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Archive of February 17, 2010

Church calls for depoliticization of Colombian hostage situation

Bogotá, Colombia, Feb 17, 2010 (CNA) -

The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Bishop Ruben Salazar, has called on both the FARC rebel group and the country's government to depoliticize Colombia's hostage situation.

For ten months, FARC has continued to announce the “imminent” release of the 24 soldiers and police officers it is holding hostage.  However, due to disagreements over the terms of release, no one has been freed.

Bishop Salazar told reporters that the hostages have not been released due to political issues.

The bishop added that the role of the Colombian bishops in the liberation process is to be present and to ensure that everything is done properly.  However, he warned, “it’s up to the government and to FARC to put the process of liberation into motion.”

“What matters to us is that the hostages are released.  The problem is that they are being constantly toyed with in one way or another."

FARC currently holds a significant number of hostages and is demanding that 500 terrorists be released from prison in exchange for their freedom.

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Producer and star of movie 'Bella' visit death row inmates on Valentine's Day

Los Angeles, Calif., Feb 17, 2010 (CNA) - In honor of St. Valentine's Day, Catholic actor Eduardo Verastegui and producer Jason Jones visited several prisons on Feb. 14, including one that held women death row inmates.

The visits to the Texas prisons were organized by the group HERO's Second Chance. Verastegui and Jones mobilized their respective non-profit groups in an effort to bring a message of “love and hope” to the incarcerated. The group was invited to participate by Discipleship Unlimited, who organized the tour.

“I could think of no better way to celebrate the feast day of St. Valentine than to bring a true sense of love and hope to these inmates, especially those women on death row,” said Verastegui, founder of Manto de Guadalupe, a non-profit dedicated to community service. “Our efforts today were in keeping with the legend of this wonderful saint's life.” Verastegui spoke on Monday about the ancient story of the saint, saying that St. Valentine allegedly wrote a farewell letter from prison and signed it “From your Valentine” before his execution.

Jason Jones, who founded the Human Rights Education and Relief Organization (HERO), stated on Monday, “It is our sincere prayer that the efforts of this ministry will help these women to recognize that their intrinsic value and dignity is not determined by their state of life, but by the gift of life itself.” Jones also remarked that “no matter what decisions brought them to this place, they are created in the image of God and are of incomparable worth.”

Jones' non-profit HERO promotes what they call the “Whole Life ethic” which seeks to defend “human dignity in all its stages” in all corners of the globe. “The Whole Life ethic acknowledges that issues that appear to be separate, such as human trafficking, political violence, famine, abortion, female genital mutilation, euthanasia, pornography, embryo destruction and many others are actually related threats to the dignity of the human person,” according to the HERO website.

HERO's Second Chance, the joint effort whose primary focus is prison ministry, has been inspired by the concept of the movie Bella, which Verastegui starred in and Jones directed. In the movie, the central character finds redemption after spending time in prison following a tragic accident. The film won the 2006 Toronto Film Festival People's Choice Awards.

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Series from Vatican secret archives on Pius XII going digital

New York City, N.Y., Feb 17, 2010 (CNA) - In cooperation with the Vatican, the Pave the Way Foundation will soon publish online twelve volumes of World War II documents from the Holy See during the time of Pope Pius XII. The documents have been “almost completely ignored” until now, the organization's founder told CNA.

The Pave the Way Foundation is a non-profit group founded by Gary Krupp, which seeks to promote inter-religious dialogue and reduce religious conflict. A major focus of the organization is to vindicate Pope Pius XII from false accusations surrounding his papacy. Many have claimed that the late pontiff did nothing to assist European Jews during the Holocaust.

Speaking on the significance of the documents, Krupp, who is Jewish, explained to CNA how the accusations against Pope Pius XII surfaced. In 1963 a play called “The Deputy” by Rolf Hochhuth debuted in Europe which denounced Pope Pius XII and claimed that he failed to take any action in speaking out against the Holocaust.

