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Archive of June 22, 2010

Lawsuit filed against Legionaries by alleged son of Fr. Maciel

New Haven, Conn., Jun 22, 2010 (CNA) - A man claiming to be the son of Fr. Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legion of Christ, is suing the Legion in a Connecticut court, claiming that the religious order should have known of Maciel’s propensity to abuse children.

Earlier this year José Raúl González Lara came forward claiming that the controversial founder of the Legion was his father. He said that he thought his father worked for the CIA or Shell Oil until he saw a 1997 magazine detailing Maciel’s misdeeds and recognized the pictured priest as his father.

In March 2010, the Legion issued a statement expressing its solidarity with the suffering of the González Lara family and its desire to sort through the details.

The same statement made public a letter that Fr. Carlos Skertchly, L.C., written to Raúl González Lara on January 12, 2010. In that letter, Fr. Skertchly informed Raul that his previous request for $26 million dollars to “keep quiet about the truth” was viewed as “illicit” by the Legion. “We prefer to seek and face the truth, no matter how painful it may be,” wrote Fr. Skertchly.

Raul had previously approached Fr. Jesús Quirce Andrés, L.C., rector of Anáhuac University, claiming that Fr. Maciel was his biological father and had spoken of leaving $6 million to his sons as an inheritance. Fr. Quirce Andrés said that, during his talks with Raúl, no mention was ever made of sexual abuse.

Raúl now asserts that he was sexually abused by the founder of the Legion, beginning at the age of 7. On Monday, he filed a lawsuit against the Legion of Christ and the estate of Fr. Marcial Maciel in the Superior Court of New Haven, Conn.

The lawsuit claims 12 counts of battery, negligent battery, negligence, negligent retention, and breach of Fiduciary Duty against the Legion and estate of Fr. Maciel. It also relies on the statements of other victims of Fr. Maciel’s sexual predation, as well as documents submitted to the Vatican, to prove that the Legion must have known about Maciel’s dangerous habits and affections. The lawsuit argues that such knowledge should have led the order to prevent Fr. Maciel from having contact with minor children, including Raul.

“As a result of the Legionaries’ negligent supervision of Maciel, Raul suffered severe injuries,” concludes the lawsuit, which asks for more than $15,000 in “monetary damages, punitive damanges, and all other appropriate relief.”

Fr. Maciel is known to have fathered at least one other child after his ordination. He was removed from ministry by Pope Benedict in 2006 and sent to a life of prayer and penance. He died in 2008.

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Prayer the most powerful weapon to prevent tragic war in Korea, bishop says

Rome, Italy, Jun 22, 2010 (CNA) - Calling for worldwide prayers for peace and reconciliation in Korea, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea (CBCK) has warned of “imminent humanitarian catastrophe” in North Korea and has said war would be “a terrible tragedy.”

In a June 19 interview, Bishop Peter Keng of Cheju told Fides news agency about the special Day for Prayer and Reconciliation and Unity of the Korean People, held on Sunday. It had as its theme “Blessed are the peace-makers, for they will be called children of God.” The Day for Prayer and Reconciliation was held as tensions between the north and south are strained over the sinking of a South Korean navy ship.

“War would be a terrible tragedy, and we want to prevent it, using the most powerful of weapons: prayer.”

“It is urgent to find new paths for dialogue and reconciliation,” he commented, adding that the Catholic Church supports Korean religious leaders’ commitment to peace and solidarity.

The bishop reported that the Catholic Church in South Korea, together with other religious communities, has formulated a request to resume humanitarian aid to the North.

“At this time of extreme tension, ways must be found to give new impulse to promoting dialogue and reconciliation,” he told Fides. The aid to the north would be beneficial and its resumption would be “a gesture of goodwill” towards North Koreans who suffer poverty and hunger. The gesture would also “certainly have a positive effect” on the government of North Korea, he thought.

Bishop Keng said at present Caritas Korea is doing nothing because its aid to the North has been stopped.

“This is the first such deadlock in decades. Our concern is to save innocent civilians in North Korea especially the most vulnerable categories, the children, who suffer dramatic consequences when humanitarian aid is stopped,” the bishop explained.

