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Archive of August 22, 2010

Pope prays for Mary's intercession against 'absurd logic' of violence

Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Aug 22, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Benedict XVI made a special plea to Mary for her intercession for peace in the world on Sunday, the Feast of the Queenship of Mary. Explaining her role as Queen of the world and her participation in her Son's mystery, he asked for the Blessed Virgin's help to persuade men to build a "civilization of love."

Among the many groups in attendance for the Marian prayer with the Pope at Castel Gandolfo were a contingent of Orthodox Christians from Galilee and a number of priests from the Legionaries of Christ. At the end of the audience, a youth band played a brief piece and was complimented for their "good music" by the Pope himself.

Speaking of the significance of the Marian feast before the Angelus, Benedict XVI explained that on this day the Church contemplates the Mother of Christ crowned by her Son, a crown which represents her role in "universal sovereignty." The fact that this year's feast, like the Assumption last week, falls on the Sabbath gives it a "greater light from the word of God," said the Pope.

"In particular," he explained, "the icon of the Virgin Mary Queen finds a significant confirmation in today's Gospel, where Jesus asserts, 'behold, those who are last will be first, and those who are first will be last'."

This "typical" expression of Christ can be found phrased in different ways throughout the Gospels, observed the Pope, so it "clearly reflects a theme dear to his prophetic preaching."

And, he pointed out, "the Madonna is the perfect example of this evangelical truth ... that God lowers the proud and the powerful of this world and raises the humble.

"The small and simple girl of Nazareth became the Queen of the world! This is one of the marvels that reveal the heart of God."

The "sovereignty of Mary" is "completely relative to that of Christ," who was exalted by the Father above every creature, the Pope explained. "(B)y the design of grace, the Immaculate Mother was fully associated with the mystery of the Son … (She) shared with the Son not only the human aspects of this mystery, but, through the work of the Holy Spirit in her, also the profound intention, the divine will, in a way that all her existence, poor and humble, was elevated, transformed, glorified, passing through the 'narrow gate' that is Jesus himself.”

"Yes," said the Pope, "Mary was the first to pass through the open 'way' of Christ to enter into the Kingdom of God, a way accessible to all men, to all who trust the Word of God and work to put it into practice."

Throughout Christian history, he concluded, there has been public veneration of the Virgin Mary and "today we wish more than anything to renew, as children of the Church, our devotion to her whom Jesus left us as Mother and Queen.

"We entrust to her intercession the daily prayer for peace, especially where the absurd logic of violence is most rampant; so that all men are persuaded that in this world we must help each other as brothers to build a civilization of love.

"Maria, Regina pacis, ora pro nobis!" the Pope exclaimed before leading the Angelus prayer.

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European Day of Remembrance honors Catholic martyrs among victims of Stalin and Hitler

CNA STAFF, Aug 22, 2010 (CNA) - On Monday, August 23, the European Union will mark its second annual “Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism,” honoring those who suffered or lost their lives under the totalitarian regimes. Millions of Catholics, along with those of the Eastern Orthodox churches and Protestant denominations, are among the victims to be remembered.

Dozens of victims of both the Nazi and Stalinist regimes have been beatified or canonized by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, both of whom personally experienced life under totalitarian governments.

A cardinal archbishop of the Polish church, Augustine Hlond, described the aftermath of the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939: "The Cathedral has been turned into a garage at Pelplin; the Bishop's palace into a restaurant; the chapel into a ballroom. Hundreds of churches have been closed. The whole patrimony of the Church has been confiscated, and the most eminent Catholics executed."

Terese Schwartz, a Jewish researcher, estimates that three million Polish Catholics died at the hands of the Nazi regime. Heinrich Himmler, who oversaw the Nazi SS during World War II, had called for the “elimination of all Polish people.” His strategy explicitly targeted the country's leaders and central institutions, including the Catholic Church.

The author and publisher Thomas Craughwell, in a 1998 article on non-Jewish victims of Nazism titled “The Gentile Holocaust,” described the concentration camp at Dachau as “the Calvary of at least 2,600 Catholic priests from 24 nations.” A full reckoning of Catholic suffering at Dachau, he said, “would fill volumes.” Priests, in particular, were starved and worked to death, and singled out as the victims of medical experiments.