Although “everybody condemned” the play at the time, including Israeli and Jewish leaders around the world, it nevertheless “caught on and started changing the entire impression of Pope Pius XII,” said Krupp.

Krupp continued to say that “in an effort to correct some of this misinformation, Pope Paul VI ordered three Jesuits to study, to go into the papacy of Pius XII, into those archives, and to pull out every significant document they could find.” Krupp said that the Jesuits described the documents, copied them and eventually published them in a series of twelve books.

“The twelve books, called the 'Acts of the Holy See during the Second World War' were published in 1981 and have been almost completely ignored internationally,” noted Krupp. “In fact, there were only a few hundred that were ever printed.”

“By digitizing the entire collection,” he explained, “we are enabling it to be spread all over the world so people all over the world can look at it and come to their own conclusions.”

A recent article from the Agence France Presse (AFP), claimed that although the volumes contain information relevant to WWII, they are “unrelated” to Pope Pius XII.

When asked about this, Krupp responded, “this type of thinking comes from people who have no idea how the Vatican works. It's as simple as that.”

Krupp explained that as an example of this, one could look and see how few documents are actually signed by Pope Benedict XVI but are rather endorsed by various Vatican officials. In other words, he said, just because Pius XII's name may not be signed on a document, does not by any means indicate he had no relation to it.

Krupp told CNA that the volumes will be posted on his website as well as the Vatican's within the next few weeks.

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Day Gardner calls on blacks to recognize impact of abortion during Black History Month

Washington D.C., Feb 17, 2010 (CNA) - Day Gardner of the National Black Pro-Life Union has said that during Black History Month Americans should acknowledge abortion’s disproportionate impact on blacks and should see abortion advocacy as a form of “ethnic cleansing” that targets the black community.

“Abortion providers are still being located for the most part in black neighborhoods and are still delivering the same old message,” Gardner said, claiming their message is that black, poor urban children are “not worthy of life” and that America would “be a better place without black people.”

Writing in a Tuesday commentary, she recounted the history of black oppression at the hands of groups like the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).

“The Klan's aim was to prevent African-Americans from voting, getting an education, competing for jobs and owning property,” she explained.

While the KKK conducted a “lynching war” on blacks in the American South, Gardner charged that Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger and her allies were devising an “evil plan” to enforce what Sanger called “race hygiene.”

In a 1922 book the birth control activist called for the elimination of “human weeds,” the segregation of “morons, misfits and maladjusted” and for the sterilization of “genetically inferior races.” According to Gardner, Sanger associated with known racists and was the guest speaker at a Ku Klux Klan rally in Silverlake, New Jersey in 1926.

In 1939, Sanger launched the Negro Project. Gardner claimed this effort planned to “get rid of black people” by limiting their population growth with abortion and sterilization. She also charged that Sanger sought to use the clergy and charismatic members of the black community to advance her cause in a form of “ethnic cleansing.”

Gardner cited Sanger’s letter to Dr. Clarence Gamble in which she wrote:

“The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal. We don't want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population. And the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”

The organization Sanger founded, Planned Parenthood, makes money by “killing children – especially black children,” Gardner charged. While the KKK killed about 3,500 people since its beginnings in 1865, Planned Parenthood is responsible for “more than 17 million black deaths since 1973.”

“Every day more than 5,000 babies are slaughtered by the blades of the abortion butchers--decapitated, ripped apart...killed,” Gardner’s statement concluded.

“This is Black History Month. Let's remember why the killing began and then vow in Jesus' name to end it!”

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Disagreements on ethics end Catholic sponsorship of Oregon hospital

Bend, Ore., Feb 17, 2010 (CNA) - Citing continued disagreement on Catholic ethical directives such as sterilization, the Catholic Diocese of Baker on Monday announced its intention to end its official sponsorship of St. Charles Medical Center in Bend.

