Archive of February 8, 2010

Dominican sisters to appear on Oprah Winfrey Show

Ann Arbor, Mich., Feb 8, 2010 (CNA) - The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist have made waves across the nation for their rapid growth and their devout orthodoxy. Now, they are once again in the national spotlight, being featured on the popular Oprah Winfrey Show.

“They phoned us and asked if they could do a program on us with Oprah. That's all we know!” Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, OP, vocations director for the community, told CNA in an email.

The show featuring the sisters will air on Tuesday, February 9, 2010. The same day happens to be the congregation’s 13th anniversary. The coincidence is “amazing, as they did not know this when they chose the date -- but God did!” exclaimed the vocations director.

When asked why they chose to accept the invitation and appear on the show, “Oprah is powerful -- we entrust this endeavor to Mother Mary for the greater glory of her Son! It's truly been a lot of fun as 'the world' does not begin to understand our life,” the Dominican said. “Hopefully, this will inspire more people to love God and serve Him in the manner He invites each of us -- and get the Gospel on the airwaves!!”

The Dominican Sisters of Mary were founded in 1997 by four Dominican sisters responding to John Paul II’s call for a new evangelization. In the 13 years of their existence, they have grown to almost 100 members. Their newly constructed motherhouse is already filled to capacity.

Currently, the average age of the sisters is 26 and the average age of their postulants is 21.

“Young people, inspired by John Paul the Great and Pope Benedict XVI, are generous and desirous of living sacrificial, authentic lives as God asks of them,” Sr. Joseph Andrew said.

“We agreed (to be on the show) because it will further understanding of Religious Life,” she added. “The Catholic Church is alive, well, and thriving as is authentic religious life,” she added.

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Secular states must not restrict religious freedom, cautions priest

Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 8, 2010 (CNA) - Father Manuel Corral, public relations director for the Bishops’ Conference of Mexico, warned last week that the reform of Mexico's constitution establishing the country as secular must not “muzzle” religious freedom.

In his remarks, the priest explained that “if by 'secular,' one means not identifying with any particular religion, then I am in agreement. However, if it means simply to silence or restrict freedom of expression, religious freedom, then it is being misinterpreted.”

Fr. Corral pointed out that a secular country can serve society well, however he added that “It would be sad if this were understood as simply muzzling the churches and restricting the religious freedom of citizens.”

While the priest said he has not yet had a chance to analyze the congressional proposal that would implement this reform, he said such changes should not lead to “a return to past centuries” in Mexico, in which the State was all-powerful, absolute and silenced citizens and organizations.

“No constitution today is going to be subject to a specific creed,” Fr. Corral said, pointing to the U.S. as an example where people of different beliefs can share opinions and enter into dialogue.

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Church in Costa Rica stripped of right to approve religion teachers

San José, Costa Rica, Feb 8, 2010 (CNA) - Costa Rica’s Constitutional Court has stripped the Church of its right to choose which religion teachers it will hire, after reversing a 1972 law stating that the teachers must be approved by the Bishops’ Conference of Costa Rica.

The 4-3 ruling was the result of challenge filed by Randall Trejos Alvarado, who argued that the requirement caused numerous teachers to lose their jobs and constituted intrusion by the bishops into the affairs of public schools.

In Costa Rica, as well as in other countries, the Church has signed agreements with the State allowing the Church to select the candidates who will teach Catholic religion, not only on the basis of intellectual formation, but also on the candidate’s moral life.

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World's highest Catholic chapel consecrated in Spain

Madrid, Spain, Feb 8, 2010 (CNA) -

The president of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela of Madrid, blessed the highest Catholic chapel in the world, located on the 33rd floor of Spain's new skyscraper, “Space Tower.”

The cardinal celebrated Mass in the chapel along with officials from the Villa Mir construction company and employees of the building.

The chapel was built upon the request of several workers in the skyscraper who gathered to pray the Rosary during its construction.

The Archdiocese of Madrid provided guidance during the construction of the chapel and granted permission for the Eucharist to be reserved there on a permanent basis. In addition, a local parish priest has been named chaplain to provide for the spiritual needs of those visiting the chapel each day.

The 57-floor Space Tower reaches 774 feet and is located in the business and financial district of the Spanish capital. The chapel is 442 feet above the ground, offering a spectacular view of northern Madrid and the surrounding mountains.

