Archive of March 9, 2011

Archbishop Aymond bans corporal punishment from New Orleans Catholic school

New Orleans, La., Mar 9, 2011 (CNA) - Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans said that a local Catholic school must permanently ban corporal punishment for student misbehavior, even though many parents and alumni support the practice.

“I do not believe the teachings of the Catholic Church, as we interpret them today in 2011, can possibly condone corporal punishment,” he explained to a Feb. 24 a town hall meeting at the Josephite-run St. Augustine High School in New Orleans. While parents have the authority to administer such punishment, he could not “possibly condone” the school doing so, the archdiocesan newspaper the Clarion Herald reports.

Since 1951 teachers and administrators at the historically black all-boys school have used an 18-inch-long wooden paddle, known as “the board of education,” to administer punishment to students for tardiness, sloppy dress or other minor infractions.

However, Archbishop Aymond and Josephite superior general Fr. Edward Chiffriller, who heads the school’s board of trustees, ordered an end to the practice.

A town hall meeting assembled to discuss the change attracted an audience which numbered over 600 and included current students from grades six to twelve, current and former parents, grandparents, benefactors and friends of the school.

The archbishop explained that he believes that “hitting a young man does not build character.”

“My image of Jesus is that he said, ‘Let the children come to me.’ I cannot imagine Jesus paddling anyone.”

Corporal punishment can cause unintended physical injury and studies indicate it can cause physical, emotional and psychological damage, including loss of self-esteem and increased hostility toward authority, the archbishop said.

Archbishop Aymond also reported that he had received a letter from an activist who wrote from Ireland, which is suffering an abuse scandal. The writer singled out the continued corporal punishment at St. Augustine.

St. Augustine High School principal Don Boucree told the Clarion Herald that discipline at the school has suffered since the school stopped paddling five months ago. It has had to resort to a “zero tolerance” policy for unacceptable behavior.

“What has happened is that the infractions that would have stopped by now have continued to rise, causing the severity of the penalties to increase,” Boucree commented.

A statement published at the school website reported that the community “overwhelmingly supports” the punishment. Attendees at the town hall expressed “outrage” that “persons from a different culture,” such as the activist from Ireland, were discussing St. Augustine’s policy and were “attempting to undermine” the school without significant input from those affected.

“Many expressed outrage that African American parents have to haggle with non-African Americans about how to raise their own sons,” the statement said.

The archbishop had appointed Dr. Monica Applewhite, an expert in safe environment training and child protection, to represent the archdiocese on the committee reviewing the school’s practices.

According to the archbishop, she indicated that the school’s corporal punishment was both excessive and unreasonable and the school did not have effective safeguards to prevent future abuse.

She also said that at least three students were taken to the hospital after being paddled. There were also instances of students being paddled day after day and more than five or six times a day.

Applewhite said that St. Augustine is the last Catholic school in the country to use the wooden paddle.

Supporters of corporal punishment had sought to submit a modified policy which would bar collective punishment and restrict the number of teachers or administrators with the authority to paddle students.

However, the board of trustees rejected the proposal.

Fr. Chiffriller said the decision would be revisited and discussed, while supporters of corporal punishment said that the discussion was not over.

Archbishop Aymond suggested prayer and dialogue as a way to determine God’s will and to resolve the issue.

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Members of US women religious visitation team share thoughts at final workshop

Hamden, Conn., Mar 9, 2011 (CNA) -

Vowed religious who assisted in the apostolic visitation of U.S. women religious congregations met for a concluding workshop March 4-6. They shared their personal impressions and observations of the common hopes, challenges and concerns of the numerous female religious communities.

Mother Mary Clare Millea, ASCJ, who headed the visitation, said that the examination of religious congregations gave American Catholics the opportunity to voice “their appreciation and esteem for our early sisters and for us who revere them as our models of courage and faith.”

The workshop was “a great grace and joy” and provided her with material to enhance her final reports, she said. The event also deepened bonds of “mutual understanding” among participants and the Congregation for Consecrated Life.

