Archive of March 2, 2010

JFK speech on faith was 'sincere' but 'wrong,' Archbishop Chaput states

Houston, Texas, Mar 2, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Monday evening, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver delivered a talk at Houston Baptist University, in which he criticized President John F. Kennedy's historic campaign speech on his faith impacting his possible presidency as “sincere, compelling, articulate – and wrong.” The archbishop called on his audience to get involved in the Christian “vocation” of being engaged in public service, at a time when religion is being increasingly ignored in the political sphere.

Archbishop Chaput gave his address, “The Vocation of Christians in American Public Life,” on the evening of March 1 at the Houston Baptist University's Morris Cultural Art center. The lecture was presented in coordination with the Pope John Paul II Forum for the Church in the Modern World at the University of St. Thomas.

After offering caveats about his remarks, Archbishop Chaput emphasized the need for ecumenism and dialogue based on truth as opposed to superficial niceties. He then remarked, “We also urgently owe each other solidarity and support in dealing with a culture that increasingly derides religious faith in general and the Christian faith in particular.”

During his talk, the archbishop noted that there are currently “more Catholics in national public office” than there ever have been in American history.

“But,” he continued, “I wonder if we’ve ever had fewer of them who can coherently explain how their faith informs their work, or who even feel obligated to try. The life of our country is no more 'Catholic' or 'Christian' than it was 100 years ago. In fact it's arguably less so.”

One of the reasons why this problem exists, he explained, is that too many Christian individuals, Protestant and Catholic alike, live their faith as if it were “private idiosyncrasy” which they try to prevent from becoming a “public nuisance.”

“And too many just don't really believe,” he added.

Recounting the historical context that led to the current state of affairs, Archbishop Chaput referred to a speech that the late John F. Kennedy made while running for president in 1960 which greatly affected the modern relationship between religion and American politics. At his speech almost fifty years ago, President Kennedy had the arduous task of convincing 300 uneasy Protestant ministers in a Houston address that his Catholic faith would not impede his ability to lead the country. Successful in his attempt, “Kennedy convinced the country, if not the ministers, and went on to be elected,” he recalled.

“And his speech left a lasting mark on American politics,” the prelate added.

“It was sincere, compelling, articulate – and wrong. Not wrong about the patriotism of Catholics, but wrong about American history and very wrong about the role of religious faith in our nation’s life.”

“And he wasn’t merely 'wrong,'” the archbishop continued. “His Houston remarks profoundly undermined the place not just of Catholics, but of all religious believers, in America’s public life and political conversation. Today, half a century later, we’re paying for the damage.”

“To his credit,” he noted, “Kennedy said that if his duties as President should 'ever require me to violate my conscience or violate the national interest, I would resign the office.' He also warned that he would not 'disavow my views or my church in order to win this election.'”

“But in its effect, the Houston speech did exactly that. It began the project of walling religion away from the process of governance in a new and aggressive way. It also divided a person’s private beliefs from his or her public duties. And it set 'the national interest' over and against 'outside religious pressures or dictates.'”

Archbishop Chaput then clarified that although “John Kennedy didn’t create the trends in American life that I’ve described,” his speech “clearly fed them.”

In light of this separation of religion from the public sphere, “What would a proper Christian approach to politics look like?” the archbishop queried.

Drawing on St. Augustine and several theologians, Archbishop Chaput answered, “Christianity is not mainly – or even significantly – about politics. It's about living and sharing the love of God. And Christian political engagement, when it happens, is never mainly the task of the clergy.”

“That work belongs to lay believers who live most intensely in the world,” he asserted.

“Christian faith is not a set of ethics or doctrines. It's not a group of theories about social and economic justice. All these things have their place. All of them can be important. But a Christian life begins in a relationship with Jesus Christ; and it bears fruit in the justice, mercy and love we show to others because of that relationship.” This fundamental relationship then informs how we involve ourselves in public life, he explained.