“Local NGOs warn of an imminent humanitarian tragedy in the North,” he continued, acknowledging that the Church has no direct information “but the danger exists.”

Briefly explaining the present policies of the South Korean government towards the North, he said that the government of President Lee Myung-bak stopped various actions of North-South cooperation as early as 2008. The present government is different.

The March crisis triggered when a South Korean warship was sunk by a suspected North Korean torpedo has “clearly worsened the situation” and totally sealed the boarder, the bishop said.

“This latest crisis is breeding sentiments of mistrust and hostility and fear that violence could escalate,” Bishop Keng added, declaring “urgent” the need to stop “this self-feeding spiral.”

Direct dialogue with the North is “extremely difficult” for many reasons, such as its refusal to follow conventional norms. Indirect dialogue through countries such as China becomes “fundamental,” as does the involvement of international institutions such as the United Nations.

“In this extremely delicate situation Korea's religious leaders continue to pronounce just one word: reconciliation,” he explained. “We as Christians can only keep reminding all Koreans and indeed the whole world that the supreme good is reconciliation.”

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Pastor of NY parish withdraws support for sale of vacant convent to Muslim group

Staten Island, N.Y., Jun 22, 2010 (CNA) - The pastor of a Staten Island parish in a controversy over the proposed sale of a vacant convent to a Muslim group has withdrawn his support for the sale after “careful reflection.” St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church has been considering selling a vacant convent to the Muslim American Society (MAS), which planned to turn the building into a mosque and community center.

Local opponents have voiced concerns about terrorism and respect for the victims of the 9/11 attacks, while the Muslim group has attributed opposition to fear and prejudice.

Fr. Keith Fennessy, pastor of St. Margaret Mary Parish, said in a Thursday statement that he has concluded that the proposed sale “would not serve the need of the parish.”

“I wish to formally withdraw my support for the sale, and request that it not take place."

The Archdiocese of New York said that the contents of the pastor’s letter have been shared with the trustees of St. Margaret Mary as well as the representatives of MAS.

“In the light of Father Fennessy's letter as pastor, it is our hope that an amicable resolution can be reached between Saint Margaret Mary Parish and the Muslim American Society,” the archdiocese said.

In a Friday statement, MAS said it feels “strongly” that present events are being driven by “fear and hysteria, some of it being stirred up by professional groups that have a history of being prejudiced against Muslims.”

“We are American citizens and we love our country. We do not operate as an extension of any non-American religious or political organization. What have we done wrong to cause anyone to deny us the right to build a house of worship?”

The group added that it believes in the good will of the Catholic leaders and that “ultimately they will do the right thing and allow this sale to be completed.” MAS said the Catholic community has endured “some of the same prejudice and fear mongering.”

Opponents of the sale, who included relatives of 9/11 victims, said they had not been informed about the Islamic organization or its intentions before the deal was proposed, reports say. According to the New York Post, retired New York Fire Department Deputy Chief Al Santora, whose son was a firefighter who died in the terrorist attacks, characterized the land as “a burial ground” because victims’ remains had been scattered for blocks.

Critics also voiced concern about MAS’ alleged connections to the Muslim Brotherhood. They asked the group’s leader to denounce Hamas and Hezbollah, both of which are considered terrorist organizations by the U.S. State Department.

“MAS denounces any act of terror in the United States or outside,” commented one MAS leader at a June 9 community meeting after repeated questioning.

According to MyFoxNY.com, a video from 2000 shows the present national executive director of MAS, Mahdi Bray, cheering at a public event when someone asks to hear from Hamas supporters.

The pastor’s decision will not necessarily prevent the proposed sale, as two parish trustees must vote against it to form a majority.

Fr. Fennessy offered his resignation at the height of the controversy, an archdiocesan spokesman told SILive.com, but he remains pastor and it is unknown whether a new pastor will be appointed by the archbishop.

