Mexico City, Mexico, May 31, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - A public opinion poll conducted by the Latin American Department of Social Sciences (LADSS) revealed that in four countries of the region, the majority of citizens oppose the legalization of abortion.
The poll by LADSS, an organization that promotes gender ideology and supports the legalization of abortion, revealed that there is little support for the total legalization of abortion in Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Nicaragua.
According to the data presented at the 2nd Latin American Congress of Social Sciences, citizens in these countries only accept abortion in certain circumstances, such as rape. The data also showed that Latin Americans are aware that abortion has negative consequences for women.
Between 66 and 81 percent of those polled rejected the legalization of abortion in their countries.
Claudia Dides, director of the Gender and Equality Program for LADSS Chile, admitted that Chileans are still “conservative” in the issue of abortion because esteem for motherhood and the concept of the woman as the giver of life “still prevails in Latin America.”
She called the poll “an instrument” for learning about what the Latin American society thinks about abortion, so that more effective efforts can be made to introduce the practice into the policies of the countries in the region.
Anchorage, Alaska, May 31, 2010 (CNA) - It has been said that there are no atheists in foxholes. Indeed, facing mortal danger has long been a catalyst for faith — especially on the battlefield where life meets death every day. This is true now as ever. Soldiers facing death are still searching for and finding God.
On the Fourth of July, 2009, more than 200 Taliban fighters attacked a tiny, remote U.S. infantry outpost in the dusty mountains of Afghanistan. A hundred U.S. soldiers returned fire from the sand-bagged compound, about the size of the small chapel at Ft. Richardson Army Base near Anchorage.
Two days later, as the attacks continued, Father Jason Hesseling, 37, chaplain and major in the U.S. Army was helicoptered in, along with his assistant Sergeant Patrick Neal, 27.
By then, two soldiers were dead and others were spiritually shaken. But even in the suffering, God was at work, Father Hesseling observed.
He recently returned, along with Sgt. Neal and First Lieutenant Robert Doak, 25, of the Airborne’s 725th Brigade Support Battalion, from a year-long deployment to the Central Asia war zone.
Dressed in fatigues and sitting within the peaceful walls of Ft. Richardson’s chapel office, the men spoke to the Catholic Anchor on May 14.
“You’re not going to remain unchanged from combat,” Father Hesseling explained.
For a year, he ministered to soldiers at 13 military outposts across the Afghan combat zone. There, in the middle of war, he celebrated Mass, heard confessions, counseled soldiers and administered last rites to the dying.
In crisis, many soldiers immediately appeal to God, and they are desperate for a chaplain’s help, Father Hesseling observed.
Referring to the small insignia on the chest of a Christian chaplain’s fatigues, he said, “They’d see the cross, and that’s all they need to see.”
For Sgt. Neal — a Catholic — facing mortality inspired a greater trust in God.
As part of the 83rd Chemical Battalion, Neal spent six months in Kuwait during the invasion of Iraq, and another 14 months in Iraq with the 509th Infantry Battalion, which suffered a number of casualties. His latest deployment was Afghanistan, where he served as chaplain assistant to Father Hesseling.
For soldiers on the front lines, “the war is right there in their face. They see it every single day. They see the trauma, they can see all the devastation of it,” Doak added. “And I think it awakens more the need … for something.”
“I discovered that within a few trials, I had to rely more on God,” Neal said. “There’s no way you could ever do this by yourself.”
Indeed, Neal discovered, “(God is) right there, just staying right there with me.”
Catholic Lt. Doak, who earned a Bronze Star medal during his deployment to Afghanistan, had his own “crucible moment” there, as he described it, when he faced the mortality of others.
In Afghanistan, Doak’s duty was the transportation and security of military supplies on the road between outposts. Before every mission, he organized a group prayer asking God’s protection.
In one particularly difficult job, Doak was training his replacement who had just arrived.
“We’d gone on a very long mission and hit a number of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) on the way to drop off our supplies,” the composed, young officer explained. After the safe delivery and a rushed refitting, they began the long trip back to base.
