his mother.
They could have expressed disappointment at finding the Child there, noted the Pope, but they remained open to a mysterious surprise and recognized in the Child, the Savior, King and Son of God.
We can look to the Eastern Kings as models of true wisdom, concluded the Pontiff, calling them "authentic seekers of God, capable of living the profound harmony that exists between reason and faith, science and revelation."
In his post-Angelus message, the Pope sent a special greeting to the members of the Eastern Churches who will be celebrating Christmas tomorrow. He also remembered the Missionary Day of the Children, originally promoted by Pope Pius XII in 1950 to educate children to be open to the world and sympathetic to their poorest peers. This World Day coincides with the celebration of the Epiphany and is primarily celebrated in Italy.
Madrid, Spain, Jan 6, 2010 (CNA) - On the eve of Epiphany, Right to Life in Spain opted to send a float from a parade overflowing with coal instead of a gift to Spanish President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero because of the pro-abortion policy his government has been implementing in Spain.
In Spain, as well as in other European countries, it is a tradition to give children presents on the feast of the Epiphany, in remembrance of the three wise men who brought gifts to the child Jesus in Bethlehem. Children who have been disobedient during the year receive coal in their stockings instead of gifts.
The float, which was earlier used in a parade to celebrate Epiphany in the Spanish capital, was driven to the offices of the European Union in Madrid since Zapatero is currently president of the EU.
Right to Life spokesman, Gador Joya, criticized President Zapatero for his pro-abortion policies, which undermine “the right to life” and reveal “his scorn for women and their health.”
The organization also announced it has joined with the Catholic Confederation of Parents to ask the president to hold a referendum on the new abortion law. It said one million signatures supporting the request will be presented to the government at the end of January.
Rome, Italy, Jan 6, 2010 (CNA) - During the funeral Mass for Cardinal Cahal Brendan Daly, who died on December 31 at the age of 92, the Archbishop of Armagh in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, remarked that the Church the country is currently facing one of the “most critical and most challenging” moments of its history.
Referring to the clergy abuse scandal in Ireland, Cardinal Brady said, “It has caused such justified anger and outrage on the part of the faithful and damaged trust so profoundly in the integrity of the Church leaders. No one can doubt the Catholic Church in Ireland is now at a defining moment in its history.
“The only way to authentic renewal is that of humble service to God's people.”
“The rebuilding of trust will entail making sure that children are safe at every moment and in every Church setting,” the cardinal added. This “will require complete commitment to the path initiated by Cardinal Daly: of working with the civil authorities and whole parish communities to ensure best practice, cooperation and accountability in safeguarding children in all Church activities” he said.
Cardinal Brady called the late Cardinal Daly a “prophetic man” who was always “ahead of his time” and worked for reconciliation in Northern Ireland, social justice, the protection of the environment and for greater appreciation of the role and contribution of women in the life of the Church.
Orlando, Fla., Jan 6, 2010 (CNA) - More than 3,500 students attended the Fellowship of Catholic University Student's (FOCUS) biannual conference last week in Orlando, Florida. The success of the event caused the group's president, Curtis Martin, to describe it as “packed with memorable moments.”
The five day 'Made for More' conference took place Dec 30 through Jan 3 and included a wide range of speakers such as Fr. Benedict Groschel, Matthew Kelly and Dr. Ted Sri, as well as performers Matt Maher, Matthew West and Tim Hawkins. Students also had the opportunity to celebrate the New Year together and participate in Mass and Confession.
“Each year one of the most dramatic events is our time of Eucharistic Adoration and Confession,” Martin told CNA. “If you have never seen thousands of young people fall to their knees (and some completely prostrate themselves) before Jesus Christ veiled under the appearance of mere bread, it is an amazing experience.”
“For several hours the students sat in silent prayer,” Martin recounted. “During the event, lines began to form so that these young leaders could make a Sacramental Confession, some for the first time since their First Confession.”
