Boston, Mass., Jul 29, 2010 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Boston is planning a major campaign to urge inactive Catholics to “come home” to their faith. The campaign will use television ads, parish events and personal invitations, making the involvement of priests and parishioners “vital.”
About 10 percent of all American adults are former Catholics, the archdiocese reports, adding that its own weekly Mass attendance has declined from about 376,000 in 2000 to about 287,000 in 2009.
Janet Benestad, secretary for faith formation and evangelization at the archdiocese, said that the pews seem “emptier and emptier.” The goal of the campaign is to tell people “We are diminished by your absence ... and we want to issue a genuine invitation to return to the practice of the faith.”
The campaign will use television ads, parish events and personal invitations. The archdiocese will partner with CatholicsComeHome.org during Lent 2011.
Writing on his blog in a July 16 entry, Cardinal O’Malley called the effort as “an important initiative.” He also published a message from David Thorp, who is leading the campaign.
Thorp explained that the television commercials will allow the Church’s invitation to reach people in their own homes. Describing the response in other parts of the country as “exciting,” he noted how lapsed Catholics visited websites and sent e-mails with questions. Many returned to Mass, participated in special “welcome” programs and went to Confession after many years away.
Parishioners have also reached out with personal invitations, using the commercials as a starting point.
“Even as people shared how being a Catholic had brought meaning and peace in their lives they spoke about everything you could imagine — people’s longing for God, questions about marriage and divorce, prayer, desire for community, sexuality, the stress of unemployment, suffering, the meaning of life,” Thorp reported.
The “deep grief and broken trust” experienced in clerical sexual abuse scandals were also part of these conversations, he continued.
“The involvement of priests and parishioners will be vital,” Thorp added, noting related archdiocesan programs such as ARISE Together in Christ small groups and The Light is On For You confession promotion.
He related how he himself was surprised by God’s “love and mercy” after some years of deep anger at Him and disdain towards the Church.
“I discovered in a way that I had not known before the one who could satisfy the deepest hungers in my heart,” he explained, noting his deepening discovery of God through Jesus Christ and the Church.
“In times of struggle and distress the community has been the healing and sustaining hand of God for me. It has also challenged me to live more fully for God and for others, stretching me so that I could be all that God has created me to be.”
Millions have had this same experience, with God bringing peace in times of trouble, strength in times of weakness, and light in times of darkness, Thorp said. They have been fed by Scripture and the Eucharist at Mass and have had their guilt lifted in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, knowing “beyond doubt that God’s tender mercy is for them.”
Thorp wondered how he and other Catholics could keep to themselves their “good news to share.” Evangelization is not something that Catholics can escape, he stated, quoting the Second Vatican Council’s teaching that the Church exists in order to evangelize.
He noted Fr. Henri Nouwen’s description of evangelization as one beggar showing another beggar where the bread is. Encouraging Catholics to take this attitude, Thorp wrote, “Let’s look and listen – even now – for a chance to tell hungry people where we have found the bread.”
Toronto, Canada, Jul 29, 2010 (CNA) - An Anglican female priest in Canada has apologized for offering communion to a dog after the incident added to further tensions within the Anglican churches.
Last month Donald Keith, 56, took his dog Trapper, a German Shepherd-Rhodesian Ridgeback crossbreed, into St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Toronto where Rev. Marguerite Rea was officiating. The man and his dog frequented the park outside the church.
An interim priest, Rea welcomed the two inside and offered communion to both Keith and Trapper.
One parishioner filed a formal complaint about the action with Anglican Bishop Patrick Yu. He has since left the congregation.
After the action became public last week, Rea apologized during her Sunday sermon to anyone who may have been hurt or embarrassed by her actions. She explained the initial gesture as a way of welcoming a stranger.
Cheryl Chang, chancellor of the Anglican Network in Canada, responded critically to the action.
"Communion to a dog is not something that will ever happen to our or any Bible-believing Christian church anywhere in the world," she said, according to the Agence France Presse.
Keith, who had never been in the church before, thought the action was “very innocent.”
