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Archive of February 11, 2010

Steubenville alum addresses identity of Catholic colleges

San José, Costa Rica, Feb 11, 2010 (CNA) - The new rector of the Catholic University of Costa Rica, Father Fernando Munoz Mara, called on Catholic colleges to follow the teachings of the Church and to orient themselves toward the pursuit of truth.

Fr. Munoz, who has a doctoral degree in Psychology from the Ibero-American University of Mexico, recalled that the university was born from the heart of the Church, as John Paul II stressed in his apostolic exhortation, “Ex Corde Ecclesiae.”

Quoting Fr. Michael Scanlan of the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, he said, “A university must be a university, and a Catholic university must be Catholic.” Fr. Munoz explained that “by this I don’t mean any discrimination against those who think or believe differently than Catholics, but our identity as a university ought to be clearly defined,” following the Magisterium of the Church.

He also stressed that the foundational focus of the Catholic university must be on the students. “Our efforts are to be directed toward helping them as persons and as professionals to have an impact on society,” he said.

The new rector added that students and teachers must engage in research in a professional manner and make use of the technology and tools available today.

Fr. Munoz earned his master’s in Psychology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2002.

 

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Georgia billboard campaign says abortion makes black children an ‘endangered species’

Atlanta, Ga., Feb 11, 2010 (CNA) - A pro-life billboard campaign has caused controversy in Georgia for saying that black children are an “endangered species” because of the disproportionately high abortion rate among African-American women.

The billboards show a close-up of an African-American boy’s worried face. To the left in large print are the words “Black Children are an Endangered Species.”

Georgia Right to Life has sponsored the 65 billboards with the Atlanta-based Radiance Foundation, a group which encourages adoption. According to the New York Times, the two organizations hope to sponsor 80 billboards.

The billboards advertise the web site www.TooManyAborted.com. Using a polished graphic design, the site connects abortion to segregation and claims that racists went “underground” after the civil rights era in American history.

The site charges that Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, wanted to reduce the population of blacks.

One of its videos cites one of Sanger’s comments from an essay on birth control: “There is no doubt… that the procreation of this group should be stopped.”

In context, Sanger did not mention race. She openly advocated population control for the “irresponsible and reckless” and those whose “religious scruples” oppose small families. She also attacked this group as largely “diseased,” “feeble-minded” and “of the pauper element.”

Writing on TooManyAborted.com, the Radiance Foundation decried abortion’s impact across society. It explained its particular campaign as an attempt to “dig deeper and focus on abortion in an historical context with real present-day ramifications.”

“This isn’t black vs. white, or a me vs. you. It’s the truth vs the lie. The truth is that abortion kills an innocent human life. It’s easier to speak in euphemisms, but the simple truth is the miracle of life is threatened every day by a false ideology that dupes women into believing their very biology is a threat to them.”

Catherine Davis, the minority outreach coordinator of Georgia Right to Life, said that the African-American abortion rate is so high it has begun to affect black fertility. Her organization said it would support state legislation that makes it a crime for abortion providers to solicit business based on the race or sex of the unborn child.

The New York Times, citing Center for Disease Control (CDC) data, says that the fertility rate among black women remains higher than the national average and has slightly increased in recent years.

However, the abortion rate is in fact significantly higher among African-American women.

In 2006 57.4 percent of the abortions in Georgia were performed on black women, although blacks only make up about 30 percent of the population. CDC figures show that out of 37 states that report abortion data by race, the state of Georgia was behind only New York and Texas in the number of abortions performed on black women. It was behind only Mississippi and Maryland in reporting a higher percentage of abortions going to black women.

Critics of the billboard campaign include Loretta Ross, executive director of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective in Atlanta. The New York Times says she accused the billboards of depicting black women either as monsters intent on destroying their race or as victims of white-controlled abortion clinics.

“The reason we have so many Planned Parenthoods in the black community is because leaders in the black community in the ‘20s and ‘30s went to Margaret Sanger and asked for them,” Ross said. “Controlling our fertility was part of our uplift out of poverty strategy, and it still works.”