“It is my responsibility to ensure the hospital is following Catholic principles both in name and in fact,” Bishop of Baker Robert Vasa explained in a statement provided to CNA by the hospital. “It would be misleading for me to allow St. Charles Bend to be acknowledged as Catholic in name while I am certain that some important tenets of the Ethical and Religious Directives (ERDs) are no longer being observed.”

Bishop Vasa and hospital administrators have “respectfully disagreed” on the meaning of some Catholic ERDs, such as the provision of tubal ligations. The procedure is a form of permanent female reproductive sterilization which violates Church teaching.

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Tipton, Indiana founded St. Charles Bend 92 years ago to serve all patients in need in central Oregon. The hospital became a community non-profit organization in the 1970s but has maintained a relationship with the Catholic Church and had continued voluntarily to follow the Catholic ERDs for health care services.

In 2007 Bishop Vasa asked the hospital for an audit of its compliance with the ERDs. The hospital provided the bishop with the information he requested and the two parties have had a “number of discussions” about the hospital’s future as a Catholic institution, the Diocese of Baker statement reported.

Bishop Vasa said the hospital has “gradually moved away” from adherence to Catholic ethics without “clear knowledge” it was doing so.

“Unfortunately, that distance is now too great to sustain a formal sponsorship relationship,” he explained, adding that using the Catholic ERDs as a basis for the hospital’s ethical guidelines is “a good idea.”

James A. Diegel, president and CEO of St. Charles Bend’s parent company Cascade Healthcare Community (CHC), said the company was “saddened” by the decision because of the years of history the hospital has had with the Church.

“But, we have an obligation to provide comprehensive health care services to our patients while remaining true to our values of compassion and caring for all,” he said.

Diegel said that the CHC Board of Directors intends to continue to use the ERDs as they have been “historically interpreted” by the hospital and will likely adopt its own version of the ethical directives in the near future, the Diocese of Baker statement said.

Bishop Vasa has encouraged the hospital to adhere to the directives as closely as possible.

“We are not going to abandon who we are,” Diegel said. “The mission of the hospital, to serve all in a spirit of love and compassion, and the Catholic values the hospital was founded on, will continue to guide St. Charles Bend’s leaders and caregivers.”

However, Catholic Mass will no longer be celebrated in the hospital’s chapel and all Catholic items will be removed from the hospital and returned to the Church. St. Charles Bend’s name will not change and the cross will remain on top of the hospital building.

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Attempts to restrict Church in Britain show need for better cooperation between clergy and laity

London, England, Feb 17, 2010 (CNA) - Citing a lack of initiative and “missed opportunities” to defend Catholic concerns in the United Kingdom, Catholic Union Chairman James Bogle has called for increased collaboration between the clergy and the laity in the face of “novel challenges” to Christian belief and religious freedom.

Writing in the Catholic Herald, Bogle noted that sexual abuse scandals and “unsavory revelations” have encouraged negative responses to the Church. As a partial solution, he proposed a return to a “proper cooperation” between the laity and the clergy for mutual assistance and for the welfare of Church and society as a whole.

Both the clerical role and the lay role in the Church are equally “irreplaceable,” he said, adding that it is “vital” that the laity assumes the “essentially lay” roles such as political lobbying. This way the Church can access the great professional talent of the laity.

“We share with other fellow citizens of faith a novel challenge in which the mere right to hold and teach any faith is challenged,” Bogle wrote.

He noted that some public officials have tried to restrict the right of Catholic children to gain entry to Catholic schools, while challenges to the adoption policies of Catholic children’s societies have forced most of them to close.

He asked why there were so few legal challenges to these infringements of religious anti-discrimination laws, even though eminent legal advice was available.

“Clearly the problem was not lack of funds. Millions of pounds of sacrificially donated Catholic money will be lost without contest.”

Some government officials have said that faith groups need to lobby if they wish to have an impact.

“In short, if we don't argue our corner we really can't complain,” Bogle wrote in the Catholic Herald.

“We need to improve collaboration within all parts of the Church. Now is the time for concerted action and joint effort,” he continued. “Priests and people must work together to promote the benefits of our faith and the common good. And we must do so in a politically non-partisan way, ready to work with whomever is in government.”

