Archive of October 15, 2010

Omaha archbishop shuts down Intercessors of the Lamb

Omaha, Neb., Oct 15, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Just two weeks after their leader resigned, the group Intercessors of the Lamb ceased to exist as a Catholic entity. Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha formally suppressed the group Oct. 15, announcing that a lack of cooperation in instituting “necessary reforms” left him no choice.

“It was my hope from the beginning that the Intercessors and the archdiocese would move together on this path to the next step,” Lucas said. “Unfortunately, the canonical visitation revealed a number of alarming issues. For reasons that they have refused to share with me, the board of directors does not want to work with the Church to implement the necessary reforms.”

Consequently, the archbishop explained, it was necessary to suppress the community of hermits, who will no longer be regarded as “in consecrated life or assimilated to it in the Church.”

He specified that “no liturgical or sacramental celebrations are to occur on any property owned by the Intercessors of the Lamb, Inc., within the Archdiocese of Omaha,” that former members are released from any vows, and that they are “to set aside the habit and refrain from using the titles 'Mother,' 'Brother,' or 'Sister'.”

The prelate pointed out that while not all former members and associates of the suppressed community had resisted the reforms demanded after a canonical investigation, a majority of the lay directors in the group's civil corporate entity would neither meet with him, nor accept his directives as canon law obliged them to do. 

“What began as a desire for pastoral solicitude and an effort at positive reform,” he explained, “resulted in the refusal to accept the assistance and jurisdiction of the Church by a majority of the lay board members.” Canon law professor Fr. James J. Conn had conducted the previous investigation, which led to the resignation of Nadine Brown as the group's leader on September 30.

Brown's own desire to advance the canonical status of the Intercessors ultimately led to the canonical visitation that would cause the Oct. 15 supression. The group was recognized as a “public association of the Christian faithful” during the last twelve years of their existence.

Fr. Conn's findings, however, uncovered serious problems in the community's administration, spirituality, leadership, and finances.

Deacon Timothy McNeil, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Omaha, said the internal governing council of the group –distinct from its civil corporate board-- had given Lucas their consent to the supression. The archbishop also praised the cooperation of many former members who had welcomed his attempts at pastoral guidance.

Saying his “concern is for the welfare of the individuals who joined the Intercessors with the intention
of doing the Lord’s work,” Archbishop Lucas acted to transport 48 former members from a campus owned by the Intercessors' civil entity, to temporary housing at the archdiocese. The archbishop said that he was “providing for the care of the former members in the short-term,” and would “remain committed to helping them in any way I can in the future.”

Deacon McNeil explained that the corporate board had sealed the community's fate. “When the association asked to be recognized as a Catholic entity in accord with Church law, it agreed to recognize the pastoral authority of the archbishop and follow Catholic practices,” McNeil said. “In other words, you cannot make the claim you’re a Catholic organization and at the same time separate yourself from the teaching, sanctifying, and governing role of the archbishop.”

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Leader of Jerusalem Catholics optimistic about peace

Vatican City, Oct 15, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Despite more than six decades of conflict in the Holy Land, the leader of Jerusalem’s Catholic community, Patriarch Fouad Twal, remains optimistic about the newest round of negotiations between the Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

“We mustn't ever be pessimistic,” he told reporters Oct. 15, in a break between sessions of the special Synod of Bishops for the Middle East being held at the Vatican.

Direct talks between Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas broke down Sept. 26, when a Israel began allowing new home-building in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Israel had previously imposed a 10-month freeze on new constructions in an effort to encourage the negotiations. Palestinians have walked away from the talks and said they will not return until Israel halts any building in the disputed territory.

Patriarch Twal said the impasse hurts all parties in the region and said he prays that political leaders will make “courageous steps to give ... inhabitants a little hope and credibility.”

He questioned whether Israelis and Palestinians have the “good will” and mutual respect to find a solution to the conflict, which has strained the region since 1948. As many promises have never been realized, leaders on both sides lack credibility with the people, he explained.

The ongoing synod, the patriarch said, is raising awareness of the Church in the Middle East and helping to build unity with the Church in the West.

He said that after more than six decades of conflict in the region, “we are the Church of Calvary.”

“We entrust everything to the Lord,” he said. “We pray. We wait."

The synod, which runs Oct. 10-24, is an assembly of nearly 200 leading Church bishops from the many Catholic communities in the Middle Eastern lands. They were called by Pope Benedict XVI to examine the situation of Christians in the region and the future of the Church there.

