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Archive of April 2, 2011

Colorado civil unions bill dies in committee

Denver, Colo., Apr 2, 2011 (CNA) - A proposal to create civil unions for homosexual and unmarried heterosexual couples failed to advance through the Republican-controlled Colorado House Judiciary Committee by a party line vote of 6-5.

The March 31 vote came after eight hours of testimony, and rallies by opponents and supporters on the opposite sides of the state capitol building.

Opponents of the bill, including Catholics, held a noontime prayer vigil outside. Auxiliary Bishop James D. Conley of Denver attended the event, as did a contingent of evangelical Christians from Colorado Springs.

Vigil attendee Christian Brugger told 9 News they opposed the bill “mainly because we believe marriage matters and this bill will assign civil benefits to couples of same-sex unions as if they were married.” He characterized the bill as “an end around” to circumvent a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union of a man and a woman.

Supporters of the legislation on the other side of the capital waved rainbow-colored flags and said the bill was about “equality.” Attendees included Denver mayoral candidates Michael Hancock, Doug Linkhart and Carol Boigon.

The proposed legislation would grant “the legal benefits, protections, and responsibilities that are granted under the law to spouses” to both same-sex and heterosexual civil unions for unrelated individuals. The state already recognizes a Designated Beneficiary Agreement which provides certain rights and responsibilities including hospital visitation, medical decision making and inheritance.

“In my mind this issue is simple. Everyone should have civil rights,” Rep. Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver), a sponsor of the bill who is homosexual, told 9 News. “Whatever the outcome is, know this: civil unions are not a matter of if. It's a matter of when.”

The bill was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee but the motion to send it to the Appropriations Committee failed.

“I believe that to change the definition of marriage in Colorado law is not the right way to go,” said Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud) who voted against the bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Denver Post reports.

The civil unions legislation has already passed the Senate by a vote of 23-12. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper supports civil unions and same-sex “marriage.”

The state’s Republicans have a bare majority of 33-32  in the House. Proponents of the bill claimed to have enough votes to pass in a full floor vote.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver, in his March 2 column for the Denver Catholic Register, said that civil unions are “essentially marriage under another name” and that the long-term impact of the legislation has not been fully discussed.

“How this legislation will impact Catholic ministries and the benefits the Church affords to her employees are very real concerns,” he wrote.

“Attempts to redefine marriage, whether direct or indirect, only serve to weaken the already difficult family structure of our society,” he said.

Colorado voters defeated a ballot measure to create civil unions in 2006.

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LA acting studio begins mission to create actors with ‘spiritual integrity’

Culver City, Calif., Apr 2, 2011 (CNA) - Holy Wood Acting Studio had its grand opening on March 25 to begin its mission to create talented actors with the “emotional and spiritual maturity” to endure the challenges in their careers.

“The opening of Holy Wood Acting Studio represents a new era for the entertainment industry, an era where actors will not only thrill audiences with amazing performances, but also inspire them through moral, intellectual, and spiritual integrity,” the Culver City, Calif. studio said in a statement.

Participants at the event helped create an inspiring and exciting atmosphere they hope will set the tone for many years of actor training and personal development, the studio said.

Attendees included Fr. Willy Raymond, president of Family Theater Productions, and actor Navid Negahban of “The Stoning of Soraya M.” and “Charlie Wilson’s War.”

Telenovela actor and model Gonzalo Garcia Vivanco, famous for many soap operas in Mexico and Colombia, was at the event. Also there was evangelist Richard Shakarian, a Christian businessman from Los Angeles whose father founded the Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship International.

The studio’s operational director Max Espinosa opened the event, explaining the aim of the studio is to prepare students to be both successful actors and complete human beings.

He noted the “Four Pillars” of the study program: Acting, Personal Growth and Development, Leadership, and Health and Fitness. These are combined with Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body to produce actors who are masters of the craft and masters of themselves.

Holy Wood Studio is unique in its incorporation of the late Pope’s approach to spirituality. He emphasized the individual dignity and complementary roles of men and women, while showing how the drama of romantic love can only find fulfillment in marriage.

The studios’ opening ceremony featured video testimonials made by the students and teachers of a pilot seminar. They spoke of the studio’s potential to transform the lives of both students and teachers.

The audience also saw a film by Joe Sikoria, the studio’s personal growth and development coach, as he spent a day with his family. He talked about the need to live each moment of our lives as if it were the last, and to love as if it were our first.

After the video, Sikoria spoke to the audience in person about the importance of faith and family. He and his wife shared a story about a family experience that taught them the path to true joy can only come through self-sacrifice.

Holy Wood Acting Studies will open its three-month summer program on June 12. Another of its programs begins on Sept. 8 and lasts for a whole academic year.

The programs aim to provide flexible options for acting students looking to maximize their personal and professional development.