Mother Millea predicted these bonds will do much to “promote the vitality of religious life in the context of respectful dialogue and ecclesial communion.”

The Vatican's Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life announced the visitation in January 2009 to analyze the state of female religious life in the U.S. The announcement prompted surprise among U.S. women religious and some responded with public expressions of anger and skepticism.

The visitation’s concluding workshop took place at the U.S. provincial headquarters of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Hamden, Conn. Its 58 participants included the core team and consultants for the visitation as well as more than half of the women and men religious who served as on-site visitors to selected religious congregations.

Also in attendance was Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, a Redemptorist who is now the secretary of the Congregation for Consecrated Life. Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport was a concelebrant and homilist for one of the weekend’s Masses.

Sr. Joan McGlinchey, MSC, facilitated the workshop sessions. Br. Paul Bednarczyk, CSC, executive director of the National Religious Vocation Conference, spoke to the gathering about the Moving Forward in Hope project which promotes vocations and charts a path to renewal for religious life.

Attendees offered suggestions about how to promote respectful dialogue and collaboration among religious congregations and within the Church.

Mother Millea said that Archbishop Tobin “listened attentively to the heartfelt sharing of the participants.”

“He expressed his deep understanding of our reality and expressed the continued support of the Congregation for Consecrated Life in fostering the ongoing revitalization of religious life in the United States,” she said.

Mother Millea’s final reports will be submitted by the end of 2011. The website for the apostolic visitation is

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Pope’s new book to be released in electronic format

Rome, Italy, Mar 9, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The new book by Pope Benedict XVI, “Jesus of Nazareth. From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection,” will soon be available in electronic format, the director of the Vatican’s Liberia Editrice, Giuseppe Costa, announced March 9.

Costa, who handles the publishing of the Pope's books, spoke on March 9 with  reporter Giulia Galeotti of L’Osservatore Romano. Costa explained that the process of publishing the Pope's second of three books on Christ began “almost a year ago.” At the time, “Msgr. Georg Ganswein (the Pope’s personal secretary) handed me a notebook full of notes: the Pope had written the text completely in pencil, in his unmistakably small handwriting, which ... was transcribed onto a computer by Brigit Wansing,” he said.

Speaking later about the difficulty of the translations, Costa remarked that since the Pope's books are translated by various people, “the challenge has been to find a consistency of language.”

“It’s also necessary to avoid the risk that the translations fail to preserve or even betray the author’s thinking. Fidelity to the original text has been ensured with attention and effort by the translators of the Secretary of State.”

Costa said there has been greater interest in the Pope’s second book on Jesus and that agreements have been reached with 22 publishers around the world. “In the U.S., Ignatius Press was the best choice, despite offers from Doubleday and Our Sunday Visitor. The French edition will be published by Parole et Silence, a company that is growing and is very committed to the papal magisterium, and the Spanish edition will be published by Encuentro.”

In selecting these companies, Costa said, “We chose publishers capable of promoting not only the book itself but also its content.”

On March 10, seven editions will officially hit the market: German, Italian, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Polish, totaling over one million copies. A Croatian edition will be released at the end of March.  In some languages, such as English, an e-book version already exists. The second volume will soon be available as an e-reader.

Costa noted that in the preface of the new book, “the Pope himself announces a third volume dedicated to the infancy narratives of the Gospel. We are already contemplating the idea of publishing the three volumes as a single tome. We are convinced this new book by Benedict XVI will be a long seller, and we will be promoting it through presentations, conferences and other initiatives.”

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Catholic leaders praise Illinois governor for ending death penalty

Springfield, Ill., Mar 9, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - After weeks of indecision, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a landmark bill on March 9, abolishing the death penalty in the state. Catholic officials praised the move as helping advance a culture of life in Illinois.

By signing Senate Bill 3539, Gov. Quinn makes Illinois the 16th state in the U.S. to repeal capital punishment. The new legislation will take effect in the state on July 1.

Gov. Quinn also commuted the death sentences of all 15 prisoners on the state's Death Row.

Catholics campaigning for Gov. Quinn's approval of the legislation lauded the move on Wednesday.