Ryan Bomberger, founder of the Radiance Foundation and designer of the billboard, said the campaign does not target black women but “exposes an industry that we believe targets African-Americans.”

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Thomas Aquinas College to inaugurate new president

Santa Paula, Calif., Feb 11, 2010 (CNA) - Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California will inaugurate former dean Dr. Michael F. McLean as its fourth president on Saturday.

The inauguration will begin with a 10 a.m. Mass concelebrated by Cardinal Roger Mahony and Bishop Thomas Curry in the college’s Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel. A number of priests, including some alumni, will also concelebrate, the college said in a press release.

Cardinal Mahony, the Archbishop of Los Angeles, will lead the installation ceremony in the chapel at 12 noon. Dr. McClean will be greeted by several other college presidents, including Fr. David M. O’Connell of the Catholic University of America.

The Chairman of the Board of Governors, R. James Wensley, will invest Dr. McLean as president and give him the president’s silver chain of office. The new president will then make a profession of faith and an oath of fidelity that he and his college will remain loyal to the Holy Father and to Catholic teaching.

Wensley noted the college’s unique practice of appointing a president from among the teaching faculty. The practice was intended to ensure that the college would maintain “the unique character of its academic program, its discipleship to the Church’s Universal Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, and its authentically Catholic character.”

“The founders were convinced that no one could better achieve these goals than a tutor who had devoted his life to implementing the mission of the college on a daily basis in our classrooms,” he continued, adding that the president is required to teach at least one class.

Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, has sent a message assuring the college of his prayers.

Dr. McLean, born in 1947, holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from St. Mary’s College of California and a PhD in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame.

After his graduation from St. Mary’s College, he served as a Peace Corps volunteer in St. Vincent, British West Indies. He also served as a U.S. Coast Guard officer for three years.

He was appointed to the faculty of Thomas Aquinas College in 1978 and has served as a teacher since that time. He served as an assistant dean for Student Affairs, vice-president for Development, and Dean of the College and was a member of its Board of Governors.

Married for 42 years to his wife Lynda, he is the father of three children and grandfather of four.

He succeeds President Thomas Dillon, who died in an April 2009 car accident in Ireland.

Fr. Cornelius Buckley, S.J., Assistant Dean for Religious Affairs, said there has been “great sorrow” at the college since Dillon’s death.

The inauguration of Dr. McLean, he said, will be “a wonderful opportunity for the whole college community to renew its commitment to genuine Catholic liberal education, to rejoice in the great good that this college provides for the Church and our country, and to look forward with hope and confidence to the future under the leadership of President Michael McLean.”

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Catholic and Anglican bishops say Sri Lankan elections broke laws

Colombo, Sri Lanka, Feb 11, 2010 (CNA) - The recent presidential elections in Sri Lanka violated democratic boundaries through “willful violations” of election laws and did not address the concerns of the Tamil minority, Catholic and Anglican bishops in the country have said in a joint statement.

Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa won a landslide victory over former army chief Sarath Foneska in January’s “acrimonious” elections, according to Caritas. The election followed the government victory over the Tamil Tiger (LTTE) rebels.

Since the elections, Foneska has been arrested, parliament has been dissolved and parliamentary elections have been called for April. Riots have occurred in the capital and a journalist has disappeared.

A letter from the country’s Catholic and Anglican bishops said the elections disregarded the norms of democratic debate by focusing on “personal slander” and through perpetrating “willful violation of electoral laws.”

“Our political leaders can still rectify these trends by setting self-imposed codes of conduct, especially as we approach a general election. A voter preference for those who demonstrate this change will result in a welcome transformation of our political culture,” the prelates wrote.

The bishops noted that a majority in some Tamil areas did not vote and blamed lack of transportation for depriving internally displaced people of the chance to participate.

Lack of participation among those who could vote, the bishops said, may indicate a “lack of confidence” in an electoral contest which “offered little in terms of the problems faced by Tamils.”

