Archive of April 12, 2010

Italian academic criticizes Archbishop Chaput’s take on JFK speech

Rome, Italy, Apr 12, 2010 (CNA) - Reflecting upon Archbishop Charles Chaput’s speech about John F. Kennedy and U.S. church-state relations, an Italian academic has questioned whether Kennedy’s Houston speech in fact advanced secularism. Warning against subordinating religion to politics, he suggested the archbishop himself assumes too strong a connection between church-state separation and political institutions being indifferent to religion.

In a March 1 lecture at Houston Baptist University, the Archbishop of Denver criticized President John F. Kennedy's historic 1960 Houston campaign speech about his Catholic faith’s impact upon his political decisions.

Calling the speech “sincere, compelling, articulate – and wrong,” Archbishop Chaput said Kennedy’s view divided private beliefs from public duties, set the national interest over and against religion, and began “the project of walling religion away from the process of governance in a new and aggressive way.”

The archbishop’s criticisms were themselves critiqued by Luca Diotallevi, a sociology professor at the University of Roma Tre and a former senior fellow at the Harvard Divinity School. Diotallevi, a specialist in political science who is trusted by the Italian bishops’ conference, published his critique of Archbishop Chaput on Chiesa, the site of Vatican expert Sandro Magister.

In his essay, Diotallevi made two critical observations and suggested two avenues of research.

First, he questioned whether the character of Kennedy’s speech was in fact “secular.” One of the sources for the text was a commentary prepared for the candidate by Fr. John Courtney Murray, S.J. Fr. Murray had played a critical role in the drafting of the Second Vatican Council document on religious freedom “Dignitas Humanae.”

Diotallevi claimed Murray’s influence on Kennedy’s speech was “easy to trace” and thus casts doubt on its “secular” nature.

Archbishop Chaput had said Kennedy “needed to convince 300 uneasy Protestant ministers, and the country at large, that a Catholic like himself could serve loyally as our nation’s chief executive. Kennedy convinced the country, if not the ministers, and went on to be elected.”

To this, Diotallevi warned about the need for an accurate analysis of the origins of the “secular” American culture in the years surrounding Kennedy’s election. He noted that his audience of Protestant pastors was “anything but ‘secularists’.”

“A seasoned politician like John Kennedy would never have addressed an audience of that kind, in the hope of gaining its support, by proposing an attenuation or elimination of the public dimension of the Christian experience,” Diotallevi commented.

An analysis of the origins of secularism should distinguish among the many components of the North American “Protestant world,” he added.

Turning to his own analysis, Diotallevi argued that “Church” was too broad a concept. He listed three “manifestations” of the Church: the action of the baptized person who assumes and exercises political responsibilities; a public statement by the episcopate; and the exercise of an ecclesiastical power like the appointment of a bishop or the civil validation of a marriage celebrated with a religious ceremony.

Only in cases similar to the third example does the separation of powers become relevant, he argued. Using the concept “Church” makes unclear which model of political-religious relations is being defended and which is being criticized.

Diotallevi claimed that Archbishop Chaput’s interpretation of the First Amendment could be “counterproductive.” In his view, separation between political powers and religious powers is “a sign of Christian roots and influence.”

The Italian scholar warned of the risk that some might propose a relationship between politics and religion in which the latter becomes “an instrument (albeit valuable and well rewarded) of the former.”

He worried that some “evangelical” or neoconservative positions among Protestants and in “some fringes of the Catholic world” might take this approach.

Further, he questioned whether Archbishop Chaput’s speech at times put forward the view that the separation between Church and state must be rejected if one does not want indifferent political institutions. Diotallevi argued that a true understanding of religious freedom shows that this “rigid line” is “deceptive.”

Abandoning that understanding and accepting that a state should not be separated from a Church create the “grave risk” of a possible subjugation of religion and eventually of the Church.

He said religious freedom as understood in the U.S. or in Dignitas Humanae shows how religion and politics can be separated without indifferent political institutions and without the public irrelevance of the Church.

Diotallevi added that the simple public presence of the Church relativizes all political power.