“As I was preparing these comments for tonight,” he added, “I listed all the urgent issues that demand our attention as believers: abortion; immigration; our obligations to the poor, the elderly and the disabled; questions of war and peace; our national confusion about sexual identity and human nature, and the attacks on marriage and family life that flow from this confusion; the growing disconnection of our science and technology from real moral reflection; the erosion of freedom of conscience in our national health-care debates; the content and quality of the schools that form our children.”

Because of the immensity of these issues, the Denver archbishop stressed that Christians need to united in their societal involvement. “The vocation of Christians in American public life does not have a Baptist or Catholic or Greek Orthodox or any other brand-specific label. Our job is to love God, preach Jesus Christ, serve and defend God’s people, and sanctify the world as his agents. To do that work, we need to be one. Not 'one' in pious words or good intentions, but really one, perfectly one, in mind and heart and action, as Christ intended,” he said.

Archbishop Chaput concluded his remarks by saying that “We live in a country that was once – despite its sins and flaws – deeply shaped by Christian faith. It can be so again. But we will do that together, or we won’t do it at all.”

“We need to remember the words of St. Hilary from so long ago: Unum sunt, qui invicem sunt. 'They are one, who are wholly for each other.' May God grant us the grace to love each other, support each other and live wholly for each other in Jesus Christ – so that we might work together in renewing the nation that has served human freedom so well.”

The full text of Archbishop Chaput's speech can be read at

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Catholic group asks U.S. bishops to hold pro-life collection each year

Washington D.C., Mar 2, 2010 (CNA) - A lay Catholic group has asked the U.S. bishops to begin an annual collection for pro-life activities each weekend before the March for Life.

Catholic Advocate Vice President Matt Smith said creating the collection will “tangibly demonstrate the importance of building a culture of life in our society.”

“A consistent source of funds to national pro-life activities will open opportunities to promote the sanctity of life at all stages," he added.

Catholic Advocate has recommended to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) that the proposed collection support the programs of the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.

Deal Hudson, President of Catholic Advocate, said many positive pro-life activities are taking place at the local level. His organization believes a “National Collection for Life” would enhance those programs at a time when they are needed “more than ever.”

The group’s request came in a March 1 letter to Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Chairman of the Committee on Pro-life Activities, and Bishop of Dallas Kevin Farrell, Chairman of the Committee on National Collections.

“What better way to tangibly show the priority the Church places on advocating for life than with a collection to match the importance of the issue in our society?” the Catholic Advocate letter said.

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Pelosi’s comments on abortion funding ignore serious problems, USCCB official says

Washington D.C., Mar 2, 2010 (CNA) - An official with the U.S. bishops’ pro-life activities office has countered House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s claims that proposed health care legislation does not fund abortion, saying that the abortion funding problems in the bill are so serious the bishops will have to oppose the legislation.

At a Friday press conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was asked whether Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) was wrong in stating that the legislation would allow tax dollars to fund abortion and whether this would be an obstacle to the progress of the bill.

Saying she had talked to the Catholic bishops about the issue, she said “federal law prevents federal funding of abortion.”

“There is no federal funding of abortion in this bill. There’ll be no expansion or diminution of a woman’s right to choose and that does not happen in this bill, and we’re determined that we are going to pass health care reform.

“This bill that passed the Senate does not have federal funding of abortion,” continued Speaker Pelosi, reports.

Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), discussed the proposed bill in an e-mail to

“We do not know how anyone who has spoken to the bishops could conclude that the Senate health care bill does not fund abortions,” Doerflinger wrote.

“As the bishops have said in their letters to Congress, abortion problems in the Senate bill are so serious that, despite our strong support for expanding access to health care, we will have to oppose the bill unless they are resolved”

According to Doerflinger, the Senate health care bill contains some language limiting the direct use to subsidize abortion coverage, but still violates “longstanding precedent on abortion funding.”

The Senate bill limits only the use of tax credits for abortion in qualified health plans, and not other funding in the bill.

