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Archive of February 16, 2011

Catholic Church seeks to help victims of pirates

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Officials at the Vatican just concluded a meeting to look at ways to meet the spiritual, material and psychological needs of sailors involved in pirate attacks.

From Feb. 14-16, the Vatican hosted the annual meeting of regional coordinators of the Apostleship of the Sea in the offices of the Pontifical Council for the Migrants and Itinerant Peoples.

The yearly encounter is held to improve and update the pastoral ministry of the Church to seafarers, fishermen and their familiies.

According to a press release from the Apostleship, the meetings' main area of focus this year was on the preparation of crews for encounters with pirates.

The International Maritime Bureau reported that a record 1,181 hostages were held by pirates in 2010. Pirate attacks on merchant vessels also hit a seven-year high in 2010 and those assaults resulted in the deaths of eight sailors.

Experts, such as Admiral Marco Brusco, Commandant General of the Corps of Port Captains and the Italian Coast Guard, took part in the gathering. He spoke to the Apostolate about how it might help seafarers and their families prepare for a possible run-in with pirates.

Admiral Brusco, as a member of the Italian national chapter of the Apostleship himself, advised the coordinators on how they can aid victims and their families in recovering from such encounters.

Archbishop Antonio Veglio, president of the Vatican's department for people “on the move,” told Vatican Radio on Feb. 13 that “while shipping companies take care most of all ... of the ships and its load, the Apostolate of the Sea concerns itself with the members of the crew and the psychological effects that this tramatic experience can have on them and their families.”

The three-day meeting also took on the question of criminalization of sailors and fishermen who are sometimes unjustly detained in foreign lands only to face long periods under arrest and, therefore, separated from their families.

Archbishop Veglio said that in cases of piracy and detention, “the presence of the Apostleship of the Sea becomes irreplaceable for providing spiritual, material and psychological support to the persons involved.”

Other themes addressed during the meetings were ways to use new technology to maintain contact between those who work at sea and their families and how to improve ministry for passengers and crews on cruise ships.

The Apostleship of the Sea, which just celebrated its 90th anniversary last year, is present in ports throughout the world in its "Stella Maris" centers.

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German bishops see recycled ideas in theologians' 'reform' letter

Bonn, Germany, Feb 16, 2011 (CNA) - Increasing numbers of European theologians have signed onto a set of proposals they say will “renew” the struggling German Church. But while the German bishops say they are willing to hold discussions, they have indicated that the proposal re-treads old ground and contradicts important Catholic convictions.

As of Feb. 15, 227 theologians from three German-speaking countries had signed their names to a letter entitled “The Church in 2011: A necessary departure,” which was first endorsed by 143 signatories on Feb. 3.

Issues of sexuality, authority, and cultural adaptation dominated the statement, which used revelations of sexual abuse at Berlin's Canisius school – revealed in early 2010, approximately three decades after they occurred – as the jumping-off point for a series of wide-ranging proposals.

“The deep crisis of our Church,” the theologians wrote, “demands that we address even those problems which, at first glance, do not have anything directly to do with the abuse scandal and its decades-long cover-up.” Many German Catholics, they said, have come to believe that “deep-reaching reforms are necessary.”

The theologians' program of “reform” would involve greater lay participation in selecting bishops and pastors, increased tolerance for different styles of liturgical worship, and a decisive break with what they described as attitudes of “paternalism” and “moral rigorism.”

More specifically, the theologians asserted that “the Church also needs married priests and women in church ministry.”

For this reason, the letter has been regarded in the international media as a call for an “end to celibacy.” The text itself, however, only indicated a preference for making the Latin rite practice of priestly celibacy optional, rather than mandatory.

Although some interpreters regarded the statement on women in ministry as a call for women's ordination, it was not clear whether the statement carried this meaning, or merely acknowledged the important roles women have always played in the life of the Church.

They went on to state that “the Church's esteem for marriage … does not require that we exclude people who responsibly live out love, faithfulness, and mutual care in same-sex partnerships or in a remarriage after divorce.”

Referring to German Catholics' declining participation in Church life, the theologians indicated that the answer lay in modifying the Church's approach so that it agrees more with the surrounding culture.

“When it comes to acknowledgment of each person's freedom, maturity, and responsibility, modern society surpasses the Church in many respects,” they wrote. “As the Second Vatican Council emphasized, the Church can learn from this.”

The theologians did not indicate which portion of the Vatican II documents they were referring to, in advancing this claim.

Fr. Hans Langendörfer, secretary for the German bishops' conference, responded to the letter on their behalf on Feb. 8. He expressed appreciation for the theologians' engagement with the state of the German Church, acknowledging that they had raised “weighty issues” that should “no longer be avoided.”