“Beyond appearances, the Church and the Gospel gain nothing from conceding too much to political power, not even when it is friendly.”

Analyzing the differences between the archbishop and the scholar, Chiesa's Sandro Magister said the dispute is “not simply academic” but at the center of the confrontation between his policies and the American bishops especially on issues of life, family and education.

back to top

Pope reflects on Pius XII's role in history after biographical film

Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Apr 12, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Following his Saturday matinee viewing of a fictional film about Pius XII, the Holy Father commented that such films can be "useful and stimulating" in remembering the past which might otherwise be forgotten. Calling the late-Pontiff the Pope of charity and love, Benedict XVI underscored the role of Pius XII as the "father of all," especially during the Second World War.

Along with members of the production staff from Luxe Vide productions and Italy's Rai Television, members of the Vatican Secretariat of State and Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Pope Benedict watched the film "Pope Pius XII. Under the Roman Sky" at Castel Gandolfo.

He said that the movie, which dramatizes the Pope's life during World War II in Rome in a two-part series, "presents the fundamental role of Venerable Pius XII in the salvation of Rome and of so many persecuted ..."

Works that offer a look into people and events from the last century, said the Holy Father, "take on a particular value, especially for the new generations." They can be "useful and stimulating and can help to know a period that is not at all distant, but that the pursuant events of recent history and a fragmented culture can make (us) forget."

Pope Benedict spoke of Pius XII as "the Pontiff of our youth," saying that his "rich teaching" indicated the way of Truth, and that, under his direction, the Church was led into the Third Millenium. He emphasized the late-Pope's role "as father of all" in "presiding over the charity in Rome and the world, especially in the difficult time of the Second World Conflict."

The Holy Father described the wartime Pope as "the Primate of charity, of love," and said that love is "the global reason that moves thought and concrete action."

Pope Benedict said he was glad that "Under the Roman Sky" was able to transmit this "unifying principal" to the viewer and invited all to see this, "in light of the authentic witness of that great master of faith, hope and love that was Pope Pius XII."

The Holy Father continues to rest from his Holy Week schedule at Castel Gandolfo, but this morning he received bishops from Brazil, who are in Rome for their "ad Limina Apostolorum" visit.

back to top

Legion reacts to ‘slanderous publication’ in Spanish newspaper

Madrid, Spain, Apr 12, 2010 (CNA) - Responding to allegations made in an interview published yesterday by the Spanish newspaper, El Mundo, the regional director of the Legionaries of Christ in Spain, Father María Jesús Delgado, has sent a letter to the paper's editor, calling for a correction to be published. The interview, which was printed in a supplement entitled, “Chronicle of the Legionaries of Christ,” was incorrect in more than one respect, claims the Legionary.

An article by reporter Idoia Sota, which appeared in the supplement, claimed that an Italian villa in Termini, Palermo, which is owned by the Legion, was purchased from a Mafia mobster. However, Fr. Delgado notes, “The villa that [the Legion] owns in Termini, Palermo' and 'bought from a mobster' was actually an old abandoned hotel, located near Naples, 400 km (almost 250 miles) from Palermo (Sicily), and was not sold by a mobster."

The article also cited the book, “The Illusionist,” which describes alleged murders committed by Fr. Maciel. These allegations are “equally untrue and even more serious,” writes Fr. Delgado. “For example, the author of the book mentioned by Sota claims that Father Maciel killed ‘Father Yepes Javier Orozco’ by dumping him on a road in coastal France. In fact, Father Francisco Orozco Yepez (Sota even got the name wrong!) died swimming in the sea on a beach near Rapallo (Genoa, Italy) while Fr. Maciel was in Rome."

Fr. Delgado also expresses outrage at what Sota described as “the plot by Legionary superiors to poison Father Maciel and to hire detectives.” Such a statement is the “accusation of a crime,” writes the Spanish priest. “I ask Ms. Sota that if she has evidence, to immediately turn it over to authorities for prosecution. And if she does not know, how is it that she dares to make unsubstantiated allegations of this magnitude?”