"And the joy and happiness on the face of one old lady in the front row made it all worthwhile," he told the Toronto Star.
Keith told the National Post he thought the act was “small stuff” that made him think of the church’s annual blessing of the animals.
“This has blown me away,” he said of the controversy. “The church is even getting emails from Catholics.”
Rea declined to discuss the incident since her apology, telling the AFP "The incident is done, it's over and I have no more comment about it … I am not going to discuss anything about it."
Washington D.C., Jul 29, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Responding to a new report that the 2010 health care law lacks restrictions that prohibit states from using federal funding to pay for abortions in the new high risk insurance pools, 13 Republican senators have written to the head of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to urge regulatory action.
“We request your immediate assistance to ensure that federal dollars will not be used to pay for elective abortions,” the Senators’ July 28 letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius read. They asked Sebelius to identify specific actions to be taken and to set a timeline for them by July 30.
The letter cited a July 23 memo from the Library of Congress’ Congressional Research Service (CRS). The Senators said abortion funding restrictions in the health care legislation and in President Barack Obama’s executive order “fail to address high risk pools and the $5 billion in funding provided for their operation.”
CNA spoke with Janine D’Addario of the Congressional Research Service (CRS) who confirmed the authenticity of the memo, pointing to the Senate Health Committee's website for the “authoritative version.”
According to the CRS memo, the executive order does not “specifically” address the question of high-risk pools but directs the Director of the Office of Management and Budget and the HHS Secretary to develop guidelines segregating federal funds from abortion funds.
Additionally, the CRS memo said that the HHS request for state proposals and the HHS model contracts “neither explicitly provide the authority to cover elective abortions with federal funds, nor do they specifically prohibit the use of federal funds.”
The senators’ letter noted that, according to the memo, current HHS restrictions on federal funds for elective abortion “would also not appear to apply to the funds appropriated” for the high-risk pools.
At the same time, the Congressional Research memo also noted the July 14 HHS press release which stated that abortions will not be covered, except under the conditions cited by the Hyde Amendment. The memo added that the press release is “not a formal policy issuance” but said it was “reasonable” to conclude that the HHS intends to issue regulations formalizing its stated policy.
The senators said they were “pleased” to see the recent HHS statements on abortion funding restrictions, but added that these statements do not have the force of law and will not prohibit the use of funds for elective abortions.
“We urge you to act immediately to prohibit all states operating (high-risk pools) from covering elective abortions,” the senators’ letter read. “Absent such contractual requirements, it will be necessary for Congress to modify the current law to include restrictions to prevent federal dollars from being used to provide such coverage.”
Signatories to the letter included Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
Rome, Italy, Jul 29, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholic clergy of mainland China were encouraged in their work towards communion with Rome and greater unity in their communities this month. In a letter from the head of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, they were urged to "continue without fear on the path of holiness, unity and communion."
The congregation's prefect, Cardinal Ivan Dias, sent the letter to Chinese Catholic bishops and priests on July 5. The secretary of the department, Archbishop Robert Sarah, also signed the message, which was published by the congregation's news agency Fides on Thursday.
The cardinal prefect encouraged Chinese clergy in their duties "as shepherds of the flock," reminding them of Jesus' call for priests to be "not servants, but friends."
As an "alter Christus" on Earth, he explained, each has the task of being a "Man of God," distinguishing himself "as a man of prayer and an austere style of life, profoundly in love with Christ and … proud to proclaim His presence amongst us, especially in the Most Holy Eucharist."
In his duty as a "Man for others," he wrote, the priest must also be "entirely dedicated to the faithful ... entrusted to his pastoral care and to all those with whom the Lord Jesus chose to identify himself or those towards whom He showed special kindness … "
Working as an "operator of unity within the Church," the priest or bishop needs to be in communion with the Pope and united to the members of the Church, continued the cardinal.
Reminded of the suffering of some within the Church for being loyal to Rome, Cardinal Dias noted that Chinese Catholics' "exemplary and courageous loyalty towards the See of Peter ... is a precious gift of the Lord."
