Cucuta, Colombia, Apr 9, 2010 (CNA) - Bishop Jaime Prieto Amaya of Cucuta, Colombia has issued a statement urging the country's citizens to assist in ending the abuse of minors.
His statement came in reaction to the seven-year sentence recently imposed on a priest in Colombia who was accused of abusing a minor.
In his brief statement, the bishop noted that Fr. Jose Virgilop Chona Albarracin, the priest in question, will assume his rights “and challenge the ruling of the law. The bishop added that the diocese will "accept and respect the decision of the criminal justice system."
Bishop Prieto concluded by saying that in wake of this information, “we ask that the public cooperate fully with the law and collaborate with authorities in clearing up the types of behavior which mistreat the community, especially minors."
Los Angeles, Calif., Apr 9, 2010 (CNA) - Following a bland introductory story and a somewhat hostile column, the Los Angeles Times has published a positive story about how Archbishop Jose Gomez’s appointment as coadjutor archbishop of Los Angeles has made area Latinos proud and optimistic, given that one of their own will head the archdiocese.
A Wednesday story in the Los Angeles Times discussed reaction among Los Angelinos at the predominantly immigrant parish of St. Michael’s Catholic Church in the south of the metropolis. Describing the parish as “abuzz” at the archbishop’s appointment, the article noted “a pervasive sense of pride, even elation, greeted the news that a compatriot would become the heir apparent.”
Juan Bramusco, a 60-year-old parishioner originally from Mexico, told the Times about Archbishop Gomez’s appointment: "Of course it makes you feel good. He's one of us; he understands us."
The “delighted” pastor of St. Michael’s, Msgr. David O’Connell, said the appointment was a recognition of the numbers of Latinos in the archdiocese.
Parishioner and construction worker Humberto Magallanes, 29, said that the incoming Archbishop had “big shoes to fill” because outgoing Archbishop Cardinal Roger Mahony has “fought for immigrants as much as anyone.”
Archbishop Gomez’s introductory message about the priority he places on championing immigrants “came through loud and clear” among immigrant Catholics, the Times reported.
For his part, Msgr. O’Connell noted a contrast between what is happening in Latino parishes and what is happening in the Church at large.
Because of scandals, he said, “the Church is having a difficult time. But at the parish level we are experiencing this whole new vitality and energy."
The Los Angeles Times’ first story on Archbishop Gomez’s appointment, published April 6, claimed that he has “raised eyebrows in the past” because of his affiliation with Opus Dei, which it said had been accused of “cult-like secrecy.” It also cited the prelature’s notorious “sinister role” from the fictional book and movie “The Da Vinci Code.”
The Times also cited press releases from sexual abuse victims’ groups critical of the archbishop.
Times columnist Steve Lopez in an April 7 column claimed he and Archbishop Gomez would start with a “clean slate,” but quickly launched into sexual abuse allegations. He proposed “a little quiz” about how the incoming archbishop would handle abusive priests and abusive allegations and voiced criticism of Cardinal Mahony’s response.
The columnist also asked about the archbishop’s “history with Opus Dei” and suggested that the ancient Christian practice of mortification of the flesh might be a cause of sexual abuse.
Fargo, N.D., Apr 9, 2010 (CNA) - Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, North Dakota has announced the closure of the diocese’s college seminary program after the upcoming school year, citing the need for good stewardship of donations and church resources.
In a Thursday statement he reported that the number of college seminarians at Cardinal Muench Seminary (CMS) has risen above 20 only twice since 1988. Though having an “excellent” formation program, only seven men are registered for the seminary’s 2010-2011 school year.
“The cost of education per college seminarian, when the numbers are so few, is excessive,” he wrote.
He reported that the annual cost of educating one CMS seminarian averages $115,000 per year, while seminarian tuition is about $15,000 per year.
By contrast, the annual cost of educating a seminarian in major seminary, where he completes his final years of formation, is about $35,000 per year.
“While donors to Cardinal Muench Seminary have been very generous over the years, we are now at the point when we have to recognize that the best use of donations toward seminarian education is to provide scholarships for our seminarians to attend seminaries elsewhere, rather than trying to fund our local program at an excessive level of expense,” the bishop explained.
Given the small community size, he questioned whether appropriate formation could be provided for men in their first years of study and discernment for the priesthood.
According to Bishop Aquila, the discontinuation of the seminary program has also prompted a “complete review” of metro area parish and Catholic school properties to ensure “better stewardship” of donors’ gifts and “more effective and efficient use” of Catholic facilities.