Fr. Delgado also responds the claim that Legionary priests had hired detectives, saying “while that is no crime, I can say that is absolutely false."

"Mr. Editor, you will agree with me that the verification of facts is an inescapable duty of journalism,” says Fr. Delgado. “The verification of sources and facts, which has not occurred in this case, was particularly necessary when talking about people who have a special responsibility for the management of ecclesial organizations, who are honorable, and whose reputation must not be questioned without evidence,” Father Delgado emphasized.

“As a religious congregation of the Catholic Church,” Father Delgado said, “I can assure you that we are acting, and will act, with the utmost awareness of our mission to serve men and to responsibly fulfill our civil and ecclesial duties in the management of our institutions.”

"We will soon discuss with our attorneys if such responsible management also demands that we take legal action against slanderous publications such as this article," he added.

“There is no doubt the lamentable events, which we have recently reported about the life of our founder, are grotesque,” Fr. Delgado said. “However, we are also determined to deal decisively with this reality and in close collaboration with the Holy See (see our statement of March 25, 2010).

“We look to the future with great confidence. I have no doubt about what our task is: to build our lives on the rock of Peter, with the strength of the Risen Christ and the help of many people of good will."



back to top

Woman rejects pressure from employer to have abortion

Gerona, Spain, Apr 12, 2010 (CNA/Europa Press) - A criminal court in the Spanish city of Gerona has sentenced a restaurant owner to 19 months in prison and ordered him to pay over $6,000 for pressuring a waitress to undergo an abortion in order to keep her job. The woman refused and decided to keep her baby.

According to the court, the restaurant owner insisted the waitress have an abortion after learning she was pregnant.

Europa Press reported that the ruling said the woman was “about to interrupt” her pregnancy but that after “many doubts,” she decided to carry her child to term.  When her employment contract was not renewed, she was presented with a pink slip without severance pay.

After assistance from a local union, she was given severance pay in the amount of approximately $2,500.  The union also provided the woman’s legal defense and called the ruling a “model sentence” in the fight against workplace harassment.

The court praised the woman's “high level of maturity” in response to the harassment, noting that the owner failed to adopt necessary measures to support her and was guilty of making the woman move heavy boxes, creating a “hostile” working environment.

back to top

Abuse scandals not exclusive to Catholic church, asserts Mexican lawyer

Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 12, 2010 (CNA) -

The president of the College of Catholic Lawyers in Mexico, Armando Martinez, addressed the Mexican Bishops’ Conference last week and said they should “follow the example of Cardinal Norberto Rivera of Mexico City by issuing a “blunt statement” on cases of pedophilia.  Martinez emphasized that these cases are not exclusive to the Catholic Church and only involve a very small number of her members.

Martinez pointed out that Cardinal Rivera has always provided firm leadership and has not been involved in covering up cases of abuse. The cardinal “has exhorted the faithful to denounce these cases in the courts, and this is the attitude that all bishops in the country must have.  They should be blunt in their statements as has the body of bishops, in order to provide assurance to the faithful,” Martinez said.

He also recalled that most cases of abuse do not occur in church environments.  “This is not something exclusive to the Catholic Church; experts have confirmed that 80 percent of pedophilia cases occur within the family at home. 

"This is not to excuse what has happened in the Church, but there is no reason to label only certain people with this crime.”

Martinez expressed support for the cardinal’s call to denounce the sexual abuse of minors, but stressed that each case must be proven.

back to top

Cardinal Bertone delivers statue of Our Lady of Carmel to Chile

Santiago, Chile, Apr 12, 2010 (CNA) - Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, celebrated Mass on Sunday at the Cathedral of Santiago and officially presented a statue of Our Lady of Carmel as a gift from Pope Benedict XVI to Chile.  The pilgrim statue will travel to the various cities in the country that were affected by the February earthquake.

The Vicar General for Ministry in Santiago and the National Coordinator of the Continental Mission, Msgr. Cristian Precht remarked that this statue “will accompany us in our sorrow—mothers can always identify with sorrow, thanks be to God—but it is also here to renew us in our faith.”

