Milwaukee, Wis., May 20, 2010 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Milwaukee recently announced that Archbishop Jerome Listecki will give a special blessing to motorcycle riders on May 30. The prelate expressed delight in the opportunity, saying, “I want them, and all people of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, to be safe this summer and always, whether they are riding motorcycles or not.”
The “biker blessing” will take place at the Harley Davidson Museum in Milwaukee. According to the event spokeswoman, Gillian Lester-George, after the museum staff invited him, Archbishop Listecki “was more than happy to sign on for the event.”
Commenting on the upcoming blessing, the archbishop said, “In the spirit of St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers, I am happy to bless motorcycle enthusiasts. I want them, and all people of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, to be safe this summer and always, whether they are riding motorcycles or not.”
Lester-George noted that both the Harley-Davidson Museum as well as the archdiocese invite everyone to “join Archbishop Listecki for a blessing to kick-off the summer season.”
Santiago, Chile, May 20, 2010 (CNA) - The Latin American Democratic Bridge Network recently announced the creation of the “Prize for Democratic Openness in Cuba” and has decided to grant the first award to the Varela Project.
The network explained on its website that the prize highlights “the work of Cubans who, despite great obstacles, encourage their fellow countrymen to begin the path towards the transition to democracy.”
“The Cuban government has set up a one-party regime that represses the exercise of democratic freedom and prevents any type of peaceful political transformation. Any call for openness in Cuba implies having great courage and assuming enormous risks."
The Varela Project calls for democratic changes in country’s laws through a referendum.
The panel charged with selecting the recipient of the prize includes former Chilean President Patricio Aylwin, Senator Soledad Alvear, Representative Patricio Walker and Peruvian Lourdes Flores Nano. The judges said the Varela Project has obtained “unprecedented citizen support within Cuba and has had enormous repercussions internationally.” They called the Varela Project “one of the peaceful initiatives within Cuba that has suffered the most in terms of the number of members imprisoned and given extended sentences during the wave of repression of March 2003.”
“The jury wishes to extend this recognition of the Varela Project to all the initiatives in Cuba that promote political openness through non-violent means and consequently respect for fundamental democratic freedoms,” the network announced.
The Latin American Democratic Bridge Network’s mission is to “promote democracy and human rights in Latin America through the creation of bonds of solidarity, dialogue and reflection between different people and entities of civil society who are already committed in their countries to democratic values.”
Rome, Italy, May 20, 2010 (CNA) - Britain's Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has provided additional funding to a Christian satellite television network for the Middle East and North Africa looking to increase their live broadcasting capabilities. The greater exposure will help them to reach more Christians in the 19 countries where they broadcast.
ACN reported on Wednesday that with the nearly $19,000 they have given to SAT-7's television studio in Cairo, more live feeds will be offered and the quality of programs will be improved.
As part of its "common vision" with ACN, SAT-7 seeks to promote increased understanding among Christians, provide accurate information on the faith and improve inter-religious cooperation through news, debate, music and drama programs.
According the Executive Director of SAT-7’s European Office, Kurt Johansen, “From the beginning we said we want(ed) to unite the churches in their diversity – (to) show they can have unity.
“We don’t hide differences but we discuss them in a polite and civilized way.”
The network, which currently offers programming from a variety of Christian denominations, touts the increased ability to offer live broadcasting to the eight million people who tune in to SAT-7 as an exciting way to "enable real interaction with viewers."
An example of the network's offerings are the live discussions between leading members of Eastern Orthodox, Oriental, Catholic and Protestant traditions who are available for call-in questions from the viewing audience.
In the Middle East, where "TV is the media," and people watch more television on average than in any other place on Earth, it is the most effective way to reach Christians across the 19 countries in the area, said Johansen.
He went on to explain that “Many Christians are not very well educated, they cannot read, they have no access to a priest – but on SAT-7 they can tune in and 24 hours a day learn about and have deeper roots in the Christian faith.”
It was also noted that in countries where Christian literature is subject to restrictions, the Christian satellite broadcasts go untouched.
Commenting on the ability of the broadcasting to eliminate misunderstandings between denominations, Johansen noted, “There is more respect, more tolerance – it’s tearing down barriers in a positive way.”
ACN reported that the recent donation to the Cairo studio followed encouragement from Pope Benedict XVI in 2008 for increased assistance to Christians in the Middle East as well as more financial support for broadcasting to help Catholic communities.