With several parishes considering capital campaigns for facility improvements, he added, it would be “irresponsible” to approve the proposals without examining area facilities as a whole.
Washington D.C., Apr 9, 2010 (CNA) - A collection initiated in January by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to help victims of the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti has raised nearly $59 million dollars to date.
Since Cardinal Francis George and Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York made an appeal for donations the day after the natural disaster, the USCCB has collected $58.7 million in aid from American Catholics.
“I cannot even begin to say how thankful we are to all the people who have so selflessly given to help the people in Haiti,” said Archbishop Dolan, who is chairman of Catholic Relief Services (CRS). “It is an amazing example of love and faith in action.”
“CRS, with over 300 staff on the ground in Haiti, started helping people immediately,”Archbishop Dolan related. “They have been providing food, temporary shelter, hygiene kits, water and sanitation services around the clock for tens of thousands at parishes, makeshift camps, and other sites throughout the Port-au-Prince. In the long run, CRS will be there with the Haitian people to help them rebuild.”
CRS has also received funds outside the special appeal collection from corporations, schools and individuals and foundations. “Together with a portion of the proceeds from the special collection, these additional funds will allow CRS to help save many lives and bring back hope,” the New York archbishop added.
Archbishop Jose Gomez, who serves as the chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America, also commented on the Church's longstanding support for Catholics in Haiti.
“A key goal is to help the Haitian Church get back on its feet,” Archbishop Gomez said on Thursday. “Life in Haiti revolves around the parish communities. Reconstituting parishes is vital to bringing back some sense of normalcy to people’s lives.”
“We are starting with temporary rectories but foresee chapels, schools and community centers to follow,” he added. “Fortunately, CRS, with its expertise and large presence in Haiti, can be a source of valuable assistance and advice to the local Church in her work to rebuild.”
Vatican City, Apr 9, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - While resting up at Castel Gandolfo, the Holy Father will be taking the time to catch a film on Friday. The Pontiff will watch "Under the Roman Sky,” a movie about Hitler's treatment of the Jews in Rome and his attempt to kidnap Pope Pius XII.
As the Pope recovers from a taxing Holy Week schedule, during which he appeared for public celebrations nearly every day, he will have the opportunity to relax and take in the movie featuring the American actor James Cromwell as Pope Pius XII, who was the subject of a kidnap plot by Adolph Hitler.
The mini-series is set in the streets of Rome during the Nazi occupation. According to Italy's AGI News, the plot develops along the course of nine months, and features Jews being taken from the ghetto and a failed attempt by the Nazis to abduct the Pope.
The film, made by the Italian production company Lux Vide, also illustrates the Church's efforts to protect and save Jews during the war, the very subject that raised a considerable amount controversy after Pope Benedict declared Pius XII "Venerable" on Dec. 19, 2009.
Lux Vide has produced other biographical films on Popes John Paul II, Paul VI and John XXIII as well as many other saints and biblical figures.
The Holy Father will settle in for the viewing at 5:30 this afternoon in the Swiss Room of Castel Gandolfo.
Marquette, Mich., Apr 9, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), the U.S. Representative who secured an executive order he claims will bar federally funded abortions in the health care overhaul law, told the Associated Press on Friday that he is retiring at the end of this term.
Rep. Stupak, who became a national figure for his outspoken role in fighting abortion funding in the health care bill, has been in Congress for 18 years and will make an official announcement on his retirement at 12:30 p.m. ET at Northern Michigan University in Marquette.
Although the Michigan representative recently described his life leading up to the health care vote as “a living hell,” given the harassment he received for opposing federally funded abortions, he told the Associated Press today that this did not influence his decision to retire.
However, Rep. Stupak mentioned prior to today's announcement that he is “burned out.”
“I'm just getting tired being gone all of the time,” he told the Traverse City Record-Eagle. “I have trouble getting up for the count … I'm just burned out.”
Rep. Stupak 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.
However, on March 21, the Congressman voted in support of the health care bill after negotiating an executive order with President Obama that he says will bar federally funded abortions.
In an interview with CNA, Rep. Stupak defended his actions, saying that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi had enough votes “in her pocket” to pass health care reform with or without him or those who supported his stance. In Rep. Stupak’s view, securing President Obama’s executive order on abortion funding was “absolutely” a success for the pro-life cause and for the country.