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Pope urges Italian Catholics to enter politics without inferiority complexes

Rome, Italy, Oct 15, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has called Catholics in Italy back to the Church's "inheritance of values" to face the future creatively. To work for the common good, he asked them to enter the political sphere "with humility and determination."

The Holy Father made the appeal in his message to those taking part in the 46th celebration of the "Social Week for Italian Catholics," promoted by the Italian Bishops' Conference and inaugurated Oct. 14 in the southern Italian city of Reggio Calabria. The four-day encounter, attended by more than 1,200 representatives from all 227 Italian Catholic dioceses, aims to look at "an agenda of hope for the future of the country."

In light of the economic, social and cultural problems that afflict the nation, he called first for support for families, which have an "unsubstitutible social function" in educating children for the future. He then appealed for a new generation of Catholics, people who are renewed internally, to work in politics “without inferiority complexes,” and for the common good of all.

The presence of such Catholic politicians will not come about in an improvised manner, he said, but it will require an intellectual and moral formation that, “beginning with the great truths about God, man and the world, offers criteria of judgment and ethical principles to interpret the good of each and every person.”

The "common good," he clarified, is "that which builds and qualifies the city of men, the fundamental criteria of social and political life, the aim of human activity and progress.” It is rooted in the 'requirements of justice and charity,' the promotion of respect of rights of individuals and peoples, as well as relations characterized by the logic of giving."

Underscoring the importance of the formation of mature individuals for these tasks, he went on to underscore the "high vocation" of socio-political involvement, "to which the Church invites [people] to respond with humility and determination."

In applying themselves to areas such as the acceptance and integration of immigrants and social justice for all, he encouraged Catholic to "rise up to the challenge placed before them.

"The Catholic Church," he wrote, "has an inheritance of values that are not things of the past, but constitute a very alive and actual reality, capable of offering a creative orientation for the future of a nation."

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Church ever united against hunger, Pope tells FAO chief

Vatican City, Oct 15, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - International cooperation is needed in the fight to achieve "authentic human development" and eliminate hunger in the world, Pope Benedict XVI said in his annual message for World Food Day. He assured that the Church is always ready and "constantly at work" to do so.

In a letter to the director general of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the Pope brought attention back to the "one of the most urgent goals for the human family: freedom from hunger."

Pope Benedict called for concrete initiatives "informed by charity, and inspired by truth" to ensure that food is available to all people and accessible to them on a daily basis.

Commenting on this year's theme, "United against hunger," the Pope said that to be truly "united" in the fight against it, poverty must also be overcome with a strategy focused on "authentic human development, based on the idea of the person as a unity of body, soul and spirit."

Noting the tendency today to concentrate on supplying the material needs of the person, he said that "authentic development" is not just a question of what one "has" but "must also embrace higher values of fraternity, solidarity and the common good."

Pope Benedict emphasized that in an expression of "genuine fraternity," international collaborators must work together to overcome "obstacles of self-interest" and eliminate hunger and malnutrition.

Pledging the Church's commitment "for the defeat of hunger," he concluded by assuring that "she is constantly at work ... to alleviate the poverty and deprivation afflicting large parts of the world's population, and she is fully conscious that her own engagement in this field forms part of a common international effort to promote unity and peace among the community of peoples."

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Vatican official calls for 'pastoral conversion' on new media

Vatican City, Oct 15, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Church must intensify its presence in today’s "digital culture," Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, told Church leaders Oct. 15.

Addressing bishops gathered for the special two-week meeting on the Church’s future in the Middle East, Archbishop Celli said traditional communications methods -- radio, television, and print -- are no longer sufficient for the Church’s mission.

The archbishop called for “a pastoral conversion.” He said the Church must rise to the challenge of finding new ways to communicate the faith.

"We cannot continue to speak in our categories to a population that is increasingly distant from them,” he said. This does not mean, he said, “running after the latest technology.” Instead it means “understanding the categories of the other and using them."

The Church has a "great opportunity" to use new media to evangelize and spread Gospel values, especially among young people, he said.

But communications technologies are more than tools, he cautioned. “We are talking not just about instruments but about a real culture created by a communicative complexity that has never before been seen in history."

Archbishop Celli compared today’s digital landscape to the  situation in the early Church in the East, where icons were used to communicate the faith. The iconic traditions of the Eastern Churches created a language through images that reinforced and generated a culture and formed a part of Catholics’ common identity.

In the same way, new digital technology “creates and feeds new languages and ways of thought,” he said. "It pervades mentalities, ways of understanding, ways of learning, topics on which to dialogue."

