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Archive of March 30, 2010

PepsiCo shareholder proposal seeks accountability in funding for homosexual causes

Plano, Texas, Mar 30, 2010 (CNA) - Shareholders of PepsiCo should vote for a shareholder proposal that the food, drink and snack company disclose its standards for donating over $75 million in corporate assets to controversial groups such as those advocating homosexual causes, an ex-gay group says.

PepsiCo, Inc. is the leading corporate sponsor of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, Inc. (PFLAG).

The group Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX) has charged that PFLAG’s latest publication, a religious guidebook, wrongly labels ex-gay conferences as "anti-gay" and urges PFLAG members to protest religious conferences which feature ex-gay speakers.

The guidebook instructs members to hold press conferences and issue press releases against religious ex-gay events to “remind people there is more than one faith message.”

PFOX executive director Regina Griggs asked why PepsiCo would fund organizations that urge readers to “undermine” other religions.

"Is this the best use of PepsiCo funding?" she asked.

According to Griggs, the company responded to a similar proposal last year by claiming it is “committed to diversity and inclusion without imposition of personal judgment.”

She claimed this called into question PepsiCo’s continued funding of what she said were “organizations which hate the ex-gay community.”

Griggs said PepsiCo Shareholder Proposal No. 4 asks the company to divulge its standards for funding and to account for how its charitable contributions are actually used.

In her view, this was a “reasonable request” since its actions “adversely affect its public image, goodwill and stock value.”

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Philippines bishops disapprove of Holy Week self-crucifixion and flagellation

Manila, Philippines, Mar 30, 2010 (CNA) - Responding to acts of extreme corporal mortification during Holy Week, Catholic bishops in the Philippines have discouraged practices such as self-flagellation and crucifixion in favor of more moderate observances.

“The real expression of Christian faith during Lent is through repentance and self- denial,” Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez told Radio Veritas.

Bishop Rolando Tirona also expressed disapproval of self-flagellation and crucifixion by Catholic penitents, calling them “expressions of superstitious beliefs” that are usually done “out of the need for money and for tourism purposes which is totally wrong.”

“The Lenten season is a sacred celebration for reflection and repentance and not for money-making. But you can’t judge them. But if it is done out of tourism, that is unacceptable. That is deception,” he commented, according to the Manila Bulletin.

The prelate said during Holy Week it is enough to remember the life and death of Jesus Christ through fasting, abstinence, prayer, reflection and almsgiving.

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Pope Benedict being 'scourged at the pillar,' says New York archbishop

New York City, N.Y., Mar 30, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - In remarks following Palm Sunday Mass, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York urged Catholics “to express our love and solidarity” for Pope Benedict, who, given the recent media onslaught over sex abuse allegations, is “now suffering some of the same unjust accusations, shouts of the mob, and scourging at the pillar, as did Jesus.”

Following the March 28 Mass in St. Patrick's Cathedral, the prelate began his brief statement by stating that the “somberness of Holy Week is intensified for Catholics this year” as the “recent tidal wave of headlines about abuse of minors by some few priests, this time in Ireland, Germany, and a re-run of an old story from Wisconsin, has knocked us to our knees once again.”

“Anytime this horror, vicious sin, and nauseating crime is reported, as it needs to be, victims and their families are wounded again, the vast majority of faithful priests bow their heads in shame anew, and sincere Catholics experience another dose of shock, sorrow, and even anger,” Archbishop Dolan said.

But the Archbishop of New York found a more troubling aspect of the recent spate of news. “What deepens the sadness now is the unrelenting insinuations against the Holy Father himself, as certain sources seem frenzied to implicate the man who, perhaps more than anyone else has been the leader in purification, reform, and renewal that the Church so needs,” the archbishop asserted.

“Sunday Mass is hardly the place to document the inaccuracy, bias, and hyperbole of such aspersions,” he added.“But, Sunday Mass is indeed the time for Catholics to pray for … Benedict our Pope.”

“And Palm Sunday Mass is sure a fitting place for us to express our love and solidarity for our earthly shepherd now suffering some of the same unjust accusations, shouts of the mob, and scourging at the pillar, as did Jesus.”

