Archive of January 9, 2010

Let St. Augustine’s life inspire your New Year's resolution, recommends youth minister

CNA STAFF, Jan 9, 2010 (CNA) - Need help with your New Year's Resolution? Just ask St. Augustine, the man who patented the prayer, “Lord help me be pure, but not yet.”  The saint is a perfect example for those who aspire to something great but have difficulties getting the ball rolling, said Chris Stefanick, director of Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministry for the Archdiocese of Denver.

In comments to CNA, Stefanick explained that there is no reason 2010 can’t be the best year yet. All it takes is keeping your resolution reasonable. “Grab hold of your goals on a daily basis.”

Think about the resolution you made for 2010, Stefanick said.  “Is it the same resolution as last year? Did you keep it last year?”

Then Stefanick recalled the story of St. Augustine. Though St. Augustine is a Doctor of the Church, an acclaimed theologian and a beloved saint, “he struggled to actually live out the faith.” After all, he is the one who prayed, “Lord help me be pure, but not yet.”

It wasn’t until he opened his Bible and read the line from St. Paul, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provisions for the desires of the flesh” that he figured out “how he was supposed to live out Christianity in his daily life,” explained Stefanick.

Just like it told St. Augustine, the passage tells us, “stop feeding that vice. Start feeding the virtue on a daily basis.”

And in regards to New Year’s resolutions, “bring it down to something simple, attainable, that you can actually grab hold of,” advises Stefanick. “If you want to pray more, don’t buy a new complicated book on how to pray, make your goal simply, you know what, I’m going to set my alarm 15 minutes earlier every day and pray.”

St. Thomas Aquinas said, “the soul has two arms: the intellect and the will.” “God has given you a will. That will is mighty,” emphasized Stefanick. “You can change the direction of your life in an instant, with your own will.”

“Begin today to make the next year the best of your life by keeping those resolutions to make yourself a better person… your will can succeed at making those right choices if you make your goals simple and attainable enough to grab hold of on a daily basis,” concluded Stefanick.

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Twenty Ugandan priests form breakaway sect of married clerics

Kampala, Uganda, Jan 9, 2010 (CNA) - Twenty priests in Uganda have formed a breakaway sect which does not require celibacy. The priests, who are either married or want to marry, have formed a body called the Catholic Apostolic National Church in Uganda.

Vatican officials said the priests are now considered outside the Catholic Church and would likely be excommunicated, the Catholic Information Service for Africa (CISA) reports.

The sect is headed by a former Zambian Catholic priest Rev. Luciano Anzanga Mbewe, who was excommunicated for founding the Catholic Apostolic National Church of Zambia, which allows married priests.

According to CISA, the breakaway Ugandan church is located in the eastern town of Jinja. Mbewe is expected to visit the town to officially launch the church and ordain new priests, according to Rev. Leonard Lubega, who Mbewe appointed bishop-elect of the group.

Mbewe explained that he was inspired by former Zambian archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, who was married in 2001 to a South Korean woman by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church.

Archbishop Milingo was excommunicated in 2006 after installing four married men as bishops in the United States. In December 2009 he was defrocked and stripped of his priestly functions.

Lubega claims the new Ugandan sect has over 12,000 followers.

''We are Catholics but not Roman Catholics,” he told CISA, adding that the new church is not under Pope Benedict XVI but recognizes him and prays for him.

Lubega was never ordained a Catholic priest in Uganda while another priest in the group, Fr. Matoyu Seguya, was an Orthodox priest in Mityana but never a Catholic priest.

The Uganda government has said it is investigating the sect and would ban it if it is found to be illegal. The church has registered with the government.

Archbishop of Kampala Cyprian Kizito Lwanga called on the government to avoid registering such renegade groups, saying they might cause confusion among Ugandans and can “bring about religious conflicts.”

Cardinal Emmanuel Wamala, archbishop emeritus of Kampala, described the Catholic Apostolic National Church as a group of “false prophets.”