Bogle explained that the Catholic Union aims to bring the lay Catholic voice to public affairs, both in government and in the Catholic hierarchy. He named some of its eminent professionals such as union president Lord Brennan, union vice-president Lord Alton, and Edward Leigh MP, also a vice-president.

The Catholic Union, established in 1871, advises the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Its website is at http://www.CatholicUnion.org

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China’s Catholics celebrate Chinese New Year with gratitude for papal greeting

Beijing, China, Feb 17, 2010 (CNA) - Chinese Catholics joined in the celebration of Chinese New Year on Sunday with Masses of Thanksgiving, prayer, works of charity and the commemoration of deceased priests and missionaries. The faithful were particularly excited by the Pope’s Angelus greetings for the occasion.

On Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI directed his attention after the Angelus to the celebration of the lunar New Year celebrated in parts of Asia, especially in Vietnam and China.

Citing the opportunity the holiday provides to strengthen family and generational ties, he expressed his wish for those who are celebrating to "maintain and grow the rich heritage of spiritual and moral values that are rooted concretely" in their cultures.

A priest in Beijing told Fides, “for someone else, it might seem like the usual greeting of good wishes, but for us Chinese Catholics, especially those of us who live on the mainland, every time it arouses great emotion.

“Every time, gratitude arises from the depths of our hearts! Thank you Holy Father! You have made us feel so close to you, so close to the Universal Church. We are always with you."

There was “very large” participation in the Solemn Masses celebrated Sunday in all the Catholic communities. Entire families came together and prayed, thanking God for the past year, calling on the maternal protection of Mary, and asking for peace and prosperity in the world and in China.

At the parish of Fan Ga Da in the He Bei Province, Fides reports that priests and the faithful went to the Catholic cemetery to pay homage to priests and missionaries who had dedicated their entire life to the Church. They also visited the parents of several priests and religious to thank them for supporting their children’s vocations.

The Catholic community of Zhong Shan issued a message for the Chinese New Year on its website. It commemorated the missionaries who came from abroad and thanked all who have supported the growth of the Catholic community. The message expressed hope for an increase in social harmony so that Catholics may help others to know Jesus Christ and the Church.

The community’s message closed by invoking God’s blessing on the Chinese people.

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Carnival turns to Lent in Rome

Rome, Italy, Feb 17, 2010 (CNA) - Following a multitude of carnival celebrations in Rome, the city began the Lenten season today with Ash Wednesday. Among the many liturgies to be offered today in the Eternal City, the Holy Father will preside over the General Audience and Ash Wednesday Mass at the Basilica of Saint Sabina.

"Carnevale" events in the Italian capital leading up to the beginning of Lent included parades, theater shows, equestrian performances, concerts and fireworks. For the first time ever, a Latin American contingent hosted a party in the streets of Rome in which participants danced past the Imperial Forums to the Colosseum.

Costumed children and masked people on horseback took part in events over the course of the extended Roman carnival celebrations which started Feb. 6.

With those days past now, Ash Wednesday ushers in the more solemn days of Lent.

Pope Benedict plans to host the usual General Audience at Paul VI Hall, followed by an evening penitential procession from Church of St. Anselm on Rome's Aventine Hill to the Basilica of Saint Sabina. There, Benedict XVI will celebrate Holy Mass with the rite of benediction and imposition of the ashes.

Cardinals, bishops, members of the Roman Curia, the Benedictine Brothers of St. Anselm's and the Dominican Fathers of St. Sabina will be participating in the events along with the lay faithful.

Meanwhile, at the Basilica of St. Peter's in the Vatican, the archpriest of the basilica, Cardinal Angelo Comastri will preside over a Eucharistic Celebration and imposition of the ashes early on Wednesday to mark the start of Lent for workers in the Vatican.