Archbishop Dolan then defended Pope Benedict from the articles attempting to establish that he mismanaged sexually abusive priests.

“No one has been more vigorous in cleansing the Church of the effects of this sickening sin than the man we now call Pope Benedict XVI,” Archbishop Dolan stressed. “The dramatic progress that the Catholic Church in the United States has made – documented again just last week by the report made by independent forensic auditors – could never have happened without the insistence and support of the very man now being daily crowned with thorns by groundless innuendo.”

“Does the Church and her Pastor, Pope Benedict XVI, need intense scrutiny and just criticism for tragic horrors long past?” the prelate asked. “Yes! He himself has asked for it, encouraging complete honesty, at the same time expressing contrition, and urging a thorough cleansing.”

“All we ask is that it be fair, and that the Catholic Church not be singled-out for a horror that has cursed every culture, religion, organization, institution, school, agency, and family in the world.”

“Sorry to bring this up,” Archbishop Dolan concluded, “… but, then again, the Eucharist is the Sunday meal of the spiritual family we call the Church. At Sunday dinner we share both joys and sorrows. The father of our family, il papa, needs our love, support, and prayers.”

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Billionaire fulfills promise to God, donates fortune to charity

Bogotá, Colombia, Mar 30, 2010 (CNA) - Albert Gubay, an 82-year-old English billionaire has pledged all but $15 million of his $1.1 billion fortune to charity, fulfilling a promise made to God while he was still poor.

When he got out of the Royal Navy after WWII with the clothes on his back and roughly $120, he told God, “Make me a millionaire and you can have half of my money,” reports the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The Welsh-born Gubay went on to found a supermarket chain, which he later sold for $28 million.

Gubay, who is number 880 on the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires, has kept his promise and donated $1.1 billion to a charitable trust. According to Portafolio.com.co, “The trust to which the money has been donated will distribute more or less half of the money to projects associated with the Catholic Church.” The other half of the money will be distributed at the discretion of the trust’s board members. 

It is reported that Gubay is keeping $15 million to live off for the remainder of his life. Gubay, a practicing Catholic, currently resides on the Isle of Man in the United Kingdom.

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Port-au-Prince seminary to reopen after Holy Week

Port au Prince, Haiti, Mar 30, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Louis Kebreau of Cap-Hatien and president of the Haitian Bishops’ Conference, made the announcement that following Holy Week, the Port-au-Prince seminary will resume its activities interrupted by the country's January 12 earthquake.

Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Archbishop Kebreau said the seminarians from the various dioceses of Haiti will be housed in tents, along with the academic staff. "The new beginning is a sign of hope for our devastated and traumatized land," he stated.

“A great many Haitians are looking to their pastors for help and consolation, he said, noting that many continue to live in a state of shock after losing a spouse, children or other family members."

"The survivors have lost everything."

“The Church too, has lost a great many of her own pastoral workers, including laity, religious sisters, priests and bishops.”  The prelate added that counted among those who have died are 30 of the 260 seminarians at the former seminary.”

Nevertheless, Archbishop Kebreau continued, “Things are now slowly returning to normal, but at the same time everyone knows there is still much work to be done. We are still at the very beginning."

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Benedict XVI sends condolences following Moscow bombing

Vatican City, Mar 30, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI sent a telegram to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev expressing solidarity with the victims of the terrorist attacks in Moscow yesterday.  According to media reports, 39 people died and more than 100 were injured when female suicide bombers detonated bombs on two Metro trains in Russia's capital city. 

Chechen rebels are suspected, but no group has taken responsibility.

In his message, the Holy Father wrote that upon “hearing the news of the attacks in Moscow, where numerous people lost their lives, I express my deep sorrow and strong condemnation for such acts of violence. I wish to express my feelings of great solidarity, spiritual closeness and my condolences towards the families of the victims."

Benedict XVI assured the faithful in Moscow of his "fervent prayers for the lives lost, and I invoke heavenly consolation upon all who mourn this tragic departure, that they would be welcomed into heaven.”