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Belgian theologian blasts 'pseudo-compassion' and Vatican official's article

Rome, Italy, Feb 8, 2010 (CNA) - The celebrated philosopher and theologian Monsignor Michel Schooyans has published his thoughts on the contemporary misuse of the concept of "compassion." According to Msgr. Schooyans, the Vatican newspaper and the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, are complicit in promoting "pseudo-compassion."

Msgr. Schooyans, professor emeritus of theology and philosophy at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium and an expert in bioethics and demography, outlined the "bogus" employment of the concept of compassion in contemporary society by way of his recent work "The Pitfalls of Compassion." The essay features Msgr. Schooyans' analysis of certain acts that serve to undermine the real meaning of “compassion” and its practice.

In the paper, Msgr. Schooyans defined "compassion" as "a matter of understanding (the suffering person), 'sympathizing' with him, sharing in his distress and bearing it with him." He said that it "also suggests the notion of psychologically and emotionally sharing in suffering, especially suffering beyond medical or other control."

"However," he added, "in cases of abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide which appear in the news, compassion is frequently invoked to 'justify' the act which has been or is about to be performed."

Msgr. Schooyans pointed to the example of how aborting children with serious deformities is often viewed as an act of compassion, not only for the child, but also for the parents and society who would bear the "burden" of the child's existence.

Following that same train of thought, "compassion can also be extended to abortion doctors. To carry out an abortion is for them - it is said -a 'decision difficult to take' and an act they perform purely in obedience to their conscience,” the Belgian scholar wrote.

In these examples where “compassion” is invoked, Msgr. Schooyans noted that it has an ambiguous meaning that is “applied very differently depending on whether it creates a victim, the unborn child, or is intended to relieve the mother, justify laws or endorse medical intervention."

He went on to enumerate "true and bogus compassion in acts and standpoints observable in the world today." Among the numerous examples, he cited the existence of "pseudo-compassion" in cases of pedophilia.

Referring to "high profile cases of pedophilia" that have involved members of the clergy in legal actions, he wrote that "in the majority of these cases, the Church authorities have been accused of attempted cover-ups. For as long as they were able, these authorities pretended that nothing, or very little, had happened."

"The reason most frequently invoked is that of "compassion" for the perpetrators of acts of pedophilia.

This, he wrote, is considered as "compassion for the poor clerics, already suffering so much from their urges and whom their superiors should not condemn publicly or, still less, expose to ignominious condemnation by the proper judicial authorities."

"If abortionists deserve protection," he then proposed, "Why not pedophiles?"

In the same vein, he recalled the " flagrant example of bogus compassion" in the case of "Carmen" from Recife, Brazil.

"In brief," he wrote, "we were told to show compassion for the doctors who performed a direct double abortion."

"Carmen" is a nine-year-old Brazilian girl who was raped by her step-father and became pregnant with twins. On March 5, 2009, her children were aborted by doctors who cited the risks implied by the twins to the girl's health.

Shortly after, the doctors who ended the lives of the twins were publicly recognized by Archbishop of Recife Jose Cardoso Sobrinho as being automatically excommunicated for having taken part in such an intervention.

Msgr. Schooyans recalled that some called for the situation to be kept quiet, "however," he added in defense of the twins, "medical literature records situations similar to that experienced by 'Carmen'... where true compassion is expressed towards very young mothers and their babies," he said, citing the case of five-year-old Peruvian Lina Medina giving birth by cesarean-section to a boy.

The vocal reaction of Archbishop Cardoso caused a furor in international media which soon led to the release of an article by the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, in the Vatican's L'Osservatore Romano newspaper which underlined the need for "mercy" in such cases and respect for the difficult decision and "conflict" of the doctors involved. Archbishop Fisichella also criticized the actions of members of the clergy in publicly condemning the doctors and the mother for the abortion.

"Before thinking about excommunication," he wrote, "it was necessary and urgent to save the innocent life (of the girl) and return her to a level of humanity of which we men of the Church should be experts and masters in proclaiming."

Archbishop Fisichella pointed to the very quick and very public nature of the condemnation as detrimental to the credibility of Church teaching which, as a result "appears in the eyes of many as insensitive, incomprehensible and devoid of mercy."

There is no question, he wrote, that abortion is "always condemned by moral law as an intrinsically evil act," and, he added, "technically, the Code of Canon Law uses the expression 'latae sententiae' to indicate that the excommunication is brought about exactly in the same moment in which the fact takes place."

There was no need to act with such "urgency and publicity" on something that was already automatic, he concluded.

Nevertheless, following the publication of Archbishop Fisichella's article, there was talk in the international media that the Vatican had "softened" its opposition to abortion and had allowed abortion in this circumstance. In response, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released a statement to underscore the Church's teaching that abortion is always immoral.