“Their silence may be seen as a clear message that their expectations were not being addressed.”

The bishops urged a response to “pressing priorities” including political devolution, good governance, media freedom, economic development, equal rights for the vulnerable, and the alleviation of poverty.

“We urge the President, the Cabinet and the Opposition to work towards these goals with purpose and commitment,” their letter said.

Catholic signatories to the letter were Bishops Thomas Savundaranayagam of Jaffna; Kingsley Swampillai of Trincomalee and Batticaloa; Rayappu Joseph of Mannar; and Norbert Andradi of Anuradhapura. Anglican signatories included Bishop of Colombo Duleep de Chickera.

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Pontifical Academy for Life to discuss bioethics and natural law

Vatican City, Feb 11, 2010 (CNA) - The Pontifical Academy for Life began its 16th plenary meeting Thursday afternoon under the theme of "Bioethics and Natural Law." The sessions of the congress will seek to "regain" an understanding of natural law.

President of the Academy for Life, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, told Vatican Radio before the start of the gathering that the assembled members of the Academy for Life would be seeking to confront the different positions on the theme and to "regain that common denominator that is found in natural law and that ... isn't an invention of the Catholic Church.

"Natural law is a reality that all of us are called to discover continuously," he stated, adding that throughout the centuries the Greeks, Romans and other religions have recognized it as the "fundamental nucleus through which it's possible to discover and complete a first discernment between that which is good and ... evil, in light of that which is imprinted on nature itself."

“And nature, in this case, doesn't make any distinction: nature only calls us back to that cosmic order that is present everywhere and that we can only recognize, indeed interpret, but primarily respect,” Archbishop Fisichella explained.

The congress of the Pontifical Academy for Life will be taking place in the Vatican's New Synod Hall from Feb. 11 - 13 and will conclude with an audience with Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday.

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Pope Benedict emphasizes 'truly incalculable' value of ministry to the sick

Vatican City, Feb 11, 2010 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass on Thursday at St. Peter’s Basilica for the three-fold occasion of the World Day for the Sick, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the 25th anniversary of the Pontifical Council for Health Ministry. In his homily, the Holy Father stressed the “truly incalculable” value of the Church's ministry to the sick and suffering.

“The Church, to which is entrusted the task of prolonging in space and time the mission of Christ, cannot disregard these two essential works: evangelization and the treatment of the sick in body and in spirit,” declared the Holy Father.

At the root of this mission is the fact that God “wants to cure the entirety of man and in the Gospel the treatment of the body is a sign of the most profound cure which is the remission of sins,” the Pope stated.

“It’s no surprise, then, that Mary, mother and model of the Church is invoked and venerated as ‘Salus informorum, Health of the sick.’” The Blessed Mother, Pope Benedict taught, has always shown a special “mindfulness” for the suffering by offering her example as the “first and perfect” disciple of her Son.

Referring to the 25th anniversary of the Pontifical Council for Health Ministry, the Pope said that their ministry is “a privileged expression of this mindfulness” of Mary.

The Holy Father also reflected on the readings which were especially relevant to the celebration of the World Day for the Sick, given that they enveloped the Magnificat and the maternal role of the Church in praying for the sick.

He presented the Magnificat as the "canticle of the Virgin that exalts the marvels of God in the story of salvation," and called it a prayer not for those who always have "the wind at their back," but as a "thanksgiving from those who know the dramas of life, but confide in the redemptive workings of God."

"It's a song," Benedict XVI elaborated, "that expresses the faith tested by generations of men and women that have put their hope in God and they have worked on the first hand, like Mary, to be of aid to brothers in need." In the canticle, he added, we hear the voice of the charity of the saints.

"Through the centuries, the Church shows signs of the love of God, that continues to work great things in humble and simple people," the Pope remarked.

Benedict XVI also spoke of the role of priests, through whom Jesus continues to work, and their "alliance of evangelical 'solidarity'" with the sick. In the Book of James, he noted, it is written that he who is sick "should summon the presbyters of the church."