Finally, the Pontiff sent his blessing, “thinking particularly of those who are injured.”

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U.S. bishops profoundly grateful for Pope's work in combating sexual abuse

Washington D.C., Mar 30, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - This morning the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed “profound gratitude” for the assistance that Pope Benedict XVI has given the bishops in their “efforts to respond to victims, deal with perpetrators and to create safe environments for children.” The statement comes in the midst of numerous media reports attempting to link the Pope to mishandling of sex abuse cases.

The bishops opened their March 30 statement by saying that “the recent emergence of more reports of sexual abuse by clergy saddens and angers the Church and causes us shame.” If “there is anywhere that children should be safe, it should be in their homes and in the Church,” the bishops said.

The latest reports of sexual abuse to surface have come from Europe and have been accompanied by attempts, both in Europe and the U.S., to connect the mishandling of the abusive priests to Pope Benedict.

In today's statement, the American bishops came to the Pope's defense, stating, “(w)e know from our experience how Pope Benedict is deeply concerned for those who have been harmed by sexual abuse and how he has strengthened the Church's response to victims  and supported our efforts to deal with perpetrators.”

“We continue to intensify our efforts to provide safe environments for children in our parishes and schools,” the statement added. “Further, we work with others in our communities to address the prevalence of sexual abuse in the larger society.”

Citing an example of the Pope's commitment to the healing of sex abuse victims within the Church, the bishops recalled how one “of the most touching moments of the Holy Father’s visit to the United States in 2008 was his private conversation with victims/survivors at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington.”

“Pope Benedict heard firsthand how sexual abuse has devastated lives. The Holy Father spoke with each person and provided every one time to speak freely to him. They shared their painful experiences and he listened, often clasping their hands and responding tenderly and reassuringly.”

The U.S. bishops also underscored how “the support of both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI” has allowed them make a “vigorous commitment to do everything in our power to prevent abuse from happening to children.”

After the sex abuse scandal wracked the Church in the U.S., the bishops adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002 at a meeting in Dallas. The charter calls on the Church to “respond with compassion to victims/survivors, to work diligently to screen those working with children and young people in the Church, to provide child abuse awareness and prevention education, to report suspected abuse to civil law enforcement, and to account for our efforts to protect children and youth through an external annual national audit,” the bishops noted.

The bishops concluded their remarks in Tuesday's statement by saying that as “we accompany Christ in His passion and death during this Holy Week, we stand with our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI in prayer for the victims of sexual abuse, for the entire Church and for the world.”

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Italian bishops back Pope, deplore media attacks

Rome, Italy, Mar 30, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - In wake of the media blitz on the recent surfacing of clerical sexual abuse in Europe, the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) has released a statement encouraging Church officials to cooperate with secular authorities and police in investigating such cases. The CEI’s statement also expressed support for Pope Benedict and called for a careful selection of candidates for the priesthood to ensure full maturity at all levels.

The bishops refuted allegations made by victims’ associations and media reports that the bishops had opposed cooperation with police and investigators, and insisted that they “support those authorities through faithful cooperation.” The bishops' statement said that they agree that a “rigorous and transparent application of canonical procedural and criminal rules are the main path to search for the truth.”

The Italian prelates also “reaffirmed their support for the victims of abuse and their families, wounded and offended by the Church itself.”

Recent media reports have claimed that a 1962 canonical law, as well as a 2001 directive issued by then-Cardinal Ratzinger encourage secrecy and in-house investigations of clerical sexual abuse cases. Last week, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi strongly denied the New York Times’ claim that Vatican secrecy rules prohibited Church figures from reporting such cases to the police.  Additionally, the CEI statement came to the Pope’s defense, arguing that Pope Benedict has displayed a “determined and enlightened” attitude in confronting sexual abuse.

The CEI also praised the Pontiff for leaving "no margins of uncertainty" and refusing to "indulge in downplaying" the scandals. "He invited the ecclesiastical community to ascertain the truth of what happened and take action where needed," they said. "He has the full and affectionate support of Italy's bishops."