Doerflinger cited the $7 billion for services at community health centers, whose funding is increased to $11 billion in President Obama’s proposal.

“The Hyde amendment does not prevent direct use of these billions of dollars for elective abortions (because the funds are not provided through the appropriations bill governed by Hyde), nor does any provision in the Senate bill,” he told

Additionally, the Senate’s language on tax credits still allows subsidies for overall health plans that cover elective abortions. This is contrary to the policy of the Hyde Amendment and other federal laws.

“The bill requires each American purchasing such a plan to make a separate payment to the insurer every month, solely to pay for other people’s abortions,” Doerflinger continued, calling this an “enormous imposition” on the consciences of the millions of Americans who oppose abortion.

The USCCB has issued a 13-page document explaining how the Senate bill allows tax dollars to fund abortion. It says only the House bill, which contains the Stupak Amendment, conforms to current law on abortion funding.

Under the Senate bill, despite a provision segregating funds, federal subsidies will be used to help expand nationwide access to abortion coverage. contacted Rep. Bart Stupak spokeswoman Michelle Begnoche, who said Rep. Stupak has made clear his view that the Senate language is “a departure from current law and is unacceptable.”

Douglas Johnson, the legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), charged that Speaker Pelosi’s claim that the Senate bill does not fund abortions was “the same deceptive claptrap.”

“She is back to the old denial and deception approach, but she has no credibility on this issue,” he continued, claiming that the twenty-five percent of Democratic Congressmen who had voted for the Stupak Amendment repudiated the House Speaker’s claim about abortion funding.

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Persecuted Iraqi Christians grateful for Pope's support

Rome, Italy, Mar 2, 2010 (CNA) - The strong words of Pope Benedict XVI against anti-Christian violence in Mosul were acknowledged with gratitude by Iraqis, according to a bishop speaking from Iraq on Monday. Christians, Muslims and members of two other Iraqi minority groups peacefully protested in Baghdad, calling for an end to the violence and demanding protection.

Auxilary Bishop of Baghdad Shlemon Warduni spoke from the Iraqi capital with the Italian bishops' news agency SIR about the demonstrations and the reaction to the Pope's special greeting and call for government protection of minorities, especially Christians in Mosul.

"We are thankful to Benedict XVI, we know how much he cares about our community: we hope that his voice and has a resonance in the world and especially in the hard of heart," Bishop Warduni said.

The Pope's message, he added, offered "strong words which were full of hope that resound as an appeal to Christians to have confidence in justice and not to leave their country."

Five hundred people were in Baghdad's Paradise Square for the protest, which was set up by the Hammurabi Organization for Human Rights. Besides Christians, the demonstrators included Muslims, Yazidi and Sabei people, the SIR report said.

Bishop Warduni explained the cause for the protests,"We want peace and security, no more violence.

"We are rightful Iraqi citizens and as such we demand our rights, firstly that to life," he stated.

"Enough with the Christian massacres. We want protection."

Several representatives spoke during the demonstration, including Bishop Warduni and the Syro-Catholic Chorbishop, Fr. Pius Qasha, who read the Syro-Catholic Patriarch's message released last week. The Patriarch demanded protection for Christians in his message, and said that if the government can't protect Iraqi Christians that it should arm them.

The Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul Emil Shimoun Nona said recently that "the situation is calmer now, the exodus has slowed down." But he added that tension still remains over the murderers being at large and the lack of government action.

Thousands of people reportedly turned out for a prayer vigil in Mosul on Sunday morning, during which time they fasted. As a form of protest, no Masses were offered in the city until the afternoon.

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Catholic-Muslim talks work to prevent use of religion to justify violence

Vatican City, Mar 2, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholics and Muslims recently concluded a meeting in Cairo, Egypt, where they discussed ways to prevent the manipulation of religion to justify violence. The two groups also reaffirmed their commitment to pursuing policies of peace, promotion of respect and dialogue and fraternity in their communities.

