Tucson, Ariz., Jun 29, 2010 (CNA) - A bishop defended the Holy Father's role in combating clerical sex abuse to a self-described “Catholic” protest group in Arizona, who recently urged others not to give to the Church during an annual collection.
Calling themselves, “Send the Bishops a Message,” the group chose the annual Peter's Pence Papal Collection Day to encourage individuals to support other charities instead of the Church as a way to express dissatisfaction with the way they believe the Pope has handled clerical sex abuse cases.
“We're here for two things,” said organizer Frank Douglas to local KVOA news on Sunday. “To protect children and to heal the wounded.”
“There are still sexual predators in the Catholic church and they're being hidden by the bishops and the Pope,” claimed Douglas.
The group's website further asserted that “Church officials have adamantly refused to accept responsibility for their grave moral failures in the clergy sex abuse crisis. They repeatedly 'apologize,' but neither admit to covering up sex crimes against children nor accept their part in the horrendous scandal brought down upon Catholics everywhere.”
In a statement contradicting the protestors, Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson wrote on Sunday that “Clearly, Pope Benedict encourages and supports efforts within the Church to put in place effective ways of preventing and responding to sexual abuse of minors.”
“The Holy Father has expressed his profound sorrow and regret about the sin and crime of sexual abuse by priests and the failure of some bishops to respond appropriately to abuse of children by priests,” the bishop added. “He made this very clear in his statement to the thousands of priests gathered in St. Peter's Basilica two weeks ago to conclude the Year for Priests.”
“He has expressed his deep sorrow to victims of abuse personally in face-to-face meetings on several occasions,” the prelate continued. “He has established a special study of the tragedy of abuse within the Church in Ireland.”
“He has consistently supported the efforts of the U.S. Bishops to address child abuse by priests and to support the zero tolerance policy. In dioceses across the U.S., including our Diocese of Tucson, significant policies and procedures have been put in place to provide safe environments for children and vulnerable adults.”
Speaking on the importance of the annual collection and its global benefits, Bishop Kicanas said that the “charities supported by the gifts of Catholics to the Peter's Pence Collection do immense good throughout the world. Catholics can be assured that their gifts are used only to support the charitable ministries of the Holy Father in desperately poor and struggling nations.”
“Because of this worldwide collection,” he added, “the Holy Father is able to personally direct charity on behalf of the entire Church. The collection provides for the needs of the Church in struggling parts of the world, including providing humanitarian assistance to victims of war, oppression and natural disasters.”
“We can all be very proud of how our gifts and the sharing of our blessings benefit countless numbers of people, especially the littlest and weakest among us,” Bishop Kicanas concluded.
Madison, Wis., Jun 29, 2010 (CNA) - Thursday, July 1, marks six months since the inauguration of the Rosary for the Bishop campaign, an online website that encourages the faithful to pray for bishops across the U.S. and around the world.
The prayer campaign began in 2005 in Madison, Wisconsin, where an online effort was made to collect prayers for Bishop Robert Morlino of the Diocese of Madison. On January 1, 2010, the project was expanded to include all U.S. bishops, and it has since grown to incorporate those from other countries as well.
"At the beginning of 2010, we launched Rosary for the Bishop for all U.S. bishops," said Tom Reitz, one of the website's administrators. Since then, the campaign has grown in response to visitor feedback.
"We kept getting emails from people saying 'can you please add the bishops of my country?' So we did,” Reitz said. “Now the service is available for bishops in the U.S., U.K., Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Gibraltar, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Canada."
Since its inception, membership has risen to more than 800 participants from 45 U.S .states and 10 other countries. So far, the website has recorded 28,000 Rosaries prayed for more 250 Catholic bishops.
On the campaign website, www.RosaryForTheBishop.org, visitors can commit to a weekly or monthly Rosary for any bishop. The website features anonymous statistics on how many Rosaries have been prayed, as well as a Google map marking the locations of participating dioceses. Participants also have the option to receive reminder emails.
"Rosary for the Bishop is a growing, evolving program," explained Reitz. "We keep adding new features to the site, especially features that members have suggested." In recent months, the site has added a blog, Facebook "like" buttons and more detailed options for prayer reminders. More features are planned for the future.
Several bishops have expressed appreciation for the program.
"Rosary for the Bishop is a special blessing and source of encouragement for me," said Bishop R. Walker Nickless of Sioux City, Iowa.
"It gives me great serenity to know that so many men and women are turning to Mary, asking her special care and intercession for the bishops," added Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison.
Syte Reitz, one of the campaign's founders, explained that the program was originally inspired by “the Exodus passage (17:11) in which Aaron and Hur help Moses to keep his hands lifted up in prayer so that Israel would be victorious.”
