Archive of March 16, 2011

Vocations director chosen as new auxiliary bishop of San Jose (Updated)

San Jose, Calif., Mar 16, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Updated March 16 at 3:55 Mountain Time. New version includes comments from both Bishop McGrath and Bishop-designate Daly and the date of his consecration as a bishop.

Fr. Thomas Daly, a San Francisco diocesan priest and vocations director, has been chosen to become the Auxiliary Bishop of San Jose, California.

Pope Benedict XVI's Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S., Archbishop Pietro Sambi, made the Pope's choice public on March 16. The 50-year-old bishop-designate is currently the president of Marin Catholic High School in Kentfield, and the Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

Bishop-designate Daly is a native-born Californian, and has been a priest since 1987. During the 1990s he received a Master of Education degree and taught at Marin Catholic High School. He also served as a chaplain with the San Francisco Police Department, and as a parochial vicar in several parishes.

Once consecrated as a bishop, Fr. Daly will assist 65-year-old Bishop Patrick J. McGrath, who became head of the diocese in 1999.

“It was with great joy that I received the news that Pope Benedict has appointed Father Daly to be the first Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of San Jose,” said Bishop McGrath, in a March 16 statement released by the Diocese of San Jose. He said the appointment “recognizes the continual growth of our local church” in recent decades.

“I look forward to working with Bishop McGrath, whom I have known since my days at the seminary and when he was in residence in my home parish of St. Brendan’s in San Francisco,” said Bishop-designate Daly. His consecration will take place May 25 at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph.

Bishop McGrath asked that “all our brothers and sisters in the Roman Catholic Church” would “join us in praying for him and for the gifts and graces he will need to carry out his apostolic office.”

In a recent message to the faithful of his diocese, Bishop McGrath said that future plans for the diocese would emphasize the areas of liturgy and Catholic education, as “new priorities” in a decade-long strategy for renewing the local church.

The appointment comes just days before the Diocese of San Jose's 30th anniversary celebration. Although the region's Catholic history dates back to the 18th century, San Jose was established as a diocese relatively recently – on March 18, 1981, the vigil of the feast of St. Joseph. Bishop McGrath will celebrate the anniversary with a Mass on March 19, at the Cathedral Basilica.

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European court to rule on crucifixes in Italian schools

Rome, Italy, Mar 16, 2011 (CNA) - The European Human Rights Court will issue a ruling March 18 on whether crucifixes should be present in the public schools of Italy.

The European court issued a ruling in November 2009 in favor of a mother who claimed the crucifixes “weren’t in harmony” with the way she wanted her two daughters to be educated.

Although the crucifix could be “encouraging” for some pupils, the court said, it could be “emotionally disturbing” for pupils of other religions or those who profess no religion. The court said the state has an obligation to refrain from “imposing beliefs, even indirectly, in places where persons are dependent on it or in places where they are particularly vulnerable.”

Italy then launched an appeal against the decision in June 2010, noting that the presence of crucifixes in the classroom does not amount to government-sponsored religion.

The court will issue its final ruling on March 18.

Dr. Martin Kuegler, a historian, politician and analyst with the Kairos agency, emphasized on March 15, that the crucifix “is the emblem of Europe.” He noted that it is part of the right to religious freedom, and the push to remove it from the classroom is due more to ideological motives than to political correctness.

“A supposed right not to be exposed to religious content can’t override the right to the free exercise of religion,” Dr. Kuegler stated.

Dr. Kuegler is also a member of the European Observatory for Religious Freedom.

“Instead of fighting against religious intolerance or even against religious symbols, it is religion itself that is attacked,” he added. “Political problems cannot be addressed by a stand-off with religion.”

From a democratic standpoint, he argued, “The majority of the people affected want to keep the crucifix! This is a problem of democratic politics, which in this case is putting individual interests above others.”