Members of the Joint Committee for Dialogue of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue and the Permanent Committee of al-Azhar for Dialogue among the Monotheistic Religions were convened from Feb. 23-24 in the Egyptian capital for their 2010 meetings.

The theme, "The phenomenon of confessional violence: understanding the phenomenon and its causes, and proposing solutions with particular reference to the role of religions in this field," provided parameters for discussions over the two days.

Results of the meetings included a joint agreement on the recommendations of seeking greater awareness of the "fact that manipulation of religion for political or other ends can be a source of violence." They also expressed their mutual interest in avoiding “discrimination on the basis of religious identity” and in ways to open “hearts to mutual forgiveness and reconciliation.”

The Muslim and Catholic groups also sought recognition of similarities and respect for differences "as the prerequisite of a culture of dialogue, based on shared values."

According to the report, both called for a renewed commitment "to recognizing and respecting the dignity of each human being, without distinction of ethnicity or religion; for religious discrimination in all fields to be opposed" through just laws guaranteeing fundamental equality.

Citing ways that Catholics and Muslims can oppose “with determination any act that tends to create tension, division and conflict in societies,” the committee listed the promotion of a “culture of mutual respect and dialogue through education in families, schools, churches and mosques” and opposing “attacks against religions by social communications media, especially satellite channels, considering the dangerous effects these transmissions can have on social cohesion and peace among religious communities."

The recommendations closed with mutual agreement to take measures "to ensure that the preaching of religious leaders, as well as school education and textbooks, do not contain declarations or references to historical events that, directly or indirectly, may arouse violent reactions among the followers of different religions."

At the conclusion of the sessions, a joint declaration was signed between the president of the Permanent Committee for Dialogue, Sheikh Muhammad Abd al-Aziz Wasil, and Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue.

The declaration documents the gratitude shown by Cardinal Tauran to Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi, grand imam of Al-Azhar, for his condemnation of the violence that took place in the Egyptian town of Naga Hamadi on Orthodox Christmas this earlier year. The drive-by shooting took the lives of 6 Christians and a Muslim police officer.

Cardinal Tauran also thanked the imam for expressing his "solidarity with the victims' families" and reaffirming equal "rights and duties for all citizens, regardless of religion." Sheikh Tantawi responded that "he only did what he thought his duty in the face of those tragic events."

Next year's meeting will take place on the same dates.

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Church in Chile assisting earthquake victims, reassures nuncio

Rome, Italy, Mar 2, 2010 (CNA) - The Apostolic Nuncio in Chile, Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, remarked on Monday that the Church has already started reaching out to those most impacted by the country's 8.8 earthquake.

Speaking with Vatican Radio, the archbishop noted that while communication has been difficult due to damage in the hardest-hit areas of Concepcion, Temuco and Curico, aid is being sent to the over one million people who have been left homeless.

Acknowledging that the situation will become more difficult as winter approaches, the archbishop said that for now, the Church “is seeking to meet the immediate needs of the people.”

The nuncio then spoke about the quake-damage to the region's churches.  He noted that “some churches and convent chapels that are 150 or 200 years old suffered significant damage.  However,” he continued, “at the Basilica of Our Lady of Providence, which is located near the Nunciature, the bell tower was damaged but the rest of the structure was saved.”

The archbishop then referenced the work of the religious in supporting the victims of the tragedy, stressing, “I know of bishops who have already visited their parishes and churches.”

“As of now I have no word of any bishop or priest killed by this powerful earthquake,” he added.

He turned to Pope Benedict XVI’s call on Sunday for solidarity with Chile. “This intervention by the Holy Father should certainly encourage many in Chile because religious faith here is strong, especially among the families who live in rural areas.”

The Pope's words “certainly have encouraged many, beginning with bishops, priests and nuns who are in the region.”

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Cuban dissident died because nobody listened, laments Paya

Havana, Cuba, Mar 2, 2010 (CNA) - The founder and leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Paya, said this weekend that the death of Cuban dissident Orlando Zapata was due to the lazy reaction of the political world to warnings of his arrest and the abuse he received in prison.