Recalling past FOCUS conferences, Martin said, “Two years ago after a similar experience in Grapevine, Texas, a priest that I had never met asked me how things were going and I responded, 'They seem to be going really well.' To which he replied, 'You will never know how well things are going, because you can not hear Confessions, this is the single most impressive experience of my priesthood!'”
The impact of the Orlando conference was also pointed out by FOCUS Team Director Patrick Rivera of Montclair University, who said, “I can't remember coming across a single student that did not feel as though they were having a life changing experience.” “The energy was one that was very, I would say … was very encouraging.”
FOCUS Communications Director Jeremy Rivera echoed the same sentiment, saying, “I kept hearing stories of transformative moments.”
“People had decided to become Catholic, I heard a lot of people being moved to a vocation to religious life,” Rivera said.
When asked how this event compared to ones in the past, Rivera told CNA that “we saw over a thousand more students at this conference.”
The organization, founded in 1998, has been lauded by Church leaders such as Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, who has stated that “no one does a more dynamic job of reaching college students for Christ than FOCUS.”
Speaking on the successes of the organization, Martin told CNA that “this conference marks the conclusion of our 11th year” and that “we began with 22 students and no full-time staff and now have 250 full-time staff and thousands of students involved.”
In describing the work of FOCUS, Martin explained that “The basic message is this: The Catholic faith works. We are not doing anything special, we are simply inviting young people to know Christ personally and to follow Him in the Church He founded, where they find the fullness of truth and grace.”
More information about FOCUS can be found at its website: www.focusonline.org
CNA STAFF, Jan 6, 2010 (CNA) - CNA’s review of James Cameron’s new film “Avatar” highlights the stunning visuals as well as the disturbing and blatant New Age agenda the movie embodies. It shows the film to be a 21st century version of “big, bad American soldiers vs. simple, innocent natives” in a simplistic manner comparable to a Warner Brother’s cartoon.
“Avatar” is the realization of a long-term dream on the part of James Cameron, director of “Titanic” and “Terminator 2.” He wrote the film’s script 14 years ago, long before the technology to make the movie possible became available in 2005. While that technology creates absolutely breathtaking visual cinematography, the plot itself is a thinly-masked push for a very secular environmental agenda.
The film employs a variety of shallow stereotypes. In fact, the review notes that “the ‘villain’ of the film, (is) a colonel who commands the slaughter of the Na’vi tribe from an airplane while nonchalantly sipping a cup of coffee.” It also explains that “the Na’vi funeral rites are scenes modeled after the hippie festivals of the 1970s.”
The review predicts that the film will undoubtedly win awards for its spectacular cinematography. However, the reason it will receive much acclaim “is because the film represents Hollywood's official dogma of religion without God or personal moral commitments” despite the relative success of other deeper, more positive films this season, such as “The Blind Side.”
Read the full review of “Avatar” here: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/column.php?n=1068
Vatican City, Jan 6, 2010 (CNA) - After the Angelus on Wednesday, Pope Benedict XVI greeted young representatives the world over in commemoration of the Missionary Day of the Children. Celebrated within the parishes of Italy and in cooperating parishes around the globe, the purpose of the Day is to urge children to become protagonists in international mission work.
The Pontiff recognized the initiative in his Italian-language message following the Marian prayer on Wednesday, when he greeted “all of the little missionaries from the five continents with affection” and encouraged them to “always be witnesses of Jesus and announcers of the Gospel.”
The initiative, whose motto is “Children helping children,” is represented by nearly 6,000 young participants within Italy. Chapters of the movement are present in every diocese in the country, according to the Pontifical Work of Missionary Youth (POIM in Italian) which promotes the initiative.
It isn’t the first time the Holy Father has addressed them this year. While the group was on a joint pilgrimage of missionary children from all of Europe in May of 2009 for the Pauline Year, Pope Benedict XVI met with them to tell them how they should go about announcing the Gospel.