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Baby Joseph's struggle a teaching moment on the value of life, says priest

St. Louis, Mo., Mar 16, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - A priest who helped transfer a terminally ill 13-month-old from a Canadian hospital – where his breathing tubes were slated to be removed – said the fight to keep the baby alive is a “teaching moment for our whole culture” on the value of life.  

Fr. Frank Pavone, who heads the New York-based Priests for Life, told CNA on March 14 it was a “victory for the family” that baby Joseph was moved from an Ontario, Canada medical center to a Catholic hospital in Missouri where doctors plan to perform a temporary procedure to prolong his life later this week.

Joseph's parents – Moe and Sana Maraachli – had asked Priests for Life for help after doctors at  London Health Sciences Centre in Ontario refused to transfer the child to a facility that could perform a tracheotomy on him.

The hospital claimed that the procedure – which would allow for the baby to breath on his own – was reserved for patients who needed a breathing machine long term.

Fr. Pavone responded that the treatment is considered by many doctors as a “standard procedure for Joseph's condition.”

Baby Joseph, who suffers from a severe and fatal neurological disorder, was considered to be in a vegetative state by Canadian doctors, who recommended that he have his feeding and breathing tubes removed.

“We and the family felt that they were making a value judgment on his life,” Fr. Pavone said. “It's one thing to say a treatment is worthless – it's another thing to say a life is worthless.”

The baby had been at the Ontario facility since October of last year. His sister, Zina, passed away from a similar condition years ago.

At the hospital in Canada, Joseph's parents “felt trapped in the situation they were in,” Fr. Pavone said.

In response to their pleas for assistance, Priests for Life raised $150,000 to transfer the baby to SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center in St. Louis and to pay for subsequent medical tests.

Robert Wilmott, chief of pediatrics at the center, said in a statement Monday that Joseph will likely have a tracheotomy performed by the end of the week to ease his move to a nursing facility.
“The doctors here have been evaluating him and continue to evaluate him and we look forward to the fact that they're going to provide the kind of care that's making the family feel good, feel safe and feel that they're doing the best they can for their child,” Fr. Pavone said from the St. Louis hospital.

In the future, “how it's going to look is going to depend on the next week or week and a half to see what the doctors decide,” he added, saying “a possible outcome” is that the baby would be able to travel back home to Canada with a ventilator.

“Then the parents at least would know that what was reasonable and possible was done and that the baby's life is in God's hands in terms of it's length.”

Fr. Pavone said that far from being in a vegetative state, baby Joseph “moves around – he's not lying there motionless – he reacts.”

“He's a delightful boy – we always have some good laughs when we're together with him in the room.”

The priest called Joseph's parents Moe and Sana, who are Muslim and Catholic respectively, “people of great faith” who “believe in a God who not only answers prayers but is the Lord of life and death.”

“They're very, humble, grateful people,” and are “so happy that others are helping them,” he said.

Fr. Pavone also noted that the family “is very familiar” with the benefits of a tracheotomy, given their prior experience with their daughter Zina, which is “one of the reasons they've been fighting so hard” for the procedure.

He also underscored that the treatment for Joseph should not be considered “extraordinary” in regard to Church teaching on end of life issues.

“In this case, the tracheotomy – as officials have acknowledged – would extend the baby's life,” he said. “Would it cure the underlying condition? No, and the parents are not expecting that it would.”

However, in this situation the question then becomes, “is there anything that can benefit the patient?” Fr. Pavone said, citing his personal need for glasses as an example.

While his glasses are “not curing what's wrong with my vision,” he explained, they are nonetheless “benefiting me.”

The procedure for Joseph, then, involves “ordinary means – something that gives benefit to the patient without unreasonable burden,” he said.

On his interest and involvement with the case, Fr. Pavone said that since the death of Terry Schiavo – a disabled Florida woman whose feeding tube was removed in 2005 despite her family's protests  – his organization has “been extra sensitive to ways in which we could advocate for families who are facing situations where medical requests are being denied.”

