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Archive of December 6, 2010

Prop. 8 hearings begin in Court of Appeals

San Francisco, Calif., Dec 6, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - A panel of 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judges is hearing arguments from Proposition 8 supporters and opponents this week in a landmark case that will most likely reach the Supreme Court.

U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker had ruled on Aug. 4 that Prop. 8 – a traditional marriage initiative which passed in November 2008 with the support of seven million Californians – was unconstitutional and mandated that it be null and void on Aug. 18.

On Aug. 17, however, a panel from the Ninth Circuit issued an emergency stay of Judge Walker's ruling. The court granted a motion filed by the ProtectMarriage.com legal team.

As part of its order, the Ninth Circuit issued an expedited appeal schedule for the case. Oral arguments for the case started Dec. 6 and were broadcast on C-SPAN.

The randomly selected, three member panel consists of Judge Michael Hawkins, Judge Stephen Reinhardt and Judge N. Randy Smith.

Judge Reinhardt – whose wife Ramona Ripston is the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California – denied requests to recuse himself from the hearing. According to the New York Times, he claimed that despite his personal connections, he is able to remain impartial in the case.

As the hearings are underway, a vigorous cultural debate around legalizing same-sex “marriage” is once again being reignited. Yet there are those that hold fast to the idea that redefining marriage poses serious dangers for American society.

Dr. Christopher Kaczor, author and philosophy professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, said that the legalization of same-sex “marriage” would have far-reaching and detrimental affects.

In a Dec. 6 e-mail to CNA, Dr. Kaczor outlined several predictions including that divorce rates will rise, marriage in general will destabilize, and increased numbers of children will the lack the sociological benefit of having one father and one mother.

“Since same-sex couples cannot have children together, one would expect that their relationships would tend to be less stable,” he said. “If same-sex couples are granted a legal right to marry, and if they end up divorcing at a rate even higher than opposite sex couples, then divorce would be come even more widespread than it currently is,” Kaczor said. 

Dr. Kaczor noted that increases in rates of legal divorce “further destabilize marriages that are troubled.” 

“The more divorce there is in society, the more socially acceptable it becomes, and the more likely it is that opposite sex couples will choose divorce over working harder on their marriages,” he said.

Also, if same-sex marriage is legalized, opponents of it “would be forced to act against their consciences or be penalized.”

The professor outlined the further concern that  advocates of traditional marriage with kids in public schools would be taught about marriage in a way that undermines the values that are taught in the home.

Dr. Kaczor also said that “society has an interest in promoting the family as a union of a father and a mother, since this form of the family is sociologically proven to be the most beneficial for children.”

Approval of same-sex “marriage,” then, makes either the father or the mother “dispensable” in a legally recognized family, he warned.

Newly elected president of the U.S. Bishop's Conference, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, also weighed in on the Prop. 8 hearings on Monday.

He pointed to an open letter written by various religious leaders in the U.S who reaffirmed their stance in maintaining marriage as defined between one man and one woman.

“The Protection of Marriage: A Shared Commitment,” was released on Dec. 6 by leaders from Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish, Lutheran, Mormon, Orthodox, Pentecostal and Sikh communities in the United States.

“The broad consensus reflected in this letter – across great religious divides – is clear: The law of marriage is not about imposing the religion of anyone, but about protecting the common good of everyone,” Archbishop Dolan said.

“People of any faith or no faith at all can recognize that when the law defines marriage as between one man and one woman, it legally binds a mother and a father to each other and their children, reinforcing the foundational cell of human society.”

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Spanish reality show winner shares message of life

Madrid, Spain, Dec 6, 2010 (CNA) - Spanish recording artist and reality show winner Miriam Fernandez was born with cerebral palsy and uses a walker to get from place to place.  At the age of 20,  she is using her talents to defend life and communicate a message of faith.  “God doesn’t give us anything that we can’t handle,” she says.

Fernandez spoke with the Spanish daily, La Razon on Nov. 30 and revealed the source of her amazing strength. “In my life, I have gone through tough things, such as the deaths of my father and my brother.  There were times when I asked God 'why?' But after all the times of darkness I have always seen a light, I always see that they serve some purpose, and that God doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle,” she said.

Two years after winning a Spanish reality show, Miriam was finally able to fulfill her life-long dream of recording a CD, “Bailando bajo la lluvia” (Dancing Under the Rain). “We all have gifts with which we can serve others,” she said. “On my CD I sing, ‘There is always something better on the horizon.’  There are times when I say, ‘God, I put this matter into your hands,’ and that gives me strength.  God is there, and he doesn’t will evil for anyone.  In our society and in our times we need to keep believing,” the singer stated.

Miriam is Catholic and is proud of the education she received in Catholic schools. She was raised in a large family that supported her in every sense.  “The doctors said that I would not be able to walk at age 15, that I would only be able to crawl, but today I walk with the help of a walker,” she said. Fernandez offered thanks to her biological mother for defending her life. 

Her mother ignored those who suggested she undergo an abortion, and instead put her daughter up for adoption. 

In her career as a singer, Miriam has been criticized by the media for her support for pro-life causes. “I get negative comments on the social networking sites.  ‘You shouldn’t have such a harsh stance,’ they tell me.  But defending life is a human issue, not a political one.  I say, ‘no to abortion,’ but I say even more, ‘yes to life.’ That may close some doors for me, but it may open others,” she said.