Encouraging the promotion of unity within the Christian community to strengthen the Church in the country, he called for them to "enter, in spirit, the Upper Room" where Jesus asked the disciples to join together to show a credible witness to the world.
"The unity of the Church is rooted in her union with Christ and the cause of full Christian unity that must ever be sought and renewed, from generation to generation it is also sustained by his prayer and his promise," he wrote, quoting Benedict XVI's homily from this year's Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
Cardinal Dias closed the letter by praising God for the efforts of the Chinese Church towards unity, and communicating the Pope's blessing and wishes that they "continue without fear on the path of holiness, unity and communion."
Vatican City, Jul 29, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - A film called "Five Years: Pope Benedict XVI" will be screened at Castel Gandolfo on Thursday evening in the presence of the Holy Father.
The Holy See announced the event, thus providing a brief glimpse of the Pope's activities during his vacation time. Besides the weekly Angelus every Sunday at noon, the only other time the Pope has been seen in the media since the general audience on July 7 was through a video released last week in which he was seen writing, praying the Rosary and feeding goldfish in a garden pool.
According to the Vatican statement announcing the movie, the film focuses on the "impressions in Rome and on trips," showing important moments from Benedict's pontificate, beginning with his election in April 2005 to today.
The film was created by German public broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk and written and directed by Michael Mandlik, who won a Bavarian TV award for his coverage of Rome and the Vatican during the Jubilee Year in 2000.
It will be shown in the Swiss Hall of the Apostolic Palace at Castel Gandolfo at 5:30 p.m., according to the Vatican.
Bayerischer Rundfunk also made a film in 2006 titled "Willkommen Benedikt - Der Papst und Marktl am Inn" (Welcome Benedict-- The Pope and Marktl am Inn), which welcomed the Pope to his position and examined his origins.
The Pope plans to be in the Vatican again on the evening of Aug. 3 to meet with a group of 53,000 European altar servers on pilgrimage and will host the general audience the following day.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 29, 2010 (CNA) - Auxiliary Bishop Enrique Sanchez Martinez of Durango, Mexico denounced the wave of violence that has overcome the country and urged Mexicans to take responsibility for eradicating the problem.
In a pastoral letter, the bishop pointed to a recent statement by the Mexican bishops warning that “the growth of violence has become a sign of our times.” The bishops said that Mexicans must put themselves “at the service of the Kingdom, proclaimed by Jesus, who came that all may have life and have it in abundance.”
Bishop Sanchez Martinez denounced the violence of drug cartels, human trafficking, arms trade and all other forms of violence characterized “by cruelty, vengeance, power struggles and the intention to intimidate those considered to be rivals.”
Referring to drug trafficking and the arms trade, Bishop Sanchez Martinez warned that “without concerted action at the international level by the countries that are involved, the results of the efforts made in Mexico to eradicate this evil or debilitate its effects will be minimal.”
He urged Mexicans not to pass the blame on to others or to fall into the indifference of the past, but to act now to “eradicate this social evil.”
Washington D.C., Jul 29, 2010 (CNA) - The chairman of the U.S. Bishops Committee on Migration, Bishop John C. Wester joined the Catholic bishops of Arizona in lauding the recent decision of a federal judge to block parts of Arizona’s new law on immigration from going into effect.
On June 28, United States District Court Judge Susan Bolton stayed sections of Arizona’s SB 1070, a law designed to crack down on illegal immigration. Judge Bolton prevented law enforcement officers without warrants from arresting those suspected of being illegal immigrants. Her order also removed the mandate that immigrants carry their papers at all times and the requirement that law enforcement verify an immigrant’s status while enforcing other laws.
"It is the right decision,” Bishop Wester said of Bolton’s actions, adding that any law which gives legal grounds for profiling a person affects the entire community. Saying that the current status quo on immigration is “unacceptable,” the bishop declared that “what is needed now is for Congress and the Administration to live up to their responsibilities and address this issue by passing immigration reform."