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Philadelphia auxiliary appointed as Bishop of Harrisburg

Philadelphia, Pa., Jun 22, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Tuesday morning, Pope Benedict XVI appointed an Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia to become the 10th Bishop of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Bishop Joseph Patrick McFadden, 63, will be installed in his new position on August 18 at St. Patrick's Cathedral. His appointment will fill the seat that became vacant in January 2010 when Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades was named Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind.

According to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Bishop McFadden was born in 1947.  A Philadelphia native, he played basketball and was valedictorian of his high school class.

He then attended St. Joseph University where he earned a bachelor's degree in Political Science.  After spending a few years teaching, he entered St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. 

In 1981, he was ordained a priest for the archdiocese and served as parochial vicar before being appointed administrative secretary to Cardinal John Krol, who was Archbishop of Philadelphia at the time.

In 1993, Bishop McFadden was chosen as the first president of Cardinal O'Hara High School in Springfield, Pa.  After serving for three years as a parish pastor, he became an Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 2004.

Bishop McFadden's new diocese is comprised of 248,000 Catholics, 179 priests and 394 religious.

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Cuban bishops hopeful Vatican official’s visit will prompt more prisoner releases

Havana, Cuba, Jun 22, 2010 (CNA/Europa Press) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Cuba, Bishop Dionisio Garcia, said Monday that he hopes more political prisoners in the country will be released following the recent visit to Cuba by Vatican Secretary of Relations with States, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti.

The bishop expressed his hope to Reuters that the country's political prisoners, “who have not committed any act of violence” be released.

Bishop Garcia said he is confident that the talks which began in mid-April between high-ranking officials of the Catholic Church and the government were bolstered by the meeting between Archbishop Mamberti and Cuban president Raul Castro last Sunday.

“The fact that there were talks with (Cuban) officials is going to strengthen this process which we all hope will continue, because it will impact the good of the country,” he added.

Cuban media called the relations between the Church and the government “cordial, respectful, ongoing and improving,” after political prisoner Ariel Sigler Amaya was released and 12 other prisoners were moved to facilities closer to their families.  The move has given hope to the other nearly 200 political prisoners for their own releases.

The leader of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, Elizardo Sanchez, said other prisoners may be released in the coming days. “I am hopeful at least four others will be moved this week and some will be released.  This is a political decision that has already been made by the government,” he said. 

Likewise, Berta Soler of the Women in White said, “This visit was very positive because more of our family members are going to be released.

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Peruvian cardinal reminds fathers of their responsibility to teach children

Lima, Peru, Jun 22, 2010 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Lima, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, called on fathers this week to remember their number one responsibility, which is to raise their children in the faith by being good examples and offering correction when needed.

Referring to Father’s Day, the cardinal said he understands that work and other activities absorb fathers’ time, “But I do not understand why you do not give the best of your heart, faith and affection to your children, wives and grandchildren.  Fathers, do not fail to safeguard that treasure of affection and good example, and correction as well, so that your homes may continue to be luminous and joyful.”

During the program, “Dialogue of Faith,” the cardinal remarked that the responsibility for teaching children is not the task of the State but of the parents.  “Fathers, assume more responsibility in the raising of your children. You must keep them from not studying, taking drugs, killing and kidnapping.  Fathers….this is your duty,” he said.

Cardinal Cipriani made gave the same message during a visit to Santiago, Chile. “Both parents, the mother and the father, must teach with their example, raise their children in the art of loving, and of being generous and fraternal,” he said.

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Pope Benedict names new auxiliary bishop for Philadelphia

Philadelphia, Pa., Jun 22, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Philadelphia’s faithful received news this morning that Pope Benedict has appointed the judicial vicar of their diocese, Bishop-elect Michael J. Fitzgerald, to be their new auxiliary bishop.

The announcement of Bishop-elect Fitzgerald's appointment was made by Cardinal Justin Rigali at a 10 a.m. news conference in Philadelphia. The cardinal said of the bishop-elect, “He is an exemplary priest with a great love for the Church. I am grateful for his constant efforts to promote vocations to the diocesan priesthood. For 14 years he has served as Chaplain to the Serra Club of Philadelphia, which promotes priestly vocations.”

