Archive of February 21, 2011

Irish bishops say this week’s election crucial for country’s future

Dublin, Ireland, Feb 21, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Five days before national elections, Ireland's bishops are urging voters and politicians to show “strong leadership rooted in justice, a concern for the common good and a commitment to defend the most vulnerable in our society,” as they head to the polls or campaign for office.

The "eyes of the world are on Ireland" to see how they will respond to economic and political turmoil in the country, the bishops said in an ambitious pre-election document issued by their justice and peace department Feb. 21.

To illustrate their concern, the bishops released the document at a press conference held at a Dublin homeless shelter run by Capuchin Franciscans.

“We want to raise awareness to and acknowledge the suffering of so many, many people because we are involved in economic and financial crisis at the moment,” Bishop Raymond Field told CNA in a telephone interview following the press conference.

The bishops “core aim,” he added was to help voters by highlighting “the values that should inform the choices that they are about to make at this critical time.”

Bishop Field said the crisis is “an opportunity for change, a chance to re-plan our journey, to set ourselves new rules and to discover new forms of commitment, to build our positive experiences and to reject negative ones.”

In 2008, the government officially announced that the country was in a recession after more than a decade of strong growth. Since the economic bubble burst, unemployment rates have almost tripled in Ireland.

Ireland’s ongoing financial crisis was the major factor in the dissolution of the Irish government just one month ago. Support for prime minister Brian Cowen and his Fianna Fail party bottomed out after their leadership was blamed for the continued recession.

In their response to the crisis, the bishops underscored the role of religious leaders in “reawakening the spiritual energy which empowers people to work for justice in the world.”

Politicians and voters must focus attention on the “real cost of the crisis” – the human lives effected by economic dislocation, the bishops said.

The bishops blame the crisis and a breakdown of trust in core institutions in Ireland – including the Catholic Church. They say this loss of trust has encouraged “a more radical individualism.”

They describe an atmosphere ever more influenced by self-interest, an individualistic culture shaped by “advanced capitalism.”

Consumerist ideals are threatening a traditional value system based on the nation's Christian heritage, said the bishops.

“Perhaps the most damaging consequence which flows from the increasing cultural dominance of consumerist capitalism is the emphasis which it places upon monetary success as a measure of personal worth,” the bishops said.

Banks and financial institutions need support as essential elements of a functioning economy and successful culture, the bishops said. However, “they must be at the service of society and contribute to the common good,” they added.

The bishops call for this change to take place through action based on “gratuitousness” – or free giving – and concern for solidarity among various social groups and a shared commitment to the common good.

They also urged efforts to strengthen the traditional family and to protect the right to life.

Their message takes inspiration from the teachings of the landmark 2009 document on social justice called “Caritas in Veritate” (Charity in Truth), in which Pope Benedict XVI appealed for recognition of the “integral development” of man as the core concern in in decision-making.

The time is right for change, say the bishops in the document. The parliamentary elections in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland offer a “crucial moment of political change; change which is taking place against the background of justifiable anger.”

The “wounds” of the crisis are deep and if they go untreated, say the bishops, they “could engender a cultural climate in which the specter of social fragmentation and violence cannot be ruled out.”

According to a Feb. 21 analysis in the Irish Times daily, change in government is on the way. Fianna Fail is predicted to lose its majority in the Republic's parliament for the first time since 1932 in favor of a single-party or coalition government led by the Fine Gael Party, the primary opposition.

A Times' survey showed satisfaction with the outgoing government to be at record lows. The paper predicted a win for Fine Gael's Enda Kenny as prime minister in the Feb. 25 election.

However, the outcome is still uncertain. The Times reported that 30 percent of voters still have not made up their minds.

Bishop Field said the bishops are urging Catholics and others to turn out for the elections.

In a time of “great crisis” and widespread international neglect for the common good, this election is “particularly important,” he said.

“I certainly think that the Catholic voter should vote, number one, because every election is important, that they should vote according to their conscience and we hope that the sanctity and dignity of human life would be defended at all stages.”

He said that the bishops are also “hoping that the common good will be enshrined ... not just in the election but post-election as well.”

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Vatican reportedly blocking re-election for head of its top international charity

Rome, Italy, Feb 21, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Catholic Church’s top international charity says the Vatican is preventing the group’s general secretary from seeking a second term in office.

In a Feb. 18 statement sent to CNA, the Rome-based Caritas Internationalis did not cite specific reasons for the Vatican’s action against Lesley-Anne Knight, whose four-year term will end in May. The Vatican has not commented on the case.

Ahead of the Caritas elections to be held in May, Knight submitted a request last month for the Vatican’s official seal of approval – called a nihil obstat (Latin for “nothing stands in the way”). The approval, which is required for all candidates, was denied.

Caritas officials held a meeting Feb. 5 to discuss the matter. Based on their “positive assessment of Mrs. Knight's work,” they decided to approach the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone about the decision.

Following “several” meetings between Vatican and Caritas officials, no resolution was reached.

“The Holy See acknowledges the professional work done and achievements of Mrs. Knight,” Caritas reported. “However, the Holy See wants a change in the way it works with Caritas and says this requires a change in the person of the Secretary-General.”

The British Catholic weekly, The Tablet reported Feb. 18 that Caritas' International president Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiago informed the agency’s directors of the decision in a Feb. 5 letter.

Cardinal Rodgrigues did not make public the reasons for the Vatican’s decision. He did say that Caritas officials had expressed “incomprehension at the reasons provided.”

One Caritas offical told The Tablet anonymously that Knight may have earned the Vatican’s displeasure because she has been “critical of the Vatican machine, has made no secret of it and has failed to be discreet.”

The same source praised Knight’s professionalism, saying she had restored fiscal order to Caritas’ Rome office.

Caritas said that it “deeply regrets” the Vatican’s decision.

Spokesman Patrick Nicholson told CNA on Feb. 21 that the organization does not foresee any further statements on the matter.

The Zimbabwe-native Knight has worked with a variety of international aid organizations including the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and the British-based relief agency Oxfam International. According to Caritas, she plans to complete her current term.

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US bishops oppose repeal of medical conscience protections

Washington D.C., Feb 21, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has condemned the withdrawal of federal protections for medical workers who oppose certain treatments on moral grounds.

Deirdre McQuade, Assistant Director for Policy and Communications at the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, said on Feb. 18 that it was “very disappointing” for the Obama administration to “eliminate much of the existing regulation on conscience” issued in 2008.

The new rule maintains protections for medical workers who oppose abortion and sterilization. However, it removes many other similar provisions – such as those pertaining to in vitro fertilization, contraception (including abortifacient chemical contraceptives), and other morally controversial areas of medicine.

“The final rule issued today eliminates important clarifications that would have helped in interpreting and enforcing longstanding federal statutes protecting the conscience rights of health care providers,” McQuade noted. “It also eliminates a regulatory requirement that recipients of federal funds certify compliance with those statutes.”

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops was strongly supportive of the 2008 rule. McQuade
hailed it at the time as a  “much-needed implementation of long-standing laws,” which would provide  important clarification as to what existing laws meant and how they would be enforced.

But Kathleen Sebelius, President Obama's Secretary for Health and Human Services, called the previous guidelines “unclear and potentially overly broad in scope” in her explanation of the new rules.

Although the laws that were implemented through the 2008 rule will remain on the books, caregivers seeking to register a conscientious objection – or show that their rights were violated – may have a significantly harder time proving their case or getting a hearing in the future.

However, some of the mechanisms for enforcing caregivers' established rights will remain in place. McQuade said that move offered “reasons for hope” despite the “disappointment” of the new guidelines.

“The Administration says it will take initiative to increase awareness of the conscience statutes, work to ensure compliance with them, and require that government grants make clear that compliance is required,” McQuade noted.

“We look forward to working with the Administration and Congress to ensure that these endeavors are carried out, so providers receive the full conscience protection they are due.”

McQuade also reiterated the bishops' hope that the Obama administration would “place its full support behind efforts in Congress to clarify conscience protections and make them more secure” through initiatives such as the Protect Life Act, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, and the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act.

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Vatican: Popular Chilean priest is guilty of sexual abuse

Santiago, Chile, Feb 21, 2011 (CNA) - An investigation carried out by the Vatican concluded that the popular Chilean priest Fr. Fernando Karadima Farina is guilty of sexually abusing minors.

Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati of Santiago, Chile announced the results of the inquiry made by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on Feb. 17 at a press conference.
Fr. Karadima was accused by Dr. James Hamilton, journalist Juan Carlos Cruz, philosopher Jose Andres Murillo, and attorney Fernando Batlle, of committing sexual abuse in the 1990s.  A civil case against the priest was closed in 2010, and officials are now looking at reopening it.

