Philadelphia, Pa., Feb 26, 2010 (CNA) - An all-priest chorus will perform at Philadelphia’s Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul to celebrate the Year of the Priest.
The March 25 concert, titled “The Word Made Flesh,” takes place on the same day as the Feast of the Annunciation.
The event will join the Philadelphia Priest Singers in a concert of sacred music with the All-Catholic Secondary Chorus and the Keystone State Boychoir.
Rev. Msgr. Michael Matz is Conductor of the Philadelphia Priest Singers. Two of the priests will perform a duet, while Rev. Dennis Carbonaro will deliver a solo performance.
Members of the Priest Singers include auxiliary bishops Timothy C. Senior and Daniel E. Thomas.
The concert, which requires a ticket, begins at 7:30 p.m.
More information can be found in the Sacred Concert section at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s website at http://www.archphila.org.
London, England, Feb 26, 2010 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Cardiff has welcomed revised government guidelines on assisted suicide, saying that passages of concern have been removed so that there is now greater protection for the most vulnerable. He added that there is now greater emphasis on the fact that no one is being given immunity from prosecution.
Keir Starmer, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), on Thursday published his policy on whether to prosecute those who are suspected of aiding someone who commits suicide.
“The policy is now more focused on the motivation of the suspect rather than the characteristics of the victim,” he said in a statement at the Crown Prosecution Services (CPS) website. “The policy does not change the law on assisted suicide. It does not open the door for euthanasia. It does not override the will of Parliament. What it does is to provide a clear framework for prosecutors to decide which cases should proceed to court and which should not.”
According to the Telegraph, one of the key changes is the removal of any reference to whether a victim is terminally ill or near death.
Starmer said deciding to take a case to court is not “a tick-box exercise” but requires consideration of the facts.
“The policy has not been relaxed or tightened but there has been a change of focus," he continued.
His announcement listed sixteen “public interest factors” in favor of prosecution. These include whether the victim was a minor, whether he or she lacked the capacity to decide to commit suicide, and whether there was evidence of a communicated decision to commit suicide.
Prosecution considerations regarding the suspect include whether he or she stood to gain in some way from the victim’s death, whether there were previous abuse or pressures to commit suicide, and whether the suspect was unknown to the victim and encouraged or assisted in the suicide by the provision of specific information.
Six public interest factors against prosecution include cases where the victim shows a clear, informed decision to commit suicide, where the suspect was “wholly motivated by compassion,” and where the suspect reported the suicide to police and fully assisted their inquiries.
Removed as a mitigating factor was the suspect’s status as a family member. The Telegraph reports that the change was motivated by concerns that family members could be "manipulative" or even "antagonistic" towards a sick individual.
The policy responded to the nearly 5,000 responses to a consultation exercise launched in September.
The changes mean that assisted suicide groups like Dignitas will “almost certainly” not be allowed to operate in England and Wales.
Archbishop Peter Smith of Cardiff, Chair of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales’ Department of Responsibility and Citizenship, said he welcomed the guidelines.
In his view, Starmer was “given a near impossible task by the Law Lords and many people were extremely concerned by the wording of the interim guidelines and some of the factors to be taken into account against prosecution.”
The archbishop said particular concerns before the revisions were that the guidelines gave less legal protection to the disabled or seriously ill and to those who had a history of suicide attempts.
“There also appeared to be a presumption that a spouse or close relative would always act simply out of compassion and never from selfish motives,” he explained.
“These factors have been removed from the new Guidelines which now give greater protection to some of the most vulnerable people in our society. There is also a greater stress on the fact that the law has not changed, that all cases will be investigated and that no one is being given immunity from prosecution under these Guidelines,” the archbishop said.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church recognizes suicide as an act “gravely contrary” to natural self-love, love for one’s family and community, and love for God. The responsibility of someone committing suicide can be diminished by “grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship” and suffering.
“Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law,” the Catechism teaches.
“It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life… We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.”
Havana, Cuba, Feb 26, 2010 (CNA) - Speaking on Wednesday, the coordinator of Cuba’s Christian Liberation Movement (CLM), Oswaldo Paya Sardinas, remarked that anyone who denies the existence of Cuba's dictatorship is complicit in this week’s death of political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo.
"We denounce those people both inside and outside of Cuba who, out of cowardice, selfishness, or other weaknesses, do not have the decency to support those who suffer and die in the defense of the rights and dignity of the people," said Paya.