So, each of them, the Pope explained, has a task: the sick to call on the priest and the priest to respond "to call on the experience of the sickness, the presence and the action of the Risen One and his Spirit." It is in this, said the Pope, that "we can see all of the importance of the pastoral ministry of the sick, whose value is truly incalculable, for the immense good that it does in the first place for the sick person and for the priest himself, but also ... through mysterious and unknown paths, to the whole Church and the world.

"In effect, when the Word of God speaks of cures, salvation, the health of the sick, it considers these concepts in an integral sense, never separating body and soul: a sick person healed by the prayer of Christ, through the Church, is a joy on the Earth and in heaven, a gem of eternal life," the Pontiff taught.

Quoting from his encyclical "Spes salvi," he summed up the importance of the ministry of the sick to the world, saying, "the measure of humanity is essentially determined in the relationship with suffering and with he who suffers. This is the same for one person as (it is) for society."

During his homily Pope Benedict especially greeted the sick at Mass and those joining in the celebration from UNITALSI, at Marian sanctuaries including Fatima, Lourdes and Czestochowa as well as those following along by radio and television. He thanked them for their prayers "enriched by the offering of (their) efforts and sufferings."

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Italian bishops defend justice, truth and the 'good of the Church'

Rome, Italy, Feb 11, 2010 (CNA) - Leaders of the Italian Bishops' Conference expressed their commitment to justice, truth and the good of the Church in response to a media campaign which has been highly critical of the Vatican.

In a statement yesterday, the bishops lent their support to the Vatican who remarked on Tuesday that Benedict XVI “deplores” the “unjust and injurious attacks” circulating in the media against the former editor of the Italian Bishops' Conference daily paper.

Dino Boffo resigned from his editorial position of L'Avvenire last fall based on claims from a local Italian paper that he was a “renowned homosexual” and that he had been fined for allegedly harassing the wife of a man he was interested in.

Though the author of the article, Vittorio Feltri of the Il Giornale, later admitted that his assertions were based on false documents, the media frenzy surrounding the scandal has shifted to recent claims by Feltri that the Holy See created the falsified dossier. Those implicated by Feltri include individuals such as the editor of L'Osservatore Romano and the Cardinal Secretary of State.

The Vatican rebuffed these claims in a Tuesday statement, insisting, “These news items and reconstructions have no basis whatsoever in fact.”  The statement went on to defend the Church affirming that the good it does must not be compromised by news reports and distortions working to defame the Holy See.

In their statement, the Italian bishops recalled that the Lord gives strength to his Church as they renewed their “efforts to work for the affirmation of truth and justice.”

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Fr. Pavone not surprised by probation for Alabama abortion clinic

Birmingham, Ala., Feb 11, 2010 (CNA) - Pro-life leader Fr. Frank Pavone commented Thursday on an abortion clinic in Alabama being put on probation, saying that he's not surprised and that Planned Parenthood's gaffe is simply “par for the course.”

According to the Associated Press, Alabama’s Bureau of Health Provider Standards has put a Planned Parenthood clinic in Birmingham on probation for one year, following the discovery that it was providing abortions to minors without parental consent. Alabama law requires parental consent for abortions performed on minors due in part to possible cases of child abuse.

Evidence that the clinic was engaged in illegally providing abortions surfaced after the California-based pro-life group “Live Action” conducted an under cover sting. A video of the event shows one activist posing as a pregnant 14-year-old girl seeking an abortion. A Planned Parenthood employee can be heard in the video allegedly saying that consent for the abortion could be given by someone other than a parent or legal guardian.

Records have shown that the clinic has been providing abortions since Nov. of 2008 for minors aged 13-15 without proper verification of parental consent, say department investigators. One state health official told the AP that the clinic was going beyond what was required by the law in some ways but failing to abide by the law in others. 

“This may be news to many, but it's not news to us,” Fr. Pavone, national director of Priests for Life said on Thursday. “This is par for the course and we've been tracking it for years. It's time for the nation to wake up and realize that making abortion legal did not make it safe, and that in hundreds of facilities nationwide, Planned Parenthood is engaged in criminal activity and deserves to be shut down.”