Father Carlos Cox, who is rector of the Shrine of Maipu and will coordinate the pilgrim statue’s tour throughout the country, added, “The most important aspect of this statue is that it brings us close to Jesus, who encourages us and helps us with what is essential in the Continental Mission, which is the encounter with the Living Christ.”

The pilgrimage of the statue “does not only have a religious meaning; it also seeks to awaken Chile to a new stage in her life that not only has to do with reconstruction but with re-creating as well. For this reason we believe this is perhaps going to be one of the most powerful and strongest aspects of our bicentennial, not only from a religious perspective, but also from the perspective of our society.”

The statue was created by Ecuadoran artist Ricardo Villalba and depicts Our Lady of Carmel standing upon the Shrine of Maipu, with the Cross of Chile at her back and the Child Jesus in her left arm.

back to top

European statisticians cast doubt on C-14 dating of Shroud of Turin

Rome, Italy, Apr 12, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Results of radiocarbon dating carried out by three laboratories in 1988 which placed the origins of the Shroud in the 13th or 14th century cannot be considered as "conclusive," according to the Italian Society of Statistics (SIS). A recent "robust statistical analysis" run by a group of statisticians claims to debunk the original results, which they say contain huge inconsistencies.

Four professors, three Italian and one English, published an article in the online SIS Magazine on March 31 that revisited the original data reported in "Nature" magazine, by Damon et al. from laboratories in Tuscon, Zurich and Oxford.

Errors that Damon and his colleagues found in their 1988 test were found not to be significant, and the results were deemed to provide "conclusive evidence" of the Shroud's medieval origins.

According to the professors' calculations in their recent SIS article, these conclusions should be revisited.

The statisticians cited by SIS write that if Damon et al.'s numbers are subject to more thorough testing the margin of error in the results is proven to be greater than originally thought. They propose that if the data from the original 12 tests carried out to determine the age of the Shroud are re-run through a "robust statistical analysis," the "non-uniform," but linear results show the probable presence of contamination.

They do not venture a guess at the source of the contamination, but propose that it could be the source of a trend in the numbers that shows a significant, "non-negligible" variation.

All of the samples from 1988 were taken from a single section of the cloth measuring less than a centimeter.

According to the professors, if the systematic inconsistencies present in the statistics were to be applied to the entire four meters of the Shroud, the results for the dating could vary by up to 20,000 years.

They also mentioned that according to Willard Libby, who developed the Carbon-14 dating process along with colleagues from the University of Chicago in 1949, the technique cannot give a reliable result for organic materials subject to unknown environmental factors that may have influenced them in the past.

The Shroud of Turin may have previously been exposed during outdoor exhibitions and was subjected to extreme heat during a fire in 1532.

Pilgrims are currently able to view the Shroud, which is on exhibition for the first time since 2000. The current exhibition runs from April 10 – May 23 at the Turin Cathedral.

back to top

Canon lawyer: New guide on responding to abuse shows Church is serious

New York City, N.Y., Apr 12, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Holy See released a document today outlining the procedures used by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) to respond to legitimate reports of sexual abuse. Canon lawyer Fr. Gerald Murray told CNA that the “Guide will help all people understand that the Holy See, working with local bishops, is seriously engaged in removing criminal priests from the priesthood.”

Fr. Ciro Benedetti, sub-director of the Holy See’s Press Office, told journalists that these procedures are “nothing new” as they are simply a summary of elements and procedures which were established in John Paul II’s Motu Proprio “Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela” in 2001.

Commenting on the document, titled, “A Guide to Understanding Basic CDF Procedures concerning Sexual Abuse Allegations,” Canon lawyer Fr. Gerald Murray called it an “excellent summary of the procedures followed by the Holy See and by local bishops in dealing with allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clerics.” Fr. Murray added, “It provides basic information to make clear the seriousness with which allegations of these horrendous crimes by the clergy are treated and resolved.”

The document states that all cases must first be investigated locally.

“It is the duty of the local bishop to conduct a serious investigation once he has received an allegation bearing a ‘semblance of truth;’ the results of the investigation must be sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The local bishop must also give his opinion on what procedures should be followed,” explained Fr. Murray.