According to Msgr. Schooyans' essay "The Pitfalls of Compassion" the case of “Carmen” and many others like it point to the existence of a misconceived and "ambiguous" idea of the reality of "compassion."

"Pseudo-compassion, frequently invoked in favor of the perpetrators of acts which are inherently wrong, such as abortion, hence leads to scandal; it invites others into grave sin," Msgr. Schooyans said.

By inciting believers to give up their duty to respect innocent life, which is "a non-negotiable element of the doctrine of the Church, 'pseudo-compassion' leads to heresy and division," he added. It also "reinforces the movement towards the 'tyranny of relativism,'" which extends to "some pastors and/or theologians."

"Ultimately, pseudo-compassion could lead to a situation in which the Church's doctrine and natural morality would be the outcome of a procedure of consensus based on compromise," he warned.

In response to those who might say that the Church is too strict on these matters, the Belgian priest offered the unequivocal words presented in the Code of Canon Law that "those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion."

However, Msgr. Schooyans wrote, by knowing "the bogus and violent nature of pseudo-compassion," the severity of this sentence is only in appearance, "it is actually a high expression of charity."

"It is an urgent call to a change of life," he declared.

"Refusal to give Communion for the reasons we have cited... is nothing more than an expression of the love of the Church for the weakest and an invitation to repentance, addressed to those who run the risk of remaining shackled by their sins, and shackling others."

Monsignor Schooyans concluded his treatise by posing a "delicate, yet inescapable, question."

Pointing out that Communion is barred to lay people under the conditions he described in "Pitfalls," he asked, "does the Code of Canon Law impose suspension measures on the twofold grounds of scandal and heresy, on clergy who publicly express pseudo-compassion for abortionists?"

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Church will never stop condemning abuse, states Pope Benedict

Vatican City, Feb 8, 2010 (CNA) -

The Holy Father met with members of the Pontifical Council for the Family on Monday to mark the start of their 19th Plenary Assembly.  In his address, he stressed the importance of providing for the rights of children, including an intact family with a mother and father.

To begin the Plenary Assembly, which follows the theme of  "The Rights of Infancy" this year, Pope Benedict XVI emphasized the role of the Church in the protection of children, saying that "through the centuries, by the example of Christ, (it) has promoted the protection of the dignity and rights of minors and, in many ways, has taken care of them."

"Unfortunately," he lamented, "in different cases, some of its members, acting in contrast with this commitment, have violated these rights: a behavior that the Church doesn't and will never stop deploring and condemning."

One upcoming example of this commitment will be when the Pope meets with the bishops of Ireland next week to address the sexual and physical abuse recently brought to light by the Ryan Report. The Pope had previously his declared "outrage" and "anguish" upon learning the details of the transgressions and has since accepted the resignation of one of the four bishops who was included in the report for having ignored abuse.

Speaking to the members of the Pontifical Council for the Family on Monday, the Holy Father pointed to the lesson to be learned from Jesus, "who considered children a model to imitate to enter the kingdom of God." The Pope also highlighted Christ's "tenderness and teaching" that call us to nurture “profound respect and care" for children.

"The strong words of Jesus against whomever scandalizes one of these little ones oblige everyone not to lower the level of this respect and love," the Holy Father emphasized.

The Pope added that the greatest help you can offer a child is a family "founded on matrimony between a man and a woman" because "they want to be loved by a mother and a father that love one other."
He stressed the need of children to grow up with both parents, "because the maternal and paternal figures are complementary in the education of children and the construction of their personalities and identities."

"It's important then,” he noted, “that everything possible is done to allow them to grow up in a united and stable family," urging married couples to never forget the deep sacramental roots of matrimony and to nurture them with prayer, listening to the Word of God, constant dialogue and forgiveness.

"A troubled family environment, the division of the parents and, in particular, separation through divorce, are not without consequences for children," the Holy Father concluded. "Supporting the family and promoting its true good, its rights, its unity and stability is the best way to protect the rights and the real needs of children."

Pope Benedict also highlighted the important role of the Council for the Family in preparing couples for marriage and raising children according to the teachings of the Church.

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Catholic Church in Spain begins campaign to defend religious symbols

Madrid, Spain, Feb 8, 2010 (CNA) - The regional vicar of Guadalajara in Spain has welcomed requests by numerous Spanish Catholic organizations to launch a campaign defending the presence of crucifixes and other religious symbols in the country.

