Albany, N.Y., May 17, 2011 (CNA) -
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s attempt to push for “gay marriage” in New York state has again brought out supporters of traditional marriage who say the proposal threatens to create an “Orwellian” redefinition of the basic truth about marriage.
“Marriage is the fundamental building block of society. It has been from time immemorial,” New York Catholic Conference communications director Dennis Poust told CNA May 16. “We believe that what this bill would do is separate forever the link between marriage and procreation, which we think would have a devastating long-term impact on society.
“The state ought to be looking at ways to strengthen marriage as we know it to be, rather than changing it and watering it down and being politically correct and saying marriage is something other than what we know it to be.”
A New York bill to recognize same-sex “marriage” failed in the state Senate in 2009 by a vote of 38-24.
Gov. Cuomo, who took office this year, has characterized the issue as a “fundamental civil rights battle.” However, he will not introduce the bill unless he is certain it will pass. His administration is trying to coax more votes from undecided legislators by gradually increasing pressure instead of twisting arms, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Republican State Sen. Greg Ball, who voted against the bill as an assemblyman but is now “genuinely undecided,” said that he and other key legislators had not heard from the governor. Democratic Sens. Carl Kruger and Joseph Addabbo, who also voted against the previous bill, similarly said they had not heard from the governor.
Opponents of the bill are also gathering support.
“We’re working very hard, as are members of the Evangelical community and other groups, to firm up the opposition in the state legislature and try and prevent it from ever being introduced in this session,” Poust said.
Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York defended the nature of marriage in a May 13 post on his blog “The Gospel in the Digital Age.”
He professed Catholics’ “love and respect” for homosexual people but criticized attempts to brand as “bigots and bullies” Catholics, other Christians, Jews and others who oppose the redefinition of marriage.
The archbishop said that the definition of marriage is “a given,” a union of “love and fidelity” between one man and one woman.
“To uphold that traditional definition, to strengthen it, and to defend it is not a posture of bigotry or bullying. Nor is it a denial of the ‘right’ of anybody,” he said, adding that not every desire is a right.
Thousands of demonstrators rallied in the Bronx on May 15 in opposition to the proposed redefinition. Organizers of the event included Hispanic leaders such as State Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr., a Democrat and a longtime opponent of “gay marriage.”
“It is time that our community stands up and fights for those moral, social, civic and cultural values that are found in the Bible and that our grandparents have instilled in us in our native Hispanic countries,” he said before the event.
Supporters of traditional marriage have launched a $500,000 television ad campaign and are robo-calling voters in swing vote districts.
Although Republicans nationally tend to be strong supporters of traditional marriage, some wealthy New York party backers are funding the push for marriage redefinition. They include financiers Steven A. Cohen, Clifford S. Asness, Daniel S. Loeb and Paul E. Singer, the New York Times reports.
The funds help support New Yorkers United for Marriage, a group targeting Republican lawmakers to persuade them to join most Senate Democrats in supporting the bill.
Singer, a hedge fudge manager and top GOP donor, chairs the Manhattan Institute and has a homosexual son who contracted a marriage with a man in Massachusetts. He has donated $425,000 of his own money and has personally solicited $500,000 from others.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a former Republican who is now unaffiliated, has also donated at least $100,000 of his own money. He has hosted a fundraiser for the effort and has lobbied lawmakers on the issue.
Donations from these men make up about two-thirds of the same-sex “marriage” coalition’s fundraising coffers. Some of the donors were recruited by Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee from 2005-2007 and campaign manager for George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign. Mehlman announced that he was homosexual and a supporter of “gay marriage” in 2010.
“We can’t match the money that’s being thrown at this by the other side, from Hollywood celebrities, from Mayor Bloomberg who’s a billionaire, and from these so-called Republican business leaders,” Poust told CNA.
“All we can do is speak the truth and hope that the legislature is not swayed by dollar signs, and instead they are swayed by a fundamental truth that everyone in their heart really knows.”
Asness told the New York Times he is a “small-government guy” who thinks same-sex marriage is “an issue of basic freedom.”
However, Archbishop Dolan suggested freedom would be endangered if the bill passes. He invoked the work of dystopian novelist George Orwell and warned that supporters of traditional marriage become “harassed and penalized” in countries where marriage is redefined.
“If big, intrusive government can re-define the most basic, accepted, revealed truth that marriage simply means one man + one woman + (hopefully) children, in a loving family, then, I’m afraid, Orwell’s works will no longer be on the fiction shelf."
Lima, Peru, May 17, 2011 (CNA) - Numerous abortion and same-sex marriage supporters in Peru are throwing their support behind Ollanta Humala, the presidential candidate who will face Keiko Fujimori in a runoff election set for June 5.
The Population Research Institute’s Office for Latin America reported that “(j)ust days before the runoff election between Keiko Fujimori and Ollanta Humala to choose the new Peruvian president for 2011-2016, the entire pro-abortion and pro-gay block (of supporters) have been simultaneously posting messages on their Facebook pages against Keiko and in support of Ollanta.”
Ollanta’s political party, Gana Peru, includes in its platform support for “the full exercise of the sexual and reproductive rights of women, access to family planning methods, including oral emergency contraceptive ... and the legalization of abortion.”
It also calls for guaranteeing the “right of all persons to choose their own sexual orientation.”
Bose, Italy, May 17, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - A new round of ecumenical talks between Anglicans and Catholics is getting underway May 17 in Bose, Italy. The meeting is the third phase of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission or ARCIC, which was established in 1970.
The Catholic co-secretary for the meeting is Msgr. Mark Langham of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity.
