Vatican City, Sep 3, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Drawing on the metaphor of a plant that grows firm on a foundation of strong roots, Pope Benedict XVI asked youth in his message for World Youth Day 2011 to strengthen their faith to counter the influence of secular society. The presence of youth, he wrote, "renews, rejuvenates and gives new energy to the Church."
Directing his words to all youth who might be interested in coming, the Holy Father encouraged participation in the "decisive" experience offered by World Youth Day 2011. The encounter is set to take place in Madrid, Spain from Aug. 16-21 under the theme "Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith."
Imploring young people to pursue their yearning for "something really truly greater," Pope Benedict challenged them to confront secular culture. Next year's celebration, he wrote, comes at an important time "when Europe greatly needs to rediscover its Christian roots."
Against what he called the "eclipse of God" in a contemporary culture that has the tendency to exclude God and consider faith only relevant to the private sphere, he encouraged youth to strengthen their faith, exclaiming, "You are the future of society and of the Church!"
A "solid foundation" amidst a "growing mentality of relativism" is needed, Benedict XVI wrote, adding that young people are entitled to "solid points of reference" from their predecessors to assist them in making life choices: "like a young plant which needs solid support until it can sink deep roots and become a sturdy tree capable of bearing fruit."
As today's "strong current of secularist thought" aims to marginalize God and create a "paradise" without Him, the Pope explained, "experience tells us that a world without God becomes a 'hell' filled with selfishness, broken families, hatred between individuals and nations, and a great deficit of love, joy and hope.
"On the other hand, wherever individuals and nations accept God’s presence, worship him in truth and listen to his voice, then the civilization of love is being built, a civilization in which the dignity of all is respected, and communion increases, with all its benefits."
The Pope invited youth to "see" and "meet" God personally in the lead-up to next year's celebration, gaining strength through participation in the sacraments, prayer, reading the Gospel and the Catechism, and service to all. He also emphasized the importance of including their peers, evangelizing, as they do so.
Concluding his message, Benedict XVI told young people not to be discouraged as they make the difficult decisions concerning their faith, but to seek support in the Church.
He also urged them to prepare carefully for next August's celebration, underscoring that "(t)he quality of our meeting will depend above all on our spiritual preparation, our prayer, our common hearing of the word of God and our mutual support."
The Church, he wrote, is depending on youth of the world. "She needs your lively faith, your creative charity and the energy of your hope."
"Your presence renews, rejuvenates and gives new energy to the Church. That is why World Youth Days are a grace, not only for you, but for the entire People of God."
Rome, Italy, Sep 3, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Dr. Stephen Hawking's new book, “The Grand Design,” makes the bold claim that the universe “created itself from nothing” based on physical laws such as gravity, making God unnecessary for a self-created and self-unfolding model of the universe. However, two Catholic scholars trained in physics say his remarks misconstrue the real relationship between God and creation.
A Jesuit priest and scholar, former president of Gongaza University Fr. Robert Spitzer, says that Hawking's dismissal of God in favor of physics reflects fundamental confusions about the Christian concept of God, as the creator of all that exists-- both the physical universe, and the laws of physics which apply to it.
When this is understood, Fr. Spitzer said, Hawking's basic confusion becomes clear. Although Hawking talks about the universe “creating itself from nothing,” he is presupposing that this “nothing” somehow involved gravity and other fundamental laws of physics, Fr. Spitzer explained.
But principles such as gravity are not irreducible or self-evident axioms. Rather, they are non-physical laws which govern the ordinary operations of the physical world. Thus, the Jesuit priest stated, there is no comparison between a creation which unfolds and develops according to laws followed by matter, and Hawking's proposal of “spontaneous creation” from “nothing.”
“Let’s take the law mentioned by Dr. Hawking above – the law of gravity,” Spitzer wrote. “It has a specific constant associated with it and specific characteristics, and it has specific effects on mass-energy and even on space-time itself. This is a very curious definition of 'nothing'.”
“Now,” he continued, “if we rephrase Dr. Hawking’s statement in the above fashion, then he has clearly not explained why there is something rather than nothing. He has only explained that something comes from something,” by describing the development of a functioning universe on the basis of laws such as gravity.
Historically, many Christian theologians, as well as non-Christian philosophers, have argued precisely the opposite of Hawking's point: namely, that the laws of physics can only be ascribed to an infinite, intelligent and non-physical creator.
Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ, an astronomer at the Vatican Observatory, explained to CNA on Friday how the preconditions for the universe's unfolding and operations were not a form of “nothing,” as Hawking considers them to be. Rather, he said, they are the conditions created by God for the ordering of the world.