But Fr. Langendörfer noted that the proposals had been made with some frequency in the past.

“In essence,” he said, “the memorandum gathers once again ideas already often debated.” Many of these ideas, he said, were “in disagreement with the theological convictions and statements of the Church at the highest level.”

Fr.  Langendörfer said that the next meeting of the German Bishops' Conference would seek to respond to the theologians' concerns, in cases where “urgent further clarification” was needed.

German Cardinal Walter Kasper, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, responded to the theologians' letter by highlighting the importance of celibacy. In a Feb. 6 homily at the Church of Santa Maria dell’Anima in Rome, he described celibacy as a “sign that exists for Christ and for the Kingdom of God.”

The cardinal referred to the gospel passage which says Christians should be the “salt of the earth” and said that celibacy “is that pinch of salt that not everyone can be, but that brings good to all.”

Peter Seewald, the German journalist who recently collaborated with Pope Benedict XVI on the book “Light of the World,” was less restrained in his own comments on the theologians' manifesto.

Seewald told the German website Kath.net that the open letter was “a rebellion in the nursing home,” orchestrated by “chief priests of the zeitgeist” whose priority was to accommodate public opinion.

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Archbishop Dolan says claim he hid millions from abuse lawsuits is ‘malarkey’

New York City, N.Y., Feb 16, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York criticized as “malarkey” and “ridiculous and groundless gossip” a lawyer’s claim that while he was the head of the Milwaukee archdiocese, he hid $130 million in archdiocesan funds so that victims of sexual abuse could not sue for it.

He said the charges were “terribly irresponsible” and he invited law enforcement to speak with him about his time as Archbishop of Milwaukee.

“I have nothing to hide,” he said after Sunday Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the New York Daily News reports.

“Unfortunately, this man got the attention he wanted and has come to expect from the news, tarnishing the good name of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, and of me,” Archbishop Dolan said on his blog.

“Lord knows I’ve made mistakes, but ‘hiding’ $130 million is hardly one of them!”

Attorney Jeff Anderson of St. Paul, Minnesota, who has represented a large number of alleged clergy sex abuse victims, recently suggested at a bankruptcy court hearing that the Milwaukee archdiocese moved $75 million out of its bank accounts after financial statements in 2003-2004. He also inquired about the transfer of a separate $55 million into a cemetery trust fund created in 2008.

Milwaukee archdiocese’s chief financial officer John Marek could not answer questions about the $75 million, which was transferred before he was hired in 2007. However, he said the cemetery funds had previously been in an account under the archbishop’s control but were always “treated as a trust,” the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports.

Anderson has said he wants to depose current and past bishops of Milwaukee, including Archbishop Dolan.

In response, Archbishop Dolan noted that he could not have “hidden” $130 million under the “rigorous supervision” of his financial council.

He explained that the parishes of the Milwaukee area had $70 million on deposit with the archdiocese. This money was returned under the advisement of the financial council and outside auditors.

“This was not archdiocesan money at all, but belonged to parishes,” he explained, adding that the cemetery fund is also protected by law and cannot be transferred by anybody.

“So, these silly charges are baloney,” Archbishop Dolan said.

Milwaukee archdiocese spokeswoman Julie Wolf backed up Dolan’s description of the parish funds. While the archdiocese had held parish funds in an investment account until 2004, it “ceased providing such services.”

The cemetery trust, she said, was created in 2007 to “formalize the existing trust relationship” that dated to the early 1900s.

Wolf said that the archdiocese has been “liquidating all nonessential assets for years to help pay for the costs of therapy and voluntary settlements.”

Archbishop Dolan added, “during my years as Archbishop of Milwaukee, and with the generous service of many dedicated people, we established a mediation process that reached settlements with almost 200 victim survivors; that mediation process has been praised by the victim survivors who have participated in the process.”

The archdiocese says most of its assets are in trusts and restricted accounts, but this leaves only about $7 million for settlements. Victims’ attorneys intend to challenge the restrictions on the funds.

Anderson claims to have won more than $60 million in settlements from the Catholic Church in the U.S. He has recently extended his practice to the U.K.

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UK pro-lifers praise ruling against ‘bedroom abortions’

London, England, Feb 16, 2011 (CNA) - Pro-life advocates say a British judge’s ruling that women cannot perform a “bedroom abortion” by taking pills at home instead of at a clinic will prevent abortions from being even more traumatic and widespread.

Margaret Cuthill, national coordinator of Abortion Recovery Care and Helpline, said her organization was encouraged by the judgment.

