Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jul 22, 2010 (CNA) - Alberto Arias, the head of the Civil Registry in Argentinean city of Concordia, stated this week that he will not “marry” same-sex couples and plans to exercise conscientious objection. Though the law legalizing gay “marriage” does not allow objection, the official argued that it is part of the country’s legal order.
“Just as the Law on Reproductive Health allows doctors to opt out of performing abortions for reasons of conscience, I assume nobody will be offended if some head of the Civil Registry, like me, says he is not going to do it,” Arias said on Argentinean radio. Arias is a lawyer who works in the diocesan tribunal on marriage annulment cases and has worked in the Civil Registry for over 30 years.
He said that requests for marriage by gay couples would be passed on to other officials and that he would remove himself from such cases.
However, the statements by Arias have already provoked a reaction by city officials, who responded that, “the heads of Civil Registries are public officials and cannot object to the law. We will see what the position of each one is and we’ll analyze it and respond accordingly.”
Oakland, Calif., Jul 22, 2010 (CNA) - A new chapter of the Courage apostolate has opened in Oakland to minister to Catholics and others who have same-sex attractions. A California Catholic paper said the event showed a “landmark shift” away from other regional groups’ dissent from Catholic teaching on chastity and homosexuality.
The formation of the chapter was announced in the July 19 edition of The Weekly, a chancery publication for the clergy, religious, employees and parish staff of the Diocese of Oakland.
“Do you know someone who identifies her/himself as Gay/Lesbian, Homosexual, or Same-Sex Attracted and feels that this keeps her/him from taking full part in the life of the Church? If so, consider talking to her/him about Courage where we believe that the Catholic Church welcomes all of her children and is our home,” the chapter’s notice read, according to the California Catholic Daily.
The national Courage website explains the apostolate’s outlook: “By developing an interior life of chastity, which is the universal call to all Christians, one can move beyond the confines of the homosexual identity to a more complete one in Christ.”
The California Catholic Daily said the new Courage chapter represents a “landmark shift” in the diocese’s pastoral approach to homosexuals. It noted that retired diocesan priest Fr. Jim Schexnayder was a co-founder of the group which became the Catholic Association for Lesbian & Gay Ministry (CALGM). The paper charged that the priest and the group advocate “views of human sexuality inconsistent with Church teachings,” while Courage has been endorsed by the Pontifical Council for the Family.
In September 2008 CALGM invited the then-coadjutor bishop of Sacramento Jamie Soto to deliver its keynote address, but responded negatively when the bishop reiterated the sinfulness of homosexual acts and criticized the manipulation of marriage for those who “believe that they can and have a right to mimic its unique expression."
The new Courage chapter in Oakland joins other California chapters in East Palo Alto, Fallbrook, Los Angeles, Cosa Mesa, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, and Santa Rosa.
Bangalore, India, Jul 22, 2010 (CNA) - Sr. Nancy Pereira, foundress of a Fund for the Poor bank to help impoverished clients in Bangalore, India, died on July 14 at the age of 86. Her fellow sisters remembered her for her service to the poor with “joy” and “creative solidarity.”
Sr. Nancy was born at Pudukkruruchy in the state of Kerala on August 14, 1923. She made her first profession as a member of the Daughters of Maria Auxiliatrix (FMA) on January 6, 1945.
She became well-known in the early 1990s when she started the Fund for the Poor, following the example of the Nobel Peace Prize awardee the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. According to CBCI News, clients of Sr. Nancy’s bank had to be poor people from slums or villages who lacked the opportunity to improve their livelihoods.
To obtain credit, a prospective applicant had to prove that he or she had saved a small sum for a year and had taken part in meetings of a small credit management group. The bank’s annual interest rate on its loans only covered management expenses.
The Bank for the Poor’s credit projects involved the whole family and helped improved living conditions both for many families and whole villages.