“God is the reason why space and time and the laws of nature can be present for the forces to operate that Stephen Hawking is talking about,” he told CNA.
Hawking's dismissal of God, Br. Consolmagno said, was based not only on his incorrect designation of physical laws as “nothing,” but also on a failure to grasp the notion of God's transcendence. As such, he concluded, Hawking was really dismissing a kind of “god” in which Christians do not believe.
“The 'god' that Stephen Hawking doesn’t believe in, is one I don’t believe in either. God is not just another force in the Universe, alongside gravity or electricity. God is not a force to be invoked to . . . 'start a scene or two' and fill the momentary gaps in our knowledge.”
Rather, Br. Consolmagno said, “God is the reason why existence itself exists.”
This profound mystery, Fr. Spitzer said, was one which Professor Hawking was actually indicating, at the very same time he was attempting to dismiss it.
“In my view,” he concluded, “Dr. Hawking has not yet shown the non-necessity of this reality. Indeed, he implies it by assuming the existence of a beginning in his assertion about the universe coming from nothing.”
Santiago, Chile, Sep 3, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Rosaries blessed personally by Pope Benedict XVI were received by family members on behalf of each of the miners buried far under Chile's northern desert. Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz, who delivered the gifts, noted how the adversity has brought Chileans closer together.
The Cardinal Archbishop of Santiago celebrated the Eucharist with family members of the 33 trapped miners on Thursday. Sunday will mark one month since the San Jose mine shaft collapsed, leaving them trapped half-a-mile underground.
At Mass, the cardinal underscored the Pope's spiritual support for the miners and their families, which was made known during the Angelus last Sunday. In that message, the Holy Father assured them of his prayers for them to remain calm and for rescue efforts to reach a "happy conclusion."
Cardinal Errazuriz explained to family members that Pope Benedict also wished to give each of them the gift of a rosary to show his affection and concern.
Reflecting on the overall situation brought about by the collapsed mine shaft, Cardinal Errazuriz said before Mass that it is "impressive how this fact has united all of us as a family and there is nobody in Chile who isn't following what is happening to them day-to-day."
He praised the faith of the miners and the strength, happiness, solidarity and discipline they have shown in the face of difficulty. Noting also the collaboration of so many people and the great efforts that are being made to save the miners, the cardinal said that many important tasks could be taken on in the nation "with that spirit of solidarity."
Praising the mass mobilization to rescue the miners, he said, "This effort proclaims the value of all human life, which is priceless."
Vatican City, Sep 3, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Twenty thousand visitors a day are taking their toll on Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel masterpieces. At the conclusion of a summer project to remove four years of dust from the Sistine Chapel's famed walls and ceiling, the director of the Vatican Museums cautioned that "excessive" traffic without sufficient counter-measures spells bad news for future viewers.
In Friday's edition of L'Osservatore Romano, Vatican Museums director Antonio Paolucci detailed efforts in July and August of this year to clean "possibly the most known and consequently most used and 'consumed' place of art in the world." He described a massive effort that took 30 specialists, working in rotations during the night, nearly a month to complete.
It had been four years since the last "dusting," he noted, and the staff removed "unimaginable quantities of dust and sediment" that had collected on surfaces, resulting from an average of 20,000 visitors per day.
Noting controversies accompanying the scope, method and products used in the cleaning efforts that originally restored the Sistine Chapel's treasures in the 1980s and '90s, Paolucci said that these questions are no longer an issue now that their effectiveness has been proven over time.
However, today, he explained, they are dealing with the "excessive anthropic pressure," that is, too many visitors, for the climate and pollution control measures that are currently in place.
"If we want to conserve the Sistine in acceptable conditions for the next generations," Paolucci warned, "this is the challenge that we must defeat ..." This challenge is "more arduous," he added, than those posed during the restorations of the 20th century.
Ironically, there was also an additional article in the same newspaper on Friday announcing the extension of visiting hours on certain days in September to include evening visits.
Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 3, 2010 (CNA) - The governor of the Mexican state of Guanajuato, Juan Manuel Oliva Ramirez, expressed regret this week that some feminist groups lied in their desire to push for abortion. He also rejected the groups' claims that women in his region were imprisoned for having an abortion.
“From the onset we determined that no women were imprisoned for abortion, which was the accusation these feminists groups were making against the state government.” He added, “we have demonstrated that such cases do not exist in Guanajuato.”
Ramirez underscored that the state human rights office and the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights both determined that “no women are in prison for abortion” and that accusations to the contrary were completely false.
Several days ago the U.N. dismissed claims by the feminist group “Las Libres” that “dozens of women” have become victims of Mexican law that protects life from the moment of conception and have been jailed for causing the deaths of their newborn children.