"Heaven knows that our good bishops are under fire for standing up for our Catholic Faith nowadays,” he said. “What can we do about it? Support them with our prayers!"
Vatican City, Jun 29, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - During his address for today's feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the Holy Father asserted that the “greatest danger” to the Church is not external persecution, but the “negative attitudes” of the world that can pollute and “infect the Christian community” from within.
The Pope made his remarks on Tuesday morning at Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, where he concelebrated with 38 metropolitan archbishops whom he bestowed the pallium upon after delivering his homily.
The pallium is a white stole made of wool from lambs blessed and presented to the Pope each year on the feast of St. Agnes. It is reserved for use by the Pope and all metropolitan archbishops and expresses communion with the Bishop of Rome.
In his homily, Pope Benedict first reflected on the theme of freedom for the Church, emphasizing that Sts. Peter and Paul demonstrate that “God is close to his faithful servants and frees them from all evil, and frees the Church from negative powers.”
Speaking on Christ's promise in the Gospel that the “powers of hell shall not prevail” on the Church, the Pontiff explained that this not only “includes the historical experience of persecution suffered by Peter and Paul and other witnesses of the Gospel,” but “it goes further, wanting to protect especially against threats of a spiritual order.”
“Indeed, if we think of the two millennia of Church history, we can see that - as the Lord Jesus had announced, Christians have never been lacking in trials, which in some periods and places have assumed the character of real persecution.
“These, however, despite the suffering they cause, are not the greatest danger for the Church,” the Pope said.
“In fact,” he noted, “it suffers greatest damage from what pollutes the Christian faith and life of its members and its communities, eroding the integrity of the Mystical Body, weakening its ability to prophesy and witness, tarnishing the beauty of its face.”
Reflecting on the Scripture readings, the Pope explained that the “Second Letter to Timothy – of which we heard an excerpt – speaks about the dangers of the 'last days,' identifying them with negative attitudes that belong to the world and can infect the Christian community: selfishness, vanity, pride, love of money, etc.”
“There is therefore a guarantee of freedom promised by God to the Church, it is freedom from the material bonds that seek to prevent or coerce mission, both through spiritual and moral evils, which may affect its authenticity and credibility.”
“The theme of the freedom of the Church, guaranteed by Christ to Peter, also has a specific relevance to the rite of the imposition of the pallium,” the Holy Father explained, “which we renew today for thirty-eight metropolitan archbishops, to whom I address my most cordial greeting, extending with it affection to all who have wanted to accompany them on this pilgrimage.”
Washington D.C., Jun 29, 2010 (CNA) - Critics lamented the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on Monday to dismiss a lawsuit from a Christian student organization seeking to be officially recognized by a California public university. The group sought to overturn a previous court ruling which sided with the school and denied recognition to the organization because of its statement of faith.
The confrontation between the Christian Legal Society (CLS) and the University of California's Hastings College of Law first began when the group was denied school recognition because of the group's statement of faith. The statement prevents anyone who is “unrepentantly” engaging “in sexual conduct outside of marriage between a man and a woman” from being a group leader or member.
UC Hastings charged that this provision violates the school's ban on “sexual orientation” discrimination, despite the fact that CLS's statement of faith is based on the conduct of members of any sexual orientation and not on one's “immutable status.”
On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Christian group's First Amendment rights of association, free speech and free exercise were not violated by the college's nondiscrimination policy.
In September of 2004, CLS asked UC Hastings if the group could be exempt from the religion and sexual orientation sections of the university's nondiscrimination policy. Adhering to those sections of the policy, CLS chapter members argued, would force the group to admit members and elect leaders who held beliefs and engaged in conduct contrary to the mission and purpose of the group.
The court's opinion, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, said UC Hastings' decision was reasonable because the university requires all groups bearing its endorsement to be nondiscriminatory. Ginsburg was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor in ruling in favor of UC Hastings.
Several critics lamented the Supreme Court's Monday ruling, as well as the media coverage of the decision for falsely depicting CLS's stance.
Sam Casey, General Counsel for Advocates International (AI), a Christian organization that helps represent law students globally, told CNA in a phone interview that contrary to some media reports, CLS did not claim in their statement of faith that homosexuals were not allowed membership.
The Associated Press reported today that an “ideologically split Supreme Court ruled Monday that a law school can legally deny recognition to a Christian student group that won't let gays join.”
Rebuffing this claim, Casey stated that no homosexual students have ever been dismissed or barred from the group, but cohabiting heterosexuals have been. The real issue, he explained, is a matter of chastity and living according to Christian principles versus one's sexual orientation alone.