The studio's base of operations, Culver City in West Los Angeles County, bills itself as “the Heart of Screenland.” It is also the home of Sony Pictures Studios.

The studio website is at http://www.holywoodactingstudio.com.

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Ex-priest's ego caused break with Church, says former supporter

Phoenix, Ariz., Apr 2, 2011 (CNA) - Updated April 6, 2011 at 9:43 a.m. MST. Corrects spelling of Deacon Dick Petersen.

A onetime supporter of the excommunicated and laicized priest Dale Fushek says that his former pastor's new memoir doesn't tell the real story of the man he knew – who began as a “faithful” and “holy” priest, but was led astray by a sense of self-importance.

Fushek has accused Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix of wishing for his death and forcing him out of the Church because of a personal grudge. In his new memoir “The Unexpected Life,” he defends his decision to found a non-Catholic “worship center,” which caused his excommunication from the Catholic Church. Fushek recently told the Arizona Republic that he “never left the Catholic Church – they left me.”

But Deacon Dick Petersen, who says he was once among Fushek's “loyal soldiers,” said that the former priest developed a problem with authority, and couldn't bear to have his decisions questioned, even by the Vatican. Eventually, Deacon Petersen recalled, Fushek went his own way out of wounded pride when Bishop Olmsted suspended him over sex abuse allegations that later resulted in a plea bargain.

“He was extremely popular, and extremely successful – and extremely holy and good, at the beginning,” said Deacon Petersen, who attributes his own ministry to a “conversion experience” in which Fushek played a major role. He and his wife came to St. Timothy's, a large parish that Fushek led for 20 years, in 1987.

“He did marvelous things for a lot of people, including me,” Deacon Petersen told CNA. For at least a decade, he said, “our parish was really very positive, and very faithful.”

“It started to change around the year 2000,” he recalled. “Things started to become less faithful, and there was a little bit more 'pushing the envelope' with the liturgy – with what could be done, and what couldn't be done.”

Some of Fushek's innovations became the basis for the “Life Teen” youth ministry program, which has continued since his departure. But Deacon Petersen – who remains a supporter of Life Teen –  said that Fushek's attitude changed when his liturgical decisions came under the scrutiny of Church authorities.

“As the Vatican started to look at these things, some of them were said to be inappropriate,” Petersen explained. “It was about the same time that some of the liturgical things we were doing started to be questioned, that he started to become grumpy – questioning the Vatican, and that kind of thing.”

“When it came to questioning him, it didn't happen – it just didn't happen,” the deacon said. “It was an arrogant kind of an attitude.”

But Bishop Olmsted's predecessor, Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien, allowed Fushek – who was his vicar general – to lead the parish in the way he saw fit. “People in the diocese used to talk about us as 'the Diocese of St. Tim's,' like we were off here by ourselves doing whatever we wanted to do,” said Deacon Petersen. “To a degree, that was true.”

He explained that Fushek steered the parish toward a style of worship that blended the Catholic Mass with elements of non-denominational Protestant services. “We were considered a very 'charismatic' parish,” the deacon said. “Everybody's hands in the air, a lot of that kind of thing – saying 'Alleluia' all over the place, doing certain things when the rubrics said we shouldn't be.”

“When the liturgical changes started to be called into question, that's when Dale started to become something other than the faithful, holy person that I knew him to be,” said Deacon Petersen.

Yet Fushek's life would take an even more dramatic turn, as he faced serious questions about his involvement in a diocese-wide sex abuse scandal that came to light in 2002.

That year, Fushek finally told St. Timothy's parishioners that the diocese had settled out of court in 1995 with a former Life Teen employee who accused him of sexual harassment. But the Phoenix diocese's change in leadership coincided with further allegations against him, on 10 counts that included indecent exposure and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

“It was shortly after Bishop Olmsted became bishop, that the allegations started coming out against him,” Deacon Petersen noted. “But that wasn't Bishop Olmsted's doing.” The new bishop responded to the legal charges by suspending Fushek from ministry in December 2004. 

“There was nothing Bishop Olmsted could do. He had to put Fushek on administrative leave. And when he did, things just went south – big time.”

The associate pastor at St. Timothy's took Fushek's place, along with a visiting priest. “Dale had an apartment somewhere in Phoenix, and went over there to live. From there, he never came back.”

“He never came back to St. Timothy's – and he started a Protestant church of his own, about four miles away from us.”

Fushek would eventually plead guilty, in 2010, to one count of misdemeanor assault. He was formally dismissed from the priesthood the same year. By that time, however, he had already brought several hundred of his former parishioners from St. Timothy's over to the new nondenominational “Praise and Worship Center” that he started in December 2007.

Because of his decision to establish a non-Catholic worship community, Bishop Olmsted declared in December of 2008 that Fushek, along with his fellow priest Fr. Mark Dippre, were excommunicated.