Barcelona, Spain, Sep 3, 2010 (CNA) - The Spanish newspaper ABC reported this week that at least three Catholic hospitals in the region of Catalonia are distributing the abortion pill RU-486, including one affiliated with the Archdiocese of Barcelona.
According to ABC, the Sant Pau Hospital, the Sant Joan de Deu Hospital—operated by the St. John of God congregation—and the Sant Celoni Hospital are currently distributing the pill. Administrators from all three facilities confirmed the report, saying distribution of the drug is “part of the current policy.”
Sources from the Sant Celoni Hospital told ABC that facility has been distributing RU-486 for some time.
“It is quite amazing considering that the hospital’s own code of ethics, to which ABC gained access, lists as the first commitment required of professionals is that of ‘defending and prolonging human life’,” the newspaper reported.
Omaha, Neb., Sep 3, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholic medical professionals, clergy and lay people from across the United States and around the world are gathering this weekend to honor the legacy of the papal encyclical “Humane Vitae” and commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction based in Omaha, Nebraska.
Included among the featured speakers and guests at the “Labor Day Weekend Celebration of Love & Life” are Justin Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Healthcare Workers, and Raymond Arroyo, anchor and host of EWTN’s “The World Over.”
The opening session on Thursday included a presentation by Dr. Thomas W. Hilgers, MD, CFCE, founder of the institute and a leading researcher in identifying Catholic-approved solutions to infertility with medical and surgical techniques that are all part of a new women’s health science known as NaPro Technology (natural procreative technology).
In his remarks to the more than 125 assembled guests, Hilgers recounted his professional journey of answering the call of Pope Paul VI in “Humane Vitae” who made an “appeal to men of science” in the controversial teaching document that was released in July 1968.
Hilgers told those gathered that like most Catholics of his era, he had heard rumors that Pope Paul VI was preparing to set aside Church teaching prohibiting the use of artificial contraception, and was as surprised as anyone when those rumors turned out to be false.
After reading the encyclical, he felt much of the message was directed to him on a personal level and immediately began contemplating ways to answer Pope Paul VI’s challenge to find and develop new reproductive healthcare methods and protocols to replace the pill and other emerging artificial reproductive technologies.
Before long, his investigation into the wonder of human reproduction, much of it based on the work of Dr. John Billings, became a passion, one he was destined to continue for the next four decades.
“I started asking myself the question: ‘Why Me Lord?’,” recalled Hilgers. “But after awhile, that question became, ‘Why not me, Lord?’ This is the question I pose to all of you here now.’’
Today, the Pope Paul VI Institute is widely recognized as a leading force in Catholic-approved reproductive health, applying clinically-proven science and medicine for the benefit of countless couples throughout the world. Hilgers and his colleagues helped create the Creighton Model FertilityCare System (CrMS), a standardized method of achieving or avoiding pregnancy based on so-called “bio-markers” of women, and is available at hundreds of FertilityCare Centers around the world. The basic tenets of CrMS form the foundation of NaPro Technology —a direct result of Pope Paul VI’s hopes and prayers offered more than 40 years ago.
Friday's presentations will have a distinctly international flavor, with a focus on the medical and scientific advances of NaPro Technology—still considered an emerging healthcare science. Medical professionals and NaPro Technology practitioners from Chile, Ireland, Poland, Spain and Taiwan will join their colleagues from the United States in making presentations. Cardinal Rigali will be the principal celebrant and homilist for Mass on Friday.
Saturday is designated as “Love & Life Celebration Fun Day,” with hundreds of so-called “NaPro babies” and their parents enjoying music, entertainment and arcade games. EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo will be the featured banquet speaker that night and Archbishop Zimowski will be the principal celebrant at the closing Mass on Sunday morning.
New Shoreham, R.I., Sep 3, 2010 (CNA) - Despite Hurricane Earl’s projected path, which could see the Category 3 storm lashing some parts of the Rhode Island coast with tropical storm force winds by late Friday, Fr. Joseph Protano Jr. is undeterred in his mission as the pastor of the only Catholic Church on Block Island.
“We’re going to stay here, and whatever comes, comes. We can’t abandon the island, that’s for sure,” says Fr. Protano, pastor of St. Andrew Church, from his perch in the church’s rectory, which is located high above the harbor about two blocks away.
The parish’s Saturday night and Sunday Masses are still scheduled for this weekend, as is the Saturday afternoon wedding of a couple from the mainland that Fr. Protano will officiate.
“They called me today to say, ‘We’re here!’” Fr. Protano said of the arrival of the bride and groom.