“The duty of local bishops to report allegations of sexual abuse of minors is clearly stated. This is a serious obligation,” he emphasized.

The document also clearly states that, as part of the “ordinary authority” of the local bishop, he has the discretion to impose measures to protect children and safeguard the community. This means that he is allowed to restrict a priest’s activities at all times. This is also true while an investigation by the CDF is underway.

Fr. Murray also clarified that the CDF has three procedural avenues to pursue when allegations are raised against a priest. The first option is a judicial penal trial before the local Church. The second possibility is an administrative penal trial before the local Church. The final way that a decision could be reached about a priest accused of sexual abuse is by direct judgment of the Pope “resulting in a decree dismissing the offending cleric from the clerical state.”

The decision to send a case directly to Pope Benedict could be made “in cases of those already found guilty in a civil criminal trial or where the evidence is overwhelming,” Fr. Murray said. In such cases, the CDF may also request that the priest be dismissed from the clerical state.

If the accused priest admits to the abuse and accepts a life devoted to prayer and penance, his public ministry is prohibited or restricted by authorization of the CDF.

Alternatively, “Priests who request laicization ‘cognizant of their crimes’… are dispensed from the obligations of the priesthood by the Pope. They will not be kept on as priests,” said the canon lawyer.

Ultimately, Fr. Murray said, “the Guide will help all people understand that the Holy See, working with local bishops, is seriously engaged in removing criminal priests from the priesthood, and that civil authorities must be notified as soon as an allegation having even a semblance of truth is received by the local bishop.”

The Holy See’s Press Office has made the information available to the public through its official website,, under the “Abuse of Minors: The Church’s Response” section.

back to top

Pro-abortion nominee Dawn Johnsen withdraws bid for Office of Legal Council

Washington D.C., Apr 12, 2010 (CNA) - Dawn Johnsen announced her decision last Friday to withdraw her bid for the White House Office of Legal Council, citing political delays and opposition. The law professor was outspoken in her advocacy for legalized abortion, including partial-birth abortion.

“Unfortunately, my nomination has met with lengthy delays and political opposition that… prevent OLC (the Office of Legal Counsel) from functioning at full strength,” Johnsen said in a statement April 9. “I hope that the withdrawal of my nomination will allow this important office to be filled promptly."

Johnsen, who has faced criticism in the past for her strong pro-abortion stance, was nominated the first time by President Obama in 2009. Though her nomination was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in an 11 to 7 vote, it eventually expired. Due to bureaucratic maneuvering, she never officially served in that position.

According the California Catholic Daily, the nomination has held back in the Senate Judiciary Committee four times due to a lack of consensus on a date for the full Senate to take up confirmation.

Because of the repeated delays, a letter from hundreds of law professors was signed on Feb. 1 and sent to Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), urging him to speed along Johnsen's nomination. Signatories of the letter included professors from Catholic universities, such as Santa Clara University, the University of San Francisco, and Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

The Associated Press reported on Saturday that Johnsen's nomination had been stalled so long that she resumed teaching at Indiana University while commuting back and forth between Bloomington, Ind. and Washington D.C.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, in April 2009 called Johnsen's view on abortion  “bizzare.”

“Dawn Johnsen does not represent mainstream America or the type of common ground abortion policy President Obama promised this nation,” Dannenfelser said last April.

“Her bizarre characterizations of pregnancy as 'slavery' and mothers as 'losers in the contraceptive lottery' expose an unacceptable disdain for commonsense abortion restrictions and motherhood in general. Furthermore, Johnsen's opposition to existing federal restrictions like the ban on partial-birth abortion casts doubt on her ability to perform her duties faithfully as the head of the Office of Legal Counsel.”

back to top

AP guilty of bad journalism in Oakland abuse reporting, says Ignatius Press founder

Oakland, Calif., Apr 12, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Responding to a recent Associated Press article that claimed a 1985 letter showed then-Cardinal Ratzinger “stalled” the case of a pedophile priest in the Diocese of Oakland, Ignatius Press founder Fr. Joseph Fessio said that the letter was not meant to address punishing the priest for sexual abuse. Diocesan spokesman Mike Brown also told CNA that contrary to the AP report, the priest had “no priestly role in the diocese” after he was accused of sexual misconduct.