Besides the live feeds, SAT-7 programs include Christian soap operas, Bible-based films, quiz shows on Scripture and even weekly addresses from Coptic Orthodox leader Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria.
Chicago, Ill., May 20, 2010 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Chicago recently stated that a woman, “ordained” by the group “Roman Catholic Womenpriests,” will not be buried in a Catholic cemetery due to her deliberate separation from the Catholic Church.
According to a Chicago Public Radio report, Janine Denomme passed away five weeks after her “priestly ordination” by Roman Catholic Womenpriests. In 2008, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declared that any woman attempting priestly ordination would automatically excommunicated from the Catholic Church.
Due to her willing refusal of Catholic teaching, the Archdiocese of Chicago has said that Denomme will not have a Catholic funeral or be buried in a Catholic cemetery.
The gay-friendly Windy City Times reported that Denomme always was active in the Church, working with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and teaching at Chicago's St. Scholastica High School and DePaul University. She was also a partnered lesbian.
The schismatic group Roman Catholic Womenpriests also acknowledges on its website that they do not follow all teachings of the Church: “Yes, we have challenged and broken the Church's Canon Law 1024, an unjust law that discriminates against women.”
Rochester, N.Y., May 20, 2010 (CNA) - As former Protestant minister Scott Caton prepares for his ordination as a Catholic priest in 2011, his wife and six children are prayerfully offering their support. As a priest, he hopes to focus on reconciling men and women with God and to “break down” any misunderstandings between Protestants and Catholics.
“My wife and children have been incredibly supportive and I could not do this without their love and prayer,” Caton told the Diocese of Rochester, N.Y.
In 1980, the Vatican created a Pastoral Provision allowing married Lutheran, Anglican and Episcopal ministers to enter the priesthood after their conversion and theological-catechetical formation.
Caton has been married for 28 years and is a former Protestant minister. Twelve years ago, he converted to Catholicism, but recognized that God was calling him to more.
According to the Rochester diocese, Caton remarked that he has “always felt this tug, this inner true desire to continue with my vocation, in conjunction with my academic work.”
“The inward drive to become Catholic was related to my study of Scripture, theology, and the Church’s rich history, but also the beauty and the power of the Eucharist, and my need and desire for it. And as time went on, I increasingly felt the need to be a part of giving not only myself, but also the Eucharist, to people in the way that only a priest can do.”
Caton spoke with Bishop of Rochester Matthew H. Clark about his desire to become a priest and began undergoing preparations.
Bishop Clark expressed his excitement and pleasure at Caton's decision to become a priest saying, “Scott is a man of strong faith and keen intellect, with a wonderful personality. He’s a good man and will be a good priest.”
Caton also received permission to be ordained from both the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Pope Benedict.
He will be ordained a transitional deacon on June 5 by Bishop Clark.
Caton emphasized that he is excited to “reconcile women and men with God, to help bring people to their Creator, to closeness to God and closer to each other. And in some way, because of my background and my perspective, perhaps too I can help break down any walls of misunderstanding between Protestants and Catholics.”
According to the Office of Pastoral Provision, since 1983, over 70 married men have been ordained in the United States under this provision.
Vatican City, May 20, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - During a recent symposium in Rome on the Orthodox and Catholic Churches of Europe, the no-nonsense president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Walter Kasper, reflected briefly on the future of Europe. With his characteristic frankness, he said, "If Europe wants to have a future again, it must first and foremost renew its Christian roots."
The symposium “Orthodox and Catholics in Europe today. The Christian roots and the common cultural heritage of the East and West” took place Wednesday afternoon at the Rome's Russian Orthodox parish of St. Catherine of Alexandria. It one of a number of events during the "Days of Russian Culture and Spirituality in the Vatican," running from May 19-20.
Speaking of ecumenism and the goal of achieving full communion between Christians, Cardinal Kasper noted the necessity of using dialogue in efforts and not force or submission, according to SIR news.
Recalling the "new intensity and urgency" in the commitment to relations between Eastern and Western churches after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the cardinal said that it also brought back to the surface the schism between Rome and Constantinople in the 11th century.
Evidence of "existential emptiness" was seen on both sides, remarked the head of the Vatican dicastery for Christian Unity. The West was seen to be characterized by "post-modern indifferentism and the mentality of consumer escapism,” while the East was marked by “the blameworthy traces and spiritual devastation” resulting from “atheist propaganda” of the Communist era, Cardinal Kasper observed.