Transport ferries to the island meanwhile were taking most visitors in the opposite direction as the hurricane, packing 125 mph winds, approached Cape Hatteras, N.C. to the south, before an anticipated turn to the northeast toward New England later this evening.
The parish, which doubles in size to 2,000 parishioners in summer, has a committee in place that goes into action battening down the hatches when weather conditions get rough.
“We take in our deck furniture, make sure the upper transepts of the church are locked. It’s our normal routine for a storm. They automatically go into gear when something like this happens,” the pastor said.
The island has seen its share of powerful storms through the years, including a nor’easter that heralded Fr. Protano’s arrival as pastor here seven years ago.
“My first year, a couple of my classmates came out on Monday to visit, and they were not able to leave until Saturday morning,” the pastor remembers, noting how the guests were only planning to spend one night on the island.
Fr. Protano is taking the coming storm in stride.
“I don’t think it’s going to be that dramatic myself,” he said.
Printed with permission from Rhode Island Catholic, newspaper for the Diocese of Providence, R.I.
Phoenix, Ariz., Sep 3, 2010 (CNA) - The Catholic Bishop of Phoenix responded Wednesday to a priest’s reported participation in an attempted priestly ordination of a woman. Urging prayers for all involved, he said such actions are “divisive” and have “profoundly harmful consequences.”
Writing in a Sept. 1 letter published in the Catholic Sun, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted informed Catholics in the diocese that a “schismatic group” in Tempe, Arizona called the Ecumenical Catholic Communion tried to ordain a woman. Fr. Vernon Meyer, a priest of the Diocese of Phoenix, reportedly participated in the alleged ordination.
“To feign the conferral of the Sacrament of Holy Orders results in the penalty of excommunication,” Bishop Olmsted explained, saying the penalty applies both to the person attempting the ordination and to the person attempting to be ordained.
“The attempted ordination of a woman is a grave offense against a sacrament and the structure of the Church,” he added. “Please pray for all involved in this divisive, scandalous act against the Catholic Church.”
The teaching of the Church is “of paramount importance,” he said, citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s statement that only a baptized man can be validly ordained. The Catechism says the ordination of women is “not possible.”
“The Church’s position on the Sacrament of Holy Orders, of course, does not mean that women are of any less value or dignity than men,” Bishop Olmsted noted. “We are all called to Christian service, and women have always played an instrumental role in the life and holiness of the Church.”
Bishop Olmsted also challenged recent news reports that the Holy See considers the attempted ordination of women to be on par with the sexual abuse of minors.
“This is simply not true,” he stated, saying the media portrayals arose from a July letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF) which concerned updates to the norms governing grave crimes in church law.
Malibu, Calif., Sep 3, 2010 (CNA) - Reports from Malibu, California indicated on Wednesday that the U.S. Ambassador to Malta, Douglas Kmiec, was expected to make a full recovery from what are now described as “moderate” injuries from an August 25 car accident. Sister Mary Campbell was killed in the accident, which also seriously injured Monsignor John Sheridan.
Martin Sheen, a veteran Hollywood actor and member of Our Lady of Malibu Church (OLM), mourned the loss of Sister Campbell, who had served as the school's principal and as a teacher for more than two decades. The car containing Ambassador Kmiec, Sister Campbell and Monsignor Sheridan drifted off the road and crashed into a drainage ditch for unknown reasons.
Campbell was “one of the dearest people that you could ever know,” Sheen told Fox News, saying that her death was “heartbreaking.” Sheen was at his home parish this week, giving public support to the community at a book signing by Fr. Greg Boyle of Homeboy Industries.
Sister Campbell was a member of the Sisters of St. Louis for 52 years. Her religious community was celebrating its patron's feast day--St. Louis of France--on the day that Sister Campbell was killed. Along with Kmiec and Sheridan, she was returning from a Mass and luncheon commemorating the founding of the Sisters of St. Louis motherhouse 60 years ago.
A memorial Mass was held at the parish on Wednesday morning for Sr. Campbell.
Ninety-five-year-old Monsignor Sheridan, the pastor emeritus of Our Lady of Malibu, was reportedly in an induced coma following the accident. The monsignor is breathing with the aid of a ventilator, but is in “stable” condition.
Front Royal, Va., Sep 3, 2010 (CNA) - A British professor’s call to sterilize by force members of society who would be “inadequate parents” prompted criticism from the interim head of Human Life International (HLI), who warned that the view is more mainstream among academics and derives from a society where life is controlled “at our whim.”
Prof. David Marsland told the BBC that “permanent sterilization” is the solution to child neglect or abuse, LifeSiteNews reports.
Attributing abuse and neglect to “a very small minority of inadequate parents,” he said these parents have “a number of moral and mental inadequacies” caused by “serious mental defect,” chronic mental illness, drug addiction and alcoholism.
“Short of lifetime incarceration,” he said, the solution is “permanent sterilization.”
The professor’s response came in a BBC program which reacted to an English local council that wanted to force contraception on a 29-year-old woman. Council members judged her to be incapable of making decisions about childrearing.
Prof. Marsland is Emeritus Scholar of Sociology and Health Sciences at Brunel University, London and Professorial Research Fellow in Sociology at the University of Buckingham.
HLI interim president Msgr. Ignatio Barreiro-Carambula denounced the comments on Thursday, saying they show that “no evil is ever fully buried in the past.”
"Every time we think we've seen the last of the Sangerian calls to forcibly sterilize and otherwise do away with the disabled, we are aghast at their return," he said in a Thursday press release. “Sangerian” is a reference to Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, a eugenicist who was among the many intellectuals who called for birth control to target racial minorities and other “unfit” persons.
“Our elites have established a society of contraception and abortion, wherein life itself is just another factor to be controlled at our whim,” the monsignor argued. “This society in turn creates more and more people who are depersonalized and marginalized, and they think that the answer to this is to simply get rid of the people whose situations we have helped to create? This is insanity."
Msgr. Barreiro also warned that the professor should not be regarded as a fringe character.
"What many people may not realize is how mainstream Prof. Marsland's comments are in the 'progressive' academy,” he commented, charging that supporters of forced sterilization are “destroyers” of life.
“Only a corrupt person could make this barbarity sound so 'reasonable'," he continued. “We are not fooled. We must all denounce this evil and stop it in its tracks."
He called on Christians and all men of good will in academia to reject the reasoning of the professor and those like him who have “again gone too far.”
“We must tell them that we reject the notion that human beings are mere animals that must be controlled by those who think they know better."
Lee's Summit, Mo., Sep 3, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Our Lady of the Presentation Catholic School, a 480 student elementary school in Missouri is competing for half a million dollars in a Kohl's department store online contest that ends Friday night. Though they still hope to be among the winning schools, they can already see the positive effects the contest has had on the community.
The school, located in Lee's Summit, Missouri is currently ranked in seventh place in the Kohl's Care Foundation's $10 million online contest. The top 20 schools in the country receiving votes via Facebook by Friday night will each receive $500,000.
Principal of Our Lady of the Presentation (OLP), Jodi Briggs told CNA that the school decided to participate in the contest in July in order to raise needed funds.
If the kindergarten through eighth grade school is one of the 20 winners, Briggs said, it will use the money to improve technology and add classrooms and spaces for students. “We are looking into adding additional classrooms or creating mobile computer labs” as well as “adding wireless capabilities” and “creating a multi-purpose space for band and choir,” she added.
Facing a growing number of students, the principal explained the expansion is needed as they currently “have to limit the number of students in classrooms, therefore creating a waiting lists for students wanting a Catholic education.”
Despite having an enrollment under 500 with the majority of students under the contest's minimum voting age of 13 years old, Briggs explained that the school has successfully promoted the contest so far due to “the huge volunteer base of parents and parishioners that have come on board to help.”
“Our parish, diocese and community have rallied behind us,” Briggs continued. At the parish level, she said that the OLP priests have been “encouraging people to vote after Mass.” In addition, parents of students have volunteered time to help retired parishioners set up Facebook accounts and vote in the school computer lab.
Within the diocese, Briggs told CNA that neighboring parishes lent a hand by allowing OLP “families to set up voting booths to vote after Masses,” and the local diocesan high schools “have allowed us on campus during lunch to allow students to vote.”
The community is also chipping in. Local restaurant Next Door Pizza gave out free appetizers to voters, and local college campuses allowed OLP supporters to set up voting booths in front of their respective Newman Centers.
Briggs said the effects of the contest on the community have been overwhelmingly positive. “The contest has truly brought life and unity to our parish. School families have joined with parishioners working for the benefit of everyone. It is amazing to see the relationships that have been formed between school families and parishioners.”
Chris Gray, the mother of two daughters at OLP, summed up the general feelings of the school community saying that though they all “want to win this money for our school and for our kids,” the community members have already gained a great deal: “a strengthened relationship between our school and parish, new friendships, an outpouring of support from family, friends and our community. Schools we have never heard of before have offered to help us! People we barely know have come through in such wonderful ways.
“We are so incredibly blessed!”
To learn more about Our Lady of the Presentation, visit: www.presentation-parish.org