The USCCB has long advocated for immigration reform, and believes that a comprehensive reform should include a program for migrant workers and their families to earn legal permanent residency and eventual citizenship, a new worker visa program that protects the rights of American and foreign workers, a reform of the family-based immigration system and restoring due process protections for immigrants.
The parts of Arizona’s new law which were not blocked by the judge go into effect today.
Concepcion, Chile, Jul 29, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The cathedral in Concepcion, Chile has been reopened to the faithful, five months after a devastating earthquake left it severely damaged. Reconstruction efforts, however, are far from complete and the bishop has called for assistance, especially from the local community.
According to the archbishop's office, Archbishop of Concepcion, Ricardo Ezzati, celebrated a Mass to give thanks for the inauguration of the cathedral after repair work had reached a point where the church could once again be used.
In his homily for the occasion, he called the faithful to be active in working to make the cathedral even more beautiful than it was before. "We truly hope that, from the sons and daughters of the Church in Concepcion, a commitment will emerge so that the cathedral might recover its the architectural beauty and also the beauty it represents," said Archbishop Ezzati.
He noted that much of the work carried out to date, like clearing the central nave of rubble, has been done with the support of benefactors from the Chilean capital of Santiago. Only 40 percent of the nearly $1 million pricetag for reconstruction is covered by insurance.
Archbishop Ezzati expected a local commission to begin a campaign soon to raise the necessary funds to finance the cathedral's full reconstruction.
Praying that the work would be done, "God willing, in time for Christmas," he acknowledged that with the seriousness of the damage to the structure and the need for a new roof, it may not be so. Archbishop Ezzati urged the local faithful to roll up their sleeves and not to expect everything to come from Santiago.
The Feb. 27 earthquake, which measured 8.8 the Richter scale and killed 521 people, is classified as among the top 10 strongest on record, according to the Chilean Ministry of the Interior.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jul 29, 2010 (CNA) - The pro-life office of the Fundar Movement in Argentina is offering a conscientious objection guide to justices of the peace who are opposed to gay “marriage” and refuse to preside over same-sex “weddings.”
Conscientious objection is the right to exempt oneself from carrying out actions allowed by law without being subjected to discrimination or the loss of rights, the movement explained.
The guide points out that both the Argentinean constitution and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, protect the rights to freedom of worship, thought and conscience.
“The U.N. Committee on Human Rights, which oversees the application of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, said article 18 of the covenant ‘does not explicitly mention the right to conscientious objection, but the Committee believes that this right can be derived from article 18’,” Fundar said.
The movement also noted that the Declaration of the National Academy of Medicine in Argentina addresses the issue of conscientious objection and states that no health care professional should be obliged to carry out a procedure that he or she objects to for scientific or ethical reasons.
Lima, Peru, Jul 29, 2010 (CNA) - During a Mass celebrating Peru’s Independence Day, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani of Lima said the country’s leaders must promote laws that protect its national identity based on the Catholic faith.
Speaking before a packed cathedral that included the country's President Alan Garcia and other officials, the cardinal said, “Peru exists for great things. We Peruvians have always had a call to greatness. For this reason, we must reinforce our passion for being Peruvian.”
He underscored the need to protect the national identity and to be proud of the fact that Peru is on the cultural, social and economic forefront of Latin America.
There is no reason for Peru to “set aside its clear moral, spiritual and Catholic identity,” despite international pressure, he added. “Let us have the audacity and courage to affirm our multi-racial cultural,” he said.
Cardinal Cipriani also stressed the urgent need for “spiritual development, which is essential in order for there to be stability ... and growth in the people. Let us leave meanness aside and look with joy at the road that lies before us as a country. Hatred, vengeance, political calculations, violence and selfishness are manifestations of a petty spirit.”
For this reason, he stressed, “it is important that the national self-esteem be strengthened, that the past be viewed with sincerity and that respect be given to those who forged our national identity,” without resurrecting past hatreds and conflicts.