The recently inaugurated European holiday's implicit comparison of the Soviet Union with the Third Reich provoked controversy in contemporary Russia last year, according to AFP reports. Nevertheless, according to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, 20 million Russians and other citizens of the Soviet empire died in government detention or through famine and executions under the regime of Joseph Stalin. During his leadership of the Soviet Union, 14 million people were confined to the system of work camps known as the Gulag.

Catholics living in Soviet territories were singled out for persecution by authorities, because of their faith and the Church's consistent stance against atheistic Communism. Fr. Christopher Zugger, a Byzantine Catholic priest who has written extensively about Catholics under Communism, described how prisoners in the Gulag “were interrogated, tortured, put into solitary confinement, experimented on, and sent to work in factories.”

Pope John Paul II, addressing members of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in 1999, said that the martyrs and confessors of the 20th century “knew the truth, and the truth set them free.”

“Christians in Europe and throughout the world,” he said, “pausing in prayer before the concentration camps and prisons, should be grateful for the light which they gave: it was the light of Christ, which they caused to shine in the darkness. For long years the darkness seemed in the eyes of the world to prevail, but it was not able to extinguish that light, which was the light of God and the light of man, wounded but not laid low.”

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After ACLU complaint about Catholic workers refusing to perform abortions, legal fund offers help

Washington D.C., Aug 22, 2010 (CNA) - Responding to an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) request for a government investigation into and action against Catholic hospitals which refuse to provide abortions, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty has said it will offer pro bono legal help to any hospital or individual threatened for refusing to perform an abortion.

In a July 1 letter the ACLU wrote to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), claiming that religiously-affiliated hospitals’ refusal to provide abortions violates the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act and the Conditions of Participation of Medicare and Medicaid.

“Religiously affiliated hospitals across the country inappropriately and unlawfully deny pregnant women emergency medical care,” the ACLU claimed.

The ACLU letter also highlighted the disciplinary action taken against Sr. Margaret Mary McBride, who approved a direct abortion at a Catholic hospital in Phoenix and was later removed from her hospital post and declared excommunicated.

In response, the Beckett Fund sent an Aug. 19 letter to the HHS saying that legal conscience protections have been in existence for decades. It argued that the ACLU misinterprets the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act.

“We will represent, pro bono, any religious hospital or its personnel that HHS threatens because of their conscientious objection to abortion,” commented Beckett Fund president Kevin “Seamus” Hasson. "And we will, if necessary, sue to block any such proposed policy."

“The ACLU has no business radically re-defining the meaning of ‘emergency health care’,” Hasson declared, “just as it has no business demanding that religious doctors and nurses violate their faith by performing a procedure they believe is tantamount to murder. Forcing religious hospitals to perform abortions not only undermines this nation’s integral commitment to conscience rights, it violates the numerous federal laws that recognize and protect those rights.”

Hasson argued that forcing Catholic or other religiously-affiliated hospitals to perform abortions will only result in nationwide closures and reduce access to healthcare for everyone. Legally forcing doctors and nurses to perform abortions would also impact religious freedom, he added.

Direct abortion is always prohibited by Catholic teaching and efforts to treat or cure a pregnant mother in a dangerous situation can take place only when her unborn child’s possible death is indirect and unintended.

While the ACLU’s July 1 letter focused on women with severe health conditions, in the past the organization has advocated restricting the general ability of Catholic hospitals and other institutions to refuse to perform procedures they find objectionable, such as sterilizations or abortions.

In a 2002 report titled “Religious Refusals and Reproductive Rights,” the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project argued that concerns for individual religious belief and institutional religious worship should be “balanced” with protections for “reproductive health,” patient autonomy, and “gender equality.”

“The law should not permit an institution’s religious strictures to interfere with the public’s access to reproductive health care,” the report’s executive summary argued.

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Catholic dissenters create homosexual political group, solicit reports of ‘anti-equality activity’

Washington D.C., Aug 22, 2010 (CNA) - Prominent Catholic dissenters have created an organization to promote homosexual political causes and to change Catholic opinion through coordination with other activists. Organized explicitly to oppose the U.S. bishops, the group’s website asks for reports of “anti-equality activity” in Catholic parishes.

The group Catholics for Equality’s website, which is still under construction, reports that the organization is dedicated to “support, educate, and mobilize equality-supporting Catholics to advance LGBT equality at federal, state, and local levels.”

The group claims the “official voice of the hierarchy” favors discrimination and opposes “just” efforts to secure “legal equality for LGBT Americans.” This “anti-equality voice” is “far too often” portrayed as representative of American Catholics, according to the website.