“Besides the direct help that we could give the family,” Priests for Life saw Joesph's situation as “a teaching moment for our whole culture,” Fr. Pavone said.

“Cases like this are happening all the time but only certain ones become public enough to provide a platform, if you will, for reflection of the whole Church and wider society.”

“And that's what we've been doing with this case – showing people that it's not just about this one baby, it's really about us all.”

The struggle of Joseph and his family during this difficult time “provide a chance for all of us to talk and reflect about these very important issues that effect us all,” and “how we make medical decisions for ourselves and for our loved ones,” Fr. Pavone said.

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Maronite Catholics in Lebanon receive new patriarch

Bkerke, Lebanon, Mar 16, 2011 (CNA) - Lebanon's Maronite Catholic Church has elected Bishop Bechara Rai, a 71-year-old monk, as its new patriarch.

“We carry Lebanon in our prayers, to regain its role in these difficult days that the east is living in,” announced the new patriarch after his election, referring to widespread instability throughout the Middle East.

“We pray for Lebanon especially to get out of its crisis,” he said, expressing hope that the country would soon manage to form a new government.

The former Bishop of Jbeil has become the Maronites' 77th leader, with the official title of “Patriarch of Antioch and All the East of the Maronites.” His successor, Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, retired on Feb. 26 at age 90.

A spokesman for the Maronite synod of bishops, Monsignor Youssef Tawk, announced the news to crowds gathered outside the Maronite Church's headquarters in Bkerke, near Beirut. Since the deliberations began on March 9, the faithful had been eagerly anticipating the election of a new leader for the ancient church.

“Our joy has no limit,” said Monsignor Boulos Nasrallah, a priest of the new patriarch's former diocese, following the election announcement. The monsignor described the Maronites' new leader as “a very qualified person from a spiritual standpoint,” who has long been “one of the pillars of the church.”

“He listens to everyone,” Msgr. Nasrallah said, “and greets everyone the same, whatever their background.”

Although 59 percent of Lebanese are Muslims, Christians also have a strong presence. Maronite Catholics are the country's largest Christian group, representing 21 percent of the total population.

Lebanon's unusual power-sharing system reserves political offices for candidates who hail from the various religious groups, so that the president is always a Maronite Catholic, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the parliament speaker a Shi'ite Muslim. Long-running political tensions forced Saad al-Hariri to resign as Lebanon's prime minister in January 2011, and no new government has yet formed.

Patriarch-elect Rai is known as a political moderate, in contrast with his predecessor's outspoken opposition to the influence of Syria and the militant political Islamic group Hezbollah.

The patriarch-elect entered monastic life as a  member of the Mariamite Maronite Order, founded in 1695 during a monastic revival. Lebanese Christianity has favored monasticism from its earliest days, with the Maronites deriving their name from the monk – St. Maron – who established their church.

Maronites are Eastern Catholics of the Syriac tradition, whose church was never formally separated from communion with the Pope. Maronites worship in Jesus' own language of Aramaic, and follow a different liturgical tradition than many of the other Eastern churches which trace their origin to the Byzantine empire.

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US bishops emphasize booklet on 'marriage equality' is not Catholic

Washington D.C., Mar 16, 2011 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops have said that a new booklet advocating “marriage equality” for same-sex couples by a self-identified Catholic group strongly contradicts Church teaching.

In “no manner is this organization authorized to speak on behalf of the Catholic Church,” Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. said March 11, The cardinal was specifically referring to a new pamphlet released by the controversial New Ways Ministry – an organization that claims Catholic support for homosexual “marriage.”

The booklet titled “Marriage Equality: a positive Catholic approach” was authored and released this month by New Ways Ministry’s executive director Francis DeBernardo.

DeBernardo argued that the “full” Catholic position on same-sex “marriage” is not represented solely by bishops within the Church.