Addressing these issues in the current situation, Cardinal Kasper warned, “If Europe wants to have a future again, it must first and foremost renew its Christian roots.” This renewal's only chance of success, he added, is through the re-evangelization of the continent.
The 77-year-old prelate noted that in their crises, the East and West face similar challenges, historically being civilizations "deeply defined by the Christian faith."
He added that it isn't Christianity itself, rather its "inculturation" that is in danger in Europe. The continent is marked by spiritual weakness, he said, and it needs a renewal beginning with the healing of Christian divisions.
“To find its spiritual and missionary strength again, Europe needs a new-found unity, first and foremost among Christians.”
In that vein, a joint Italian-Russian Academy was inaugurated today in Rome. The Academy will offer a permanent place for encounters between Church and civil delegates and for the development of relations between the nations.
The culminating event of the "Days of Russian Culture and Spirituality in the Vatican" is a concert offered Thursday evening at Paul VI Hall as a gift from Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill I to Pope Benedict XVI.
Boston, Mass., May 20, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - In response to the media firestorm over the Archdiocese of Boston contradicting the decision of a local Catholic elementary school to cancel the admission of the child of a same-sex couple, Cardinal Sean O'Malley condemned criticism of the school's priest who made the initial decision and outlined the need for the archdiocese to “formulate policies” with clearer guidelines.
Last week, St. Paul Catholic elementary school in Hingham, Mass. withdrew admission for the upcoming year to the 8-year-old child of a lesbian couple. Principal Cynthia Duggen and the parish's pastor Fr. James Rafferty told one of the women during a conference call that the boy could not attend because the parents' relationship “was in discord with the teachings of the Catholic Church,” which state that marriage can only take place between one man and one woman.
However, in a statement that Thursday, Dr. Mary Grassa O'Neill, superintendent of Catholic schools in Boston, countered St. Paul's decision, saying that the “Archdiocese does not prohibit children of same sex parents from attending Catholic schools.”
Dr. O'Neill issued her statement while Cardinal O'Malley was in Fatima, Portugal for the Holy Father's recent papal trip.
On May 19, the Boston cardinal released a statement defending the priest, saying that one “of the very unfortunate results of the public reporting on the issue was undue criticism of Father James Rafferty who is pastor at St. Paul Parish, and who I consider one of our finest pastors.”
“He made a decision about the admission of the child to St. Paul School based on his pastoral concern for the child,” the cardinal added. “I can attest personally that Father Rafferty would never exclude a child to sanction the child’s parents.”
“After consulting with the school principal, exercising his rights as pastor, he made a decision based on an assessment of what he felt would be in the best interests of the child.”
“I have great admiration for Fr. Rafferty; he has my full confidence and support,” the prelate underscored.
Cardinal O'Malley also expressed a desire to “recognize the work of Dr. Mary Grassa O’Neill, Secretary for Education,” who, in his opinion, “was respectful of all the people involved in this matter and showed leadership in attempting to resolve the matter as was within her responsibilities as Superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese.”
“There were no easy decisions made and all the people involved approached this from the same perspective: the pastoral care and best interests of the child,” he noted.
Referring to a similar situation in Boulder, Colorado, where Archbishop Charles Chaput backed a school's decision to rescind admission to two children with lesbian parents, Cardinal O'Malley said that the Archdiocese of Denver “has formulated a policy that calls into question the appropriateness of admitting the children of same-sex couples.”
“It is clear that all of their school policies are intended to foster the welfare of the children and fidelity to the mission of the Church,” he noted, adding that their “positions and rationale must be seriously considered.”
In his statement, Cardinal O'Malley also stressed the need for clearer archdiocesan policies on admittance of children with same-sex parents. “In Boston we are beginning to formulate policies and practices to deal with these complex pastoral matters. In all of our decision making, our first concern is the welfare of the children involved.”
“It is true that we welcome people from all walks of life,” he explained. “But we recognize that, regardless of the circumstances involved, we maintain our responsibility to teach the truths of our faith, including those concerning sexual morality and marriage.”
“We need to present the Church’s teachings courageously and yet in a way that is compassionate and persuasive.”
“Going forward,” Cardinal O'Malley concluded, “we will be consulting on these issues with a wide-range of people including the Presbyteral Council and Archdiocesan Pastoral Council. We will work to develop policies and procedures to guide our faithfully carrying on the mission of our Catholic Schools to serve children and to do so with the heart of Christ.”