Alabama health officials investigated the clinic after Live Action's claim last year.

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Pro-life expert discusses effects of legalized abortion in Mexico City

Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 11, 2010 (CNA) - Amidst protests from pro-abortion groups in Mexico over recent initiatives to protect the unborn at the state level, Carmen Alba, director of the Institute for the Rehabilitation of Women and the Family (IRWF), cautioned that abortion is neither a “solution” nor a definitive end to a woman’s “problem.”

In a column published by the Mexican daily “El Grafico,” Alba explained that since Mexico City legalized abortion up until the 12th week of pregnancy, she has “seen a greater number of young women at the IRWF considering ending the lives of their babies than we have in the past ten years.” She added that the “girls are mainly between the ages of 14 and 25.”

Those who visit IRWF following an abortion all share the same story, Alba continued. According to her, these women suffer from “confusion, sadness, depression, anguish,” as well as “nightmares” and the need to “search for a substitute baby.”

Almost “48 percent consider suicide,” stated Alba.

She said that contrary to what abortion supporters claim, “Life after an abortion is not simple, it requires honest and specialized treatment that aids in resolving the grief and pain” caused by the procedure.

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Vatican City State celebrates 81 years

Vatican City, Feb 11, 2010 (CNA) - Every February 11, the Vatican City State celebrates the anniversary of its establishment. This year marks the 81st year of its existence, but the streets of the smallest nation on Earth were full for other reasons today.

On Feb. 11, 1929, the Lateran Treaty was signed by Cardinal Gasparri, then Secretary of State of the Holy See, and Benito Mussolini, then head of the Italian government, to establish the Vatican City as an entity independent from the rest of Italy.

In three sections, the original "Pacts" provided for the establishment of an independent state governed by the Pope, who was Pius XI at the time. The creation of the territory was intended to serve as compensation for the usurped papal states and as an official recognition of ecclesiastic relations between the Holy See and the Italian government.

According to an article from yesterday's edition of the Vatican newspaper, "from the date of its birth until today this singular State has carried out a precious and irreplaceable service for the Holy See, for its independence, for its liberty, assuring it at the same time a growing complex of resources and services, that are always more necessary to be able to act in the complex contemporary reality."

While there were no visible celebrations going on in the Vatican to celebrate this day, there were thousands of people gathered at St. Peter's this morning to usher in the World Day for the Sick. Many attended a Mass with the Holy Father in which he recognized the importance of the pastoral ministry to the sick.

Also, on Thursday afternoon in Vatican City, the Holy Father greeted the sick, volunteers and other pilgrims that made the trip from the Castel Sant'Angelo to the steps of St. Peter's. The pilgrims carried the relics of St. Bernadette of Lourdes with them to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

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Holy Father to visit homeless shelter in Rome

Rome, Italy, Feb 11, 2010 (CNA) - This coming Sunday morning, Pope Benedict XVI will pay a visit to a social services center run by Caritas Rome near the central Termini train station. Speaking to reporters this morning in a press conference at Vatican Radio headquarters, the Vicar of Rome, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, released the details of the visit.

The Holy Father will start by meeting the medical staff of the on-site outpatient clinic and continue to the pharmacy and shelter, which are all a part of the site in the heart of Rome. After having stopped at these locations, he will go on to the cafeteria, where he will unveil a commemorative plaque and bless the first stone to be used in upcoming renovations to the 1987 building.

Pope Benedict will then exchange greetings with the administrator of the State Railway, a guest from Caritas' Termini Station shelter and Cardinal Agostini himself. The Pope will then deliver a speech.

L'Osservatore Romano reported that since its inauguation the site has served 1,200,000 people. The last time the Pope visited a Caritas site in Rome was three years ago when he went to their facility in Colle Oppio.