One page on the site, titled “Report anti-equality activity!” contains an incomplete template for a submission form. It asks informers to describe the purported anti-equality activity and to categorize whether it took place in the parish, diocese or community “so that pro-equality Catholics can respond.”

The information generates an e-mail sent to the organization and also “an entry into private ‘report’ database,” the website says.

Mark Matson, president of the dissenting Catholic group DignityUSA, reported in a March 2010 newsletter on the group's website that an organizational meeting for Catholics for Equality took place on January 30 and 31 in Washington, D.C.

He said the meeting was convened to address the “increasing role” of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and state bishops’ conference in opposing “LGBT” political causes. Another purpose of the meeting was to “coordinate efforts to shift Catholic public opinion and voter behaviors.”

Matson said he attended in lieu of executive director Marianne Duddy-Burke because the meeting was held on short notice. He added that other DignityUSA attendees included its board members Mark Clark and Tom Yates, both from Dignity/Washington (District of Columbia), and Ray Panas, president of Dignity/Washington.

According to Matson, Catholics for Equality will “focus on influencing legislation and the behavior of Catholic voters in a way that DignityUSA cannot” because of its tax designation. It will also develop an outreach strategy to include “influential theologians.” In his words, the new group “complements” DignityUSA’s mission and will be a counterpart to the homosexual advocacy group Human Rights Campaign (HRC). He and Duddy-Burke will hold two seats on the group’s board of advisors.

Also in attendance at the organizing meeting were Frank DeBernardo and Matthew Myers of New Ways Ministry. Sr. Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of the group and present co-director of the National Coalition of American Nuns (NCAN), also attended.

In a recent interview with a Dallas-based homosexual paper, Sr. Gramick claimed that there was a disconnect between the Catholic hierarchy and the laity on homosexual issues. She also estimated that about half of Catholic priests were homosexual.

In its interview with the religious sister, the Dallas Voice reported that New Ways Ministry is experimenting with a new program to target legislators as well as Catholic grassroots voters in Maryland.

According to Matson, Catholics for Equality’s organizational meeting was convened by Washington attorney Phil Attey and Rev. Dr. Joe Palacios, described as a Jesuit priest from Los Angeles who is currently on the Georgetown University faculty.

Last year Attey created a website to “aggregate reports on every gay priest” in the Archdiocese of Washington to help them “stand up to the church hierarchy” on homosexual issues. According to a WhoIs lookup, the website shares the same 12th Street, NW D.C. mailing address as Catholics for Equality.

In the 1990s Attey served as HRC’s electronic media manager. According to the gay publication Metro Weekly, he also co-chaired the Obama Pride Metro D.C. group to support the current U.S. president’s election bid.

For his part, Palaicos is a board member of Catholics for Equality and also political co-chair of the HRC’s D.C. Steering Community. According to his biography at the Georgetown University website, in 2009 he was appointed by the White House to serve on the board of visitors supervising what is commonly known as the School of the Americas, a U.S. training facility for Latin American military officers which has been criticized for its alumni’s alleged participation in human rights violations.

Issues listed on the Catholics for Equality website include “marriage equality.” Claiming that same-sex “marriage” does not coerce any religious faith, it invokes the “separation of Church and State” and says “we affirm civil marriage for same-sex couples throughout the United States.”

The group criticizes the U.S. bishops’ opposition to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), and advocates opening military service to open homosexuals.

“Catholics in the United States live in this social context that allows the free exercise of conscience rather than enforced scriptural fundamentalism or bishops’ and pastors’ exhortations in making decisions regarding homosexuality and gay rights— as is often exercised in Protestant fundamentalist and evangelical denominations and now by increasingly doctrinaire Catholic bishops,” the website argues.

It also claims that Catholic priests rarely mention homosexuality or homosexual issues in sermons “except when forced to by the bishops,” saying this coercion happened during the campaign to pass California’s Proposition 8 and Maine’s Proposition 1. Both successful ballot measures restored the definition of marriage to be a union of a man and a woman.

Other attendees at the Catholics for Equality organizing meeting included Joanna Blotner, coordinator of the HRC’s Religion and Faith Program; Sharon Groves, deputy director for the HRC’s Religion and Faith Program; Chuck Colbert, a journalist and contributor to the National Catholic Reporter; Shiva Subbaraman of the Georgetown LGBTQ Resource Center; and Peter Montgomery, a senior fellow at People for the American Way who facilitated the discussion.