On April 9, the AP released an exclusive report that claimed to show Pope Benedict resisted “pleas to defrock” a California priest, Fr. Stephen Kiesle, who was accused of molesting two children in 1978. 

The AP cites a letter, written by then-Cardinal Ratzinger in 1985, which addresses a request by Bishop John Cummins of the Diocese of Oakland to remove Fr. Kiesle from the priesthood. In his letter to the Oakland Bishop, Cardinal Ratzinger said that a careful review and more time was necessary for the removal of vows.

The AP then claimed that the case “languished” in the Vatican until Fr. Kiesle was “ultimately stripped of his priestly powers” in 1987. The Associated Press also reported that Fr. Kiesle served as a youth group minister in the diocese in the 1980s after being accused of sexual misconduct.

Mike Brown, communications director for the Diocese of Oakland, told CNA on Monday afternoon that the AP did not contact the diocese for confirmation or comment on the story it published last Friday.

The AP article implied that Fr. Kiesle “just wandered about the diocese or had priestly ministries or was still quite active,” after being accused of sex abuse, Brown said.  However, “the answer,” he stressed, “is absolutely not.”

“In 1979 shortly after his arrest and all of these charges,” Brown explained, Fr. Kiesle “was removed formally from active ministry in the diocese by Bishop Cummins. And from that period of November of 1979 forward, Kiesle served no priestly role in the diocese.”

The implication, then, that Fr. Kiesle was “offending again and again during this hiatus before he was laicized  is absolutely incorrect,” Brown insisted.

Responding to the AP's charge that Fr. Kiesle served as a youth minister within the diocese in the 1980s, Brown explained that Kiesle “through a pastor sometime in the 80s, volunteered on his own in a parish youth ministry program without any diocesan sanction or approval.” Upon learning of Kiesle's actions, Bishop Cummins “had the parish pastor remove Kielse immediately,” the diocesan spokesman added.

Ignatius Press founder Fr. Fessio took on additional inaccuracies in the AP story, stressing that the 1985 letter from Cardinal Ratzinger regarding the removal of Fr. Kiesle from the priesthood concerned the issue of dispensing him from his vows, not punishing him for sexual misconduct.

“The bishop can remove his (a priest's) faculties from saying Mass, from hearing confessions, to acting in the parish immediately with no canonical trial and with no appeal to Rome,” Fr. Fessio explained. “It's totally in the hands of the bishop.”

“To say 'oh this priest is an abuser, he should be removed from the priesthood,' well, first of all, you can never remove anyone from the priesthood,” he clarified. “You're always a priest. What you're doing is saying, 'well you're no longer going to practice your priesthood,' which you can do without dispensing from the vows of chastity.”

“Priests are priests forever,” he added, “and a question of whether or not a priest should be dispensed from his vows is a question which is on a different level from a question of how do we punish someone for abusing children.”

Fr. Fessio also stressed that at the time of the Oakland case, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), of which Cardinal Ratzinger was prefect, was not responsible for dealing with sex abuse cases. In fact, it was at Cardinal Ratzinger's consistent urging that the CDF took on sex abuse cases in 2001, so that they could be dealt with in a more timely and efficient manner.

The only reason that Cardinal Ratzinger even wrote that letter to Bishop Cummins in 1985, said Fr. Fessio, was because it involved the dispensation of the vow of celibacy.

In light of the facts surrounding the Oakland case, Fr. Fessio charged that, “journalistically,” the AP has been “extremely unprofessional.”

“When they are doing this kind of reporting, they should be finding people who know about how the Church works, what canon law is, what this process is,” he said.  “They should not go to print until they've talked to people who know.”

However, because “they haven't done that,” said Fr. Fessio, the AP demonstrated “unprofessional journalism of the worst order.”

back to top

Follow us:

Recent activity: