New York City, N.Y., Sep 28, 2010 (CNA) -
Dr. Bill Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights issued a statement decrying a recent CNN documentary on Pope Benedict which, he argued, attempted to make the Holy Father “out to be a co-conspirator” in the clerical sex abuse scandals.
Donohue asserted that the main objective of CNN program – which aired on Sept. 25 and 26 – was to “tarnish the image” of the Pope. He then proceeded in his column on Tuesday to address each point of contention raised by the network.
“We learn from CNN host Gary Tuchman that 'For decades, before he became pope, Joseph Ratzinger was a high-ranking Vatican official who, more than anyone else beside Pope John Paul, could have taken decisive action to stem the sexual abuse crisis,'” began Dohonue. “Similarly, author David Gibson says the pope 'always took the stalling tactic.'”
However, Donohue countered, it “is simply not true that Ratzinger was in charge of this issue 'for decades.' In fact, he wasn't given the authority to police the sexual abuse problem until 2001.”
“What is truly astonishing is that Tuchman concedes as much later in the program,” the Catholic League president added. “After he notes that 'By 2001, the sexual abuse crisis was beginning to engulf the Catholic Church,' he says, 'The pope gave Cardinal Ratzinger and the CDF (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) the power to cut through the bureaucracy and handle all sexual abuse cases directly.'”
“In other words, Tuchman was incorrect the first time when he said that 'for decades' Ratzinger 'could have taken decisive action.' He couldn't have been in charge 'for decades' if he wasn't given police powers until 2001.”
“Nowhere in the program is there any evidence that the pope was guilty of obstruction of justice,” Donohue continued. “This is a serious charge – the most serious made in the course of the documentary. Yet to throw this out, without ever producing evidence to substantiate it, is malicious. It won't cut it to say that he was 'perhaps' guilty of obstruction.”
“CNN intentionally planted this seed and never explicitly addressed the subject of obstruction of justice again,” he noted.
Regarding the Pope's alleged silence and obstruction of justice in the scandals, Donohue argued that if “it wasn't passion that provoked the pope to speak of the 'filth' within the Church – he did so right before being elected – what was it? A cerebral exercise?”
“And what was it that triggered him to reopen the case of Father Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, and then seek to reform the Legionaries? Was it boredom?”
“From top to bottom, what CNN did was the televised version of what the New York Times did in print form earlier in the year,” Donohue underscored in his concluding remarks. “The goal was to tarnish the image of Pope Benedict XVI, making him out to be a co-conspirator in the scandal.”
Washington D.C., Sep 28, 2010 (CNA) - The Haiti Advisory Group of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) released a report this week describing challenges the island nation continues to face, following a cataclysmic earthquake last January. The report also made recommendations to the U.S. government on how to focus its aid to Haiti and protect refugees and children.
Highlighting difficulties in material and social reconstruction, and particular dangers to children, the report's researchers and authors urged international agencies and foreign governments not to forget Haiti's continuing humanitarian crisis. Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami described how “nearly nine months after the earthquake, 1.3 million persons remain homeless, living in tent camps,” while “clean-up and reconstruction efforts proceed at a very slow pace.”
“Despite the outpouring of support from the international community in the aftermath of the disaster, attention, to the long-term recovery of Haiti has begun to lag,” Archbishop Wenski noted. “Full assistance to help the country rebuild has yet to be delivered, and displaced Haitians, particularly vulnerable children, remain in dangerous situations.”
Especially troubling to the bishops' delegation was the plight of many Haitian children, especially those who lost parents in the disaster, and others left at orphanages by parents unable to care for them. The delegation cited the vulnerability of Haitian children to systems of servitude, and mentioned reports of Haitian children being forcibly trafficked into the Dominican Republic as laborers.
While acknowledging “some innovative and promising child protective initiatives,” the USCCB's Migration and Refugee Services education coordinator Todd Scribner said that “there is no comprehensive approach to prevent family separation, smuggling and trafficking across the border, and support safe return and reintegration ... for children.”
The conference's Haiti Advisory Group also reported a slow pace of infrastructural recovery and reconstruction, a growing reluctance of foreign governments to welcome Haitian refugees, and a lack of Haitian government policies aimed at reuniting families that remain separated.
Delegates of the USCCB recommended that the U.S. and other nations work to deliver and keep track of reconstruction funds and assistance, permit more Haitian refugees to seek asylum during the humanitarian crisis, help the Haitian government to provide for those who remain homeless, and cooperate internationally to prevent the trafficking and exploitation of Haitian children.
“The United States and the international community must re-focus their attention on Haiti,” Archbishop Wenski stated. “This includes ensuring that needed recovery and reconstruction funds are delivered and used properly; that civil society is included in planning efforts, and, importantly, that Haitian families are reunited and vulnerable Haitians, such as children, receive protection.”
Washington D.C., Sep 28, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - In light of the upcoming Respect Life Month of October, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston issued a statement on what he perceives to be the greatest threats to human dignity in society, calling on Catholics to work towards transforming culture “into one that welcomes every human person.”
Cardinal DiNardo, who serves as chairman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, opened his remarks on Sept. 28 by stating that with “each passing year, the need for personal and public witness grounded in God’s boundless love for each and every human being grows more urgent.”
“With over one million innocent children dying from abortion each year, the plague of abortion remains embedded in our culture. It is encouraging to see the continuing decline nationwide in the number and rate of abortions – due in large part to fewer teens becoming sexually active, and to growing recognition of the humanity of the unborn child.”
“Yet the loss of even one child,” he noted, “and the pain experienced by the child’s mother and father in the aftermath of abortion, should impel us to redouble our efforts to end legal abortion, and to ensure that every pregnant woman has whatever help she needs to turn away from this heartbreaking choice.”
“In many areas of public policy, the rift continues to widen between the moral principles expressed by a majority of Americans and the actions of government,” the cardinal continued.
For example, although “Americans oppose public funding of abortion by wide margins,” he said, in “March of this year, Congress passed a health care reform law that allows for federal funding of abortion in some programs and could pressure millions of Americans to help subsidize other people’s abortions through their health care premiums.”
“Defenseless human life is also placed at risk today in the name of science,” he added, “when researchers seek to destroy human life at its embryonic stage for stem cell research – and demand the use of all Americans’ tax dollars to support this agenda.”
A recent poll commissioned by the Catholic bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities which showed that “57 percent of respondents favored funding only stem cell research avenues that do not harm the donor” and “only 21 percent favor funding all stem cell research, including research that requires killing embryonic human beings,” said the prelate.
Despite the overarching opinion of Americans on this issue, however, the current Administration “issued guidelines last year to fund human embryonic stem cell research, and some in Congress are preparing legislation to ensure continued funding despite a federal court’s finding that these guidelines may violate the law,” Cardinal DiNardo lamented.
“At the other end of life,” he went on, “seriously ill patients are again under threat from a renewed campaign for legalizing physician-assisted suicide.”
“Instead of addressing these patients’ real problems by providing love, support and relief of suffering, this agenda urges us to eliminate the patient as though he or she is the problem. Marching under the false banner of 'compassion' and 'choice,' it raises the fearsome prospect of a future in which the only 'choice' cheerfully granted to our most vulnerable patients is a lethal overdose of drugs.”
“While critics want to portray the Church’s witness as a narrow and negative ideology, it is just the opposite: A positive vision of the dignity of each and every human being without exception, each loved equally by God and so equally deserving of our love and our nation’s respect,” he underscored.
In his concluding remarks, Cardinal DiNardo stressed that “Our efforts, of course, must always be undergirded with prayer – the silent space for personal daily prayer that allows us to hear God’s voice deep in our hearts, and communal prayer that asks God to transform our culture into one that welcomes every human person.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 28, 2010 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera said in his homily Sunday for the nation’s bicentennial celebrations that the country must work toward national reconciliation.
“We have always been capable of uniting with one another, and examples abound, our people have advanced and progressed. Whenever we become divided, and the present reality is an example of that, we end up taking a giant step backwards,” he explained.
The cardinal went on to note that “national reconciliation” is an “unfinished task” of politicians and citizens. “Only from there can we better confront our weak points, the poverty of millions of Mexicans.”
Cardinal Rivera said the bicentennial festivities must not be reduced to fiestas or tributes to history. “The true celebration should be an occasion to renew our identity as a people, our pride as a nation and our appreciation of the country we have built together, with all of its values, including its profound religiosity and awareness of the transcendence of Jesus Christ,” he added.
The cardinal echoed the statements by the Mexican bishops in their pastoral letter marking the bicentennial, in which they set forth three priorities for the country: “A frontal assault on poverty, quality education and national reconciliation.”
Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sep 28, 2010 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Sao Paulo has called on Brazil’s Public Ministry to intervene in the Sao Paulo Art Biennial and remove an exhibit by artist Gil Vicente that depicts the assassination of various world leaders, including Pope Benedict XVI.
The archdiocese expressed “amazement, disgust and unease” at the exhibit “Enemies” by Vicente, which features drawings that “implicitly approve of violence.”
“There is no principal or school teacher with common sense who would display these drawings in their classrooms, as they would be considered uncivilized,” the statement continued.
“In a society already marked by conflict and suffering because of so much violence, it is dubious that in the name of art, an exhibit is displayed that suggests the expression of hatred against those perceived to be one’s enemies,” the archdiocese said.
It called the exhibit an “unfortunate show of disrespect for human dignity and a threat to the peace of social life. Violence, whether real or simply suggested, creates more violence,” the archdiocese stressed.
It also noted that the Catholic community feels particularly indignant and saddened “by the disrespect towards Pope Benedict XVI, who travels about the world on a mission of justice and peace. To imagine or suggest violence against the Pope causes sadness and indignation. May nobody, in any part of the world, be crazy enough to view these drawings!” the archdiocese said.
Recently, Brazilian lawyers demanded the exhibit be withdrawn for its depiction of the assassinations of world leaders such as George Bush, Brazilian President Lula da Silva and Pope Benedict XVI.
Vatican City, Sep 28, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pontifical groups on culture and evangelization released a communique on Tuesday announcing an upcoming forum next year in Africa which will highlight development strategies in the country, “focusing on the human person made in the likeness and image of God.”
A preparatory meeting for the forum titled “Cultures, identities of peoples and development in Africa and the Black Diaspora” began on Sept. 27 in the city of Abidjan, Ivory Coast. The effort is being promoted by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Congregation for the Evangelization of peoples, and is slated to be held in Abidjan in March of 2011.
“This year Africa is celebrating fifty years of independence of many countries from colonial rule,” read the communique released by the Pontifical Council for Culture. “How far has this culturally rich and diverse continent, made up of different colors and hues, profited from independence? What mark has development made on people's lives and how has globalization impacted the cultures of the continent?”
“The Pontifical Council for Culture in collaboration with the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples aims to create a forum with representation from different ecclesiastical, international and non-governmental organizations in order to find ways and strategies through which development can be promoted while focusing on the human person made in the likeness and image of God,” the statement added.
The gathering, wrote the council, is also intended “to become a permanent place of reflection, for concrete proposals for a cultural and educational engagement which will promote a body concerned with development in Africa.”
Those participating in the current Sept. 27 – Oct. 1 preparatory meeting include Fr. Barthelemy Adoukonou, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture, and Archbishop Robert Sarah, secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Also present will be Cardinal Theodore-Adrien Sarr, president of the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa (CERAO) and vice president of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), other bishops and theologians, as well as diplomatic representatives from the Ivory Coast.
Los Angeles, Calif., Sep 28, 2010 (CNA) - The death of Malibu’s Msgr. John V. Sheridan after a serious car accident has prompted U.S. Ambassador to Malta Doug Kmiec to reflect upon the priest’s life and the nature of faith.
On Aug. 25 Kmiec was driving in California with his friends Sr. Mary Campbell and retired pastor Msgr. John Sheridan when they suffered a single-car accident. Sr. Campbell, 74, died at the scene, while the 94-year-old monsignor died early in the morning on Sept. 17 from heart failure.
Kmiec praised his confessor Msgr. Sheridan’s “magnificent life of priestly fullness” in a recent column in The Tidings, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Recounting a visit the day before he died, Kmiec said he “prayed into his ever kind, but then, physically pained eyes.”
“Those wonderful eyes that welcomed all and with every twinkle said ‘I understand; I am with you; nothing further is required; come walk in the beautiful hills at my side’.”
The ambassador saw “something distinctly proper and natural” in the scene of Msgr. Sheridan surrounded by surgeons:
“Here was the Monsignor surrounded by the most splendid minds in medicine holding forth by the sheer beauty and spiritual strength of his presence. The metaphorical portrait of Christ teaching on the mountain-top filled the room with the Holy Spirit in every respect.”
Kmiec said he entered the room and reached for the priest’s “gentle hand of kindness” which he had held immediately after the accident to pray the Rosary together.
While in his last weeks Msgr. Sheridan seemed to respond less by voice than by look, Kmiec thought the priest’s eyes did not ask why he himself was suffering, but rather sought to search for “the light of faith” in his onlooker’s eyes. His eyes did not presume to know God’s mind, but asked whether visitors still had “a believing heart.”
“I gave the great monsignor my ready affirmation, and as I did, it seemed as if his hand relaxed. Msgr. John's wit and intelligence towered over just about all, including myself, and his power of discernment of the truth was unsurpassed,” Kmiec wrote in The Tidings.
However, the ambassador confessed he was not sure whether his affirmation was without doubt.
“Forgive me, John, with so much of the present time occupied by horror and unbearable grief, I would be pretending if I said I grasped how this unneeded pain given to you is compatible with the idea of our being justified by a Savior whose own suffering is held forth in Holy Scripture as sufficient to redeem us all.”
This dilemma, to Kmiec’s mind, is “the crux of faith.”
He reported that Msgr. Sheridan recounted his first near-death experience at the age of 17 when County Longford doctors had given him up for dead.
At the age of 58, the priest wrote that death was “a source of radical frustration and loneliness.”
Wishing that he could eliminate this loneliness from those grieved by the priest’s death, Kmiec pledged:
“If the way to see your welcoming and smiling face again, my dear Msgr. John, is to banish all doubt, then whatever time remains for me to walk the Malibu hills or the ancient pathways of St. Paul in Malta is time happily dedicated to keeping the faith alive,” Kmiec’s essay concluded. “…all of us who knew John Virgilus Sheridan have known and felt intimately the Lord's saving goodness, and we yearn for it still. Msgr. John V. Sheridan, Requiescat in Pace. I love you.”
Rome, Italy, Sep 28, 2010 (CNA) - In a letter to participants at an international conference examining pastoral activity at pilgrimages and shrines this week, the Holy Father emphasized the importance of urging pilgrims to encounter and imitate Christ.
A message sent by the Holy Father this month to guide the Second World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Shrines and Pilgrimages was distributed by the Vatican's council for migrants on Monday. The congress is taking place in Santiago de Compostela, Spain from Sept. 27-30 under the theme taken from the road to Emmaus, "He entered to remain with them."
Calling their pastoral work "fundamental" to the ecclesial life, Pope Benedict wrote to participants that since the beginning of his pontificate he also has intended to live his ministry with the feelings of the hope and simplicity of a pilgrim and with the Gospel message "on his lips." The pilgrim's conch on his coat of arms, he said, is an "explicit sign of this mission."
In the strong call to evangelize the world, he said, the "richness that springs" from pilgrimages and shrines is emphasized. He highlighted their "extraordinary capacity" to call people back to the faith, saying "(a)s Simeon found Jesus in the temple, in the same way also the pilgrim must have the opportunity to discover the Lord in the shrine."
Benedict XVI implored pilgrims not to forget that shrines are sacred and to be treated with devotion and respect. Of those who host pilgrims, he asked that they do so with "great scrupulosity." The shrines of the world "must be lighthouses of charity," he said, "incessantly dedicated to the most disadvantaged through concrete works of solidarity and mercy and a constant willingness to listen."
There, access to confession and Mass must be ensured, he said, calling the Eucharist the "food of the pilgrim" and the central point of all pastoral activity. The encounter with God, he added, ever the goal of the pilgrim, finds its "culmination" in the Eucharist.
He concluded by exhorting participants in the world congress to encourage pilgrims "to awareness and imitation of Christ, who continues to walk with us, illuminated our lives with his Word and distributing the Bread of Life in the Eucharist.
"In such a way," he said, "the pilgrimage to the shrine will be a propitious occasion to reinvigorate ... the desire to share with others the marvelous experience of knowing themselves to be loved by God and to be sent to the world to bear witness to this love."
Noting the inspiration of congress' scope in these words from the Holy Father, in his opening discourse for the congress, Archbishop Antonio Maria Vegliò posed the Pope's words as guidelines to help participants' reflections and "deepen the evangelization potential of pilgrimages."