In an article published on his website, the Christian Liberation Movement (CLM) leader said, “Before the heartbreaking death of Orlando, we made repeated calls on this website and other media sources to save the life of Orlando Zapata.”

“Other Cuban democracy supporters, in Cuba and abroad, did the same.”  He added that “Reina, Orlando’s mother, even showed the t-shirt of her son bloodied from abuse in prison, and almost nobody listened.”

“This was just like when Pedro Luis Boitel went on a hunger strike in 1972, or when many years before, Che ordered executions by firing squad at La Cabana.  In short, over the last 51 years…almost nobody has listened to the Cubans,” Paya lamented.

Paya said that he has been inundated with requests by the media for interviews about the Zapata case, but he wondered: “How long before they again forget about the suffering of the Cubans? Will another brother have to die for them to listen?”

He then called on the media and nations around the world to act now to secure the release of all political prisoners and thus avoid another tragedy.

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Cardinal Turkson calls for halt to 'criminal devastation' of Africa's environment

Rome, Italy, Mar 2, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Speaking to the Theology College of Central Italy in Florence on Monday, Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson outlined important points that came out of the African Synodal discussions last October. Among the concerns he brought up was the "criminal devastation of the environment" by multi-national companies and the role of women in society.

Cardinal Turkson, the newly installed President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, highlighted the value of the "extraordinary" Synod for Africa meetings in helping the Holy Father in his mission of building universal communion, in building relationships between people, nations and cultures and in discerning the important issues in Africa and the Church.

Presenting the challenges raised by the discussions in Rome last October, he said, "Without fear and not at all discouraged by the enormity of the problems of our continent, the bishops felt stimulated and encouraged by the African proverb that says that 'a well organized army of ants can fell an elephant.'"

One of these points, Cardinal Turkson said, was the destruction due to mining in his home country of Ghana and elsewhere. "Indiscriminate mining extraction destroys not only nature, but also human life and society," he pointed out.

"Multi-national companies must cease the criminal devastation of the environment for their greedy exploitation of the natural resources," he implored. "It is a myopic policy, that of inciting wars to obtain quick profits from the chaos, at the price of human life and blood."

This exploitation, he continued, "destroys the lives of people and nature itself," pointing to desertification caused by the destruction of natural water springs as an example.

The cardinal restated the bishops' "synodal yell" of "Enough!" in response to the repeated exploitations and the "tragic complicity and criminal consipiracy" of African economic and political leaders who collude with "external forces."

Cardinal Turkson also underscored the need for a stronger Catholic presence in Africa, with accountable leadership that sticks to its values. He proposed a link between the nature of reconciliation, justice and peace to AIDS, because "Africans cannot be completely in peace or reconciled with themselves and others if we are assailed by this violent threat in our families, our communities and our societies."

In addition, he stressed the necessity of focusing on providing opportunities for integral human development for all and the need to increase recognition of the rights and role of women. "The Synod Fathers," he said, quoting from the post-Synod message, "have also recognized that women are, paradoxically, 'the backbone of our local Church' and they are 'deprived of their rights.'"

Cardinal Turkson closed by remarking that the diversity of the Church in Africa presents the "most difficult and most important" challenge, which is implementing the results of the Synod. This "enormous job" is already in action, he said, but they are eagerly awaiting the release of an Apostolic Exhortation for the Church in Africa in which Pope Benedict XVI's will offer a complete idea of the results of the Synod.

According to the cardinal, the Pope's Exhortation is expected by the end of 2010.

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Archbishop Chaput says Catholic medical workers should face hostility with courage

Houston, Texas, Mar 2, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Charles Chaput delivered an address to health care professionals in Houston on Tuesday, inciting them to “have courage” and “speak up” in defending their Catholic faith within the workplace, especially as governments encroach on the rights of religious believers. The Denver archbishop challenged all Catholics to live the faith, saying, “there's no room in American life for tepid and easy faith.”