“Abortion is not good medicine for women, and does damage the emotional and psychological lives of those in crisis that make this decision. Every woman is impacted by the pregnancy loss, but this procedure adds another mentally-traumatic dimension to the abortion process.”

Women in a crisis pregnancy are vulnerable and react from “fear and panic” because they want to be “un-pregnant,” she said.

“To be offered a bedroom abortion is an emotional get-out clause many in ignorance will choose. It is really an abuse too far and will add to the trauma of guilt and grief they may experience at some future stage in life,” Cuthill said in a Feb. 15 statement.

The case involves early chemical abortions which can be performed in the first nine weeks of a pregnancy. They are induced by taking two sets of tablets between 24 and 48 hours apart.

Britain’s largest abortion provider, BPAS, sought to change the interpretation of the law so that women could take the second set of drugs needed to induce an early abortion while at home. The taxpayer-subsidized BPAS had claimed that the second trip to take the pill at a clinic or hospital was “medically unnecessary.”

Mr. Justice Supperstone’s ruling sided with the Department of Health, which insisted that both sets of drugs amounted to “treatment” and so must take place on medical premises.

Cuthill said she was “appalled” that BPAS showed no concern for “the woman who is in her home, in pain, bleeding and struggling with the choice she has made.”

Katherine Hampton, a spokeswoman for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said a different ruling in the case would “send out the false signal that there is a ‘safe’ route to abortion.”

The case could also have led to further restrictions on conscientious objections to abortion. In addition, the case could have international effects because chemical abortions are widely promoted in poorer countries which look to the U.K. for standards of practice.

“We will continue to fight any similar moves to trivialize abortion,” Hampton commented.

About 195,743 abortions were performed in England and Wales in 2009.

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Transparency in Church finances gives the faithful satisfaction, says cardinal

Genoa, Italy, Feb 16, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The head of Italy's bishops sees transparency in money-handling as one of the keys to the Church's credibility and a source of joy for parishioners who can track where their charity dollars are going.

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa, the president of the Italian Bishops' Conference, spoke at an Italian convention for diocesan finance workers on Feb. 15. The focus of the meeting was to promote learning to help others through "co-responsibility and transparency" in the Church.

During his address, Cardinal Bagnasco put particular emphasis on "the absolutely decisive importance of transparency" in society today.

“When we speak of transparency, it doesn't just mean highlighting honesty and correctness ... but a clear administration of assets that can be verified by all,” he said.

According to the cardinal, the success of donations to the Church depends on the ability of all the faithful to track its use.

It is not just about having a clean image on the exterior, he said, but exhibiting “true transparency” in fidelity to the vocation and mission of the Church, he said.

“The credibility of the Church is never damaged by the clarity of her behavior,” said Cardinal Bagnasco. In fact, transparency in finances will aid fundraising because people will know what they are working towards, he explained.

He said that it is “essential and necessary” for all people to have access to financial statements and budgets as well as the total amount of offerings. In this way, parishioners “will be more motivated and aware of the importance of their economic sharing.”

“If this real transparency exists in every parish, the faithful will no longer look at the offering as a type of duty, but donating will become a great joy because each will live with the satisfaction of doing something good and concrete,” thus opening them up further to the needs of the Church elsewhere, he said.

The cardinal called the laity and clergy to a greater shared responsibility for this to make it local practice.

“In the Church,” he concluded, “no one can say, 'it doesn't concern me'. No one can call think of themselves as outside of this family, none must feel (they are) in the margins ... all of us are active protagonists.”

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Vatican cardinal: Adopted children need both a father and a mother

Rome, Italy, Feb 16, 2011 (CNA/Europa Press) - The president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, recently affirmed that adoption policies should prioritize “the good of the child, who needs both a father and a mother.”

Cardinal Antonelli’s comments came in response to a petition filed by the Supreme Court of Appeals in Italy requesting that Congress pass a law allowing the adoption of minors by single adults.

According to Italian law, only married couples can adopt children.

The Court of Appeals made the petition after a woman from Genoa requested the court legitimize her adoption of a Belarusian girl. The girl lived with the woman for two years in Russia and then in the United States, where the adoption was declared valid.

Although the ruling by the U.S. court was upheld by the Court of Appeals in Genoa in 2009, the mother is still subject to some limitations under the law.

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St. John of the Cross shows that faith gives man 'wings,' says Pope

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

The spirituality and teachings of the “Mystical Doctor of the Church” offer an example of a man whose burdens where lightened by a love for Christ, Pope Benedict XVI said during today’s general audience.