Bishop-elect Fitzgerald also commented on his own appointment, saying, “In accepting this nomination I am conscious of the great responsibility that has been entrusted to me but I am even more aware of the providence of Almighty God in calling me to the priesthood and sustaining me happily in the priesthood these past thirty years. It is in that Providence that I continue to place my trust as I answer a new call of the Church to serve the People of God as a bishop.”

Bishop-elect Michael Fitzgerald was ordained a priest in 1980, and served as a parochial vicar after his ordination. In 1989, and then again in 1991, he received degrees in canon law from Catholic University in America and Rome’s Gregorian University, respectively.

He was named a monsignor in 2003, and served as vice rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary from 2004-2007. Bishop-elect Fitzgerald has served as the Judicial Vicar for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia since 2007. He will replace Auxiliary Bishop Joseph McFadden, who has been appointed to the diocese of Harrisburg.

The appointment of Msgr. Fitzgerald as Auxiliary Bishop is the second such appointment to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia this month. On June 8, 2010, Pope Benedict accepted the resignation of Auxiliary Bishop Robert Maginnis and named Msgr. John McIntyre to be his replacement.

Cardinal Rigali will ordain both Bishop-elect McIntyre and Bishop-elect Fitzgerald to the episcopacy on the same day, August 6, 2010, the Solemnity of the Transfiguration of Our Lord. The ordination will take place at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is headed by Cardinal Justin Rigali and is also served by four auxiliary bishops. Within the boundaries of the archdiocese reside 1,458,430 Catholics out of a population of 3.88 million. The archdiocese also has 999 priests, 239 permanent deacons and 3,370 members of religious orders.

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American bioethicist appointed to Governing Council of Academy for Life

Philadelphia, Pa., Jun 22, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has appointed the president of The National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC), John M. Haas, Ph.D., S.T.L., K.M., to the Governing Council of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

The five-year papal appointment was announced today on the NCBC website and by the Vatican.

The Academy for Life chose to make the announcement on June 22, the feast of the martyrs Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More, who “gave their lives for principles which are very much still actual and which are deeply relevant for the work of the Academy in the defense of human life,” NCBC noted.

Dr. Haas was appointed as an Ordinary Member of the Academy by the Pope in 2006.

Responding to his appointment, Dr. Haas said, “I am deeply honored and humbled with this appointment from the Holy Father and pray that I, with my colleagues at The National Catholic Bioethics Center, may make some real and lasting contributions to the building up of a Culture of Life worldwide.”

The Pontifical Academy for Life was founded by Pope John Paul II with his Motu Proprio "Vitae Mysterium" in 1994. Members of the Academy work to study problems of bio-medicine and law relating to the promotion and defense of life, particularly the direct connection those issues have with Christian morality and the teachings of the Magisterium.

The first president of the academy was noted French physician, geneticist, and Servant of God Dr. Jérôme Lejeune, the researcher and defender of life who discovered the chromosomal cause of Down syndrome.

While the Academy for Life is autonomous, it works closely with the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers and other departments of the Roman Curia committed to defending life.

The Governing Council of the Pontifical Academy for Life consists of eight academy members, including the president, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, and the chancellor, Monsignor Ignacio Carrasco de Paula of Spain, who is a physician and moral theologian.

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Allen interview of Cardinal George supports report of ‘parallel magisterium’ worries

Kansas City, Mo., Jun 22, 2010 (CNA) - Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), in an interview last week agreed that the rift over the federal health care bill between the bishops and the Catholic Health Association (CHA) exposed a major question concerning who speaks for the Church.

The cardinal’s recorded comments echo other reports. Last week, episcopal sources, who requested anonymity, told CNA that the cardinal lamented the rise of a “parallel magisterium” in the health care debate and blamed CHA and other groups for the passage of the bill.

On Tuesday, Vatican expert John L. Allen published the full text of his June 16 interview with Cardinal George on the blog of the National Catholic Reporter’s website.

The cardinal noted the difference of opinion over the actual content of the health care legislation, saying supporters of the health care legislation have not answered USCCB counsel Anthony Picarello’s objections to its treatment of abortion funding.