The Vatican newspaper quoted Cardinal Vallini as saying that the visit is "a pastoral act... a sign of encouragement to all those who make use of this intregrated pole of reception and of contrast to marginalization."

Cardinal Vallini added that "the Christian community cannot forget or act like they don't see the excluded people. For us the true faith is that which becomes love-charity."

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Children must be protected within stable families, states Cardinal Antonelli

Vatican City, Feb 11, 2010 (CNA) - The president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, marking the end of the full assembly of this department of the Holy See, called for vigilance and responsibility in protecting minors on Wednesday. He also spoke of the importance of a stable marriage between a man and woman to the child's future.

In his closing remarks for the congress, which was themed "The Rights of the Child," Cardinal Antonelli spoke of many activities that violate the rights of children today, reported Vatican Radio. He listed the use of children as soldiers, the involvement of children in organ transplants, domestic abuse, kidnapping, malnutrition, drugs, prostitution and pedophilia as among the most dramatic and serious abuses.

Citing statistics that draw a correlation between family life and certain risks to children, the prelate underscored that the role of the family is of vital importance to a child's future. He said that "so much is said of the rights of adults; it's time to give the priority to the rights of children."

This question doesn't include the “rights” of adults to have or not have children, Cardinal Antonelli underscored, but it's about "the right of the child to have a father and a mother that love each other and love him or her, to grow up together with them" or be adopted by a couple comprised of a man and a woman.

"If we looked at things from the point of view of the interests of the child," ventured the cardinal, "it would change the perception of divorce, of artificial procreation, of the claim of singles and homosexual couples to adoption, the priority given to the profession and the career... ."

He added that from the "child-perspective all reasons to concede matrimony or any other public recognition to a homosexual couple would be brought down... Matrimony, on the other hand, from the civil point of view, stands out in its full meaning in relation to children and the future of society, as an institution of protection and of ordered development."

"It's only because of children that sexual relations become important for society and deserving of being taken into consideration by a legal institution," Cardinal Antonelli said.

Sessions for the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family spanned three days and included presentations from a variety of scholars and clergy as well as round table discussion and dialogue among participants on the rights of children.

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George Weigel speaks on combating European cultural decline

Paris, France, Feb 11, 2010 (CNA) -

In a talk delivered today in Paris, noted author George Weigel discussed the evangelization of the European culture and offered his advice on how to spark a renewal. Pointing to the “demographic winter” gripping much of the continent, Weigel described it as a portent of the future, unless Europeans insist on the place of Christian values in society and combat relativism with truth.

Weigel gave his speech at the Lustiger Symposium at the Collèges des Bernardins in Paris through a pre-recorded video.

Opening his address with a reflection on the writings of the late Pope John Paul II, Weigel discussed the 2003 encyclical, “Ecclesia in Europa,” calling it “a papal report card” on modern Europe, which showed “mixed grades.”

Of the greatest concern to the late Pontiff, said Weigel, was the lack of hope he saw in modern European culture as demonstrated by its failure to create “successor generations.”

Weigel noted that “while Europe’s demographic winter was undoubtedly the result of a complex of causes, something was clearly awry in the realm of the human spirit when an entire continent – wealthier, healthier, and more secure than ever before – was depopulating itself, not because of war, natural disaster, or plague, but by its own will.”

Pointing out that the last century was one of the the bloodiest in Europe's history, Weigel quoted Cardinal Jean Marie Lustiger to say that a collective post-war “guilt” still hangs over Europe.

“Here, Lustiger had in mind 'the proclamation of freedom [which] became the will to dominate…the pursuit of equality [which] produced slavery,' and 'the affirmation of brotherhood [which] became the origin of bloody struggles and of hopeless divisions,'” the American scholar said.

Accoring to Weigel, Cardinal Lustiger described that guilt in a 1981 address to the diplomatic corps in Bonn, saying, “as if exhausted by violence, Europe is hardly capable of transmitting life to new generations; poor, wounded Europe is causing the springs of life to run dry. The fruitfulness of love is under attack and the fruits of love are being aborted.”