But along the way, there was a traffic accident involving Afghan civilians. Doak and his team treated the civilians and secured the help they could. But ultimately, a couple of those people died.
Fighting back a wave of emotion, Doak explained that for a long time, he held himself responsible and questioned why such a tragedy happened.
Only after serious prayer and several conversations with Chaplain Hesseling, Doak said he learned to trust God and believe “that you do have a Good Shepherd watching over the whole world.”
“Though you like to pretend that you have control,” he continued, “and though we train and do as much as we can to mitigate a lot of factors, ultimately, whether somebody lives or dies is out of our hands, and that’s definitely a huge call to come back to that side of the faith, to be able to just trust completely that things will work out.”
At Mass and in counseling, Father Hesseling helps soldiers grappling with profound questions of faith like, ‘“Where is God in all this? How could God let this happen? Why does evil exist? Why did this happen to my buddy instead of me?’”
Father Hesseling said he talks about the difference between God’s positive will and his permissive will — that God does not will suffering but he may allow it to occur when good can result from it.
Prayer, discernment and support of friends and faith are crucial to a soldier’s finding peace in the quandary, he said.
Grasping for Answers
But without a foundation of faith, soldiers can get lost in the spiritual “deserts” of war, Father Hesseling explained.
In facing death, some end up only “groping” for answers instead of turning to God, he said.
“They know something’s missing,” Doak said, but “they don’t know what to call it.”
Such was the case with some of the soldiers Father Hesseling and Neal met in the Afghanistan mountain compound last year.
“It was kind of a shell-shocked environment, people groping around emotionally,” Father Hesseling recalled.
Doak attributes that confusion to a lack of previous exposure to or sustained development of faith.
Prepare for the Test
But the ordinariness of life can also distract one from turning to God, added Neal.
Those, he said, in the safety of larger bases and back at home in the states, can become desensitized by the “nine-to-five job” life. The everyday can dull the urgency for eternal things.
To help soldiers stay focused, Father Hesseling often tells the story of 1st Lt. Brian Bradshaw, a Catholic officer with the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment out of Ft. Richardson.
Two weeks before being killed by an improvised explosive device, Bradshaw asked Father Hesseling to hear his confession. And he went to Mass and received Communion.
“When you wake up in the morning,” Father Hesseling said, “you never know what’s going to happen that day … always, you need to take care of these things.”
“Use the graces, the strengths of those sacraments because you never know when they’re going to be put to the test.”
Printed with permission from Catholicanchor.org, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska.
Gauteng, South Africa, May 31, 2010 (CNA) - A South Africa bishop blessed the Mbombela World Cup stadium on May 24, one of the locations for the international sports event that will kick off on June 11.
The recently elected Bishop Guiseppe Sandri of Witbank blessed the 43,000 seat stadium with the permission of South Africa's acting deputy director, according to “Church on the Ball,” a web initiative dedicated to promoting the Catholic presence in the country during the games. The Mbombela Stadium is slated to hold the first and second round matches.
Accompanied by a local parish priest and two Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, Bishop Sandri went through gate security checks and was led by the local municipality deputy manager into the stadium where workers were putting the final touches on the arena.
Bishop Sandri then read Psalm 67 and asked the Lord to “bless this beautiful structure and all who built it and who will use it hopefully in a true spirit of good sportsmanship.” As nearby workers looked on attentively, the bishop then walked around the fields with holy water, blessing the first rows of seats which will be reserved for the players and coaching staff.
After the blessing, Bishop Sandri offered a prayer and was warmly thanked by the municipality deputy.
Prague, Czech Republic, May 31, 2010 (CNA) - The Czech president and the Archbishop of Prague have announced an agreement resolving a property dispute over St. Vitus’ Cathedral dating back to the communist era.
In a May 24 meeting which included state representatives, church dignitaries and the press, President Vaclav Klaus and Archbishop Dominik Duka signed an agreement outlining joint administration rules for the cathedral.
“The state and the Catholic Church will work together to administer and maintain the cathedral as they have done for centuries,” President Klaus explained, according to Radio Prague. “The Church will continue to use the cathedral as a metropolitan church and the state will secure the necessary funds for its maintenance.”