“These people contributed to Zapata’s death.”
Zapata Tamayo died after an 85-day hunger strike in protest of the inhumane treatment he and other prisoners received from the Cuban government. Paya noted that Zapata, a member of the CLM, was incarcerated for denouncing human rights violations and for openly speaking in support of the Varela Project in Havana’s Central Park. He also stated that, though Zapata never used violence in his protests, his first sentence of three years in prison was later increased to more than 30.
Paya recounted that Zapata was subjected to many abuses, beatings, and other indignities over the period of his imprisonment, for which he blamed the Cuban government.
He also criticized governments, states and institutions that “prefer a harmonious relationship with the lies and oppression (of the government) to the open solidarity with the Cuban people. All of them are complicit in what has happened and what is happening right now.”
“Orlando Zapata Tamayo, dear brother, we will continue the fight, and will do so without hatred, until Cuba is free and Cubans no longer have to suffer this painful humiliation of living under lies and fear,” Paya said as he concluded his statement.
Milwaukee, Wis., Feb 26, 2010 (CNA) - Controversy continues over an undercover video showing Milwaukee abortion clinic staff agreeing to cover up the statutory rape of a purported 14-year-old. Extended video footage casts doubt on Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin’s claim that no identifying information was provided and so could not be reported.
Lila Rose, leader of the pro-life group Live Action, recently posed as a teenage girl seeking an abortion at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
In the video, Rose can be heard telling the staff member that her boyfriend with whom she allegedly had sexual relations is 31.
“You don't have to say anything,” the clinic worker replied.
After ignoring evidence of statutory rape, the staffer instructed the girl to “just give them the information that they need” and proceeded to confirm that the 31-year-old “boyfriend” would pay for the abortion.
According to Wisconsin state law, sex between an adult and minor under the age of 16 is considered a felony. Health professionals are required to report cases of statutory rape to law enforcement authorities immediately.
On Tuesday, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin CEO Teri Huyck responded to the charge that the organization had failed to report the incident.
"In this particular circumstance, we did not have the name of the young woman,” Huyck claimed. “She did not give it to us. She did not provide any ID. So we were unable to make any report."
On Wednesday she added that the patient would be reported if she gave her name.
"The so-called patient in this case did not provide identifying information. In fact, she refused." Huyck said. "It would've been difficult if not impossible to make any kind of report."
Live Action responded by releasing extended footage featuring a Planned Parenthood counselor named as Sonia.
Sonia coached Rose how to obtain a judicial bypass waiver for an abortion so that her parents would not find out about her supposed relationship with an older man.
"What is your name? So I can call them and tell them you're coming,” the video shows Sonia saying.
Rose gives her name as “Janelle Marion” and reports a birthday of July 27.
Commenting on the footage which contradicts Huyck’s statement, Rose said in a press release:
“Planned Parenthood had the little girl's name and birth date -- more than enough information to make a report. As they have done consistently in the past, Planned Parenthood chose not to report the abuse, and now they are lying to cover up that fact."
"How many other rapes has this single clinic covered up because it was too 'difficult' to make a phone call to the police?” she asked. “The Milwaukee District Attorney and the state Attorney General's office needs to investigate Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin and enforce the laws meant to protect young girls."
Live Action mailed the full footage from the undercover visit at the Milwaukee clinic to the local district attorney and the Wisconsin Attorney General.
The group claims to have exposed ten cover-ups of alleged statutory rape at abortion clinics. A Live Action video taken at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Birmingham, Alabama led to the discovery of nine legal violations and caused the clinic to be put on probation by the state health department.
Baltimore, Md., Feb 26, 2010 (CNA) - The Catholic bishops of Maryland and political leaders have taken “strong exception” to the state attorney general’s decision to recognize same-sex “marriages” contracted in other jurisdictions. They charged the ruling shows “a fundamental disregard for the nature and purpose of marriage.”
Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler on Wednesday declared that Maryland will recognize the unions and that state agencies should immediately grant them the same rights as marriages between men and women.
Gansler, the Washington Post says, is a Democrat who supports same-sex “marriage.” He used his authority as state agencies’ top legal adviser to issue the opinion, which came in response to a legislator’s request.
He based his ruling on the principle that a marriage that is valid in the place of celebration remains valid in Maryland.