The Pope spoke of the 16th-century St. John of the Cross, continuing his series of general audience teachings on doctors of the church.

John was born near Avila, Spain in 1542 and ordained a priest in 1567. On the day of his ordination he met the future St. Teresa of Avila. As Pope Benedict pointed out in his Jan. 2, 2011 audience, the two later carried out a difficult but fruitful reform of the Carmelite order.

It was during the 1570s that John of the Cross served in Teresa’s convent as her confessor and spiritual director. They were years of “close collaboration and spiritual friendship that enriched them both,” said the Pope.

Also at this time Teresa produced her most important written works, he explained. And, despite great suffering at times and even undergoing torture while he was unjustly jailed, John also began writing and developing his “mystical doctrine.”

After a lifetime of service throughout central and southern Spain, John of the Cross was chosen to embark on a new mission to Mexico in 1591. However, he became ill and died while preparing to make the voyage.

His last words came while he and his Carmelite brothers recited the morning prayer. “Today,” he told them, “I’m going to sing the Office in heaven.”

The Carmelite priest was eventually canonized in 1726 by Pope Benedict XIII. In 1926, Pius XI made him a Doctor of the Church. He is remembered now as the “Doctor mysticus,” or mystical doctor, Pope Benedict said.

His major works focus on the purification of the soul and the complete union of man with God through the Trinity.

In one of his volumes, titled “Dark Night of the Soul,” St. John focused on the “passive aspect” of the soul’s purification through God’s contribution, noted the Pope.

“Human effort alone, in fact, is incapable of reaching the deepest roots of a person’s bad inclinations and habits,” he explained. “It can halt them but not eradicate them completely.

“To do this, a special action is needed from God which radically purifies the spirit and disposes it to the union of love with Him.”

Pope Benedict explained that this process was described as “passive” by the 16-century saint because the process was carried out by the mysterious action of the Holy Spirit which “consumes every impurity.”

“In this state,” said the Pope, “the soul is subjected to every type of trial, as if it finds itself in a dark night.”

In “Dark Night” and his other major works, St. John of the Cross helps people to understand his “vast and profound mystical doctrine, whose objective is to describe a sure way to achieve holiness, the state of perfection to which God calls all of us,” he added.

In both its active and passive moments, the process “requires our determined effort, but it is God who is the real center, “ explained the Pope. “All man can do is dispose himself and humble himself before the loving work of God in the soul.

“In this sense, John is for us a model of humble dedication and of faithful perseverance on the road to spiritual maturity.”

His was not an easy life, lived “on the clouds” of mysticism, said the Pope. Rather it was a “tough” life that can show people still today that faith in Christ is not an “extra weight to the already sufficiently heavy burden of our lives.

“If a man brings about in himself a great love, this love almost gives him wings,” said the Pope. In this case, it is easier to deal with “all of the bothers of life, because he carries within him a great light.”

“This is the faith,” said the Pope, “being called by God and allowing ourselves to be loved by God in Jesus Christ.”

It is the “light” that gives us strength to carry the burden, he concluded. “And sanctity is not a task to be accomplished on our own ... but it is precisely this ‘openness,’ opening the windows of our souls so that the light of God might enter, not forgetting God because precisely in the openness to his light we find strength, we find the joy of the redeemed.”

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Spanish cardinal urges Christians to love the Church as their mother

Madrid, Spain, Feb 16, 2011 (CNA) - Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach of Barcelona, Spain is exhorting Catholics to “love our holy Mother Church as we love our own mothers.”

In his weekly letter which will be published Feb. 20, Cardinal Sistach underscored the virtues of Blessed Francisco Palau of Spain, “who devoted himself with enthusiasm to the service of the Church because she was – for him – a loving and tender mother.”

The cardinal recalled that this year marks the bicentennial of the birth of Blessed Palau, the founder of the Teresian Carmelite Missionaries and the Carmelite Missionaries. He wrote that the blessed “was very conscious of the fact that by loving the Church, he was fulfilling the great Christian commandment to love God and neighbor.”

At a time of “religious indifference,” this awareness is crucial to preventing the spirit of evangelization from diminishing.

The cardinal also noted that in the homily for the beatification of Blessed Palau in 1988, Pope John Paul II said the blessed made of his priestly life a generous gift to the Church.

“Francisco Palau was undoubtedly a man of prayer, a hermit,” the cardinal explained. “But at the same time he was a man of action in diverse apostolic initiatives,” especially the task of Christian formation and care for the sick.

Cardinal Sistach concluded his letter by encouraging Spaniards to look to Blessed Palau as a “great witness of love for the Church.”

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