“I don’t know these so-called priests, and the Church should not be scared,” he told CISA. “Many such people have emerged in Uganda and gone. I advise Ugandans neither to follow nor listen to them because they intend to divide the church.”

He said that over two millennia the Catholic Church has withstood the emergence of such groups before and has not been shaken.

Maintaining clerical celibacy is reportedly a problem in Africa, which has the world’s fastest-growing Catholic population. There have been several cases of African priests living openly with women and fathering children.

Celibacy was a key topic of discussion during the 2009 Synod for Africa.

Catholic teaching holds that priests cannot marry. Married men may be ordained in the Eastern rites of the Catholic Church and in some cases when married Protestant clergymen convert to Catholicism.

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U.N. resolution on gender and sexual orientation defeated

New York City, N.Y., Jan 9, 2010 (CNA) - Though a coalition of socially conservative nations last month defeated an effort to add sexual orientation and gender identity as non-discrimination categories to a United Nations resolution, the vote showed that most traditionally Catholic nations aligned with socially “progressive” nations.

A coalition centered in Africa, the Islamic world and parts of the English-speaking Caribbean defeated a coalition led by European Union states, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States, the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) reports in its Friday Fax.

However, these “global north” countries were joined by Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and the Philippines in voting to retain a reference to a treaty General Comment that contained non-discrimination provisions concerning gender identity and sexual orientation.

C-FAM says the terms are controversial because they are not clearly defined and have never been approved in a legally-binding document. The terms are favored by activists promoting a “broad homosexual rights agenda.”

Some critics of the terms contend that once the designations are accepted as non-discrimination categories, a legal right would be created that would trump traditional free speech and religious liberties. They point to cases in Sweden, Canada and the United States.

At the 1995 Beijing Women’s Conference Latin American delegates, especially from Central America, defeated expansive definitions of the word “gender.” In recent years their delegations have been dominated by delegates more friendly to cultural agendas that C-FAM says “regularly meet with resistance at home.”

C-FAM notes that the Dominican Republic recently amended its constitution to protect the traditional definition of marriage. In the Philippines a bill seeking to penalize discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity has languished in the legislature, causing its proponents to call for internal and international pressure for its passage.

The U.N. coalitions on these issues are still mildly fluid. Cuba and Nicaragua voted to delete the contested reference while Brazil and Bolivia abstained and Venezuela absented itself.

C-FAM says that sources speculate their positions may in part reflect solidarity among developing nations rather than their evaluations of the resolution’s merits. One delegate told C-FAM that the Europeans were “overconfident” before the vote and discounted the resentment that heavy-handed advocacy of novel norms can cause.

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Four Malaysian churches firebombed after court rules Christians may use ‘Allah’

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Jan 9, 2010 (CNA) - Four churches in and around Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia have been firebombed in the continued reaction to a court ruling that Christians may use the word “Allah.”

One attack destroyed the first-floor offices of the three-story Metro Tabernacle Church. The Times reported that the worship hall itself was undamaged, but Kevin Ang, a church spokesman, said that the church is “90 percent gutted.”

Ang also reported that witnesses saw two persons on a motorbike who approached the entrance and threw in what looked like a petrol bomb.

Minor damage was caused in petrol bomb attacks on three other churches, one of them Catholic, in the adjacent town of Petaling Java, the Times reports.

Angry protests and cyber attacks on the website of the Herald, the Catholic newspaper involved in the case, followed the Malaysian High Court’s Dec. 31 ruling. The court said that the paper, Malaysia’s largest Catholic newspaper, may use “Allah,” also a traditional Malay word, to name the Christian God.

The high court suspended its ruling on Wednesday in anticipation of a government appeal.

Muslim preachers used Friday prayers to object to the decision, the Times reports.

“We will not allow the word Allah to be inscribed in your churches,” one speaker said at the Kampung Bahru mosque in central Kuala Lumpur. Protesters also carried posters reading “Heresy arises from words wrongly used” and “Allah is only for us.”

Muslims are a small majority in Malaysia, which has large Chinese and Indian populations who follow Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism. Most of the readers of the Herald are Christian tribespeople in the states of Sarawak and Sabah in Borneo.