The FMA Sisters described Sr. Nancy in a short biography, saying she was convinced her vocation was “to be with the poor and to devote herself to serving them.”
“She loved all of them and tried to make them aware of their rights as well as their duties and to live their dignity as children of God. She did this with joy, involving many people in her projects for doing good. Forgetful of self, she lived a life of poverty to enrich the poor,” the sisters wrote.
Sr. Nancy, who won international recognition for her work, also founded many groups to promote women and to develop programs such as the Income Generating Programme (IGP). This effort helped the poor “live in worthy conditions and with financial autonomy,” the sisters said.
Birmingham, Ala., Jul 22, 2010 (CNA) - Supporters of legalized abortion have declared their intention to protest this week's Pro-Life Freedom Rides, according to Fr. Frank Pavone of the anti-abortion group Priests for Life.
The Freedom Rides campaign, which begins in Birmingham, Alabama on July 23, will bring its caravan of demonstrators to Atlanta, Georgia on Saturday. There, opponents of abortion will gather to pray at the tomb of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the city's King Center.
Opponents of the campaign object to the Freedom Rides' evocation of the historic 1960s-era civil rights demonstrations, and have sought to block the pro-life activists from using the King Center.
But Dr. Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a leading organizer of this year's Freedom Rides, maintains that the same issues of justice and personal dignity lie at the heart of both causes.
“I have no doubt that if they were alive, my uncle Martin and my father A.D. would be with us on these Freedom Rides for the unborn,” Dr. King stated.
In an open letter on the Freedom Rides website, Fr. Frank Pavone said that “the Civil Rights movement and the Pro-Life movement have the same heart and soul.” The essence of both, he wrote, is “a longing for equal justice for everyone, based on the inherent dignity of every human life.”
On Wednesday, Fr. Pavone emphasized that the pro-life movement, rather than those planning to protest the Freedom Rides, is consistent with Martin Luther King's philosophy of non-violence.
Describing the partial-birth abortion procedure in which “the skull is brought out in fragments rather than a unified piece,” Fr. Pavone asked: “Do these pro-abortion fanatics really expect us to believe that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would want that kind of violence legally protected?”
Rome, Italy, Jul 22, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Benedict XVI is now the seventh oldest Pope since reliable records began being collected in the year 1400, according to a U.S. statistician. In the words of Pope Benedict himself, however, age is not as important as wisdom.
Anura Guruge, an IBM information systems expert, IT adviser and obvious fan of papal history, presented a table offering a ranked list of the oldest known Popes on his site www.popes-and-papacy.com on Monday. On that very day, Benedict XVI passed into the seventh slot on his list, just behind John Paul II who died at 84 years old.
Not all Popes in history are considered in the study, explains Guruge on the site, because dates logged in records before the year 1400 "are either unreliable or unavailable and as such are impractical for meaningful analysis."
According to his information, at the age of 83, Benedict XVI is currently seventh on the list of most aged Popes, but should he remain at the helm of the See of Peter until 2015, he will overtake Clement XII, currently in second place after living to 87. Topping the list of oldest Popes in the last six centuries is Leo XIII, who died at 93 years old in 1903.
An earlier entry on the same site reports that, since 1400, Joseph Ratzinger was the fifth oldest Pope on his election date and more advanced in age at that time than any other Pontiff in the 274 years prior. He had only just turned 78 years old three days before his election.
Guruge's table also features the number of years each of the oldest 11 Popes reigned and the percentage of their lives they spent as the Successor of Peter.
Vatican Radio, in a Wednesday article that picked up the story, commented on the latter as a "curious" statistic which points to "a deeper reflection, if we look at it on a different level."
"It suggests a spiritual characteristic proper to the Petrine ministry" that is tied to the value of longevity, about which the Holy See's radio station pointed out, Pope Benedict himself made an observation in a Nov. 2008 homily remembering deceased cardinals and bishops.