Vatican City, May 20, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Wrapping up a two-day initiative for the promotion of Russian culture and spirituality at the Holy See, a concert featuring Russian and Italian music will be offered for the Pope. The event marks the culmination of events which have exhibited an increased warmth of relations between the Russian Orthodox and Catholic Churches and could lead to an encounter between their leaders.
The evening concert, which is a special gift from Kirill I, Patriarch of Moscow and of All Russia, to Pope Benedict XVI, will be held at the Paul VI Hall just beside St. Peter's Basilica. It is the final item on the schedule of "Days of Russian Culture and Spirituality in the Vatican."
Metropolitan Hilarion Afleyev of Volokolamsk will begin the event with a greeting, which will be followed by orchestral and choral music, and finally, an address from Pope Benedict.
Vatican and Orthodox Church participants in a May 19 press conference spoke of the Russia Days as a further step forward in the relations between the Churches, which have been separated since the "Great Schism" nearly a thousand years ago. Cardinal Walter Kasper of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity called the current climate "a new stage" in relations.
Speaking about the significance of the concert, Metropolitan Hilarion told reporters that "there are things which cannot be transmitted either through theology or through diplomacy but that can be transmitted through 'language of art.'"
He explained that "a very strong language is the language of music."
Art is valuable in bringing about dialogue between cultures: they can "liberate us from prejudices, from negative feelings toward each other that we might have inherited from the past.”
“I see many positive signs in the development of this particular type of dialogue,” the metropolitan said.
He also mentioned that a landmark meeting between Patriarch Kirill I and Pope Benedict XVI is "possible" in the future. He said that there is still much planning to be done, but "times have changed" and with it, people also change. His idea is that, considering the appreciation of the Orthodox Church for the current Pope, "a meeting should be held between Kirill and Benedict XVI in particular, rather than some patriarch and some pope."
Other events along the course of the two days have been a symposium on Eastern and Western Church history and relations, the inauguration of a photo exhibit and Mass at the local Russian parish of St. Catherine of Alexandria.
Mexico City, Mexico, May 20, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Various civil organizations have denounced U.N. officials for interfering in the affairs of Latin America countries in an attempt to pressure them to adopt gender policies.
The Institute for Formation, Research and Study of Women and the Family in Chile, the Population Research Institute, the Institute for Family Wellbeing in Panama and the Pro-Yucatan Network in Mexico said nations should be defined and supported by the U.N. and not threatened and pressured. They called it alarming that the U.N. has issued an “ultimatum” to Latin American countries telling them that they must respond to its “recommendations” that the United Nations' gender and abortion directives be implemented.
The organizations said some officials have lost sight of the U.N.’s mission to strengthen peace and protect the fundamental human rights proclaimed in 1948. In particular, they singled out Liliana Valina of the U.N. Office for Human Rights in Mexico, who issued an ultimatum to Mexico demanding the country implement U.N. policies.
Carlos Polo, director for Latin America of the Population Research Institute, has repeated denounced the excesses committed by U.N. officials who promote anti-life and anti-family ideologies.
“Unfortunately this happens when some organizations think they know what’s best for others,” he said, noting that “some members of the committees that monitor international treaties have been seduced by these theories. And they have even gone so far as to use their positions to give the impression that the entire U.N. organization supports them, but this is not the case.”
Polo said such officials regularly demand accountability from nations and employ terms such as “demand,” “deplore” or “congratulate” in reference to the country in question in their efforts to force it to introduce policies such as the legalization of abortion or gender ideology in public policy.
Vatican City, May 20, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The secretary for the Congregation for the Clergy, Archbishop Mauro Piacenza, said this week that celibacy, which was embraced by Christ throughout his whole life and to which all those who consecrate their lives to Church are called, signifies “total dedication to the service of God and man.”
In an interview with the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the archbishop revealed details about the closing of the Year of Priests and spoke about Jesus' life of celibacy.
Christ’s state of virginity, Archbishop Piacenza said, “was united in full harmony with his mission as mediator between Heaven and earth and as eternal priest. The Son of God took on human form and entrusted himself completely to the Father, giving Him the total and exclusive love of his own heart … Virginity is part of his very essence.”
“Christ is virginity itself and therefore he is its model,” he explained.
Reflecting on the Church's requirement of celibacy for priests and religious, the archbishop noted, “there are certainly many reasons why celibacy is convenient, both historical and biblical, spiritual and pastoral, but above all it is essential to adhere to the source of everything, Christ himself.”