He called for Church workers to be better trained in the use of new media. Training for seminarians is “urgent,” he said.

In a multimedia context where "words alone are no longer sufficient," he said that "books and the press will not disappear, nor will the simple parish bulletin, but these are no longer enough."

In addition to formation of lay pastoral agents, he said that seminary formation is "urgent." For seminarians, he said, the question is not so much about technology, but in regard to "communication, communion in this rapidly developing culture.

"Without priests - and then without bishops - who understand modern culture, there will still be a communications divide which will not favor the transmission of the faith to the young in the Church."

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Miami bishop lauds improved working conditions for Florida tomato farmers

Miami, Fla., Oct 15, 2010 (CNA) - Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami praised recent developments that improved conditions for workers in Florida’s tomato industry, expressing his hope that other agricultural companies follow suit in protecting the rights of their often overlooked employees.

On Wednesday, the Pacific Tomato Growers (PTG), one of the oldest and largest tomato producers in the U.S., along with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) signed an agreement establishing accountability and social responsibility protocols for the tomato industry in the state. The advancement comes after CIW's decade-long campaign for labor reforms.

The developments include a complaint resolution system, a participatory health and safety program, and a third-party auditing group that ensures a "penny-per-pound” system aimed at raising farm worker wages. The wage increase initiative is part of CIW's agreements with nine major retail food companies, including McDonald's and Whole Foods.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, who is also president of the Florida Catholic Conference, praised the leaders of CIW and PTG on Oct. 13.

“On behalf of my brother bishops in Florida, especially Bishop Dewane of the Diocese of Venice who has worked closely with farmworkers and growers encouraging dialogue to reach solutions, we congratulate the CIW and PTG for this agreement,” the prelate said. “We are especially heartened that the payment of the additional ‘penny per pound’ price premium to raise farmworkers wages is a part of the agreement.”

“Moreover,” he noted, “the owners of PTG show true enlightenment in calling for other agricultural companies to join in the effort and in declaring farmworkers must have the same protections as workers in all walks of life.”

“Most agricultural employers are people of good will,” Archbishop Wenski continued. “But what is significant here is that we have leaders in the industry agreeing to set high standards for protection of workers.”

“We applaud the courage and commitment of all of the leaders in these two groups who forged this agreement, which we hope and pray will lead to sustained change and new social responsibility for the industry.”

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Pro-life group launches ad campaign in Florida condemning racial targeting

Jacksonville, Fla., Oct 15, 2010 (CNA) - A pro-life group announced the launch of a controversial ad campaign this week in Florida that decries abortionists such as Planned Parenthood for targeting African American women.

Texas based pro-life advocacy group Heroic Media will run ads in Jacksonville this week. The advertisements have already been banned in New York, Chicago, Dallas and Houston, and include a billboard with the words: “The Most Dangerous Place for an African American is in the Womb.”

According to the group, an African American baby is three times more likely to be aborted than a white one. Heroic Media also noted that since 1973, abortion has reduced the black population by over 25 percent in the U.S. and that twice as many African Americans have died from abortion than the combined tolls of violent crimes, cancer, heart disease, accidents and AIDS.

“Planned Parenthood is targeting African American women and children by concentrating their abortion facilities in urban neighborhoods,” states the campaign website, “In the process, they have managed to successfully kill the hope and future of the next generation of African Americans.”

According to Fox News, however, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of North Florida Staci Fox argued that Heroic Media is spreading untrue and divisive facts.

Responding to this claim, Heroic Media cited the Centers for Disease Control, Planned Parenthood's annual report and the 2010 Census report for their figures.

Although the ads have been banned for being too controversial in numerous cities, Clear Channel Media told Fox News that the billboards met Jacksonville’s community standards, and that they will go up sometime this week.

Heroic Media explains on their website that they are a faith-based non-profit that “reduces abortion by creating a Culture of Life through television, billboard and internet advertising that connects women in crisis with life-affirming resource centers.”

Attempting to reach the demographic of women 18-34, the group says that in places where their campaigns have consistently run, the abortion ratio has dropped 24 percent.

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Diocese of Colorado Springs backs public school’s ban on wearing rosaries

Colorado Springs, Colo., Oct 15, 2010 (CNA) - Responding to a ban on the wearing of rosaries at a Colorado public school, the Diocese of Colorado Springs has said it does not oppose the action because it recognizes the need to protect children. Local gangs have reportedly decided to wear rosaries as jewelry as a sign of gang affiliation.