In his 2010 Lenten message, Pope Benedict XVI emphasizes the need for 'divine justice,' giving up our thoughts of self-sufficiency and realizing our dependence on God to celebrate the fullness of charity, gift and salvation.

The Holy Father also said that he hopes this penitential season will be "for every Christian a time of authentic conversion and intense knowledge of the mystery of Christ, who came to fulfill every justice."

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Thousands of emails cancel irreverent photo exhibit

Madrid, Spain, Feb 17, 2010 (CNA) - Some 18,000 emails led to the cancellation of a photo exhibit that was to take place at the Contemporary Culture Center at the University of Granada, Spain.  The display was to include photos of Christ as a homosexual, the Virgin Mary as a prostitute, St. Joseph as a camel and the Nativity Scene as a brothel.

Protests against the exhibit came as the watchdog website Hazteoir.org published an alert about the event that was scheduled to open on February 15.

The website reported that in just four hours, 18,000 emails were sent protesting the exhibit and demanding it be canceled.  That same day officials announced the event would not take place.

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Over one million signatures supporting life sent to Spanish government

Madrid, Spain, Feb 17, 2010 (CNA) - This week, Spanish pro-life organizations delivered more than one million signatures to their country's government supporting life and opposing Spain's new law on abortion.  The petition predicts that the new law “will only bring more death and suffering to thousands of women.”

A total of 1,067,315 people signed the petition against “all laws allowing abortion.” After government officials Jose Bono and Teresa Cunillera refused to accept the signatures, they were delivered to the Deputy Speakers of Congress, Jorge Fernandez Diaz  and Ana Pastor.

The signatures were gathered throughout Spain between April 2009 and January 2010.  The petition in part reads:

“Abortion always constitutes the violent death of a human being and a terrible tragedy for the woman who experiences it, forced by their circumstances.

“The Spanish law abandons women in their time of need and pushes them to obtain abortions.  All ‘abortion laws’ are a terrible hypocrisy against women, as well as an atrocious injustice to the children they leave unprotected. 

“In Spain there is no information or social aid for women in troubled pregnancies, but there is financing to obtain abortions.  Now the government seeks to establish the legal means for more abortions to occur, leaving women even more alone, despite the physical and psychological harm that abortions cause. More abortions mean less protection of life and more insecurity for women.  For this reason, we demand that our laws protect the right to life and motherhood, protecting life in every stage and circumstance and helping pregnant women to overcome whatever problems the unplanned pregnancy may bring.

“At the same time, we oppose the new law on abortion, which will only bring more death and suffering to thousands of women.”

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Daily conversion frees and saves, Pope declares as Lent begins

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2010 (CNA) -

The Holy Father dedicated the General Audience on Wednesday in the Paul VI Hall to the significance of the Lenten season which begins today. He emphasized the importance of daily conversion for swimming "against the current" of a society that promotes a “superficial lifestyle” and “moral mediocrity.”

Lent, Pope Benedict observed, is an "acceptable and grace-filled time" in which we can better understand the words "repent and believe in the Gospel."

The call to conversion is one to take with "extraordinary seriousness" because it "reveals and denounces the easy superficiality that often characterizes our lives," Pope Benedict taught.

"Repentance means changing direction in the path of life," he said emphasizing that this is "not with a small adjustment, but with a true and personal reversal." It is going "against the current, where the 'current' is the superficial lifestyle... that often pulls at us, dominates us and makes us slaves of evil and, so, prisoners of moral mediocrity."

In our conversion, the Pope explained, we shoot for the "highest measure of the Christian life” as we put our trust in the "living and personal Gospel" of Jesus Christ.

"His person is the final goal and the deep meaning of repentance... he is the road by which all are called to walk in life, letting ourselves be illuminated by his light and sustained by his strength that moves our steps."

In this way, "it isn't a simple moral decision that rectifies our life's conduct, but a choice of faith that involves us entirely in the intimate communion with the living and concrete person of Jesus, noted Benedict XVI.

Repenting and believing the Gospel, the Holy Father elaborated, are expressions of the same reality and conversion, which "is the 'yes' of he who gives his own existence to the Gospel, responding freely to Christ who first offers himself to man as the way, truth and life, as it is He alone that frees and saves him."

This is the meaning of the first words with which Jesus preaches the Gospel, 'This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel,' the Pope added.

Pope Benedict also focused on how repentance and conversion are lifelong commitments.

"Every day is a 'acceptable' moment, one of grace, for every day we are invited to give ourselves to Jesus, to trust in Him, to abide in Him, to share His lifestyle, to learn true love from Him, to follow Him in doing the will of the Father every day, which is the only great law of life.”

"Every day" we need to seek conversion, Pope Benedict continued, "even when we are faced with difficulties and troubles, in spite of the tiredness and the failures, including when we feel like abandoning the path of following Christ, and when we want to withdraw into ourselves, into our selfishness, without realizing that we need to open ourselves to God’s love in Christ to live the same logic of love and justice.”

The Holy Father also reflected on the meaning of the ashes distributed today. The ashes given on the first day of Lent, he said, serve as an act of renewal "of our commitment to follow Jesus, to let ourselves be transformed in His paschal mystery, to win over evil and do good, to let the 'old man' tied to sin die and let the 'new man' be born transformed in the grace of God."

In closing, Pope Benedict invoked the protection and aid of Our Lady to accompany us in these 40 days of prayer and sincere penance so that we will be purified and "completely renewed" for Easter.

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Secular state would diminish religious freedom, warns Mexican archbishop

Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 17, 2010 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Mexico, Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes, acknowledged that the country has been a secular state “for more than a century and a half.”  He added that the recent passage of a constitutional reform formally declaring Mexico as “secular” is an attempt to diminish “the religious freedom of citizens.”

Archbishop Aguiar said the amendment to the constitution “simply confirms something that we have already grown accustomed to.  The secular state has been firmly established for a long time.”

“Nobody disputes the appropriate and healthy separation of Church and State,” he said. “Defending the secular state is the least of (the government's) concerns.”

“What they want to do is diminish the religious freedom of Mexico's citizens,” the archbishop explained.

Referring to the Mexican Attorney General’s lawsuit before the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of same-sex “marriage,” Archbishop Aguiar said the Archdiocese of Mexico City hopes “the Court will rule that it is unconstitutional.”

For his part, the president of the National Confraternity of Christian Evangelical Churches, Arturo Farela, also voiced opposition to the modification of the constitution saying, “The churches are part of the Mexican constitution, we are part of the machinery that contributes to the development of the country.”

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Same-sex ‘marriage’ law forces D.C. Catholic Charities to close adoption program

Washington D.C., Feb 17, 2010 (CNA) - Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington announced today that it is shutting down its foster care and public adoption program. The District of Columbia said the charity would be ineligible for service because of the new law recognizing same-sex “marriage.”

“Although Catholic Charities has an 80-year legacy of high quality service to the vulnerable in our nation’s capital, the D.C. Government informed Catholic Charities that the agency would be ineligible to serve as a foster care provider due to the impending D.C. same-sex marriage law,” the organization said in a statement.

The Catholic Charities affiliate transitioned its foster and adoption program to the National Center for Children and Families (NCCF) on Feb. 1. The transition includes seven staff, 43 children and their biological families, and 35 foster families. The transition was scheduled to coincide with the expiration of the current contract between Catholic Charities and D.C.’s Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA).

“Foster care has been an important ministry for us for many decades. We worked very hard to be able to continue to provide these services in the District,” said Ed Orzechowski, president and CEO of Catholic Charities D.C.

“We regret that our efforts to avoid this outcome were not successful.”

Orzechowski expressed gratitude to the staff and foster families involved in the program.

The D.C. City Council’s law recognizing same-sex “marriage” required religious entities which serve the general public to provide services to homosexual couples, even if doing so violated their religious beliefs. Exemptions were allowed only for performing marriages or for those entities which do not serve the public.

The archdiocese and legal experts criticized the exemptions for being too narrow.

D.C. law also now requires partners with the city to provide benefits for same-sex couples. This also poses a problem for Catholic Charities, though the Washington Post reports that the organization is optimistic it can structure benefits in a way that would allow it to remain in partnerships with the city.

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, slammed the District’s actions.

“Archbishop Donald Wuerl is a man of principle and prudence: he did not want to end the foster-care program, but he was left with no realistic option,” Donohue said Wednesday. “District lawmakers could have granted the kind of religious exemptions that would have ensured a continuation of services, but instead they sought to create a Catch-22 situation for the archdiocese.

“Surely they knew that Archbishop Wuerl was not going to negotiate Catholic Church teachings on marriage, yet that hardly mattered to them. The real losers are the children who were served by the Catholic Church.”

Those who characterized the Catholic Church’s actions on the issue as neglectful of the children, Donohue claimed, were “phonies.”

“Archbishop Wuerl isn't about to allow the state to run roughshod over Catholic doctrine, and that is why he is being forced to drop the foster-care program.”

CNA sought comment from Archbishop of Louisville Joseph E. Kurtz, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage. He was unavailable for an interview.

Catholic Charities of Boston was forced to close its adoption services in 2006 because it would no longer place children with homosexual couples, as required by state law. Laws have also forced Catholic adoption societies in Britain either to close or to disaffiliate from the Church.

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Children cannot be denied the right to a father and a mother, argues Mexican cardinal

Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 17, 2010 (CNA) - In his Sunday homily, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera recalled Mexico City's recent legalization of same-sex marriage and spoke on the importance of children being raised by both a mother and a father.

Speaking to the congregation, the cardinal recalled that Pope Benedict XVI has emphasized that children need to have a father and a mother.

“Unfortunately,” the cardinal said, “thousands of children in the world cannot have both a father and a mother. However, the greatest assistance children can be given is precisely that of a family founded upon the marriage between a man and a woman.”

“Thousands of children are not able to enjoy this right, and to deny them of it through the law is an aberration, it is foolishness. These aren’t my words, they are the Pope’s,” the cardinal explained.

Cardinal Rivera also said the Holy Father supports the Church in Mexico and rejects the law allowing homosexuals to marry and adopt children.  “He is very aware of the situation we are facing.”

At the conclusion of his homily, Cardinal Rivera said, “The Church firmly believes that human life, even when weak or suffering, is a splendid gift from God.  And against the pessimism and selfishness that blinds the world, the Church says ‘yes’ to life, thus defending man and the world from all that threatens to diminish it.”

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Life Teen co-founder laicized by Pope Benedict

Phoenix, Ariz., Feb 17, 2010 (CNA) - A recent ruling from Pope Benedict XVI, which was confirmed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), dismissed one of Life Teen’s founders from his clerical state following an investigation into charges of sexual abuse of minors.

Msgr. Dale Fushek had been a pastor at an Arizona parish as well as vicar general of the Diocese of Phoenix.

However, Fushek came under scrutiny after several accusations of sexual abuse against minors were lodged with the diocese, which were then forwarded to the Holy See.

According to a Feb. 16 statement from the diocese, “The Holy See then directed the Diocese of Phoenix to conduct an investigation into the allegations. The results of that investigation were forwarded to the CDF. Based on the CDF’s review of the findings of that investigation and on Fushek’s abandonment of his ministry and his subsequent schismatic acts, the CDF issued the 'Decree of Dismissal' and forwarded it to the Diocese of Phoenix.

“Fushek has been notified of the laicization, which took effect the moment the Decree was signed, and he has been informed of its consequences,” the diocese added.

The Arizona diocese also made clear that the penalties being imposed on Fushek are not connected to any civil proceedings or rulings but are purely Church-related.

Fushek’s laicization means he can no longer refer to himself as “father,” “reverend,” or “monsignor.” He is also not bound to the duties and obligations of the priesthood.

In turn, the diocese in which he resides is not obligated to provide services to him, such as lodging, pay and health insurance. Fushek is also prohibited from celebrating the sacraments, except in the case of someone who is in danger of death.

Fushek’s laicization comes in wake of his 2008 excommunication, which remains in force.

Fushek was suspended from his duties in 2004 by Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted and subsequently resigned as pastor in 2005. However, he proceeded to co-found the non-denominational Praise and Worship Center with Father Mark Dippre. The Praise and Worship Center meets Sundays at the Fiesta Fountains Recreation Center in Mesa, Ariz. Dippre and Fushek have repeatedly said their services should not be considered “Catholic” in any way. However, the 10 a.m. meeting time conflicts with many Catholic Masses.

When the diocese asked Dippre and Fuschek to cease their activities at the Praise and Worship Center, the two men declined. This incurred excommunication for having disobediently established an "opposing ecclesial community."

According to the Catholic Sun, the Diocese of Phoenix hopes Fushek will “cease all public ministries and seek to transition into a new mode of life and work.”

The faithful were also reminded by the diocese that participating in and promoting the activities of the Praise and Worship Center can be spiritually harmful and cause rupture within the Catholic communion.

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EWTN reporting on plight of Christians live from Iraq

Irondale, Ala., Feb 17, 2010 (CNA) - Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) has begun live reports from Iraq about the plight of Christians there and elsewhere in the Middle East.

EWTN Rome Bureau Chief Joan Lewis’ reports are broadcast on the EWTN Radio Network.

Live reports will begin at 6:05 a.m. Eastern Time Monday through Friday on “The Son Rise Morning Show” with Brian Patrick. On Wednesdays she will broadcast live at 9:15 a.m. on “Catholic Connection” with Teresa Tomeo.

She will also deliver reports on the “Open Line” show, which airs from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Lewis will also write about her findings on her blog, “Joan’s Rome.” One of the first issues she mentions on her blog is the Chaldean Archeparchy of Erbil’s lack of a bishop for five years.

EWTN’s radio broadcasts can be heard at http://www.ewtn.com/radio/index.asp

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Petition supporting Mother Teresa stamp reaches over 70,000 signatures

Chicago, Ill., Feb 17, 2010 (CNA) - In response to an atheist group calling for the removal of a proposed Mother Teresa stamp last month, a petition organized by CatholicVoteAction.org has received over 70,000 signatures from individuals who support the stamp.

Supporters of the stamp sent a letter to Postmaster General Jack Potter, asking him to reject claims from the atheist group that the stamp violates postal regulations. The Mother Teresa stamp is scheduled to be released on Aug. 26.

“We want the Postmaster General to know that millions of Americans support their decision to issue a new stamp honoring Mother Teresa,” said Brian Burch, president of CatholicVoteAction.org on Tuesday. “While we are pleased that Postmaster General Potter has defended the decision thus far, we will continue to push back against those seeking to denigrate this faith-filled nun who spent her life caring for the poor and needy of our world.”

The petition follows a recent claim by the atheist Freedom from Religion Foundation that the Mother Teresa stamp violates a postal regulation against “honoring religious institutions or individuals whose principal achievements are associated with religious undertakings.” Annie Gaylor, spokesperson for the group, argued last month that “Mother Teresa is principally known as a religious figure who ran a religious institution. You can't really separate her being a nun and being a Roman Catholic from everything she did.”

Countering her claim, Postal Service spokesman Roy Betts said on Jan. 28 that “Mother Teresa is not being honored because of her religion, she's being honored for her work with the poor and her acts of humanitarian relief.”

Brian Burch echoed this sentiment, saying, “Mother Teresa was proudly Roman Catholic, and her religious faith clearly inspired her charity. However, her service to the world is universally recognized as worthy of acclaim. The fact that she was a Catholic nun should not disqualify her from the receiving honors for her amazing acts of charity and peace. To do so would constitute a gross form of religious discrimination.”

Burch's petition can be found at www.stampoutbigotry.com.

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