According to organizers, the idea came in response to Spain's Socialist government's plan to “regulate” the presence of religious symbols in public areas, a decision which many believe will end up prohibiting them completely.

Dozens of Catholic organizations in Spain are backing a manifesto that defends the presence of the crucifix “in classrooms and other public spaces,” arguing that it is “part of our daily historical, cultural and spiritual identity.”

The response states that the image of the crucified Christ “is a sign that unites people, promotes principles of equality, liberty and tolerance, because we are all brothers and sisters, and therefore equal, in the eyes of Christ.”

The manifesto was presented this week by the Regional Vicar of Guadalajara, Father Angel Luis Toledano, and also by the Diocesan Director of Education, Father Pedro Moreno, who added that other organizations can still sign the statement.

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Former New Orleans archbishop grateful Saints 'won the fight'

New Orleans, La., Feb 8, 2010 (CNA) - Following the Saints' Super Bowl victory on Sunday, Archbishop Phillip Hannan, the retired Archbishop of New Orleans, lauded the team's win and told CNA that “it was a tremendous effort.”

“Everybody involved, in a marvelous way supported each other,” said the archbishop on Monday,  adding that he was “tremendously grateful” the Saints “won the fight.”

Kent Bossier, the personal assistant and care taker of the 96-year-old prelate, told CNA that their lively Super Bowl experience began when they were flown to Miami from New Orleans on Saint's owner Tom Benson's private jet.

On game day, “we rode into the stadium earlier in the day with the players entourage,” said Bossier.

Prior to the showdown with Indianapolis, Archbishop Hannan concelebrated a pre-game Mass with current New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond. The Mass ended with a rendition of  “When the Saints Go Marching In,” Bossier recalled.

When the game began, Archbishop Hannan and Bossier were honored by being seated in Tom Benson's suite along with Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal and his wife Supriya Jindal as well as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

“There were lots of hugs and high fives going on,” Bossier said.

As Saints fans around the country celebrated the win, Archbishop Hannan and his assistant joined the players in choruses of "Who Dat" and "When the Saints Go Marching In."

Archbishop Hannan's history with the Saints stretches back to 1967, when he not only approved the naming of the Saints at their inception but also wrote an official prayer in honor of the team.

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Tebow Super Bowl ad airs after controversial run-up

Miami, Fla., Feb 8, 2010 (CNA) - The much-discussed Super Bowl ad about college star quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother Pam aired on Sunday. It encouraged viewers to celebrate life and family.

The ad showed Pam Tebow holding a baby photo of Tim.

“I call him my miracle baby,” she says. “He almost didn't make it into this world. ... you know, with all our family's been through, we have to be tough.”

She is then pushed off-screen as she is forcefully tackled by her son, the outgoing quarterback of the University of Florida.

“Timmy!” she says, returning to the screen unaffected. “I'm trying to tell our story here!”

“You still worry about me, Mom?” asks Tim Tebow.

“Well, yeah,” Pam Tebow replies. “You're not nearly as tough as I am.”

The ad bears the tagline “Celebrate Family. Celebrate Life” and directs viewers to the website of Focus on the Family, the ad’s sponsor. The website contains more about the Tebows’ story and other pro-life and pro-family messages.

Reports before the ad’s broadcast focused on Pam Tebow’s decision not to abort her unborn son despite her life-threatening condition and her doctors’ advice. Many pro-life groups rallied around the Tebows, while some pro-abortion groups criticized CBS for accepting the ad.

The New York-based Women’s Media Center, which led the protest, had billed the unbroadcast ad as an “attack on choice” that tried to “dictate morality” and risked women’s health by encouraging them to ignore medical advice.

Despite the ad’s message, National Organization for Women (NOW) president Terry O'Neill claimed the ad glorified violence against women because it showed Tebow tackling his mother.

“I am blown away at the celebration of the violence against women in it,” she said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “That's what comes across to me even more strongly than the anti-abortion message. I myself am a survivor of domestic violence, and I don't find it charming. I think CBS should be ashamed of itself.”

Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life told the Los Angeles Times that the ad showed the “increasing sophistication of the pro-life movement.”

“Focus on the Family has really been strategic. They went with the old adage 'Less is more,' and they put a positive message out there.”

Marjory Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List said the ad was “so benign.”

“It's a story of a mother's strength,” she commented.

Ordinary people have also weighed-in on the ad. As of Monday afternoon, almost 250,000 people had joined a Facebook group titled “Support Tebow’s Super Bowl Ad.”

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