The agreement will create a board of administrators made up of the Czech Republic’s leading representatives. They will meet once or twice each year to discuss issues related to the cathedral’s maintenance and use.
The Catholic Church will be allowed to use two adjoining buildings, part of the Prague Castle compound, free of charge.
Archbishop Duka’s predecessor, Cardinal Miroslav Vlk, began a legal case concerning the property soon after the fall of communism. The cardinal said he was prepared to take the dispute to the European Court of Human Rights.
Radio Prague reports that the new archbishop said the court fight, almost two decades old, was pointless.
“It is clear that this particular property cannot be judged on purely legal grounds,” he commented. “This cathedral is a historical, spiritual, national and cultural symbol dear to the heart of all Czechs – regardless of their faith.”
Rome, Italy, May 31, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Monday, the Holy See's Press Office released Pope Benedict XVI's prayer intentions for the month of June. In his intentions, the Pontiff prays that institutions around the globe will work to guarantee respect for the human person in all stages of life.
Pope Benedict's general prayer intention is: "That every national and trans-national institution may strive to guarantee respect for human life from conception to natural death."
His mission intention is: "That the Churches in Asia, which constitute a 'little flock' among non-Christian populations, may know how to communicate the Gospel and give joyful witness to their adherence to Christ."
Rome, Italy, May 31, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The first big phase in the renewal process of the Catholic Church in Ireland begins next fall. On Monday, "high profile" Church officials with "great specific experience" from the U.K., Ireland and North America were named to head the Apostolic Visitation the Holy Father promised Irish Catholics last March.
A statement delivered personally by Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi to journalists in the Holy See’s Press Office on Monday outlines Pope Benedict’s nominations for the visitors to the four metropolitan archdioceses of Ireland and the country's seminaries and religious houses.
He called those nominated "figures of high profile and great specific experience for the posts received."
Apostolic Visitors to Ireland's four archdioceses are Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Emeritus Archbishop of Westminster, who will visit the Archdiocese of Armagh; Cardinal Archbishop of Boston Sean Patrick O’Malley for the Archdiocese of Dublin; Archbishop of Toronto Thomas Christopher Collins, who will go to the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly; and Archbishop of Ottawa Terrence Thomas Prendergast for the Archdiocese of Tuam.
Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan has been tapped to work along with the Congregation for Catholic Education in examining centers of priestly formation, including the Irish College in Rome.
The visitation of religious houses will be organized by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and carried out by four leaders from religious communities who possess what Fr. Lombardi called “broad competence in formation and religious government.”
Redemptorist Fr. Joseph Tobin and Jesuit Fr. Gero McLaughlin will be the visitors to men’s orders, while Immaculate Heart of Mary Sr. Sharon Holland and Jesus and Mary Sr. Mairin McDonagh, the only Irish visitor, will occupy themselves with women’s houses.
According to the statement, the objectives of the visitation are to “more deeply explore questions concerning the handling of cases of abuse and the assistance owed to the victims” and to “monitor the effectiveness of and seek possible improvements to the current procedures for preventing abuse.”
It concludes with an invitation from Pope Benedict XVI for prayers of support from Irish Catholics for the initiative and his invocation of God’s blessings for their increased faith and hope and “renewed fervor in the Christian life.”
Fr. Lombardi told journalists that the timeframe of the visitation is “not yet determined,” but noted that the visitation will begin in Autumn 2010. He also emphasized that Apostolic Visitors are not delegates, who eventually carry out the service of renewal in areas of need highlighted by the results of visitations.
The Holy Father had told Irish Catholics in his Apostolic Letter on March 19 that an Apostolic Visitation would be forthcoming.
Rome, Italy, May 31, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - "If you find a word that is not in line with the Church, burn it!" were the instructions Catholic philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand gave to his wife before he died in 1977. The man whose legacy of thought was revived in a three-day conference in Rome last week was described in intimate detail by the person who knew him best: his wife Alice.