Hosted by St. Thomas University, the archbishop gave the Archbishop J. Michael Miller Lecture for Medical Professionals on March 2 at the Hilton Houston Plaza – Medical Center.

Archbishop Chaput opened his address by discussing the primary task of health care professionals, which he traced to the ancient Hippocratic Oath.

“That's your mandate, whether you're a doctor, nurse, pastoral care worker, or administrator. Your purpose is to serve the life and health of the human person; to help and protect; to do no harm,” he stressed. “The common ground that links Christian revelation with the founding philosophy of medicine is exactly this: the sanctity of the human person.”

“Unfortunately we live in a time when both of those simple words – 'human' and 'person' – have disputed meanings, and the idea of the 'sanctity' of human life is sometimes seen as little more than romantic poetry,” he noted. “And this cultural confusion, fueled by trends in our science and technology, is magnified in the current debates over health care reform.”

This confusion has also led to increased instances of hostility towards Catholics in healthcare, Archbishop Chaput said. “In Colorado, to name just one example, lawmakers recently tried to block the sale of two local hospitals to a large Catholic hospital system unless the Catholic system agreed to demands that it arrange for abortions, sterilizations and other so-called women's services.”

“This was a fairly bald attempt at bullying, and it failed.” Although the state attorney general sided with the Catholic system and the sale was eventually approved, Archbishop Chaput explained to his audience that “hostile lawmakers remain in the state Assembly. They haven’t given up. And they continue to work on undermining the conscience rights of religious believers, communities and institutions.”

“The question we should ask ourselves is this: What kind of a society would need to coerce religious believers into doing things that undermine their religious convictions -- especially when those same believers provide vital services to the public?” the archbishop said.

The recent statements of Massachusetts senate hopeful Martha Coakley, further underscored the willingness of government officials to force Catholics to sacrifice their beliefs, he noted, recalling a radio interview in Jan. in which Coakley, being asked her views on Catholic health care workers potentially having to administer abortifacients, said “You can have religious freedom, but you probably shouldn’t work in the emergency room.”

“Embedded in that remark is a bias worthy of a 19th century Nativist bigot,” the archbishop charged. “And it captures the situation many Catholics now face across the country. In effect Catholics, because of their backward religious beliefs, should exclude themselves – or should be excluded – from some of society’s important health-care positions.”

At the root of Coakley's remarks is a belief that families, churches, synagogues, and fraternal and charitable organizations—any group that is not part of the government—ultimately derives its rights from the government. “And following that logic to its remote but real conclusion, human dignity and religious freedom are not finally God-given and inalienable rights, but benefits that government may distribute or withhold depending on its priorities,” he explained.

Archbishop Chaput also commented on the ongoing federal legislative health care debates, saying that “the health-care reform proposals with any hope of advancing now in Washington all remain fatally flawed on the abortion issue, conscience protections and the inclusion of immigrants.”

“But the even harsher reality is this: Whether we get good health-care reform or not, legislative and judicial attacks on Catholic health care will not go away, and could easily get worse.”

In consideration of the challenges health-care workers face, Archbishop Chaput offered his thoughts on what the Catholic response should be.

“The first thing all of us need to do – and I mean bishops, priests, deacons, religious, mothers and fathers, mechanics, lawyers, shopkeepers, business executives and doctors – is to ask God for the gift of honesty,” he said.

“We need to examine our hearts with real candor. And we need to ask ourselves how 'Catholic' we really want to be. If the answer is 'pretty much' or 'sort of' or 'on my own terms' – then we need to stop fooling ourselves, for our own sake and for the sake of the people around us who really do believe. There’s no more room in American life for easy or tepid faith.”

“If on the other hand,” the prelate continued, “you’re one of the many in Catholic health care – too many to count, starting with the people in this room – who see the Church and her teachings as the ministry of Jesus himself, and seek God in your vocation, and see the face of Christ in the suffering persons you help; then you are what the soul of the Catholic health-care vocation has always been about.”