“What worries me more than a difference over empirical content, however, is the claim that the bishops cannot speak to the moral content of the law,” the cardinal told Allen. “That seems to be what the CHA has said, though I’d be happy to be proven wrong.”

Later in the interview, Allen asked: “From your point of view, is this ultimately an ecclesiological question – who speaks for the Church?”

“Yes, exactly,” Cardinal George replied. “Our disagreement may be narrow, but it’s a narrow difference that has exposed a very large principle. It affects the nature of the church, and therefore it has to concern the bishops.”

The prelate said he had written to CHA president Sr. Carol Keehan, reporting that he wants “to try to reshape the relationship in dialogue together.”

“As part of that conversation, we have to clarify the claims being made, primarily on this question of our role in assessing the moral quality of law, because it affects every area we touch on,” he continued, noting the question’s relevance to the immigration debate.

“Are we supposed to just say that the present situation is morally unjustified, or do we have the right and the duty to make moral judgments about whatever legislation comes down the line?”

At one point in the interview, he invoked the example of Blessed Cardinal Clemens von Galen, who under the Nazis “not only condemned euthanasia as an unethical procedure, but he also condemned the laws which permitted it.”

“This is the question that has to be raised: Are we to offer moral teaching solely about actions, or also the laws which permit and foster them?” Cardinal George commented to Allen.

He suggested an effort to put the language of the Hyde Amendment back into the health care legislation would “go a long way toward fostering reconciliation” between the bishops and the CHA.

At the U.S. bishops’ executive session last week, the USCCB president reportedly discussed the fallout resulting from CHA’s support for the health care legislation despite the bishops’ opposition.

Several bishops who wished to remain anonymous told CNA that Cardinal George charged CHA and other Catholic groups with providing “cover” for undecided legislators to support President Obama’s legislation. He said these groups’ actions also weakened the moral voice of the bishops in the U.S., caused confusion and wounded Catholic unity.

Differences between the USCCB and the CHA were not just two equally valid conclusions inspired by Catholic teaching, he commented.

According to these episcopal sources, the cardinal clearly remarked that Sr. Carol and her colleagues are to blame for the passage of the bill. The prelate also criticized as meaningless the president’s executive order allegedly barring abortion funding, saying that Sr. Carol was mistaken to think that the legislation is pro-life.

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Crucifix is symbol of European identity, asserts Russian bishop

Rome, Italy, Jun 22, 2010 (CNA) - As the EU court in Strasbourg prepares to issue a new ruling on the public display of crucifixes on June 30, the president of the Bishops' Conference of Russia, Bishop Joseph Werth, noted that the crucifix is not only a religious symbol but it also represents Europe’s true identity.

“Religious symbols such as the cross are not only the sign of Christianity but also one of the most important elements of European identity,” the bishop said.

In a statement published by L’Osservatore Romano, Bishop Werth recalled that “in Russia under the communist regime, many believers suffered persecution and society suffered from moral insanity.” Given these facts, he continued, “pluralism and freedom of conscience do not imply restrictions on the rights of those who wish to live according to the spiritual and cultural heritage of our continent.”

Bishops in Bulgaria, Poland, Greece, Slovenia and other countries have issued similar statements, asserting that Europe’s foundation was built upon Christianity, which has the cross as its main symbol.

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Dissident calls Cubans to demand the right to enter and exit the country freely

Havana, Cuba, Jun 22, 2010 (CNA) - The coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Paya, has called on all Cubans nationally and internationally to unite in demanding the government respect the rights of citizens to enter and leave the country freely.

“If all Cubans - except those in government - agree on something, it is that this right for all must be respected,” Paya said in a statement.

Paya also referred to the decades-long U.S. embargo against Cuba, and that Cubans who support the embargo as well as those who oppose it should be respected. But, he said, both camps should unite in demanding the right to travel to and from the country freely.

Our call, he said, “is to unite together in solidarity for the right of Cubans to travel freely," and "for an end to exile and punishment against Cubans in our own country.”

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