Mann Middle School in Colorado Springs sent a Sept. 30 memo to students, saying “we need to remind everyone that here at Mann, we respect all religious beliefs. Some members of the Catholic faith are offended by rosaries being worn around the neck like fashion accessories.”

The memo said that any rosaries worn around the neck must be worn underneath one’s shirt “out of respect for others.” Students who do not follow the instructions would be issued a dress-code violation.

Msgr. Bob Jaeger, vicar general of the Diocese of Colorado Springs, said in an Oct. 12 statement that the diocese “supports every student’s first amendment right to openly wear religious jewelry.”

“In these increasingly secular times, when hostility towards individuals of faith continues to grow, it is imperative to remain vigilant against all forms of selective religious discrimination,” he continued.

However, he wrote, the diocese recognizes “the need to protect children and the right of school districts to regulate clothing and other items that have been misappropriated as symbols of gang affiliation.”

Because of this misappropriation, the diocese does not oppose the school district’s decision.

"Rosaries and similar devotionals are articles of faith intended to foster and promote prayer. Rosaries are not intended to be worn as jewelry. Students who have a devotion to the rosary should be encouraged to pray the rosary rather than wear it around their necks."

Msgr. Ricardo Coronado-Arrascue, the diocese’s judicial vicar and chancellor, told the Colorado Catholic Herald that rosaries may occasionally be worn on one’s clothes, as when some vowed religious wear a rosary attached to their belts. But he lamented that gangs have adopted the rosary in this manner.

"To belong in a gang is against Catholic teaching because it involves violent confrontation," Msgr. Coronado-Arrascue commented. "To use a Christian symbol to express that is contrary to the symbol and contrary to the faith. Rosaries are many times prayed to obtain peace. How can you wear a symbol of peace and have it represent violence and fighting?"

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Colorado has opposed the school’s decision, citing religious liberty concerns.

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Federal contraception mandate wouldn't help women, physician and researcher says

Omaha, Neb., Oct 15, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Planned Parenthood and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) began a new joint effort this week to lobby the Department of Health and Human Services to make free contraception a part of new federal requirements for all hospitals. In response Dr. Thomas Hilgers, an expert in women's health and family planning methods, stated that the plan would not help women, nor promote public health as contraception advocates claim.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has already rejected efforts to mandate contraceptive coverage, saying it would violate the religious rights of Catholic hospitals and doctors. On October 14, Dr. Hilgers wrote to CNA from Omaha, Nebraska (where he directs treatment and research at the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction) to explain the plan's inherent problems from a scientific and medical standpoint.

As part of her effort to convince the HHS to accept her proposal, Planned Parenthood's president Cecile Richards argued women would not have to “pay $50 for birth control pills anymore” if her idea became law.

But Dr. Hilgers said Richards' accounting ignores the real price women pay, when fertility is regarded as a sickness needing “preventive care.” He noted that prominent side effects of the pill include circulatory problems, breast cancer, cervical cancer and liver tumors, and warned there were “many others beyond this as well.”

Hilgers also disputed remarks by the ACOG's Vice President for Practice Activities Hal Lawrence, who claimed that contraceptive care leads to “healthier pregnancies.”

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Hilgers wrote. “Once a woman discontinues oral contraceptives, the 'time to pregnancy' is longer than it would be if they were not on oral contraceptives. This is a form of infertility induced by the birth control pill.”

Hilgers, who is the Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gyneconology at Creighton University, said he knew of “no evidence at all that suggests that the birth control pill leads to 'healthier pregnancies'.”

He also warned that promotion of contraception, particularly by the federal government, cannot be considered a “middle ground in the abortion wars,” as one research consultant to Planned Parenthood has called it.

Most popular methods of contraception, he explained, actually cause the abortion of a new and genetically distinct human life. Hilgers said that consistent advocates of the pro-life position should instead consider recent advances in natural family planning, including his own NaProTechnology.

“The oral contraceptive (pill) has basically three mechanisms of action,” he explained. “It inhibits ovulation, blocks the cervical mucus and renders the lining of the uterus hostile to an early implanting blastocyst. The latter is an abortifacient effect,” he stated, saying that scientists do not yet know how frequently oral contraceptives cause this form of abortion. He went on to mention that “the intrauterine device is associated with early abortions as well.”

Dr. Hilgers additionally observed that the spread of contraception, and the attendant separation of sex from reproduction, had not improved public health or social stability at the national level.

Instead, he said, artificial contraception had been verified by sociologists as “the main ingredient to the increase in the divorce rate” beginning in 1962, and a primary factor behind the current “epidemic of sexually-transmitted diseases.”

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