Closing of the Year for Priests
In explaining the events for the closing of the Year of Priests scheduled for June 9-11, Archbishop Piacenza said the first day would be dedicated to conversion and the mission of priests.
“We will gather at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, where following the example of the Apostle to the Gentiles, we will meditate on the dimension of permanent conversion in the life of the priest and on the sanctity and efficacy of his mission.”
The second day “was originally planned for the Basilica of St. Mary Major, but the great number of priests who have registered, now nearly seven thousand, will not have enough space in the Marian basilica so we will be at St. Paul’s again. The idea is to meet together in a renewed cenacle, as apostles gathered around the Blessed Virgin Mary awaiting the Spirit.”
The closing Mass on Friday, June 11, will be celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI.
Brussels, Belgium, May 20, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Bishops of Belgium have apologized for aggression against victims of sexual abuse and for the inadequate support they received. In a pastoral letter, they pledge "concrete measures" to prevent further abuses.
The message, which was delivered by way of a pastoral letter to the Belgian Church, was released within weeks of the bishops' visit Vatican for their "ad Limina." One of the subjects the Belgian bishops discussed with the Pope and Roman Curia officials was sexual abuse against minors.
In the letter to the Belgian faithful, the bishops addressed the "serious damage" to the confidence between priests and the faithful which was caused by the "shockwave" of Bishop Roger Joseph Vangheluwe's resignation on April 23 over his admission that he sexually abused a boy.
Emphasizing that "the safety and protection of children takes priority over anything else," they acknowledged that Church officials did not fully realize the "extent of the child abuse tragedy and its tremendous consequences.
"With this silence, the reputation of the Church institution and of her ministers has been placed ahead of the dignity of young victims," they stated.
“We ask forgiveness of all abuse victims for the aggression and for the inadequate support they received. Likewise, we ask for forgiveness both from the relatives of the victims and from society for the consequences of such abuse," the letter said.
"The abusers got a second chance, while the victims carried in their flesh the injuries that cannot or can hardly heal," it said. "We thank the victims who found the courage to break through this wall of silence by telling what happened to them."
The Belgian Church leaders added that they hope that "the path of reconciliation will still be open to us" and noted that this "crisis" forces those with responsibility in the Church to “face the problems, call them by their name, and address them with the cooperation of competent persons."
The bishops pledged to take action to confront the situation through "concrete measures, with the support of Benedict XVI.” They also vowed to create more stringent entrance requirements for candidates to the priesthood, to commit themselves to providing effective supervision and support to pastoral workers and to draft a code of ethics for those who work with children or vulnerable adults.
The letter closes with a message of gratitude for those who work within the Church for a "more humane and just world" and a prayer that the Holy Spirit give them "enough wisdom and courage to build a church that reflects the genuine love of God to men."
Rome, Italy, May 20, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Neonatal doctor Carlo Bellieni writes in Thursday's edition of L'Osservatore Romano that he is "pleasantly surprised" by a show broadcast on MTV Italy which tells the stories of teenage moms. In showing real situations and speaking of subjects that are often not touched, the shows tell the story of life, which speaks for itself against abortion.
While there are several MTV programs-- "Sixteen and Pregnant" or "Teen Mom"-- that present the stories of girls who are confronting a pregnancy, Dr. Bellieni believes that there is an "emblematic" quality to an Italian broadcast called "Mom by Chance." The program features young moms, babies in hand, speaking about their experiences.
He says that in comparison to the other shows, this program sets itself apart because rather than focusing completely on information about contraceptives, "stories are told of teenagers that remain pregnant and don't abort."
The title of the program could be read as indicative of superficial sexual relations, he observes, while on the positive side, it transmits "the normalcy of accepting an 'unplanned child.'"
Among the quotes cited in the article is one from a 19-year-old who says, "Between changing your entire life and saying 'I'll abort,' I chose the first. It was simpler: abortion is wrong, it's a trauma. The panic was saying it to my family."
Dr. Bellieni admits that subjects such as life, abortion, contraception, gynecologists and ultrasounds are batted around on all the programs, yet, he emphasizes, in this one, "finally someone says that the arrival of a child isn't a tragedy; it's an unforeseen event, an effort, a huge change, but it's an item of fact."
The girls on the show "have taken note of this reality and they've given a turn to their lives."
He goes on to applaud the "normalcy" of the program and says that the show serves to combat the "modernist phobia" of having children, without "enticing" youth to precocious relations or inducing superficiality. "Rather," he proposes, "they explain the hardship of becoming a mom at 18 years old today, and of becoming one without a family."