Gansler is believed to be preparing for an expected run for governor in 2014, the Washington Post reports.
His decision has been criticized by Republicans, socially conservative Democrats, and African-American lawmakers. One Republican has pledged to bring articles of impeachment against Gansler for trying to usurp Maryland law, which defines marriage.
In a Wednesday statement Archbishop of Baltimore Edwin F. O’Brien, Archbishop of Washington Donald W. Wuerl and Bishop of Wilmington W. Francis Malooly said they took “strong exception” to the attorney general’s opinion.
“The General Assembly has repeatedly and explicitly upheld Maryland’s definition of marriage “between a man and a woman” even as certain limited benefits have been extended to same-sex couples,” they commented.
Noting that the opinion itself reported that federal law does not require Maryland to recognize such marriages, the bishops said there is a “strong possibility” the decision would open legal avenues to circumvent the legislative process and the will of Marylanders.
“Most importantly, the opinion chips away at our society’s foundational institution. The equality of men and women and the dignity of their coming together as husband and wife is not merely a fact of religious faith or an institution established by civil authorities, but a fundamental reality rooted in our human nature and experience.”
Marriage is reserved to a union of man and woman “because of their unique ability to bring children into the world, thus forming a stable and secure foundation for our society,” they noted.
The bishops added that they rejected all unjust discrimination against homosexual persons.
“The attorney general’s opinion demonstrates a fundamental disregard for the nature and purpose of marriage and its impact on society,” their statement concluded, urging lawmakers, the governor and the courts to “uphold the definition of marriage.”
Freiburg, Germany, Feb 26, 2010 (CNA) - The German Catholic Bishops' Conference has chosen one of its own to lead investigations into the cases of abuse in the German Church in the 70s and 80s. The news was announced at the conclusion of the plenary assembly of German bishops on Thursday by conference president Archbishop Robert Zollitsch.
Vatican Radio reported that the bishops' statement read, "We German bishops accept our responsibility and condemn the crimes committed by religious, priests and lay collaborators in our dioceses."
"Mortified and shocked," they asked the pardon and forgiveness of "all victims of these horrible acts."
Vatican Radio also reported that the secretary of the episcopal conference has opened an office in Bonn to coordinate activities and collaborate in legal proceedings. They are planning a "phone-a-friend" program that will soon be in place to provide further assistance to victims.
Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier is now in charge of the operation. He is also the President of the episcopal conference's Commission for Justice and Peace.
About 120 victims have come forward to date. The Washington Post reported on Thursday that, in the first legal action since news of the abuses came to light, prosecutors have now begun investigations into allegations at two German Catholic schools.
The Washington Post also reported that Abbot Barnabas Boegle, head of the Ettal Monastery which oversees one of the two schools, stepped down Wednesday after eight former students alleged abuses there by priests.
By August, Church guidelines governing cases of child sex abuse will be revised and updated. "We want everything to be clarified loyally, without false restraints," said Archbishop Zollitsch. "The victims have a right to that." The current norms have been in place since 2002.
To work towards "full prevention," the archbishop also mentioned the need for a more attentive culture within schools and pastoral ministries, as well as proper formation for future priests.
Guwahiti, India, Feb 26, 2010 (CNA) - Bishops in India have responded to the publication an image of Christ in a children's textbook that shows Jesus holding a beer in one hand, a cigarette in the other, and the word "Idol" beneath. Although "deeply offended," the bishops said they are against seeking an "anti-blasphemy law" in the country.
A statement from the Indian bishops, who holding a bishops' conference meeting in Guwahiti until March 3, was issued on Thursday. "We are deeply offended by the blasphemous image of Christ used on school books and on posters," they said in the statement published by Fides. "We feel sad and indignant for this act of sacrilege. We support the legal actions taken by the government in the states of Meghalaya and Punjab, towards the perpetrators. "
The image was originally found in textbooks in the city of Shillong, which is located in the state of Meghalaya. Protests and unrest resulted from the posting of enlarged images in the streets of several Punjabi cities. The state of Meghalaya is preparing a lawsuit against the publisher, Skyline Publications, while the state of Punjab looks to prosecute the groups responsible for the printing and distribution of posters.
In their statement the bishops took their appeal to a higher level, asking the central government to “promote, protect, and defend respect for religious symbols of all communities of believers throughout India."
An apology issued last week by the publisher claimed that the photo was included in textbooks due to "human error." The bishops acknowledged the apology and said they hope such an error would never repeat itself in any publication in India.
Commenting on the possibility of an "anti-blasphemy law” in Meghalaya, the Indian Church stated its opposition. Such an article already exists in the country's penal code which establishes penalties for those who "hurt the religious sentiments of people," they noted.
The bishops added that a new anti-blasphemy law could possibly be exploited by fundamentalists against Christians, as has occurred in neighboring Pakistan.
Rome, Italy, Feb 26, 2010 (CNA) - Various Iraqi bishops have issued a joint message denouncing the continual wave of Islamic violence against Christians in the country, which has left five people dead in the past week. The bishops are demanding that the government take concrete steps to stop the slaughter.
In an interview with the Fides News Agency, Syrian Catholic Archbishop Georges Casmouusa of Mosul called for authorities to “fully assume responsibility for protecting the Christian presence in Mosul. International intervention is necessary to force the central and local governments to act immediately.”
The fifth and most recent victim, a 57-year-old Christian orthodox man, was found dead two days ago.
This surge in violence moved the bishops to call for greater intervention by the local government. Archbishop Casmouusa provided Fides with a copy of the message which he signed together with Syrian Orthodox Archbishop Gregorios Saliba, and Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Emile Nona. The message denounced the violence against “our Christian sons and daughters in the city of Mosul,” with the killing of innocent and peaceful people, thus revealing “a premeditated plan to pressure the Christian Churches to carry out a particular agenda.”
All efforts by Christian and Muslim leaders have not been able to stop the violence against Christ’s faithful, they said, adding, “These continuous acts lead us to believe that we are not wanted in this city, which is our homeland.”
“Christians have participated directly and with great effectiveness in building civilization in Mosul” and throughout the region, the bishops said, particularly through art, culture, thought and creativity, as well as the economy and society. Christians are recognized by all as “peaceful members and builders of society."
“Is this how we are rewarded? By being expelled from our city, marginalized from public life, thrown out of our land? Will the state remain indifferent?” they asked.
The bishops called on the government of Mosul and the federal government in Baghdad to “fully assume their responsibility to work for the security of citizens, especially for the faithful of the Christian minority, who are the most vulnerable and most peaceful of all.”
“We demand government officials give priority to respect for the law and the state, and safeguard the security and the trust of the citizens,” they said. “We ask leaders not to waste their efforts fighting for power and hegemony amongst themselves,” but rather to “pursue criminal actions so that those who order and carry out violence may be brought to justice.”
Rome, Italy, Feb 26, 2010 (CNA) - The Apostolic Nuncio to Haiti, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, sent a report to the Pontifical Mission Societies this week describing the situation facing seminarians in the devastated country. He explained that the seminarians have “lost everything," adding that "putting them back to ‘normal’ life is a priority.”
According to the Fides News Agency, the archbishop said that, “The greatest needs of the seminarians are clothing, toiletries, tents to sleep in. Many of the seminarians have been sent back to their dioceses, but their dioceses are also extremely poor and in great need of assistance.
The archbishop went on to note that although some books from the library were saved, “We need to purchase Bibles and fundamental texts (Vatican II, Catechism of the Catholic Church etc.) The ones they had were all lost in the rubble.”
“The easiest, most flexible and fastest way to help these unfortunate seminarians is through financial aid that we can use according to the most urgent needs of the moment,” he added.
“Thank you also for your efforts in favor of our traumatized seminarians. We believe that putting the seminarians back to 'normal' life is a priority."
Fides reports that 15 seminarians, one professor and some staff members were killed by the January 12 earthquake.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Feb 26, 2010 (CNA) - The Corporation of Catholic Lawyers is appealing the decision of a Buenos Aires judge which, on Tuesday, allowed two gay men to marry in the Argentinean capital. The lawyers assert that her ruling violates the country's current laws and causes “irreparable damage.”
On Tuesday, Judge Elena Libertatori ordered the Civil Registry to marry a homosexual couple, a move which the Catholic lawyers said was equivalent to an assault on the constitutional rights of a large spectrum of citizens who adhere to the natural order and to moral and religious principles.”
In their appeal, the lawyers noted that the “family is the natural and fundamental element of society and has the right to the protection of society and of the state.” The decision by the Civil Registry not to officiate at this same-sex union was not arbitrary or discriminatory, because it protects marriage as an institution of natural order.