The statement also emphasized “the need for a careful selection of candidates for the priesthood, valuing human and emotional maturity, as well as spiritual and pastoral maturity.”

The Italian bishops’ statement comes in wake of some calls by clergy to re-evaluate the priestly requirement of celibacy.  “The value of celibacy, which is in no way an impediment or impairment of sexuality, represents, particularly in these days, an alternative and humanly enriching way to live one's humanity,” they affirmed.

Cardinal Camillo Ruini, formerly the vicar of Rome and ex-chief of the CEI, noted that in recent weeks, various entities and persons had sought to “eradicate from people's hearts their faith in the Church and, I fear, their faith in Christ and in God.”

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'Culture of fear' is stifling Cuba, writes dissident

Havana, Cuba, Mar 30, 2010 (CNA) - The coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Paya, sent a letter to former Polish president Lech Walesa, explaining that the “culture of fear” is seeking to stifle the Cuban people to prevent them from claiming their rights.

“You know well how the culture of fear attempts to drown people so they do not demand their rights,” Paya wrote. “You all broke that barrier.  Our people suffer from a totalitarian regime but they have also been buried in a cloud of lies that many in the world still believe.”

Paya sent his letter to mark the upcoming meeting between Walesa and Cuban dissidents Raul Rivero, Blanca Reyes and Carlos Alberto Paya.  “We will always be grateful to you and the Polish people for inspiring us by your example,” he continued.

Cubans want reform, and that means “rights for all, full freedom and national reconciliation,” Paya asserted.  “We fight peacefully for these changes, and because of their struggle for these changes, many of our Cuban brethren are still in prison in inhumane conditions. 

“The imprisonment of these peaceful Cubans is a sign of the imprisonment experienced by the entire Cuban nation.  Consequently, the changes in Cuba will only be true and just if all political prisoners are released,” Paya concluded.

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Reports blaming Pope for mishandled sex abuse case are inaccurate, Church judge reveals

Anchorage, Alaska, Mar 30, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Reports in the New York Times and other media about a Wisconsin priest who sexually abused deaf children have been “sloppy and inaccurate,” the then-judicial vicar of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee has said. Correcting the public record, he said the claim Pope Benedict XVI was involved in the case is “a huge leap of logic.”

Fr. Thomas Brundage, JLC, former judicial vicar of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, wrote in Anchorage, Alaska’s Catholic Anchor about the case of Fr. Lawrence Murphy, a principal of St. John’s School for the Deaf in Milwaukee.

About 200 former students have said they were molested by Fr. Murphy, sometimes even in the confessional. Outlets such as the Associated Press claim that the priest was “spared a defrocking in the mid-1990s” because he was allegedly “protected by the Vatican office led by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger,” who is now Pope Benedict XVI.

According to Fr. Brundage, media reports on the case have been inaccurate because they failed to understand that the ability to hear cases of sexual abuse of minors shifted from the Roman Rota to Cardinal Ratzinger’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) only in 2001. While cases would “languish” in the Rota, the CDF handled cases “expeditiously, fairly, and with due regard to the rights of all the parties involved.”

“I have no doubt that this was the work of then-Cardinal Ratzinger,” Fr. Brundage insisted.

In his view, Pope Benedict XVI has in fact “done more than any other pope or bishop in history to rid the Catholic Church of the scourge of child sexual abuse and provide for those who have been injured.”

The priest said he felt the need to tell the story of the Murphy trial from the beginning. He especially protested that his comments about the Murphy case have been “liberally and often inaccurately quoted in the New York Times and in more than 100 other newspapers and on-line periodicals.”

“As I have found that the reporting on this issue has been inaccurate and poor in terms of the facts, I am also writing out of a sense of duty to the truth,” he continued. “The fact that I presided over this trial and have never once been contacted by any news organization for comment speaks for itself.”

Fr. Brundage explained the case’s back story, which he said has not been reported.