“In God’s plan,” he pointed out, “you have a beautiful and demanding vocation. God asks you to be servants of life and guardians of human dignity through your healing and care of others. It’s a noble calling, and it’s threatened by trends in our society which are magnified in the current debate over health-care reform.”

“Have courage,” he urged. “Trust in God. Speak up and defend your Catholic faith with your medical colleagues. Commit yourself to good and moral medicine. Get involved and fight hard for the conscience rights of your fellow Catholics and their institutions. Remember the Hippocratic Oath. Dedicate yourselves again to being truly Christian and deeply Catholic health-care professionals.”

“You and I and all of us – we’re disciples first,” Archbishop Chaput concluded. “That’s why you gave your heart and all your talent to this extraordinary vocation in the first place. Remember that as you go home today. Use up your lives for the glory of God and the dignity of your patients.”

“You walk in the footsteps of the Healer of humanity and Redeemer of history. In healing the sick, proclaim his Kingdom with the witness of your lives.”

To read the full text of Archbishop Chaput's address, visit:

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Archdiocesan spokesman urges Mexican government to allow priests full rights

Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 2, 2010 (CNA) - The spokesman for the Archdiocese of Mexico, Fr. Hugo Valdemar, explained last week that although the country's priests do not seek direct political involvement, their constitutional right to take part in politics has been taken away from them.

Mexico’s Senator Pablo Gomez of the Democratic Revolution Party has called for an amendment to an article which currently prevents clergy from participating in any public political activity. Commenting on this action, Fr. Valdemar said, "It is not the mission of the Church to intervene in political affairs or to seek party membership. However, as Mexican citizens, priests should enjoy a genuine participation in the constitutional rights common to all citizens."

The spokesman added that the Church welcomes the initiative of Senator Gomez and the Democratic Revolution Party, but "not because we want to participate in partisan politics. Rather, it opens debate about the rights of priests and religious as citizens."

He clarified that there is "a contradiction in the Constitution. On one hand, all citizens are equal before the law; but on the other, the Constitution restricts the right to freedom for ministers of worship. It is in accordance with the constitution that religious ministers have equal freedom to participate in civil society."

"What we ask is to be recognized as full citizens with full rights,” declared the priest.

He further noted that the figure of the secular state in Mexico is welcomed by the Church, as long as it does not prohibit clerics and religious from "sharing their views on social issues.”

“Freedom of expression should be safeguarded for all citizens in the country."

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Same-sex 'marriage' in Mexico will create climate of cultural permissiveness, bishop warns

Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 2, 2010 (CNA) - Archbishop Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago of Leon, Mexico has stated his opposition to same-sex ''marriage” in Mexico City, not only because it goes against the dignity of the family, but also due to the legislation's “repercussions” on society.

The archbishop denied that “the Catholic Church wants a ‘sin’ to be criminalized,” as some have argued. However, he clarified that the Church “disapproves of marriages between people of the same sex because they undermine the foundation of the institution of the family.”

“That people want to carry on a sexual relationship and do what they wish in the privacy of their bedrooms can’t be punished by the State or turned into a crime,” he said. “What concerns the Church is elevating that to the category of marriage, because this goes against the dignity at the heart of the family.”

“Because of this,” he continued, “legislation of this nature has repercussions on the cultural perception of society.”

“Laws make up the culture of a society,” the archbishop continued, “and when norms establish these types of conduct, a permissive cultural atmosphere is created that sees (these unions) as totally legitimate.”

“It wasn’t the Church that invented the family and marriage, in reality it is something that is part of the very nature of the human being, it is written in the very complementary constitution of the sexes ordered toward fertility. This is, in reality, what is destroyed when the legal category of marriage is given to a union of this kind,” the archbishop concluded.