“When dealing with lesbian and gay issues, a relatively new area of Church discussion on which
there is so much debate,” DeBernardo wrote, “the bishops may not yet be able to discern what the Catholic community believes.”

The booklet also claimed that “Catholic tradition” allows for laity and theologians within the Church – some of whom support allowing marriage for same-sex couples – to have equal say and authority on the issue.

Cardinal Wuerl, who heads the Committee on Doctrine for the U.S bishops' conference, reacted to the pamphlet by stating that New Ways Ministry is not “in conformity” with Catholic teaching and that the group should refrain from even identifying itself as Catholic.

Cardinal Wuerl also reiterated his support for the position of the previous U.S. bishops’ conference president Cardinal Francis George, who stated in February of 2010 that the organization is not Catholic and does not speak for the Church.

New Ways Ministry, based in Mount Rainier, Maryland, describes itself as a “gay-positive ministry of advocacy and justice.” Cardinal George noted in his Feb. 12 statement last year that since its founding in 1977, “serious questions” have been raised about the group's adherence to Catholic teaching on homosexuality.

In 1984, New Way's founders – Sr. Jeannine Gramick, SSND, and Fr. Robert Nugent – were barred from continuing their activities in the Archdiocese of Washington.

That same year, their superiors ordered them to separate themselves from the organization. The two resigned from leadership posts but continued their involvement until 1999, when the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that because of “errors and ambiguities” in their approach, Sr. Gramick and Fr. Nugent are permanently prohibited from any pastoral work involving homosexual individuals

Cardinal George said New Ways Ministry’s “lack of adherence” to Church teaching on the morality of homosexual acts was the “central issue” in the censure of its founders and continues to be its “crucial defect.”

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Pope sends $100,000 to Japan

Vatican City, Mar 16, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI sent a donation of $100,000 to the Bishops’ Conference of Japan to help the victims of the earthquake and tsunami that struck the country on March 11.

Msgr. Anthony Figueiredo of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, told Vatican Radio that the council is working closely with the Japanese bishops, Caritas International network and other aid organizations to determine the best way to respond to the needs of the people.

Cor Unum is the council that carries out the Pope's humanitarian efforts.

Msgr. Figueiredo said Japan has experienced “a vast tragedy” on par with the 2004 tsunami in Asia, the earthquake and flooding in Pakistan, and the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

“The first thing we need to do is to pray that these people have hope,” he said, before explaining that material assistance is also needed. “The Holy Father has sent $100,000 to the Japanese bishops through this pontifical council because that is the fastest way to get the funds to the most affected dioceses.”

In addition, the Vatican official continued, “The bishops are the ones responsible first for the works of charity in the dioceses, and they know what the people need.” He emphasized that the Church plans to continue assisting those in Japan for the long term.

Bishop Tetsuo Hiraga of Sendai, one the regions most affected by the tragedy, told Fides news agency that unity and good will are needed. “Catholics in the Diocese of Sendai are a small flock of just over 10,000. But we continue praying for the victims and we will do everything possible to bring relief and bear witness to the message of Christ during this time of suffering,” he said.

He added that the bishops will hold an emergency meeting on March 16 in Sendai. “We need to advise each other on how to respond. In the meantime, we trust in God and we ask for prayers from Christians around the world.”

“We have received the message from the Holy Father and we thank him for his words that inspire courage and hope. Right now this is our specific mission: to help the nation raise its eyes to heaven and to keep the flame of hope alive,” Bishop Hiraga said.

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New documents reveal inner workings of papal birth control commission

Emmitsburg, Md., Mar 16, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - New documentation from a renowned moral theologian is shedding light on a controversial moment in Catholic history – the 1963-66 commission that considered the question of contraception prior to Paul VI's encyclical “Humanae Vitae.”

“The idea of what happened with the commission has been shaped by people who were pro-contraception.” said Germain Grisez, Professor Emeritus of philosophy and moral theology at Mount St. Mary's College in Maryland. “It's their account of what happened, that has been circulated over the years.”