"The MTV shows are well done," he says, comparing them with other programs that visibly force the issue, seeking happy endings at all costs or avoiding certain themes, not speaking of abortion and maternity at all. The other shows, Dr. Bellieni observes, all talk about laws, "methods," and rights, but "no one tells in a real way what it is to abort, what a child is, how a family is hard and beautiful."
The neonatal phsycian concludes with the observation that MTV's programs don't provide a flat out "no" to abortion, but, he adds, "to create a different culture it is sufficient to show, to tell the story: the strength of life is affirmed on its own. It just can't be censored."
Manila, Philippines, May 20, 2010 (CNA) - A retired Catholic archbishop in the Philippines has said he has witnesses proving that results of the country’s May 10 national elections were manipulated in some regions. The elections mark the first time an electronic voting system has been used in the country.
Archbishop Oscar Cruz, former head of the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan, said a former member of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) told him that election fraud plotters were trying to rig the country’s first automated polls. The official gave him a list of areas where alleged fraud was planned.
“And it’s true … it really happened here and there,” he claimed, according to CBCP News.
The archbishop said he has another witness who knows the “operators and consolidators” of the poll fraud. He added that it was beside the point who gained or who lost because of the fraud. Rather, he wanted the issue to become public to correct the mistake.
“I want these cheating (operations) to be known not to favor one candidate or to discredit the victory of another,” the archbishop clarified. “It is correcting the mistakes of the first automation.”
According to the Christian Science Monitor, Comelec contracted with the Venezuelan company Smartmatic to set up a computerized system to count the votes as they are cast.
Archbishop Cruz also questioned the delay in canvassing the remaining 10 percent of the total votes.
Results in the vice-presidential race are very close between Liberal Party Senator Manuel Roxas and Mayor of Makati Jejomar Binay of the party Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino. Binay presently leads by around 800,000 votes.
Another reputed whistleblower has claimed he was part of vote padding and vote shaving operations during the elections. The operation allegedly targeted the presidential race.
However, Archbishop Cruz and some losing candidates do not find the witness entirely credible, CBCP News reports.
The archbishop said that “naming names” was not fair and that there was a “political angle” to the video of the whistleblower, which was released by a columnist during a Manila forum organized by Catholic Church-based media organizations.
The one who brought the compact disc to the forum had not been invited, the archbishop reported.
Washington D.C., May 20, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Saying the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (LCCR) has “moved beyond” traditional civil rights advocacy, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) announced on May 19 that it is leaving the coalition. The conference cited the coalition's endorsement of Supreme Court nominees, including Elena Kagan, as a primary reason.
The LCCR, a coalition founded in 1950, says on its website that it worked for the passage of several major U.S. civil rights acts and helped organize the 1963 March on Washington.
The 1963 March was where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
In a Wednesday press release, Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre announced the withdrawal from the coalition and reiterated the bishops’ opposition to unjust discrimination.
“In light of recent events, it has become increasingly clear that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ continued membership in the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights is not possible because of the LCCR’s expanded and broadened agenda,” explained the bishop.
Bishop Murphy chairs the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Peace.
“The interests of the Leadership Conference and those of the USCCB have diverged as the LCCR has moved beyond advocacy of traditional civil rights to advocacy of positions which do not reflect the principles and policies of the bishops’ Conference.”
Bishop Murphy reported that the coalition has joined in advocating or opposing nominees for the Supreme Court, a practice which “clearly contradicts” USCCB policy and compromises the bishops’ “principled positions.”
“The latest example of this is the LCCR support of the Solicitor General’s nomination to the Supreme Court,” the bishop added.
“The USCCB deeply regrets this action has become necessary and pledges to continue our ongoing work on civil rights, racial and ethnic justice, and the protection of human life and dignity.”
Bishop Murphy said the U.S. bishops will still work with those at the LCCR and elsewhere to oppose “all forms of racism, unjust discrimination and bigotry.”
He then quoted the U.S. bishops’ 2007 document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” which condemns as “grave injustices and affronts to human dignity” discrimination based on race, religion, sex, ethnicity, disabling condition or age.
According to the LCCR website, coalition members include religious groups, civic groups, unions and ethnic organizations. Some members are homosexual advocacy groups such as Lambda Legal and pro-abortion groups such as the National Organization for Women.
On May 18, the LCCR website also listed Catholic Charities USA and the National Council of Catholic Women as part of the coalition, however the names of the organizations have since been removed from the site.