In a Wednesday statement the Herald editor Fr. Andrew Lawrence told the Agence France Presse (AFP) that the paper believed the website attacks were designed to create a “climate of fear” and a “perceived threat to national security” in order to pressure the court to reverse its decision.

“We are Malaysians and we want to live in peace and happiness,” Fr. Lawrence added.

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Archdiocese defends controversial sculpture of Archbishop Weakland

Milwaukee, Wis., Jan 9, 2010 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has defended itself against the recent uproar caused by a sculpture in the diocese cathedral which bears the image of a controversial former archbishop, saying the piece was “commissioned to represent the archdiocese” at an earlier time than now. 

Former Archbishop Rembert Weakland, whose resignation Pope John Paul II accepted in 2002 when he reached the age of 75, was found to have had a homosexual relationship with an adult male seminarian who he paid to keep quiet about their involvement. The former archbishop has also admitted to moving pedophile priests around to different parishes, FOX 6 TV reports.

Although his misdeeds took place years ago, a new bronze relief pedastal that portrays the former archbishop alongside images of the Virgin Mary, St. John and various other figures including children is now causing a stir.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) has decried the piece of art and expressed in a statement Wednesday a desire to know why the former archbishop is being “pictured in the biblical scene of Jesus protecting the little children” as Archbishop Weakland has also faced accusations in the past of covering up priestly abuse in his diocese.

SNAP has also claimed that Weakland himself commissioned the piece and used charitable funds.

In response to this, Julie Wolf, Communications Director for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, told CNA that the bronze relief was commissioned in 2000, which was before the allegations against Weakland began to surface.

“It was commissioned to represent the archdiocese at that point in time, when Archbishop Weakland was archbishop, when Fr. Carl Last was the rector of the Cathedral and he still is,” said Wolf, who continued to tell CNA that the piece is intended “also to represent the people who make up the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, including children and adults and various ethnic groups.”

A statement issued by the archdiocese on Wednesday also explained the content of the bronze relief, saying that the image of Rembert Weakland “is shown kneeling in reverence to Mother, Mary, who as Mother of the Church and Mother of us all, is depicted as protector of not only children, but all of us.”

“The artists’ represented both cathedral and archdiocesan leadership at the time of the artwork’s commission and its dedication,” the statement added.

Wolf has also denied the claim that the former archbishop ordered the piece himself, saying that it was the initiative of an art sub-committee, which was part of the larger multi-year St. John the Evangelist Cathedral renovation effort.

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee emphasized that, “Our priority remains to work toward healing and resolution. Identifying ongoing sources of pain is important to that process. We acknowledge that much has been accomplished these past eight years and much more remains to be done."

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Holy See-Israel commission has ‘cordial’ and ‘useful’ meeting

Jerusalem, Israel, Jan 9, 2010 (CNA) - Delegates from the Holy See and Israel met for a "working level" meeting this week to continue negotiations concerning the rights of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land.  

On Saturday, a joint communiqué from the delegations described an "atmosphere of cordiality" at the meeting of the Bilateral Permanent Working Commission convened on Jan. 7 in Jerusalem.

The meeting's focus continues to be on an Article of the Fundamental Agreement signed by both sides in 1993 that specifically refers to the negotiation of "a comprehensive agreement, containing solutions acceptable to both Parties, on unclear, unsettled and disputed issues, concerning property, economic and fiscal matters relating to the Catholic Church generally, or to specific Catholic communities or institutions."

The success of these meetings was put into question after the previous session in December when some members of the negotiating parties were quoted as saying that the talks had become stagnant.

In Saturday's official communication from the Vatican, however, the most recent meeting was said to be "useful."

The next meeting between the two delegations will take place at the headquarters of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Feb. 10 before they convene again at the Vatican for a plenary meeting of the Commission on May 27.

The Bilateral Permanent Working Commission was established in July of 1992 "to study and define issues of common interest" between the Holy See and the State of Israel.

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