In 1996 the Archdiocese of Milwaukee revisited the allegations against Fr. Murphy because of “courageous advocacy” on behalf of the victims and their wives. While the existence of a scandal at the school during Fr. Murphy’s 1950-1974 tenure had been “common knowledge” the details were “sketchy.”

However, when the case was revisited it became obvious the archdiocese needed to take “strong and swift action” about the decades-old wrongs, Fr. Brundage reported. The then-Archbishop Rembert Weakland consented to an investigation into the child abuse allegations against Fr. Murphy and his alleged solicitation within the confessional.

As judicial vicar, Fr. Brundage conducted “gut-wrenching” interviews with the deaf victims, including one who had become a perpetrator of abuse himself.

“I also met with a community board of deaf Catholics. They insisted that Fr. Murphy should be removed from the priesthood and highly important to them was their request that he be buried not as a priest but as a layperson,” he wrote in the Catholic Anchor. “I indicated that [as] a judge, I could not guarantee the first request and could only make a recommendation to the latter request.”

In the summer of 1998, acting as judicial vicar he ordered Fr. Murphy to be present at a deposition at the Milwaukee chancery. A letter from the clergyman’s doctor said he was in frail health and could not travel far. The priest died of natural causes a week later.

Fr. Brundage also addressed the case’s documentation and recent reports about it in his Catholic Anchor article.

An August 19 letter from Archbishop Weakland to then-secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone stated that the Milwaukee archbishop had instructed Fr. Brundage to “abate the proceedings” against the accused priest.

“Father Murphy, however, died two days later and the fact is that on the day that Father Murphy died, he was still the defendant in a church criminal trial. No one seems to be aware of this,” the priest wrote in the Catholic Anchor.

Had he been asked to abate the trial, Fr. Brundage said he “most certainly” would have insisted on appeal to the supreme court of the Church or to Pope John Paul II if necessary.

Discussing the role of then-Cardinal Ratzinger, Fr. Brundage said he had “no reason to believe that he was involved at all.”

“Placing this matter at his doorstep is a huge leap of logic and information,” he continued.

Fr. Brundage added that media reports have attributed to him statements from the documents which were not in his handwriting, saying their source was “unknown” to him.

“Discerning truth takes time and it is apparent that the New York Times, the Associated Press and others did not take the time to get the facts correct,” he charged.

Citing his experience as a volunteer prison chaplain in Alaska, Fr. Brundage offered a blistering profile of convicted sexual abusers and the priests who have committed “such grievous actions”:

“They tend to be very smart and manipulative. They tend to be well liked and charming. They tend to have one aim in life — to satisfy their hunger. Most are highly narcissistic and do not see the harm that they have caused. They view the children they have abused not as people but as objects. They rarely show remorse and moreover, sometimes portray themselves as the victims.

“They are, in short, dangerous people and should never be trusted again.”

From his interviews with victims, he realized that the “disease” of abuse is “virulent and easily transmitted to others.”

“I heard stories of distorted lives, sexualities diminished or expunged. These were the darkest days of my own priesthood, having been ordained less than 10 years at the time.”

He declared abuse to be “a form of emotional and spiritual homicide.”

Fr. Brundage said that Catholic dioceses in the U.S. have taken “extraordinary steps” to ensure the safety of children and the vulnerable. In his present home, the Archdiocese of Anchorage, he reported that almost every public bathroom in parishes has a sign asking if a person has been abused by anyone in the church and a phone number is given to report abuse. Almost all church workers are required to take yearly classes on ensuring a safe environment.

“I am not sure what more the Church can do,” he said.

He concluded his article in the Catholic Anchor by saying Fr. Murphy’s sexual abuse of minors and solicitation in the confessional were “unmitigated and gruesome crimes.”

“On behalf of the church, I am deeply sorry and ashamed for the wrongs that have been done by my brother priests but realize my sorrow is probably of little importance 40 years after the fact. The only thing that we can do at this time is to learn the truth, beg for forgiveness, and do whatever is humanly possible to heal the wounds.

“The rest, I am grateful, is in God’s hands.”

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Lk 13:1-9

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First Reading:: Eph 4: 7-16
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