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Bishop of Fresno dies after lung cancer struggle

Fresno, Calif., Dec 6, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishop John T. Steinbock of Fresno, California died in the early morning of Dec. 5, in the company of his friends, family and his pastor. He was 73.

In August 2010, the bishop announced his diagnosis of stage three cancer in his lungs and lymph nodes, and began receiving radiation treatment and chemotherapy. Although he responded well to the initial treatments, he complained of breathing difficulties and was subsequently diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs and legs in November.

During the previous month, he had written and distributed a letter in which he reflected on his disease and the theological meaning of suffering. “The Affliction of Cancer: An Essay on a Christian Perspective” is available through the Diocese of Fresno's website at www.dioceseoffresno.org.

“Faith in God's love is more important than life itself,” the late bishop wrote, in the essay published eight weeks before his death. “Only in Christian revelation does suffering take on a positive meaning … When one person unites his or her suffering with that of Jesus, everyone throughout the world benefits.”

To that end, he spoke of embracing the suffering of cancer “so that Jesus may continue his passion in me,” and so that all would know “that a greater life awaits us.”

John T. Steinbock was born July 16, 1937, in Los Angeles. He entered the seminary at age 20, following the same path as his brother Leo, who also became a priest. After his ordination in May of 1963, he served as an associate pastor in some of the most difficult and dangerous sections of East Los Angeles for 10 years.

Monsignor Raymond Dreiling, who worked closely with Bishop Steinbock during his years in the Fresno diocese, shared his memories of the bishop with CNA the day after his passing. He said that the bishop never forgot the lessons in Christian discipleship that he had learned on the streets of LA.

“He was very dedicated to the poor, because of his own experience down in Skid Row in Los Angeles,” Msgr. Dreiling explained. “He got to know 'the street' very, very well … He said the people on the street helped him to become a better Christian, and a better priest. He thought he was going to go minister to the people, and the people ministered more to him.” 

In July of 1984, he was consecrated as a bishop, serving first as an auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of Orange, and later as the Bishop of Santa Rosa. In 1991, he received his final and longest appointment as the Bishop of Fresno.

Msgr. Dreiling remembered Bishop Steinbock approaching that position of leadership with the same attitude of deep humility that he had learned on the streets of Los Angeles. However, he also had to take charge on a number of urgent challenges, including a large financial deficit that he successfully worked to eliminate during his episcopate.

“He was the bishop, and everybody knew it,” the former chancellor reflected. Yet at the same time, “he was very consultative,” listening extensively to his priests and the lay faithful before making his decisions.

But he also insisted on responsible stewardship of the diocese's resources – and above all, according to
Msgr. Dreiling, he worked to ensure that “every initiative always was for the praise and glory of God.”

Many of Bishop Steinbock's initiatives placed a heavy emphasis on the fair and just treatment of immigrants. Because of a large influx of immigrants, Fresno has become the 14th largest U.S. diocese in terms of the number of Catholics. Bishop Steinbock viewed the Church's treatment of these persons as an important expression of faith in the Gospel.

“He was very concerned about how we were going to minister to all those people,” Monsignor Dreiling commented. “I think he was very, very committed to making sure that the immigrant population was protected, and received the rights and dignity that they deserve.” He hoped that Bishop Steinbock's successor would continue his attitude of mercy and hospitality toward immigrants settling in Fresno.

On a more personal level, Monsignor Dreiling poignantly recalled the late bishop's favorite song: the Christmas hymn “Joy to the World.”

“He could be in the throes of incredible problems, and he would be singing 'Joy to the World'.” He indulged this habit regardless of the season, “in the middle of the summertime, or whenever. He never lost that sense of joy in serving the Lord.”

The Diocese of Fresno has requested that any gifts in remembrance of Bishop Steinbock be sent as donations to Catholic Charities of Fresno (http://www.ccdof.org/). Funeral arrangements will be finalized soon, and announced on the diocesan website.

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Spanish choir prepares to sing for World Youth Day

Madrid, Spain, Dec 6, 2010 (CNA) - The Donostiarra Choir, the most prestigious in Spain, will sing for Pope Benedict XVI at the final Mass for World Youth Day 2011.

The youth event will take place in Madrid, Spain on Aug. 15-21, 2011.

World Youth Day 2011 organizers said the Donostiarra Choir is “an amateur choir,” composed of 185 voices.  “Attesting to its greatness is an extensive list of awards that demonstrates it is the most important choir in Spain and one of the best in the world.”

Bishop José Ignacio Munilla of San Sebastián noted that he hopes “the Holy Father will enjoy your performance, as he has a great ear and a highly refined soul. Above all, I hope you lift the hearts of the young people who will participate in this event.”

The General Coordinator of WYD 2011, Auxiliary Bishop Cesar Franco, also expressed his gratitude for the choir’s collaboration.  Their participation is an expression of the profound desire for this event to demonstrate “the path of beauty that leads to God," he said.

The choir’s director, Jose Antonio Sainz Alfaro, explained that the repertoire for the two events has not yet been finalized, “but we would like to sing both religious music as well as folklore pieces from different parts of Spain.”

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