In his statement, the Archbishop of Santiago explained that the ecclesiastical investigation of Fr. Karadima began in July of 2010 and concluded with a decree issued on Jan. 16, 2011.  It said that “based upon the evidence that has been obtained, the Rev. Fernando Karadima Farina is guilty of the aforementioned crimes” and “especially, of the crime of abuse of a minor.”

Taking into account the 80 year-old priest’s advanced age and poor health, the decree orders him to “retire to a life of prayer and penance, in reparation as well for the victims of abuse.”

“The Archbishop of Santiago, in accord with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, shall be charged with evaluating his place of residence, whether inside or outside the diocese, in order to prevent absolutely all contact with his former parishioners and members of the Priestly Union (of the Sacred Heart), and with those who have been under his spiritual care,” the decree states.

It also permanently prohibits Fr. Karadima “from the public exercise of any act of ministry, particularly Confession and spiritual direction for any individual.”

The decree prohibits him from any post in the Priestly Union of the Sacred Heart, the community which he led for several decades and which was founded in Chile in 1928.

Refusal to adhere to the decree will result in “more severe penalties,” including “the loss of the clerical state.”

The decree allows Fr. Karadima the right to appeal, and it suggests that the Archbishop of Santiago carry out a canonical investigation into the formation program and the financial administration of the Priestly Union of the Sacred Heart, which have also come under fire. 

“The Archbishop of Santiago has followed the protocol outlined in this decree. He personally notified Fr. Fernando Karadima on Jan. 17 and immediately assigned him a residence in accord with the aforementioned requirements,” the decree states.

The priest’s lawyer, Juan Pablo Bulnes, said he plans to file an appeal but that his client “will completely respect the decision of this tribunal of the Holy See, and Father has accepted the directives given by Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati of Santiago to begin its implementation.”

Grief and Sorrow of the Archbishop

Archbishop Ezzati, who is also head of the Chilean Bishops’ Conference, said he felt “profound grief and sorrow for those who have been harmed. I extend to them once again my closeness as a father and a pastor.”

“Today (Feb. 18), I wanted to personally contact the victims to notify them of the decree from the Holy See, while just a few days after my ministry in the Archdiocese began I had the opportunity to meet with one of them,” he said.

The archbishop said he was deeply saddened over the harm that has been caused to the ministry and mission of priests in Santiago. “However, I am comforted by serene hope, because as Jesus says, ‘The truth shall set you free.’ I think we must never give up seeking for that truth,” he stated.

After thanking the Archbishop Emeritus of Santiago, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz, for his work on this case, Archbishop Ezzati said: “The resolution from the Holy See is an authoritative statement. The dicasteries of the Roman Curia act in the name of the Holy Father, seeking the salvation of souls, which is the supreme law of the Church.”

He urged the ecclesial community in Chile to “accept the decision of the Holy See with a spirit of faith and hope, and to help each other mutually so that these kinds of incidents never happen again. I encourage all of my brother priests to embrace holiness of life after the example of the Lord Jesus.”

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As Vatican probe nears end, officials see signs of repentance and renewal in Ireland

Dublin, Ireland, Feb 21, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Church officials in charge of the Vatican’s investigation of clerical abuse in Ireland are wrapping up their fact-finding missions.

The Archdiocese of Dublin on Feb. 21 hosted the latest of several penance services that have been held around the country to seek forgiveness from abuse victims.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley, who is overseeing the Vatican’s investigation there, joined with Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin at St. Mary's Cathedral to lead a “liturgy of lament and repentance” for the abuse of children by priests and religious.

“The Church of Jesus Christ in this Archdiocese Dublin has been wounded by the sins of abusers and by the response to you for which we all share responsibility,” Archbishop Martin said during the service.

He said seeking God’s forgiveness is the “first step” to seeking forgiveness from victims of the abuse.

The liturgy was organized in large part by abuse victims, many of whom are seeking reparations for the Church’s failure to respond adequately to abuses.

Archbishop Martin thanked the victims for their courage in breaking the silence and shedding light on the abuses.

He said the cross of Christ would judge the sincerity of the Church’s repentance and would serve as the source for healing.

The Dublin archbishop called the ceremony a “first step” and said that the archdiocese “would never be the same again.”

“It will always bear this wound within it,” he said. “The Archdiocese of Dublin can never rest until the day in which the last victim has found his or her peace and he or she can rejoice in being fully the person that God in his plan wants them to be.”