Casey also cited concern that the California University is discriminating against CLS as it is the first group to ever be singled out and held to the school's nondiscrimination policy.
Disagreement with the ruling was also voiced by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote in a strongly worded dissent that the ruling was “a serious setback for freedom of expression in this country.”
“Our proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express 'the thought that we hate,'”Alito said, quoting a previous court decision. “Today's decision rests on a very different principle: no freedom for expression that offends prevailing standards of political correctness in our country's institutions of higher learning.”
Family Research Council president Tony Perkins also criticized the ruling, adding it “throws student organizational mission statements out the door, as everyone at a state school with an 'all-comers' policy, regardless of belief, can now join any organization, even if they oppose that organization's purpose and mission.”
“Today's ruling renders student organizations effectively purposeless, and would allow, for example, Republicans and Democrats who wish to sabotage one another's college groups to join and undermine them from the inside out,” he asserted.
“More importantly, the Supreme Court handed down a decision that erodes religious freedom under the auspices of preventing discrimination against homosexuals,” Perkins charged. “The Court majority essentially held that it is acceptable to discriminate against private religious organizations that disagree with them on whether homosexuality is a constitutional right, and against religious groups that want to organize in universities according to the dictates of their faith.”
Eric Rassbach, National Litigation Director at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which filed in amicus curiae brief in favor of CLS, also warned about the dangers of the ruling. “Public Universities are now poised to become echo chambers where diversity is discouraged and conformity is mandated,” Rassbach said.
“By refusing student groups the right to choose their own requirements for leadership, the Court has struck a blow to religious groups’ ability contribute to a competitive marketplace of ideas.”
Madrid, Spain, Jun 29, 2010 (CNA) - One thousand representatives from across Spain have signed a letter titled, “Letter of support and welcome to the Pope,” in light of the upcoming visit by Benedict XVI to Santiago de Compostela and Barcelona in November.
According to the Spanish newspaper, La Razon, intellectuals, athletes, artists, university professors, business leaders, politicians, lawyers and journalists have joined together to extend a welcome to Benedict XVI.
“The letter praises the Pope for his position and teachings on issues such as moral relativism and religious freedom, the right of parents in the education of their children, abortion and the sexual abuse committed by priests. ‘We wish to thank the Pontiff for his desire to come to our land again, at a time when we are facing difficulties from the social and economic crisis, which has its roots in a deep moral crisis’,” the letter states.
Among those who signed the letter include tennis star Rafael Nada and former soccer player Emilio Butrageno.
Strasbourg, France, Jun 29, 2010 (CNA) - The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France has ruled that European countries currently prohibiting same-sex marriage are not violating the human rights of their citizens.
In a 4-3 ruling, the court ruled against a lawsuit filed by two Austrian men who were denied permission to marry in 2002 by Austrian officials.
The homosexual couple argued that their right to contract marriage, according to the European Convention of Human Rights, had been violated. However, the court ruled that the convention did not address the topic of same-sex marriage, an issue that it said falls under the authority of individual states.
In its decision, the court acknowledged “an emerging European consensus towards legal recognition of same-sex couples.” Nevertheless, it continued, “there is not yet a majority of States providing for legal recognition of same-sex couples.”
The court also said that if countries choose to allow other means of recognizing same-sex relationships, they are not obligated to ensure that such relationships are equal to marriage in every respect.
Austria passed a law allowing for recognition of same-sex couples with some, but not all, of the legal benefits of marriage. The law went into effect in January 1, 2010, eight years after the lawsuit filed by the two men.
Rome, Italy, Jun 29, 2010 (CNA) - Amidst the enthusiasm over the World Cup Soccer tournament, L’Osservatore Romano published an article this week arguing that the Guarani Indians of Paraguay were the inventors of the game.
In an article titled, “The Guarani Invented Soccer,” reporter Gianpaolo Romanato asserted that soccer was born in the 17th century in the region known today as Paraguay. His source for the claim is an account by a Spanish Jesuit priest, Jose Manuel Peramas, who lived for several years at the St. Ignatius of Mini mission south of Asuncion, which was one of the 30 native missions established by the Jesuits in colonial Paraguay.
Father Peramas described the pastimes enjoyed by the Guarani in his 1793 book, “De vita et moribus tredecim virorum paraguaycorum” (Of the life and death of the 13 men of Paraguay).
“They often played with a ball that, although it was made completely of rubber, was so light and quick that instead of them hitting it, it bounced around without stopping, driven by its own weight. They did not throw the ball with their hands like we do, but rather they kicked it with the upper part of their bare feet, passing it and trapping it with great agility and precision,” the priest wrote.