Because the worship services at the center originally featured only music and preaching, Fushek has tried to maintain that Catholics could attend in good conscience. But the opposition has become more open, with Fushek reportedly holding communion services and appearing in priestly attire on the cover of his memoir.

Deacon Petersen believes “Pastor Dale” is now clearly competing with his former parish and other locations in the diocese.

“He was so angry with everybody – from Bishop Olmsted, down to anybody who wouldn't just follow his lead – that he was out to draw people away from St. Timothy's, and any other place he could draw them away from.”

“He had his service on Sunday, at 10:30, which is the exact same time we have our biggest Mass at St. Timothy's. Some of my best friends aren't my friends anymore, because I can't keep my mouth shut when they start trying to tell me I should come to the Praise and Worship Center.”

“They're even receiving Communion there. He's doing all kinds of things that are just wrong.”

Fushek has accused Bishop Olmsted of hoping he would commit suicide, a charge that Deacon Petersen says is absurd. “I know him as well as I've known any bishop,” said the deacon, who served as the first director of pro-life activities for the diocese. “He has not one ounce of vindictiveness in his whole body. He's the most fair person you'll ever meet in your whole life.”

Ultimately, Deacon Petersen attributes Fushek's break with the Church to “ego.”

“We pray for him constantly,” he said. “But for him to try to put himself out as a victim, and Bishop Olmsted as the perpetrator, that's just not right.”

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Catholic university to introduce Newman Studies Program

Wichita, Kan., Apr 2, 2011 (CNA) - Newman University is introducing a program in the fall designed to help graduates do more than just remember information, it is designed to help them think – for the rest of their lives.

Newman’s President Dr. Noreen M. Carrocci said the program is cutting edge even though it is based on Blessed John Henry Newman’s “The Idea of a University,” his highly influential reflections on education published in 1873.

“The Newman Studies Program takes his idea of university and different levels of knowledge and says, ‘How can we make that current and relevant today for our students and create a signature program that all students who graduate with an undergraduate degree from Newman University will be rendered distinctive because of it?,’” Dr. Carrocci said.

That is what the faculty and Provost Dr. Michael Austin have done, she said. “It is truly remarkable in terms of commitment of the faculty to work together, to explore new territory together, and I think it’s going to provide our students with an incredible intellectual experience.”

Dr. Carrocci said “presidents’ jaws were dropping” when Dr. Austin presented the program at the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities meeting Jan. 29-31, in Washington, D.C.

“You got the faculty to do what?,” she was asked. “Somebody said we ought to copyright it. I said, no, in academe, imitation is the highest form of flattery. So I hope many schools will look at this model and see what they might gain from going back to the roots of the idea of university.”

Dr. Austin said the Newman Studies Program completes a student’s general education.

“Real education is not just accumulating facts, it’s taking them and doing something with them,” he said. “We want to show them how to do that and we want to convince them to continue doing that because we believe that’s what it means to be educated.”

The four “capstone” courses that all junior and senior students will be required to take are not designed to teach them a collection of facts, instead they will learn what to do with facts and how to make meaning out of facts.

“We are a society awash in data, with very little idea of what meaning is,” Dr. Austin said. “These are courses about how to take a body of material and turn it into something meaningful, something resonant.”

Dr. Austin said Newman University previously had a fairly standard general education model where students had a cafeteria of courses in their freshman and sophomore years and then begin concentrating on their majors in their junior year.

The problem with that model, Dr. Austin said, is that students don’t learn much and what they do learn becomes very fragmented. Another problem for Newman University is that it’s a transfer institution with about 70 percent of its students transferring to the university after studying two years somewhere else. That means that the “key Newman experience” must be taught in the upper two years, he said.

A faculty committee under the direction of history professor Dr. Kelly McFall, worked for the last three years on the revised core curriculum.

“It was a hard nut to crack, but we wanted something that would be transfer-friendly,” Dr. Austin said. “At the same time we wanted something that was branded, something that was very specific to Newman, something that you could get nowhere else but at Newman.

“We plan for this to be what we are doing as Newman University that is unique to us,” he said, “rooted solidly in the tradition of our namesake that a student can only get at Newman.”

Cutting-edge program will be required for all students; honors the university’s namesake, vision

The Wichita Catholic university has designed a three-tier Newman Studies Program:

• The first tier focuses on building skills such as writing, communication, math and technology.

• The second-tier focuses on acquiring general knowledge about science, history, philosophy and other topics.

• The third tier synthesizes the first two. All junior and senior students will be required to take four capstone courses such as: “The Creative Spirit” and “The Quest for Meaning.” One course, for example, studies Spanish films from a Catholic social justice perspective.

“The capstone courses are the courses that are designed to be THE Newman experience, the experience that you just can’t get anywhere else,” Dr. Michael Austin said.

Printed with permission from Catholic Advance, newspaper for the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas.

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