Reflecting on a passage from the Book of Wisdom, Benedict XVI said, "True, honorable old age is not just an advanced age, but wisdom and a pure existence, without malice ... The world reputes that he who lives a long life is fortunate, but God, more than at age, looks at the rectitude of the heart. The world gives credit to the 'wise' and to the 'learned,' while God prefers the 'little ones'.
"God," asserted the Pope at the time, "is the true wisdom that does not age, he is the genuine richness that does not spoil, he is the happiness to which the heart of every man aspires profoundly."
Bogotá, Colombia, Jul 22, 2010 (CNA) - Coadjutor Archbishop Gonzalo Restrepo of Manizales, Colombia remarked this week that the ongoing celebration of the country’s bicentennial this month is an important time for the reflection of Colombia's values and also the renewal of the citizen’s faith.
According to Colombian National Radio, the archbishop said the national holiday is a call to renew one’s faith and live honestly as believers. It is also a chance to reflect on the country’s history, he added.
Archbishop Restrepo said Colombians must adopt an outlook that goes beyond what the world sees and believes.
The retiring archbishop of Bogota, Cardinal Pedro Rubiano, celebrated the Te Deum at the city’s cathedral on July 20, and said the bicentennial should also be an occasion to improve relations with neighboring countries.
He offered prayers “for the nations with whom our country has relations and also for those governments … that are committed to supporting Colombia in its struggle against terrorism, drug trafficking, social injustice and poverty, so that their support might culminate in peace and progress for all.”
Cardinal Rubiano also thanked outgoing president Alvaro Uribe “for his work at the helm of the government, for his years of service, of total dedication, of journeying with Colombians in the building of a country in which peace and respect for life were a true sign of his term.”
Vatican City, Jul 22, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Pope's $250,000 donation for the reconstruction of a Haitian school is to be delivered today. The large monetary gift constitutes just a small part of the aid the Holy Father distributes every year to those in need.
Members of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum arrive in Haiti on Thursday to deliver a $250,000 gift on behalf of the Pope towards the reconstruction of a school in the capital of Port-au-Prince.
Vatican Radio reported that the gift "isn't just about an economic contribution, but most of all (it is) a gesture of closeness from Benedict XVI towards the victims of the earthquake, who still suffer much."
The Holy See's radio station explained that Pope Benedict "can carry out this gesture of charity and closeness to the victims of natural disasters, conflicts, poverty and hunger thanks to the donations of the Catholics of the world, that then are distributed by the Pontifical Council 'Cor Unum' based on the indications received from the Pope."
The donation to Haiti comes as the council's Popolorum Progressio Foundation begins its yearly meeting, this year in the Dominican Republic, to decide on which projects they will be able to finance. Last year they were able to sponsor 193 projects, and at this week's meeting they will decide which proposals to finance from a pool of 230.
In 2009, the Pope sent out $1.9 million to 25 countries for emergency relief alone. The most recent donation made public by "Cor Unum" was a gift to flood victims and evacuees in Poland in May.
Donations to the tune of $2.3 million were also given out in 2009 for projects promoting "integral human development."
Between these and other projects managed by "Cor Unum" through the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel, Popolorum Progressio and other channels, the Holy Father's yearly public donations reported by the council approach $10 million. In the Jubilee Year in 2000, however, contributions reached immense levels through a special initiative that involved partnerships with dioceses from around the world.
That year donations rang up to a total of almost $20 million.
Vatican Radio highilighted that "anyone can collaborate directly with the charity of the Pope" by visiting the Vatican's www.vatican.va website, clicking on the "Roman Curia" icon and entering the Pontifical Councils section where "Cor Unum" is found.
Madrid, Spain, Jul 22, 2010 (CNA) - Next month, former Judge Fernando Ferrin Calamita will be forced to pay the Spanish government $127,000 for denying a lesbian couple’s request to adopt a girl.