The talk was held on Saturday afternoon at the Hildebrand Legacy Project-promoted conference "The Christian Personalism of Dietrich von Hildebrand: Exploring His Philosophy of Love." Through her address, Dr. Alice von Hildebrand, a philosopher herself, gave the audience the most integral look of the conference into the source of his philosophy.
She described an uncompromising human being, a man who was "not a scholar and not a theologian," who adopted a "hierarchy of values" early in life and accepted the faith despite having come from a family which revered only beauty as its god.
She painted a portrait of a man with an iron will and a deep love of Christ who fought nazism, communism and racism and was passionate about protecting the Church teaching amidst the uncertainty that followed Vatican II.
Recounting his conversion experience, Alice said that his deepest concern was "that his mind should be purified by his faith."
"One thing is certain, the greatness of my husband was that he let his mind be baptized ... purified of the weaknesses of original sin, the dark spots."
Speaking of modern philosophy which cuts out the supernatural and is "a time of concentrated nonsense which sits well because it has the appearance of truth," she referred to the characteristic unity of her late husband's thoughts which, in contrast to the "blunder" of Aristotle, kept God as the reference point.
If you examine his thought in different philosophical areas, she explained, "there is a perfect line of continuity, you can predict, so to speak, what he's going to do ... he becomes a Catholic and he understands this is 'the truth,' not (just) 'a truth' because Christ is the only person, neither Mohammed nor Moses, nor anybody, ever dared say 'I am the truth!'
Dr. Hildebrand explained that, according to her husband, "if you truly understand the meaning of truth, it leads you to the truth and then you fall on your knees and you adore."
His philosophy, she explained, "did not dictate what he had to think, it was simply an approach to life: let the object reveal itself and purify your mind, eliminate prejudices."
This, she said, is why he was able to take a new approach to the classical philosophies, purified and with fresh eyes.
"His guideline was truth and not the spirit of the time."
And in his final days, Alice von Hildebrand recounted, he called her to his side. Noting the weakness of his body but the "soul of a lion" that remained, he told her that if ever in his writings there was even a hint of incongruency, "if you find a word that is not in line with the Church, burn it!
"And that,” she exclaimed, “was my husband, Dietrich von Hildebrand!"
Rome, Italy, May 31, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - An hour of Eucharistic Adoration was observed in the Basilica of St. Peter's on Saturday morning in which priests, nuns, seminarians and lay faithful participated. Following the solemn event, Vatican official Monsignor Charles J. Scicluna emphasized the value of children to God and admonished those who have committed harmful acts against them.
The initiative, promoted by students from the pontifical universities in Rome, was carried out in the chapel behind St. Peter’s central altar. According to organizers, the event was held to show solidarity for the Pope, to pray for “reparation for abuses committed by priests and for the healing of this wound within the Church.”
During his homily after adoration, Msgr. Scicluna, a Maltese priest and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s promoter of justice, meditated on a passage from the Gospel of St. Mark. The reading includes the words, “whoever causes one of these little ones who believe (in me) to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”
According to a transcript of the event shared with CNA by Italy’s ASCA news, Msgr. Scicluna stated that children, whom the Church has always attempted to protect, are a reminder to the disciples of Christ to look to Heaven “with a pure heart, with docility, abandonment, confidence, enthusiasm and hope.” All these things, he said, make the child “precious in the eyes of God and the eyes of the true disciple of Christ.
“How much, though, the earth becomes arid and the world sad when such a beautiful image ... this ‘holy icon,’ is trampled, shattered, muddied, abused and destroyed.”
Citing the “deep cry from the heart of Jesus" that echoes, "‘Let the children come to me and do not hinder them!" Msgr. Scicluna continued the thought, saying, “do not impede it, do not be a hindrance in their path towards me, do not be an obstacle to their spiritual progress, do not let them be seduced by evil, do not make children the object of your impure covetousness.”
Referring back to the “terrible” words written by St. Mark, Msgr. Scicluna quoted St. Gregory the Great who said that any person who, having made vows to holiness, "destroys others through word or example" would have been better off having died of their misdeeds in a secular position, "rather than, through their holy office, being imposed as an example for others in their faults.
"Without a doubt, if they were to fall on their own, their torment in Hell would be easier to bear."