“The end of the use of the death penalty advances the development of a culture of life in our state,” read a March 9 statement from the Illinois Catholic Conference.

The conference – which had actively promoted the legislation – commended Gov. Quinn, and said that capital punishment was no longer needed to protect Illinois citizens. 

Although the senate bill passed through the Illinois legislature in January, Gov. Quinn had taken no action on the measure until today, citing the need to get feedback from local citizens.

On March 3, the U.S. Catholic bishops urged Gov. Quinn to approve the bill, saying that signing the legislation would help build a “culture of life in our country.”

“Respect for life applies to all, even the perpetrators of terrible acts,” Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif. wrote to Gov. Quinn. Bishop Blaire serves as chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development for the U.S. Bishops' Conference.

He added that the legislation would not only end the use of the death penalty in Illinois but also provide funds for training law enforcement personnel and providing services to families of murder victims.

Bishop Blaire also noted in his letter to the governor that Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, “called for the end to the use of the death penalty as a sign of greater respect for all human life.”

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Pope describes ‘Lenten road’ that leads to renewal

Vatican City, Mar 9, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - During today’s general audience, Pope Benedict XVI invited the faithful make the “Lenten journey” together with Christ, to return to the grace and commitment of conversion, and reach Easter “renewed.”

More than 7,000 pilgrims and faithful were on hand at the Vatican's Paul VI Hall during the March 9 general audience. The gathering coincided with Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of Lent.

The “austere symbol of the ashes” are the beginning of the spiritual path that leads to Easter, said the Pope. They are “a sign reminding us of our status as created beings and inviting us to penance, to intensify our commitment to conversion so as to continue following the Lord.”

At Ash Wednesday Masses all over the world, priests mark the beginning of Lent by making a sign of the cross with ashes on the foreheads of the faithful as a physical symbol of repentance and the temporary nature of earthly life.

“Lent is a journey,” said Pope Benedict. “It means accompanying Jesus as he travels to Jerusalem, the place where the mystery of his passion, death and resurrection is to be fulfilled.”

The season is a reminder to Christians of "the road to be traveled, consisting not so much in a law to be observed as in the person of Christ himself, who must be encountered, welcomed and followed."

This is experienced most of all through the liturgy in which believers are drawn closer to the figure of Christ by reliving the very events that granted man his salvation, he explained.

"Participating in the liturgy means then emerging our lives in the mystery of Christ, in his permanent presence, walking a path in which we enter into his death and resurrection to have life."

Pope Benedict explained that the liturgical readings of the Sundays of Lent—which were used in ancient times to prepare Christians for baptism—offer an opportunity for the faithful to return to the foundation of Christian life in a "baptismal itinerary."

"They are the great announcement of what God carries out in this Sacrament, a stupendous baptismal catechesis directed at each of us," he said.

Pope Benedict then walked through the successive readings for the Sundays of Lent.

The first Sunday's liturgy describes the temptation of Jesus in the desert, through which all Christians are invited "to renew our definitive choice for God, and courageously to face the struggle that awaits us in remaining faithful to Him," he said.

On the second Sunday, the "Sunday of Abraham," the faithful are invited to "abandon the certainties we have constructed and place our faith in God," said the Pope.

The three following Sundays present baptism as water, light and life, he explained. The Samaritan woman serves as a reminder that "we too received the water that saves."

Jesus gives the blind man sight, which shows that through Baptism man is liberated and receives the light of Christ.

And finally, Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead on the final Sunday before Easter teaches about life. "In Baptism," explained the Pope, "we pass from death to life and become capable of pleasing God, of causing the 'old man' to die so as to live in the spirit of the Risen One."

The Lenten experience is deepened through fasting, almsgiving and prayer, and the period invites "a more trusting and intense prayer" and greater meditation on Scripture, he said.

"On this Lenten journey, let us be attentive to welcoming Christ's invitation to follow him more decisively and coherently, renewing the grace and commitments of our Baptism, so as to ... clothe ourselves in Christ, thus reaching Easter renewed and being able to say with St. Paul 'it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me'."