Denver, Colo., Sep 28, 2010 (CNA) - Earlier this year, a psychological journal published a groundbreaking study on possible links between divorce rates and various careers and occupations. The survey by professors Shawn McCoy and Michael Aamodt was among the first to break down divorce statistics in 449 different fields. Two notable Catholic psychologists spoke to CNA about what the findings could mean, and how job stress can affect family life.
The study, published in the Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, found that among some performing artists, especially dancers and choreographers, rates of divorce were highest at almost 45 percent. Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, director of the Institute for Marital Healing, responded that he was not surprised by the high rates of divorce in the performing arts. While not criticizing individual artists, he noted that “such careers tend to foster selfishness … the major enemy of marital love.”
Low divorce rates – around 5 to 6 percent - were reported for optometrists and podiatrists. But members of many other types of medical “caregiving” professions, such as nurses and home health aides, were among the likeliest to divorce, ranking alongside bartenders and casino workers.
Fitzgibbons noted that women, who become medical caregivers more often than men, initiate two-thirds of all divorces. But he also pointed to other factors which could create marital difficulty for both men and women in caregiving and other service industries, such as job stress and unusual hours.
“Those who work in the evenings are a distinct disadvantage,” he observed, “because the marital friendship usually suffers, with ensuing significant loneliness.”
Both of the experts consulted by CNA agreed that the study's results could signify a looming “marriage crisis” among men and women without college diplomas, who support themselves and their families with lower-skilled and lower-paying lines of work.
Fr. Charles Shelton, a Jesuit priest and psychologist who has written several books on maintaining a balanced personal and family life, told CNA that individuals who are habitually unhappy with their work – often those in low-paying, low-skilled professions - may transfer this dissatisfaction to their spouse and children. A disappointing or frustrating job, he said, can lead to “immature defenses such as displacement onto others,” especially one's family members.
“I think the American dream is closing for many people,” Fr. Shelton observed, noting that “the competition for jobs will only add more stress” upon individuals and their spouses. Fitzgibbons also singled out the “marked decrease in good blue-collar jobs for men” as an underlying cause of divorce.
Fitzgibbons also called attention to employers' responsibility to be mindful of their employees' family lives-- not as a luxury, but as the foundation of society. “Employers,” he emphasized, “should commit themselves more to the common good and the virtue of solidarity rather than to greed.”
Fr. Shelton envisioned the Catholic Church's ministries as a source of strength for married couples in the face of a difficult economy and sometimes dismal career prospects. “Ideally,” he said, “parishes would have centers where people could gather and have support groups,” for the faithful to receive guidance and support one another in work and family life.
One of the original authors of the study on jobs and divorce told the Washington Post that the study could not answer the question, “Why are bartenders this way and engineers” --who have an especially low divorce rate-- “that way?”
But Fitzgibbons stressed that, no matter what the statistics imply, an authentic marriage can always succeed with God's grace. He advised all couples to remember that marriage is ultimately “supported more by God's love, than by their own love.”
Guadalajara, Mexico, Sep 28, 2010 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Guadalajara, Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez, charged last week that the laws recently passed in Mexico City relaxing abortion restrictions, allowing same-sex marriage and adoption by homosexual couples are contrary to the natural order and to democracy.
In an article published by the archdiocese’s newspaper Semanario, the cardinal explained that the laws are “immoral and greatly endanger the country.” He added that “if they are implemented, they will seriously damage the life of the nation and the institution of marriage.”
These laws go against “the natural law which we will all have imprinted on our hearts and that is inscribed in nature,” Cardinal Iniguez said.
The cardinal went on to note that the new norms “harm or contradict Sacred Scripture and the Christian faith that is shared by the majority of the Mexican people. For this reason, the result is that these laws go against the opinion of the majority. There were even polls on the adoption of children by homosexual couples, for example, and most people said they were against them.”
For this reason, these “laws are dictatorial and contrary to democracy. They denigrate governors and legislators in their role as representatives without absolute power, but rather the power bestowed on them by their constituents. They cannot legislate either against the natural law or against the will of the people,” the cardinal said.
After pointing out that more than 40,000 abortions have already taken place in Mexico City since the legalization of the practice, Cardinal Iniguez asked, “How is it possible that a few individuals can pass a law affecting 110 million Mexicans without taking them or the opinion of the majority into account?”
He concluded his article saying, “Unjust laws must be overturned. We need to reflect and reverse these norms that are, as I said, dictatorial, and that a nation seeking democracy must not allow.”