“Since natural marriage is ordered toward the family, which depends on procreation for survival, no homosexual union can base itself solely on complete marital consent.
“For this reason, the union between persons of the same sex can never constitute marriage, much less found a family, as homosexual marriage is unconstitutional and violates human rights,” they added.
Liberatori is the same judge who last November ruled that a social services organization must cover the artificial insemination of a lesbian couple.
Vatican City, Feb 26, 2010 (CNA) - Speaking to a group of Catholic business people from Italy in Rome this week, Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, highlighted the importance of a united family for raising children. He also touched on issues that affect the family today.
Under the theme of "Family and Business, Vital Cells of Society," Cardinal Antonelli spoke about the effects of the composition of the family on the future of children. The Vatican's L'Osservatore Romano reported that Cardinal Antonelli put particular emphasis on the effects of a missing father figure on children.
The president of the Council for the Family cited statistics from the U.S., which he said illustrate a trend in many parts of the Western world. Ninety percent of homeless people, 72 percent of adolescent suicides, 60 percent of rapists and 85 percent of youth in jail grew up without a father present, he said.
The cardinal also listed a number of other negative effects on children whose parents don't remain together. These children are particularly susceptible, he stated, citing statistics that show these kids suffer from double the average number of pyschological, scholastic, social and work problems.
Among the major causes of this situation is the fact that both parents work outside of the home, he observed. "The self-realization sought by the woman in a job, in a career, in social success has as a cost the renouncement of the marriage and children."
Cardinal Antonelli expressed his concern for additional complications brought on by the ideology that says one can personally choose his or her gender, regardless of their biological sex. He also warned that the assertion of a "right" to gay marriage and the adoption of children by homosexual couples would lead to complications.
The traditional family, he said, is even being considered oppressive injustice, and matrimony and maternity are viewed as things from which a woman must liberate herself.
The population debate was also touched on by Cardinal Antonelli, who called for market reform and demographic equilibrium through responsible procreation as alternatives to methods such as abortion and contraception that are meant to decrease fertility, reduce population and increase economic wealth.
In countries that are deemed to be overpopulated, he offered that ethically honest and natural methods can be used to limit the birth rate. But, in countries where population is aging due to a lack of fertility, he said that there must be a re-evaluation of paternity and maternity, assisted by economic support.
To start a family, he stated, "you need reasonable economic security," and this climate should be provided for through "mechanisms of protection."
Washington D.C., Feb 26, 2010 (CNA) - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) denied there was public funding of abortion in proposed health care legislation at the White House Health Care Summit on Thursday. However, critics said her comments ignored proposed "abortion tax" requirements for members of some federally subsidized insurance plans.
Speaker Pelosi’s comments came in reply to charges from House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) that the bill would fund abortions.
“For 30 years, we’ve had a federal law that says that we’re not going to have taxpayer funding of abortions,” he commented.
After “a very serious debate” in the House, Boehner said, the House upheld “the language we have had in law for 30 years that there will be no taxpayer funding of abortions.
“This bill that we have before us... for the first time in 30 years allows the taxpayer funding of abortion.”
President Obama first responded to Rep. Boehner's charges:
“John, the challenge I have here -- and this has happened periodically -- is every so often we have a pretty good conversation trying to get on some specifics, and then we go back to the standard talking points the Democrats and Republicans have had for the last year. And that doesn't drive us to an agreement on issues. There are so many things that you just said that people on this side would profoundly disagree with and I would have to say, based on my analysis, just aren't true, that I think the conversation would start bogging down pretty quick.”
Speaker Pelosi later replied:
“Leader Boehner, the law of the land is there is no public funding of abortion and there is no public funding of abortion in these bills.”
Americans United for Life Action (AUL Action) in a Thursday statement charged that President Barack Obama’s health care plan creates an “abortion tax” for individuals participating in the health insurance exchange.
The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) in a Jan. 14 letter to Congressmen, explained that under the House proposal’s Stupak-Pitts Amendment, a citizen who wished to purchase abortion coverage would have to purchase it separately and with non-federal funds. This could be done through the proposed exchange.
The Senate bill, according to the NRLC, would allow private plans that cover elective abortion to qualify for a federal subsidy. However, every enrollee in such a plan would be required to make a separate monthly payment “into a fund used exclusively for elective abortions.”
The NRLC characterized this as an “abortion surcharge.”