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Catholic dioceses use fresh initiatives to promote traditions of Lent

CNA STAFF, Mar 9, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - As Roman Catholics begin Lent with the traditional distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday, dioceses in the U.S. are seeking to pass on the ancient practices of the liturgical season in new ways.

The three traditional “pillars of Lent” – for Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians, as well as some Protestants who observe the tradition – are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Through these three essential practices, Pope Benedict XVI said in his 2011 Lenten message, “Lent teaches us how to live the love of Christ in an ever more radical way.”

Fr. Randy Dollins of the Archdiocese of Denver and Auxilary Bishop Robert F. Hennessey of Boston spoke with CNA about initiatives that help Catholics focus on the meaning of the penitential season, and benefit spiritually from its traditions.

A sign of sacrifice

Fr. Dollins, a priest in Frisco, Colorado, began his “Sacrificium” campaign last year, and is now expanding it throughout the Archdiocese of Denver. Its message is in keeping with Pope Benedict XVI's recent call for a radical conversion away from “selfishness” and materialism during Lent.

Participants receive a black rubber bracelet, similar to those that have been used in recent years to promote awareness of various causes. But this one, imprinted with the Latin word for “sacrifice,” is primarily meant to maintain one's own awareness of the Lenten season and its meaning.

“People, including myself, seem to lack staying power during Lent,” Fr. Dollins explained. “I thought, what if there were a way to help people make a commitment?”

The bracelet comes with a “commitment card,” which has two parts. One part of the card, which the faithful keep for their own reference, lists the Church's requirements for fasting and abstinence from meat during Lent. The portion that they fill out, and give to their priest as a sign of commitment, tells what they plan to give up, or take on, as a meaningful Lenten sacrifice.

Besides serving as a reminder of the minimum requirements for fasting and abstinence, the sacrifice card gives weight to a Lenten practice that is sometimes trivialized – giving up something enjoyable and otherwise good, as a sacrifice to make more room for God and other people in one's life.

“You hand out the cards before Ash Wednesday, and people come back with the commitment card filled out,” said Fr. Dollins. “If they told the priest they were going to do something, I thought they would be more likely to follow through.”

After receiving ashes on their foreheads, the faithful can also receive the bracelet meant to carry the same message throughout the season. The Archdiocese of Denver plans to distribute over 100,000 of the bracelets throughout its parishes.

Fr. Dollins originally considered making the bracelets purple, the liturgical color associated with Lent. But he settled on black, as a lasting reminder of Ash Wednesday's solemn message. “It becomes like an outward sign of ashes, for the entirety of Lent,” he explained.

Coming home to Confession

In his 2011 Lenten message, Pope Benedict described Lent as a “favorable time to recognize our weakness – and to accept, through a sincere inventory of our life, the renewing Grace of the Sacrament of Penance.”

After overwhelmingly positive feedback from priests and the faithful last year, the Archdiocese of Boston will continue its campaign entitled “The Light is On For You.” This year, the initiative will join forces with Boston's “Catholics Come Home” campaign, which is launching a new TV campaign in time for Lent.

Beginning on Wednesday, March 16, priests will be available to hear confessions in every church of the archdiocese – over 300 in total – on every Wednesday evening of Lent, from 6:30 to 8:00pm.

Bishop Robert Hennessey, who is is charge of the Confession initiative, especially hopes that those who have been away from the sacrament – and perhaps even the Church – will feel welcomed back. He estimates that up to 26,000 Boston-area Catholics returned to Confession last year, through the simple but effective initiative.

“Many of the priests had many people coming back, after being away for several years,” he said. “I would expect more of that, this year, because this is being done in conjunction with the 'Catholics Come Home' campaign.”

“I'm expecting it to be a great partnership,” said Bishop Hennessey.

The bishop recalled receiving a phone call from one archdiocesan priest who jokingly “accused” him of being responsible for an entire evening's worth of confessions during Lent of 2010.

“One priest called me up and left a message on my voicemail. He said, 'It's a quarter of ten, and I just left the confessional. It's all your fault!'”