In addition to Lustiger, Weigel noted that John Paul II also wrote on the “soul-withering effects” of post-war European guilt, which he attributed to Europeans betraying the values that were inspired in their culture by Christianity.

If there is no God, said John Paul II, Europeans “have no one from whom they can seek forgiveness.”

This hopelessness, said Weigel, has transformed into a “nihilism” and an “aggressive secularism” within European culture and has resulted in what then-Cardinal Ratzinger has called a “dictatorship of relativism.”

Europe, by extension, affects the whole of the West, argued Weigel. The importance of its evangelization, therefore, cannot be overstated. Drawing from the writings of both Jean Marie Lustiger and Pope John Paul II, he spoke on the hope for the renewal of Christian culture in Europe and presented what he called his fine-tuning of a “culture-first” strategy.

The first step in the process of Christian renewal, the Catholic author said, is that “intolerance in the name of 'tolerance' must be named for what it is and publicly condemned.” According to Weigel, Biblical morality is being treated in European culture with “bigotry and intolerance” and this is an “uncivil act that must be named as such.” But the prime example of this intolerance is the European Union and individual states believing that they have the authority to redefine marriage – a human institution that “antedates the state ontologically as well as historically,” he said.

Secondly, Weigel argued that Catholic Christians must speak openly “about the empirically demonstrable and deplorable effects of the sexual revolution on individuals and society.” In addition to this, he argued that Catholics need to bring about a “new appreciation of the dignity and nobility of human love” as illustrated in John Paul II's “Theology of the Body.”

“This weapon in the conversion of culture ought to be fully and unapologetically deployed,” Weigel argued, “and if that requires making the public claim that the Catholic Church understands human sexuality better than the prophets of sexual liberation, then so be it.”

The American intellectual also asserted that the Church needs to be vindicated from the “black legends” that circulate around its history, such as the Crusades, Galileo's trial and the Inquisition.

“I raise these matters of historical record, not to score debating points,” Weigel clarified, “but to suggest that part of the challenge we face today is to recognize, with John Paul II and Cardinal Lustiger, that Europe (and indeed the entire West) is suffering from a false story about itself, and about the relationship of biblical religion to its formation and its history.”

Finally, Weigel advised, the Church must continue to develop a “rich interior life,” and at the same time, find “winsome ways to make the Church's proposal to a post-Christian Europe.” One way to do this, he suggested, is for members of the Church to join with men and women “of conscience,” who may not be believers, to publicly challenge “the ever-more-ominous dictatorship of relativism.”

Speaking to the Europeans in attendance at the Collèges des Bernardins symposium, Weigel concluded by saying, “I commend that more combative stance to you, who stand watch over the societies that gave birth to my own, in contesting for the causes we share.”

“You will not find Americans lacking as allies in the 21st century, as you did not find us lacking as allies in the century just past.”

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Experts denounce 'social and sexual re-engineering' in Spanish schools

Madrid, Spain, Feb 11, 2010 (CNA) - The association “Professionals for Ethics” in Spain has criticized the Socialist government for distributing “sexual orientation” material through the controversial, government-required course, Education for the Citizenry.

The organization then listed numerous complaints about the course, which has been accused of promoting an irresponsible view of sex.

In Andalucia, Spain, officials have published an explicit manual on “sexuality and health” aimed at teens which includes disturbing “classroom activities.”

Officials in Aragon have created a youth magazine geared toward young people aged 12-15 to steer them away from “traditional masculinity, patriarchal, sexists, racist and homophobic” behavior.

In Asturias, educators have published a sexual guide for teens to train them in sexuality “based on the equality of different sexual orientations.”

In Cantabria, sexuality workshops for boys and girls aged 13-15 were implemented to help them “know their bodies and practice responsible sexuality.”

In Baleares, the local government is organizing an event called “Exposex,” an explicit expo that promotes “sexual and emotional health free of stereotypes.”