Ferrin, who is married and a father of seven, was a judge in the Spanish towns of Huesca, Bejar and Chiclana. He also served as a family court judge in Murcia from 1999 to 2008, when the Supreme Court suspended him for two years and three months for ruling against the controversial adoption.
In Ferrin’s ruling he ordered a report be obtained from experts on the consequences the adoption would have on the girl’s development.
In December of 2009, the Supreme Court suspended him, fined him $919 and ordered him to pay the couple $7,661.
According to the organization, Professionals for Ethics, “the powerful Spanish homosexual lobby, with the consent or passivity of all the institutions, decided to punish Ferrin and make him an example.” He was accused of maliciously delaying the adoption request and subjected to pressure and blackmail.
“This process has had as its purpose the expulsion of Fernando Ferrin from the bench, after a career as a just judge with an impeccable record … But this is not all. Now the government is demanding he repay his salary of $127,000 which he received while on temporary suspension.
“Although Ferrin plans to appeal this ruling, he must pay the fine before August 5,” the organization stated.
Benevento, Italy, Jul 22, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - A Eucharistic celebration marking the 100th anniversary of St. Pio of Pietrelcina's ordination will take place in Benevento, Italy next month. A pilgrimage from the saint's birthplace will precede the solemn celebration of the Mass.
Padre Pio was ordained in a chapel at the Cathedral of Benevento, Italy on Aug. 10, 1910 at the age of 23. This year's celebration for the century milestone will be held on the same day, but this year Archbishop of Benevento Andrea Mugione will preside over Mass in the courtyard of the archbishop's residence.
The Italian Bishops' news service SIR announced the Mass to remember the unique event. On that day, young Francesco Forgione, already a Capuchin for more than seven years, was given a dispensation by the local bishop from the minimum age requirement for priestly ordination, 24 years-old, because of a serious illness.
Despite his health problems he, his mother, brother and parish priest walked to Benevento so he could receive Holy Orders.
The diocese's current vicar general, Msgr. Pompilio Cristino announced that for the 100th anniversary, "To relive the trip made that morning by Fr. Pio ... a pilgrimage will depart on foot from the parish of Pietrelcina at 5 a.m." The route covers approximately eight miles.
Msgr. Cristino said that the the faithful will also have the opportunity to obtain a plenary indulgence during the Eucharistic celebration.
Madrid, Spain, Jul 22, 2010 (CNA) - The Institute for Family Policy issued a report this week showing that Spain has the highest rate of divorce in Europe, with more than 110,000 cases taking place each year.
The president of the institute, Eduardo Hertfelder, noted that the “unintended effects of the current fast-track divorce law are becoming evident and clear,” making Spain the country “with the highest rate of divorce in the last 10 years out of all the countries that make up the European Union.”
Spain has seen an increase of 73,900 annual divorces in the last 10 years, with 36,072 divorces in 1998 and increasing to 110,036 in 2008. This constitutes an increase of 205 percent, the institute reported.
The figures “speak of thousands of personal, family and social tragedies to which we must not remain passive,” Hertfelder said. “They constitute a primary challenge for society in general and for the government.”
“Each family with no choice other than to divorce should be considered a failure of the administration and of society for not knowing how or not wanting to help.”
“Why doesn’t the state assume a policy that truly supports the family, in particular, families in crisis? Not only does it not do this but in some cases, as in Spain, it implements regressive and unjust laws” that lead to “the continual increase in the number of broken families,” Hertfelder continued.
Amidst the 10.5 million divorces that, over the last 10 years in Europe have affected more than 14.5 million children, “We need to take a decisive stand for the family,” Hertfelder concluded. “We need to implement a true preventive policy that helps families in conflict and/or crisis to overcome these difficulties.”
Santiago, Chile, Jul 22, 2010 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Chile has sent a request to the country’s president asking for the pardon of some prisoners as Chile celebrates the bicentennial of its independence.