CNA recently interviewed another pro-life Democrat, Rep. Daniel Lipinksi (D-Ill.), who sees flaws in the executive order questions the effectiveness of it. On March 31, Rep. Lipinski called the health care bill “a major step in the wrong direction” in defending the unborn. Although he said that he does not want to “impugn the motives of Bart Stupak,” in his opinion, the executive order “does not really have an impact” on subsidies for individuals to purchase an insurance plan that covers abortion.
Rep. Lipinski added that the bill’s problems can be corrected before its changes go into effect in 2014 and should be fixed regardless of whether President Obama’s executive order functions as promised.
Vatican City, Apr 9, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - How can we "stay the course" after Holy Week in regard to sexual abuses? Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi asked in a statement released by Vatican Radio on Friday. In answer, he said, "Before all else (by) continuing to seek truth and peace for the victims."
As cases of sexual abuse continue to come to light, Fr. Lombardi noted that victims often have "interior wounds" that affect them on “a profound personal level," and that they should be provided with assistance in healing these wounds.
He saluted all episcopates that have offered ways for victims to be heard and to freely express themselves, "without taking for granted that the problem had already been confronted or overcome."
Fr. Lombardi also highlighted bishops' conferences and individual priests who have given "spiritual, liturgical and human attention" to victims with paternal care.
The Pope, he added, citing the letter to Irish Catholics, has also expressed his desire to offer similar help by meeting with victims. It is a path, said Lombardi, that in order to achieve "profound effects" must be developed still further with a focus on respect for the persons involved and the search for peace.
He went on to write that only by continuing to carry out canonical procedures with "decisiveness and veracity" and collaboration with civil authorities can the Church "think of effectively rebuilding a climate of justice and full trust in the ecclesial institution."
Fr. Lombardi also underlined the importance of formation and candidate selection in preventing abuse by priests, suggesting that the "sense and importance of the meaning of sexuality, chastity and affectionate relationships in the world today" must be rediscovered and reaffirmed.
For an objective evaluation of the problem of pedophilia and sexual abuse of minors, the Vatican spokesman said that “one must understand its extent and pervasive nature.” Whoever loves the truth, he remarked, will see the measure to which the Church shares the problem with the rest of society and how the Church's experience can be used to help combat it in other institutions.
Fr. Lombardi closed his remarks by urging respect and support for Pope Benedict XVI, whom he called the "coherent guide on the path of rigor and veracity."
"He is a Pastor up to the task of confronting with great rectitude and certainty this difficult time, in which there is not shortage of unfounded criticisms and insinuations,” the spokesman wrote.
He added that Pope Benedict would respond "with patience to the gradual emergence of partial or alleged 'revelations' which are seeking to undermine his credibility or that of other institutions and persons in the Church."
"We need this patient and firm love of the truth in the Church, in the society in which we live, in communicating and writing, if we want to serve and not confuse our contemporaries," the message finished.
Bogotá, Colombia, Apr 9, 2010 (CNA) - In response to rumors in the media that he is the biological father of the twins adopted by Ricky Martin, Mexican actor and pro-life activist Eduardo Verastegui, emphatically denied the reports and called them “an absolute lie.”
Speaking in Colombia, where he was giving a series of talks on the defense of life and fundamental values, Verastegui said, “There will always be rumors, no matter what you do. For eight years I have been promoting a message of chastity, purity, faith and hope around the world, and with rumors like this you realize that there are people who really don’t like this and are going to come up with every kind of gossip imaginable to try to discredit what we are doing.”
The situation, he said, “is laughable: on the one hand, to be telling young people sex is a gift from God that is sacred, and on the other hand, rumors come out that say the complete opposite. It’s an absolute lie.”
Verastegui also said he respected the decision of those who decide live together, but that they should not speak of it as “marriage.” Instead, they should describe them as “civil unions,” because as a Catholic he defends the concept of true marriage between one man and one woman.
Santiago, Chile, Apr 9, 2010 (CNA) - Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, arrived Thursday at the city of Punta Arenas in southern Chile. During his welcome, he recalled “the generous action of John Paul in the gift of the achievement of peace between Chile and Argentina.”
According to the Bishops’ Conference of Chile, Bishop Bernardo Bastres Florence of Punta Arenas welcomed Cardinal Bertone “to the most southern diocese in world, to the land St. John Bosco dreamed about, where he sent his first and best sons to bring the Gospel to these ends of South America.”