In the Basque Country, a “Guide for Girls” published by the Basque Institute for Women encourages 12-year-old girls to “fall in love with another person either of the same or opposite sex.” It also teaches the girls “how to express their sexuality with a boy without the risk of becoming pregnant.”

“Using the excuse that this is for the affective-emotional education of children, promoters are introducing the desire to learn about sex at an early age,” said Fabian Fernandez de Alarcon, general secretary of Professionals for Ethics.

“This is a social re-engineering program of catastrophic consequences that is intended to be imposed without the approval, or in most cases, the knowledge of parents,” he said.

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Lebanon celebrates 1600th anniversary of St. Maron's death

Rome, Italy, Feb 11, 2010 (CNA) - Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, celebrated Mass at the Cathedral of St. George on Tuesday marking the 1600th anniversary of the death of St. Maron, father of the Maronite rite and patron saint of Lebanon.

Attending the Mass was the country's President Michel Suleiman, a Maronite. Also present were Prime Minister Saad-al-Hariri and President of Parliament, Nabih Berri - both Muslims.

In his homily the cardinal prayed, “May St. Maron grant us better days than the ones we have lived and may we be able to celebrate many feasts filled with goodness and peace!”

In a letter to mark the Jubilee Year for St. Maron, which began on February 9 and will end on March 2, 2011, Cardinal Sfeir explained that the purpose of the year is to pray, think, repent and to reflect on history and learn lessons from it.

He then noted that the Jubilee Year will be “one of special graces for individuals and the community,” as well as “a year of joy.”

According to SIR news agency, the patriarch has instituted an organizing committee for the celebrations of the 1600th anniversary of the death of St. Maron, to be led by Bishop Paul-Emile Saade of Batrun of the Maronites.

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South Africa bishops say leaders’ immorality hinders fight against AIDS

Pretoria, South Africa, Feb 11, 2010 (CNA) - Following revelations that South Africa President Jacob Zuma fathered a child out of wedlock, the Catholic bishops of the country have expressed the “strongest concern” at scandalous behavior among national leaders. The bishops called on leaders to be role models and warned that their immorality has hindered the fight against HIV/AIDS.

In a Feb. 3 statement, President Zuma confirmed his relationship and his child by a woman who was not one of his wives. He said he had taken “personal responsibility” in the matter by acknowledging paternity. He also accused media coverage of profiteering and of violating laws that protect children from media exposure.

“The media is also in essence questioning the right of the child to exist and fundamentally, her right to life,” he charged, according to South Africa’s Times.

Zuma, a polygamist in marriages with several women, said it was “mischievous” to argue he has undermined government efforts against HIV and AIDS.

“I will not compromise on the campaign,” he stated.

Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, OFM, the Archbishop of Durban, issued a statement on behalf of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC). The Conference asked the country’s leaders whether their sexual morality made them a worthy role model for youth.

The statement, provided to CNA by a Conference spokesman, began by invoking commandments against adultery, murder, theft, and false witness. It also quoted Jesus’ words in Matthew 5: “whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

The SACBC expressed its “strongest concern” about the “scandalous behavior of leaders who shamelessly flout the norms of morality and decency, accepted and expected by the vast majority of people.”

The Conference particularly deplored attempts to excuse or defend such behavior by appealing to “culture.”

“We call on all leaders to recommit themselves to being worthy role models for the youth and children of the nation,” the bishops continued.

Noting that President Zuma had expressed regret for engaging in “unprotected sex,” the prelates said they were “appalled” that he has not shown remorse for his adultery “for the second time in as many years.”

The bishops charged that such immorality has done “irreparable damage” to national efforts to slow down or reverse the spread of HIV and AIDS. The SACBC recently took over a major HIV/AIDS treatment program in the country.

The bishops’ conference also cited two New Testament passages against sexual immorality and other evil acts, Mt 15:19-20 and 1Cor 6:13.

“We urge all followers of Christ, all men and women of goodwill, but especially our youth and young adults, to obey and live by the teaching of the Lord, which sets out the behavior that is necessary for a sound and healthy society,” the prelates concluded.

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