Champaign, Ill., Jul 29, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - A professor who was recently fired for explaining the Catholic teaching on homosexuality will be reinstated, according to the University of Illinois. Dr. Kenneth Howell's position at the school was terminated at the end of the Spring Semester this year after teaching in a class on Catholicism that the Church believes homosexual behavior violates natural law.
A Thursday letter from the University of Illinois Office of University Counsel told Howell’s lawyers at the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) that “The School of Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics will be contacting Dr. Howell to offer him the opportunity to teach Religion 127, Introduction to Catholicism, on a visiting instructional appointment at the University of Illinois, for the fall 2010 semester. Dr. Howell will be appointed and paid by the University for this adjunct teaching assignment.”
Howell had been teaching at the university since 2001 and consistently gained high approval ratings on student evaluations. In a class on Catholicism last spring, he followed up a classroom discussion with an e-mail contrasting the ways in which utilitarianism and natural law theory would each determine the morality of homosexual conduct.
A student complained that Howell's words were “hate speech” in an e-mail to the head of the department, Dr. Robert McKim. Howell was called into McKim's office at the end of the semester and told that he would no longer be allowed to teach for the university because his e-mail had “violate[d] university standards of inclusivity.”
In Howell's defense, the ADF declared that the First Amendment exists to keep controversial ideas from being suppressed. “A university cannot censor professors’ speech--including classroom speech related to the topic of the class--merely because certain ideas ‘offend’ an anonymous student,” said ADF Senior Counsel David French.
“We greatly appreciate the university’s move to put Professor Howell back in the classroom,” he continued, “but we will be watching carefully to make sure that his academic freedom is protected throughout the university’s ongoing process.”
Washington D.C., Jul 29, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - After reports recently surfaced that some of the new federally-funded high risk pool insurance programs in states across the U.S. were covering elective abortion, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a statement today, prohibiting the plans from covering the procedure.
The insurance pool programs for high-risk patients are part of a $5 billion federal funding program set up under the Affordable Health Care Act that was signed into law this March.
When states began to roll out their plans for the federal funds, the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) investigated plans in Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Maryland, all of which the pro-life group accused of funding abortion. Following the passage of the health care overhaul in March, President Obama signed an executive order which purported to ban federal funding of abortion.
Following media scrutiny, the HHS issued a new regulation on July 29, clarifying that the pool programs are prohibited from covering the procedure.
“The (high-risk pool) program,” the regulation states, “is Federally-created, funded, and administered (whether directly or through contract); it is a temporary Federal insurance program in which the risk is borne by the Federal government up to a fixed appropriation. As such, the services covered by the PCIP (Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan) program shall not include abortion services except in the case of rape or incest, or where the life of the woman would be endangered.”
“Much has been made of this policy by both sides of the debate,” White House Office of Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle commented today on the White House blog. “But, in reality, no new ground has been broken.”
“The program’s restriction on abortion coverage is not a precedent for other programs or policies given the unique, temporary nature of the program and the population it serves,” she added. “It does not restrict private insurance choices and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act will continue to be guided by the law and the President’s Executive Order.”
Reacting to DeParle's statement, NRLC's legislative director Douglas Johnson said, “Without blinking, the Obama Administration had approved high-risk pool plans submitted by at least three states that would have funded virtually all abortions – until NRLC raised the alarms starting on July 13.”
“In the regulation issued today, the Administration tells states that elective abortions may not be covered in the high-risk pool program – but simultaneously, the head of the White House Office of Health Reform, Nancy-Ann DeParle, issued a statement on the White House blog explaining that this decision 'is not a precedent for other programs or policies given the unique, temporary nature of the program … '”
“This entire episode demonstrates what National Right to Life said in March – there is no language in the new health care law, and no language in Obama's politically contrived March 24 executive order, that effectively prevents federal subsidies for abortion on demand,” Johnson asserted.
“This means that unless Congress repeals the health care law or performs major corrective surgery on it, there will be years of battles, as each new program is implemented, over how elective abortion will be covered – and the White House is suggesting that today's policy will not necessarily be applied when implementing the other programs, some of which will cover far larger populations,” Johnson argued.