In an interview on Vatican Radio on Wednesday, General Secretary of the POIM Father Piero Pierobon said that the Pope told the children that meditation on the word of God, prayer, an awareness of problems and beauty existent in other cultures and solidarity with others are the four elements to becoming a missionary in the world.
The Pope also mentioned in his message that the initiative was promoted by Venerable Pope Pius XII 50 years ago to educate young people to have open minds and be sympathetic to their disadvantaged peers around the world.
San Francisco, Calif., Jan 6, 2010 (CNA) - A judge’s January 6 decision to allow the broadcast of court hearings on California’s Proposition 8 could lead to further harassment and intimidation of Prop. 8 supporters by radical homosexual activists, critics say.
Judge Vaughn R. Walker, chief judge of the Northern District of California, had proposed a last-minute revision to the court rules that would allow television coverage of the trial, the Washington Times reports.
A document posted on the court's website states that people may comment on the decision to open the courtroom to TV cameras until Jan. 8.
Speaking at a hearing on the matter on Wednesday, Judge Vaughn said the case deals with important issues and should be allowed to be broadcast over YouTube.
YouTube is owned by Google Inc., the Mountain View, California-based internet giant which opposed the measure. The San Francisco Chronicle’s blog “The Tech Chronicles” reports that company founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page donated at least $140,000 to Prop. 8 opponents.
Attorneys for backers of Prop. 8 have argued that media coverage would expose their witnesses to further intimidation.
Backers of the ballot measure were targeted for harassment after the measure passed in November 2008 by 52 to 48 percent. With the aid of internet websites that combined maps and donor lists, some donors received threatening e-mails, letters and phone calls. Churches and businesses were targeted by protesters, boycotts and vandals.
According to the Washington Times, Brian Brown, executive director of the Prop. 8 backer National Organization for Marriage, said he is worried about the safety of witnesses, including campaign contributors, staff and volunteers.
"The question is really whether Judge Walker can put people on the stand where they can be threatened," Brown commented. "It's a question of people's safety."
The court usually bans television, radio and photography. On Dec. 17 the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit announced that it approved the “limited use of cameras” on an experimental basis.
Rick Jacobs, chairman of the homosexual “marriage” advocacy group the Courage Campaign, told the Washington Times that the case presents issues that are “very important to the public” and will affect millions of people.
"By televising the trial, the public will be able to see for themselves the arguments and evidence presented by both sides, and will therefore have more confidence in the outcome of the trial," he said.
The lawsuit in question was filed in June by two homosexual couples who argue that Prop. 8 violates the U.S. Constitution.
Prop. 8 had surmounted several other legal challenges in what its backers have charged to be frivolous lawsuits.
Prague, Czech Republic, Jan 6, 2010 (CNA) - The outgoing Archbishop of Prague Cardinal Miloslav Vlk has warned of the “Islamization” of Europe, calling for Europeans to return to their Christian roots. “The fall of Europe is looming,” he said in an interview published on his website.
"Europe has denied its Christian roots from which it has risen and which could give it the strength to fend off the danger that it will be conquered by Muslims -- which is actually happening gradually,” the cardinal said, according to Agence France Presse.
"If Europe doesn't change its relation to its own roots, it will be Islamized,” added the prelate.
Cardinal Vlk said that immigration and Muslims’ high birth rates have helped Muslims “easily fill the vacant space created as Europeans systematically empty the Christian content of their lives.”
"At the end of the Middle Ages and in the early modern age, Islam failed to conquer Europe with arms. The Christians beat them then,” he continued. "Today, when the fighting is done with spiritual weapons which Europe lacks while Muslims are perfectly armed, the fall of Europe is looming.”
Cardinal Vlk was persecuted by the communist regime toppled in 1989. He was named Archbishop of Prague in 1991 by Pope John Paul II.
He had offered his resignation two years ago at the age of 75, as required by Church law, but Pope Benedict asked him to continue serving.
The cardinal’s successor should be named this week, according to Czech news reports.