The homosexual blogger Anthony Adams, who was ordained as a Catholic priest, attended the meeting as did Anne Underwood of Catholics for Marriage Equality in Maine and Charles Martel of Catholics for Marriage Equality in Massachusetts. California priest Fr. Geoffrey Farrow, who was disciplined by his bishop for opposing Proposition 8, also attended.

According to DignityUSA’s Matson, Cathy Renna, media relations director of Renna Communications, advised attendees on communications strategy. She praised Duddy-Burke’s lobbying related to the sexual abuse scandal.

While Catholics for Equality is a 501(c)(4) non-profit which can lobby on political issues, it has also planned a parallel non-political foundation to engage in campus outreach and to reach out to “prominent pro-equality Catholics in the entertainment, civic, business and sports areas, providing them a national platform as leading American Catholics to voice their support for LGBT equality.”

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Mother Teresa's relics make stop in Arkansas

Little Rock, Ark., Aug 22, 2010 (CNA) - For Margarita Butler, it was 30 years ago since she was in the presence of a saint. Butler, a member of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Hot Springs Village, Arkansas, was happy to drive to the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock July 28 to view relics belonging to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

"It's an honor to touch anything that belonged to her," said Butler, who saw Mother Teresa in New Orleans in the 1980s. "I hope she will bless all of us who come and love her."

Butler was among about 1,200 people who passed through the church on that Wednesday night to view two first-class relics of Mother Teresa, a reliquary containing her blood and a reliquary containing her hair. First-class relics are the physical remains of a saint, including hair, bone or blood.

Three second-class relics also were on display. Her crucifix was worn at her waist from the time she made her first vows as a Sister of Loreto when she was 20 years old. The display also included the rosary and sandals she used at the time of her death. Second-class relics are items worn or owned by the saint. She used the crucifix, sandals and rosary until she died at age 87 in 1997.

Little Rock was the last stop on the tour of relics this summer through the East and Midwest. The tour was organized by the Missionaries of Charity to mark Blessed Teresa's birth 100 years ago. The relics were returned the next day to the motherhouse in Calcutta, India.

As the visitors entered the cathedral, local Missionaries of Charity handed everyone prayer cards and a blessed medal of Mother Teresa. Many people like Butler took several extra prayer cards and medals for parishioners back home.

Butler said she will put her three prayer cards in a special place.

"Every time I read my Bible, I will see Mother Teresa," she said.

The visitors then stood in line for 30 minutes or more while they waited to get close to the table with the relics. Many people touched their medals and prayer cards to the reliquaries or took photographs. Several people brought disabled relatives and friends to venerate the relics, and the sisters made special arrangements for those families to take priority during the viewing.

"Mother had a special love for the disabled," said Susan Holmes, a local volunteer for the Missionaries of Charity who organized the event.

Following the viewing of relics, Bishop Anthony B. Taylor and seven priests celebrated Mass for at least 400 parishioners. The bishop said many people are blind to the treasure offered by Jesus, but not this saint-to-be.

"Mother Teresa found this treasure hidden among people living on the streets of Calcutta and dying without loved ones to care for them in their final hours, people who were even poorer spiritually than they were materially," he said.

Following Mass, visitors continued to look at the relics for another 90 minutes.

"I really like Mother Teresa," said Wendy Gerard, a member of Immaculate Conception Church in North Little Rock. "I really like the things she did. I really felt honored that these people came down here to see us. It was so grand. It was just so grand."

Christine Murley, a member of Our Lady of the Holy Souls Church in Little Rock, brought two of her children with disabilities to the Mass. Her 16-year-old daughter, Sabrina, who has cerebral palsy, was particularly interested in seeing the relics.

"She's been one of the most spiritual children I have encountered," she said. "She wanted to come. She loves the Church. She loves Mother Teresa. Even with the heat and her epilepsy, I knew I had to bring her here."

Holmes said, "It was overwhelming. We expected 300 to 400 people to come. It was vastly larger than we contemplated." People started lining up two hours before the viewing started, she said.

A Mass will be celebrated at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 26 at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in honor of Blessed Teresa's birthday. A new song, "Mother Teresa, All for Jesus," will be sung for the first time. On Sept. 4, in honor of Blessed Teresa's feast day Sept. 5, a Mass will be celebrated by Bishop Taylor at 9 a.m. at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Little Rock.

Printed with permission from Arkansas Catholic, newspaper for the Diocese of Little Rock.

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