For his part, the Vatican Secretary of State expressed his “immense motion” at “being among you in Punta Arenas, in the land of the last hope. I am moved to be in the land evangelized by the charism of St. John Bosco, founder of the Salesians, which has served you with generous commitment.”
“I bring the affection of the Holy Father who has given the Chilean people the pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Carmel. She is the mother of comfort who accompanies the regions that have suffered the consequences of the earthquake in a special way,” the cardinal said.
He also recalled “the generous action of John Paul II in the gift of the achievement of peace between Chile and Argentina. Today with the same strength as yesterday we pray for wisdom that those who govern nations may lead them always along the path of brotherhood, united by friendship and shared values.”
On Thursday, the cardinal visited the Salesian Museum and held a meeting with young people. He also celebrated Mass at the Cathedral at 7:00 p.m.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Apr 9, 2010 (CNA) - Amidst the torrential rains and mudslides that have led to more than 150 deaths in Rio de Janeiro in recent days, Archbishop Orani Joao Tempesta called on Catholics to collaborate with those affected and announced a solidarity campaign through Caritas to help in this effort.
In a statement the Brazilian archbishop said, “Amidst the calamities being experienced by our city Rio de Janeiro, I ask the parishes of our archdiocese to embrace those affected … joining efforts with public authorities and other entities at this difficult time.”
Archbishop Tempesta continued, “All donations we receive will be channeled through the parishes, in order to minimize the suffering of families, whether it be material aid—such as mattresses, hygiene products, potable water or food—or financial aid.”
“During this Easter Week,” he said, “I invoke the intercession of St. Sebastian, patron of our city, that the calamities might cease, and of St. George, that the people of our city might be strengthened amidst these difficulties.”
Vatican City, Apr 9, 2010 (CNA) - Peruvian reporter Martha Meier recently published an article in the newspaper El Comercio denouncing the “witch hunt against the Catholic Church” being carried out by the media, which is attempting to smear Pope Benedict XVI over cases of sexual abuse by some members of the clergy.
Meier said those who are seeking to tarnish the Pope's image “want to bring back their outdated ideology.”
After noting that the full force of the law must fall upon abusive priests, Meier asked, “Are those who rend their garments over the abominable acts of pedophilia really concerned about children? Do those who spill gobs of ink really seek the truth? The answer is no.”
Through their disinformation, she argued, “they discredit the Catholic Church, they cast blame on everyone and want to make the more than 2 billion Catholics all feel guilty.”
“Sexual abuse of pre-teen children by priests is the exception, not the norm,” Meier said. “The statistics reveal that it is an uncommon situation that involves 0.3% of the clergy.”
The Peruvian author then compared the treatment given to these few cases in the Church with those of humanitarian agencies such as the United Nations in emergency zones.
“Should the UN Peacekeeping forces disappear? Are Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his predecessors responsible?” she asked, referring to abuses carried out by peacekeeping troops. “If we followed the logic of the anti-clericals we would have to blame them, because the actions continue in those places where there ought to be help for those most in need,” she explained.
Meier said the kind of witch hunt being carried out against the Church does nothing to further democracy and ends up being a perverse and opportunistic form of terrorism.
Oakland, Calif., Apr 9, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Responding to an Associated Press story that accused the future Pope Benedict of resisting the laicization of a California priest accused of child sex abuse, spokesman Fr. Federico Lambardi stated today that the Vatican “doesn't believe it is necessary” to respond to “every single document taken out of context.”
The AP article, published on Friday, is based on a letter signed in 1985 by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, who was responding to a request by Bishop John Cummins of the Diocese of Oakland, California to remove priestly duties from Fr. Stephen Kiesle. At the time, Fr. Kiesle was accused of molesting two children in 1978.
The 1985 letter was written in Latin and translated for the AP by a professor at the University of Southern California. The AP charges that then-Cardinal Ratzinger “resisted pleas to de-frock the priest.” In the letter, the Holy Father is quoted as saying that the case needed “careful consideration, which necessitates a longer period of time.”
Though Fr. Lombardi did not comment on the specifics of the letter, he said on Friday that "The press office doesn't believe it is necessary to respond to every single document taken out of context regarding particular legal situations.”
“It is not strange that there are single documents which have Cardinal Ratzinger's signature,” he added.
Now-retired Bishop John Cummins, 82, whom the news agency said wrote the letter, told the AP in an interview that he did not recall doing so. “I wish I did write to Cardinal Ratzinger,” he said. “I don't think I was that smart.”