Now, Grisez is seeking to set the record straight, by releasing documents that few in the Church have ever seen before. They can be viewed through his website, at

According to Grisez, who assisted commission member Fr. John Ford in his work, several misunderstandings about the commission date back to 1967 – the year before Pope Paul VI condemned artificial contraceptive methods in his encyclical “Humanae Vitae.”

During that year, a number of commission documents containing pro-contraception arguments were leaked to the public and the press. The move led to the popular misconception of the Pope “overruling” a commission, although the commission had no authority to make decisions.

Those who supported the traditional teaching, like Fr. Ford, could have responded in kind with their own document leaks. But they chose not to do so at the time, considering themselves bound to keep the commission's work private and wait for the Pope to speak authoritatively.

“The people who weren't supportive of a change in Church teaching, believed that their knowledge of what the commission had done was confidential,” Grisez explained. “They didn't go around talking about it.”

According to Grisez, this one-sided perspective on the commission's work made it appear that Pope Paul had simply disregarded the majority report.

But the new documents shows that the Pope took both sides of the issue seriously, and gave advocates of artificial contraception every chance to make their case. It also shows how the commission's secretary general, Fr. Henri de Riedmatten, managed to exert a strong influence in favor of contraception, despite the opposing position of commission president Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani.

Grisez noted that the Pope, rather than ignoring the pro-contraception arguments, was legitimately interested in considering the questions raised by new methods.

“He was perfectly happy to have a lot of people on the commission who thought that change was possible. He wanted to see what kind of case they could make for that view.”

But the Pope never intended to hand over his teaching authority to the commission. “He was not at all imagining that he could delegate to a committee, the power to decide what the Church's teaching is going to be,” Grisez said.

Some proponents of a change in teaching believed that Pope Pius XI's encyclical “Casti Connubii,” which condemned artificial birth control in 1930, had not conclusively settled the kinds of questions raised by new methods of hormonal contraception. They initially argued that the contraceptive pill was different from older methods, and could be accepted without contradicting prior teaching.

Pope Paul encouraged the commission to pursue this line of inquiry –  not expecting that the commission's work, after being leaked to the public, would be set on the same plane as his judgment.

“He never intended the commission to be a public body, or that its study should be publicized in print,” Grisez emphasized. “He thought they were going to study, and make their presentation to him, so he would understand it and think the matter through.”

This spirit of inquiry, however, had consequences he did not intend.

“When the documents were leaked in 1967, Paul VI was extremely upset about it. He sent a letter to all the bishops and cardinals who were on the commission, about the documents. It wasn't what he had in mind at all.”

In the end, the majority of commission members actually lost interest in attempting to argue that contraceptive pills could be squared with “Casti Connubii.” Instead, they simply advocated the acceptance of contraception, without attempting to reconcile this prospect with the previous teaching of the Church.

“Almost nobody, in the end, was arguing that the pill was anything different,” Grisez recalled. “In the commission documents, you wouldn't find much of a case anywhere for that – although that was the starting point for the whole thing.”

Pope Paul VI considered their work, but grew more convinced than ever that the majority position was not correct. “He became absolutely clear, in his own mind, that the pill was wrong. That led to the declaration in 'Humanae Vitae.'”

But in the public realm, the groundwork had already been laid for the disastrous reception of “Humanae Vitae” in 1968, through the leaking of the majority report that supported contraception.

Grisez hopes the new documentation he is providing might undo some of that damage, and help many people open their minds to the Church's teaching on sexuality.

“It would help the Church now, if people had a more sound notion of what did happen – an understanding of Paul VI's actual mentality, wanting to study the question without intending to hand over his authority.”

“If that were better understood,” he noted, “I think a lot of the resentment surrounding 'Humanae Vitae' could be dissolved.”

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