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U.S. bishops offer prayers for Chilean earthquake victims

Washington D.C., Mar 2, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Following the deadly 8.8 magnitude earthquake that struck near the city of Concepción, Chile on Saturday, Cardinal Francis George sent the U.S. bishops' condolences to Bishop Alejandro Goić of the Chilean Catholic Conference, offering prayers for the victims.

Over 700 people are reported to have died in the catastrophe and an estimated 80 percent of the South American country has been affected, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

“I write to you having heard this morning of the news of the destructive earthquake that has struck your country,” said Cardinal George to Bishop Goić on Monday. “I write to assure you of my prayers and those of my brother Bishops in the United States for all who have been affected by this tragedy. I assure you also of our prayers for the Church and for our brother Bishops in Chile.”

“As the scope of the destruction becomes clear, our agency for disaster assistance, Catholic Relief Services, stands ready to be of assistance to you and your Caritas groups as they work to alleviate the suffering caused by the earthquake,” he added.

“Finally, Bishop Goić, I assure also my prayers for you in this moment of trial. May God bless and strengthen your service to the Church in Chile.”

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Rep. Stupak: Abortion not the only reason to oppose Senate health bill

Washington D.C., Mar 2, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - A recent Wall Street Journal article detailed an interview with Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), in which he said he opposes the current Senate health care bill for reasons other than the issue of federally funded abortions.

Rep. Stupak said on Tuesday that if Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi brought the Senate health care bill to the floor “It'd be very hard to vote for this bill even if they fixed the abortion language.”

When he was asked whether or not he would for the Senate legislation as is, the Congressman responded, “nope.”

Besides taking issue with the Senate health care bill providing federally funded abortions, Rep. Stupak said that the House version of the bill had tighter restrictions on insurance companies as well as new payment methods that would help doctors provide quality service – neither of which are in the Senate version.

The Michigan representative also takes issue with the fact that House members will have vote on the Senate bill without being ensured that the changes they've requested within the legislation will ever get approved. “You’re going to make members vote for a bill that’s going to be hung around your neck come Election Day,” he said. “After sending so much legislation to the Senate, we just don’t trust that they’re going to do it.”

Rep. Stupak still feels, however, that were Speaker Pelosi to present a finalized health care package, it still wouldn't pass. “I’m not optimistic they’d get the votes in the House,” he added.

The congressman stepped into the national political spotlight last year when he introduced an amendment to the House health care reform bill that maintained the Hyde Amendment ban on using federal funds to pay for abortions. The Stupak Amendment passed in the House by a vote of 240-194 last November.

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European Court accepts appeal for Italian crucifixes to stay in schools

Strasbourg, France, Mar 2, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - On March 2, the European Court accepted an appeal from the Italian government which will allow crucifixes to remain in classrooms throughout the country.

Cardinal Péter Erdő, President of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences, reacted to the decision in a statement on Tuesday, saying, “I express satisfaction for the decision taken by the panel of judges of the Grande Chambre of the European Court for Human Rights of Strasbourg in upholding the appeal filed by the Italian Government on January 29th against the ruling of November 3rd 2009 in Lautsi v. Italy affair on the display of the crucifix in Italian classrooms.”

In November of last year, the court ruled in favor of Soile Lautsi's case to remove religious symbols, including crucifixes, from public schools to ensure her children's right to a secular education.

Vatican officials denounced the ruling upon its release, saying it was not in the court's hands to rule on a matter of Italian tradition. In recent meetings among representatives from its 47 different countries, the European Court adopted a policy that limited the court's decisions concerning traditions and national culture in member countries.

“I insist how necessary it is for religious issues to be addressed at a national level, based on the principle of subsidiarity, since religious credibility and the very perception of the principle of laicism changes from country to country,” Cardinal Erdő said in his Tuesday statement.

“I believe that it would be a very wise gesture if the Grande Chambre, in its review, accepted this fact, which I am sure would give confidence back in the European institutions to the many European citizens, Christians, believers and lay, who had felt deeply injured by this ruling,” he concluded.


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