Archbishop Martin and Cardinal Sean O’Malley washed the feet of several victims and their family members as part of the ceremony.

Cardinal O'Malley is Pope Benedict XVI’s delegate overseeing the Vatican’s investigation or “apostolic visitation” of the Dublin Archdiocese.

The visitation includes all four of the archdioceses in Ireland as well as all of the country’s seminaries and religious communities. Findings will be presented in a report to the Pope and will be used to plan a course of action for renewing the Irish Church.

On the Pope’s behalf, the cardinal asked forgiveness from “those who have been harmed by priests and bishops, whose actions – and inactions – gravely harmed the lives of children entrusted to their care.”

He admitted that “carrying the cross” of discipleship is “a costly grace and often we fall down on the job.”

“We want to be part of a Church that puts survivors, the victims of abuse first, ahead of self-interest, reputation and institutional needs,” Cardinal O’Malley said.

“We have no doubt of Jesus’ compassion and love for the survivors even when they feel unloved, rejected, or disgraced. Our desire is that our Church reflect that love and concern for the survivors of sexual abuse and their families and be tireless in assuring the protection of children in our Church and in society.”

He said he has encountered much suffering during his visits with victims.

The “tragic evil of sexual abuse of minors” has caused “profound distress,” resulting in addictions, damaged relationships, the suffering of families and even suicide, he said.

“The wounds carried in Ireland as a result of this evil are deep and remind us of the wounds of the body of Christ,” he said.

“But today, through the saving power of the cross, we come together to share in each other’s sorrows as well as our collective hope for the future,” he told the penance service. “We come together to bind up the wounds we carry as a result of this crisis and to join in prayer for healing, reconciliation and renewed unity.”

Cardinal O'Malley said he sees a “window of opportunity” to build a “holier Church” in response to the crisis.

Sunday's ceremony, he said, “gives testimony to the longing of so many to rebuild and renew this Archdiocese and the Church throughout Ireland.”

“Just as the Irish people persevered and preserved the faith when it was endangered, and carried it to many other countries, the commitment to sustain the faith provides the opportunity for the hard lessons of the crisis to benefit the Church in our quest to do penance for the sins of the past and to do everything possible to protect children in the present and in the future.”

The cardinal and a team of assistants are now carrying out their second visit to the archdiocese to interview victims and collect accounts for a report to the Vatican, due by Easter.

The other three “visitators” to Irish archdioceses have conducted similar penitential services in recent months.

Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto's office told CNA that he has completed his interviews in the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly and will also be submitting his report to the Pope by Easter.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor of Westminster, England has concluded his visits of the Archdiocese of Armagh. Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa will complete his second round of visits to the Archdiocese of Tuam from March 5-12.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York completed visits of the Pontifical Irish College seminary in Rome and the major seminary at Maynooth, Ireland early this month. His office said he will be submitting his report by April 1.

A spokesperson for Archbishop Dolan said that after interviewing 113 Irish seminarians, “he sees much hope for the renewal of the faith in Ireland.”

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Bolivian bishops cautiously investigate bleeding statue of Christ

Lima, Peru, Feb 21, 2011 (CNA) - Bishop Cristobal Bialasik of Oruro, Bolivia is reiterating the Church’s cautious response to allegedly miraculous statues of Christ that shed tears or blood, saying such phenomenon must always be judged with prudence.

Speaking to CNA’s Spanish-language news agency ACI Prensa on Feb. 18, Bishop Bialasik said in cases such as one in the city of Cochabamba, it is always better to “wait and see whether the signs indicate the event should be considered authentic or not,” as the possibility of deceit is always real.

Since March of 1995, a statue of Jesus crowned with thorns in Cochabamba has been shedding tears and blood.

Bishop Bialasik said scientific studies under the leadership of Dr. Ricardo Castanon, who has also captured the phenomenon on video, have shown that the blood coming from the statue is human.

Because of this, the Bishops’ Conference of Bolivia established a commission to study the occurrence and issue an official response. Members of the commission include Bishop Bialasik, Archbishop Tito Solari of Cochabamba and Bishop Jorge Herbas of Aiquile.

Bishop Bialasik said the commission has taken into account a wide array of opinions, as well as the devotion of the faithful.

He said that in cases such as these, the Church exercises “great reserve at first,” but if the occurrence keeps repeating, “the bishop must then decide whether to form a study group to follow up and analyze what is happening.”

He said the commission would present the findings of its investigation to the bishops’ conference at its meeting in May.

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