In a statement signed by Bishop Alejandro Goic, president of the conference, the bishops said their request was rooted in “a religious tradition, with biblical foundations that even precede Christianity, of invoking gestures of clemency on the occasion of great celebrations.”
The bishops said their appeal was not meant to contradict the rules of law and justice, but instead to suggest that clemency be considered in some cases. While they recognized the request has been met with differing reactions, the bishops stressed that the proposal “is not intended to reopen the serious wounds of the past nor to claim that they can be healed by the decree.”
“We are simply presenting to the country’s leaders the painful reality experienced by many persons deprived of freedom who have been convicted and have completed most of their sentences,” they said. “It is for them that we request, in this bicentennial, a gesture of clemency, as we have done in the past with other situations of great human suffering.”
The bishops said female prisoners with children, elderly prisoners, and terminally ill prisoners, should be among those considered in their request, with some having their sentences reduced, and others being freed if they no longer constitute a danger to society and have shown good behavior in prison.
The Chilean bishops also said clemency should be considered for some convicted of crimes during the Pinochet era. “Let us not forget that not all of them were equally responsible for the crimes that were committed. We do not believe there should be a blanket pardon or a complete rejection of the pardon for every convicted former military officer. There must be a distinction between the degree of responsibility of each person, the degree of freedom with which he or she acted, the gestures of humanity he or she showed, and the repentance that person has demonstrated for his or her crimes.”
Washington D.C., Jul 22, 2010 (CNA) - Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, spoke out in an article on the Washington Post's website on Thursday, defending his assertion that the widespread perception of a “pedophilia crisis in the Catholic Church” is not supported by data and research. The more significant problem, Donohue argued, is the incidence of homosexuality among priests.
Citing a number of medical journals in the field of human sexuality research, Donohue explained in his submission to the Washington Post's “On Faith” section that “homosexuals are disproportionately represented among child molesters.” Statistically, he said, the evidence for a “link between homosexuality and the sexual abuse of minors” in the general population is “overwhelming.”
This link is borne out in the majority of sex offenses committed by priests, according to Donohue. “As I have said many times, most gay priests are not molesters, but most of the molesters have been gay.”
In applying this correlation to the sex abuse crisis within the Church, he reiterated the findings of Roderick MacLeish Jr., who examined the full archives of the Archdiocese of Boston during his lawsuit against the Church. MacLeish represented nearly 400 victims of abuse in court, 90 percent of whom were male, and three-quarters post-pubescent.
Donohue also cited the conclusions of Robert S. Bennett, head of the National Review Board which released its report on sexual abuse in the Church in 2004. “There are no doubt many outstanding priests of a homosexual orientation who live chaste, celibate lives,” Bennett said at the time of the report's release, “but any evaluation of the causes and context of the current crisis must be cognizant of the fact that more than 80 percent of the abuse at issue was of a homosexual nature.”
The Catholic League president additionally mentioned the psychologist Leslie Lothstein, who noted that in his work with abusive priests, “only a small minority were true pedophiles.”
Donohue defended his view of the scandal as a “homosexual crisis” by citing the data of Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, a psychiatrist who has worked with abusive clergy. Dr. Fitzgibbons says that his own clinical practice confirms the opinion of “many psychologists and psychiatrists” who have found “no link between celibacy and pedophilia.”
Rather, the psychiatrist's findings showed a “relationship between homosexuality and pedophilia.” “Every priest whom I treated who was involved with children sexually,” Fitzgibbons said, “had previously been involved in adult homosexual relationships.”
While taking pains to point out that “most gay priests are not molesters,” and that “being a homosexual” does not “make one a molester,” Donohue was adamant in stating that the Vatican was right to institute more rigorous procedures to screen out actively homosexual men from becoming priests.
Such screening, he implied, would have prevented the vast majority of priestly abuse from occurring in the first place. “I maintain it has been a homosexual crisis all along,” he insisted. “The evidence is all on my side.”