“Three centuries ago the Guarani were surely masters of the ball. They are truly the descendents of the real inventors of soccer,” L’Osservatore Romano reported, although many British soccer enthusiasts would be quick to dispute such a claim.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 29, 2010 (CNA) - Archbishop Felipe Aguirre Franco of Acapulco, Mexico urged drug traffickers to “abandon” drug trade and instead return to God, who is “always willing to forgive you.”
“The scourges of drug addiction and drug trafficking go hand in hand, and they will not be satisfactorily resolved as long as the foundations for comprehensive human development are not established.” If they are not, he continued, “this culture of death will not be eradicated.”
He stressed that all Mexicans, not just those in authority, should be involved in the fight against drugs.
The archbishop also addressed drug traffickers, calling them to repentance and to abandon the evil practice. “God is always willing to forgive you. He only asks that you acknowledge your errors, that you make reparation and abandon this activity.”
Vatican City, Jun 29, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Although they carried out different missions, Saints Peter and Paul together form the foundation of the “one, holy, Catholic, Apostolic” Church, said Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday. The Pope celebrated Mass at St. Peter's Basilica on the solemnity of the two saints and later led the Angelus in St. Peter's Square.
Greeting those present in the square, the Pope explained that the celebration of the Apostles Peter and Paul is a celebration of the Church's sacred roots. Both saints, he noted, are buried in the cathedrals in Rome dedicated to them.
The Holy Father spoke of Peter's profession of faith to Jesus: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This declaration from the humble fisherman of Galilee is not the product of reason, he said, but a revelation of the Father, as confirmed by Jesus, who responded by saying that “neither flesh nor blood has revealed this to you.”
“Simon Peter is so close to the Lord that he himself becomes a rock of faith and love on which Jesus built his Church,” the Pope said, noting that Jesus goes on to tell Peter, “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
The Pontiff also recalled the life of St. Paul and the millennium celebration of his birth. He reflected on St. Paul's commitment to spreading the Gospel and sharing the Truth with the Gentiles.
Despite their different gifts and missions, these two patron saints of Rome both form the foundation of the “one, holy, Catholic, Apostolic” Church, which today is present in the world to proclaim and bear witness to the essential mystery of communion, said the Holy Father.
In light of the Church's mission, the Pope recalled that he had bestowed the pallium on 38 metropolitan archbishops that morning. The pallium symbolizes communion with the Bishop of Rome and reminds of the mission to feed the flock of Christ with love, he explained.
The Holy Father also thanked members of the Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, who attended the Mass. Their presence, he said, reflects the spiritual bond between the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople.
Urging the faithful to follow the example of Sts. Peter and Paul, he then turned in prayer to the Virgin Mary, Queen of the Apostles, who guides and supports the people of God on their journey.
After the Angelus, the Pope asked the faithful to pray for the archbishops who had just received the pallium, that through the intercession of the Apostles, “they will be heralds of the Gospel and true models of pastoral charity to the flock.”
Washington D.C., Jun 29, 2010 (CNA) - In Tuesday confirmation hearings, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan has confirmed her belief that past high court decisions require that any state regulation of abortion protect the “health” of women seeking abortions. One pro-life group objected that this exception constituted a “massive loophole” barring most regulation of the procedure.
Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) brought up abortion jurisprudence in the confirmation hearing on Tuesday.
“Do you believe the constitution requires that the health of the mother be protected in any statute restricting access to abortion?” the Senator asked.
Kagan replied that the “continuing holding” of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton was that “women’s life and women’s health have to be protected in abortion regulation.”
Dr. Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, claimed the nominee reaffirmed her support “for the benefit of her supporters in the abortion lobby” and for abortion without “limitations or restrictions.”
According to Yoest, the American people do not support Kagan’s “out of the-mainstream position” and do not want a judge who “has already pre-judged the issue.” Recent polling data shows that more Americans are choosing to describe themselves as pro-life.
AUL argues that under the legal framework created by Roe and Doe, an abortionist can offer “any reason imaginable” to justify performing an abortion at any time during a woman‘s pregnancy.
However, the Supreme Court decision Gonzales v. Carhart upheld a partial-birth abortion restriction without the “massive loophole” and arguably narrowed the health exception created in Doe.
In AUL's view, this means that abortion law is confused and “far from settled.”
“The fact that Kagan believes that the Roe / Doe health exception still applies unchanged to all laws pertaining to abortion indicates that she has not changed from the passionate ideologue who advocated against meaningful regulations of abortion while working for President Clinton,” the pro-life group commented in a statement.
AUL reported that during her time in the White House as an advisor to President Bill Clinton, Kagan sought a health exception that went further than the one required in Doe and took a position that would “drastically” undermine the ability of state and federal legislators to pass “meaningful” regulations of abortion.