“He had been there since 6:30, hearing confessions. He thought it was wonderful.”

Even if Confession seems intimidating, the bishop said, no one should pass up the experience of receiving Jesus' forgiveness through the sacrament.

“We are incapable of doing anything that is larger than God's capacity to forgive,” Bishop Hennessey explained. “Some people think, 'God won't forgive me' – or, 'It's been so long, God has forgotten who I am.'”

“I remind them: no matter how long it's been, no matter what has happened, you can receive the forgiveness of Jesus.”

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Spanish cardinal asks priest to explain controversial contents of new book

CNA STAFF, Mar 9, 2011 (CNA) - Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach of Barcelona, Spain has called Fr. Manel Pousa “to speak personally” about the contents of a recently published book. In it, the priest voices support for “voluntary” celibacy, women priests and admits he has “blessed” civil unions of same-sex prisoners.

The book, “Father Manel. Closer to Earth than to Heaven,” hit bookstores in Spain on Feb. 28. It recounts the life of the controversial Spanish priest, who told reporters in 2008 that he had paid for abortions.

The author of the book, Francesc Buxeda, said it highlights Father Manel’s work in prison ministry in Catalonia and in the poor neighborhoods of Barcelona.

The Archdiocese of Barcelona responded to the book's release on March 8, stating that “Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach, Archbishop of Barcelona, has summoned Fr. Manel Pousa to speak personally with him about the some of the contents of this book and to make whatever decisions are appropriate.”

CNA contacted the archdiocese, but no further information was given.

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In a first, Pope Benedict will take questions in Good Friday TV special

Vatican City, Mar 9, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI will participate in a first-ever question and answer session that will be televised Italy on Good Friday.

The program is one of several new initiatives aimed at bringing the image and words of the Pope into households around the world.

On March 13, Italy's national RaiUno Television station will officially launch promotions for a program to be aired on the anniversary of Jesus' death—Good Friday.

The special is set to begin at 2:10 p.m. so that it is playing at 3:00 p.m., when Jesus is traditionally believed to have taken his last breath. The show will feature the Pope, who will answer three questions posed by viewers.

People will be able to write to RaiUno's “In His Image” ("A Sua Immagine") program with suggestions for the three questions. All will focus on the life of Jesus.

Vatican Radio described the April 22 television event as “an absolute first.”

"In His Image" host Rosario Carello said that the idea is to bring "reflection" back to Good Friday programming.

"This sentiment has been lost," he said. For most television stations, Good Friday is “a day like any other for all the channels, there are even quarrels, idle gossip and things like that.”

In an attempt to swim against the prevailing current, the crew from Carello's program suggested reviving an old show that examined spectators' questions about Jesus. They thought there would be no one better than the Pope to respond to them.

It seemed "crazy" to think about proposing the idea to the pontiff, but they saw "something in Pope Benedict's style that caused them to at least propose this idea to him," said Carello.

“We proposed it and here the Pope accepted.”

He called the opportunity to see and hear Pope Benedict through the program "extraordinary."

The announcement comes as the Vatican publishing house prepares to present the Pope's newest book in the Jesus of Nazareth series. Cardinal Marc Ouellet, president of the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops and a Bible scholar, will lead an afternoon press conference at the Holy See's Press Office on March 10 for the release.

The book will be immediately available in seven languages. Publishing house director, Fr. Giuseppe Costa, told L'Osservatore Romano that 1.2 million copies have already been printed.

He was on hand at the March 9 general audience, along with representatives from the various international publishers of the book. Jesuit Father Joseph Fessio was there on behalf of Ignatius Press for the English edition.

Also present to greet the Pope at the audience was the veteran Vatican analyst Sandro Magister, along with two collaborators who recently released a book in Italian on the homilies of the Pope Benedict XVI.

The trio also spoke to the Pope about the new TV 2000 television program called "Sunday with Benedict XVI - Art, word, music." The program - to air for the first time on March 12 - will feature segments of the Pope's homilies, texts from the Sunday liturgy, commentary on related art by expert Msgr. Timothy Verdon and Gregorian chant tied into the same theme.

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