“We begin by stressing what we have in common, finding an area we can both profess together and then moving forward from that to finding where and when and why we diverge. That’s a more productive and creative way of addressing our issues. If we simply dive in and talk about the controversial issues, as they are, people tend to entrench,” he told Vatican Radio.
Those controversial issues include the recent creation of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.
Established by the Vatican this year, it is a specific organization for former Anglicans within the Catholic Church. The Ordinariate aims to allow converts to preserve the cherished aspects of their Anglican heritage.
Over 900 Anglicans joined at Easter, including 61 clergy. The co-secretary for the Anglican side of things at today’s gathering is Alyson Barnett-Cowan, who does not think that development will affect the progress of the talks.
“I am trusting that it’s not going to affect the climate very much at the talks itself. Much of the talk about the Ordinariate is based upon speculation and not based on what is actually going ahead. The Ordinariate is not the agenda for theological dialogue. We will have an opportunity in one of the evenings, informally, to update people on what is going on. But at this stage that ball is really in the court of episcopal conferences and their discussion with local Anglicans about how the Ordinariate will be put into place.”
Others, though, are not so sure. William Oddie, a former Anglican vicar and journalist from England who converted to the Catholic Church, says the problem with ARCIC is that only the Catholic side of the table represents a clear, collective viewpoint.
“Can anybody explain to me why we carry on with ARCIC? Is there any real intention, as 30 years ago there undoubtedly was, of actually achieving something? Is it a continuing self-delusion on the part of those participating? Or is ARCIC III just a PR exercise, designed to avert attention from the fact that we have now, inevitably but finally, come to the bitter end of the ecumenical road?” Oddie writes in the Catholic Herald.
“Whatever it is, we will all, finally, have to face reality: and, surely, the sooner the better,” Oddie says.
The ARCIC talks will take place from May 17- 27 focusing on the theme “Church as Communion – local and universal.”
Joliet, Ill., May 17, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Bishop R. Daniel Conlon, currently the bishop of Steubenville, Ohio, as the new bishop of Joliet, Illinois.
“I consider it a great privilege to be named as Bishop of the Diocese of Joliet with its rich history, and I look forward to working with those who generously share their gifts to support the many ministries in this diocese,” said Bishop Conlon on May 17, following the announcement of his new post by papal nuncio Archbishop Pietro Sambi. “I look forward to a bright future in this vibrant and growing church.”
Bishop Conlon will be Joliet's fifth bishop. His predecessor, Bishop J. Peter Sartain, became Archbishop of Seattle in December 2010, with Joliet's Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Siegel handling diocesan affairs in the meantime. Bishop Conlon's installation will take place July 14 at Joliet's Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus.
Auxiliary Bishop Siegel said he was “overjoyed to receive the news” of Bishop Conlon's appointment. “I know Bishop Conlon will be a blessing to the people of the Diocese of Joliet, building on the strong foundation laid by his predecessors,” he said.
Bishop Conlon was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1948. He was ordained a priest in 1977 and served the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in various capacities until 1983, before leaving for a period of time to earn doctorates in canon law and philosophy. He later served as a pastor in an Ohio parish, until his ordination and installation as the Bishop of Steubenville in 2002.
Since then, Bishop Conlon has worked to improve catechesis throughout his diocese and promote vocations to the priesthood, particularly through the diocese's internationally-known Franciscan University of Steubenville.
In recent years he has also assisted the U.S. bishops on matters of marriage, family, and child protection, including drafting their pastoral letter “Marriage and Life in the Divine Plan.”
Wichita, Kan., May 17, 2011 (CNA) - The Kansas legislature has passed a multi-faceted pro-life bill that cuts Title X funds from Planned Parenthood and excludes automatic abortion coverage from private health care plans and the health insurance exchanges required by federal law to begin in 2014.
Kathy Ostrowski, legislative director of Kansans for Life, said this bill and others show that Kansas is “heading in the right direction.”
HB 2075 requires that over $300,000 in Title X federal money will go to local full-service health clinics instead of Planned Parenthood. It will also put $300,000 into a grant-matched fund for pregnancy maintenance and adoption counseling.
The provision is the second Planned Parenthood funding cut to pass a state legislature this year. In Indiana, Gov. Mitch Daniels signed into law a bill that cuts state funding for the organization, the largest abortion provider in the country.
Under the Kansas law, private health insurance plans will only cover abortions done to save the life of the mother. Kansas insurers may still offer abortion coverage, but through individually purchased riders that cost about $2, the Associated Press says.
Seven other states limit abortion in private health insurance plans.
Kansans for Life said the restriction makes sense because pregnancy is not a disease and abortion is not health care. Many businesses have objected to paying for elective abortions in the health plans they purchase for their employees.
“It is anything but unreasonable to insist that morally opposed individuals and businesses be freed from underwriting abortions,” said Mary Kay Culp, the organization’s executive director. She noted that state statistics show 40 percent of abortions are performed on women who have already had an abortion.
Other Kansas legislation will require annual, unannounced inspections of abortion clinics and impose new health and safety standards for the three abortion clinics in the state, the Kansas City Star reports.
Ostrowski praised the legislative session for passing bills intended to correct “fraudulent” abortion reporting, to protect women from “dangerous” abortion clinics, and to restrict late-term abortion.
“We have established a beachhead of protection for the developing unborn child based on accurate medical knowledge about the human capacity to feel pain and responded to the public's ever-growing revulsion to direct and indirect funding of abortion businesses,” she said.
Santa Paula, Calif., May 17, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Addressing new graduates of Thomas Aquinas College on May 14, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez urged them to bear witness to the Catholic Church's harmony of faith and reason, in a culture that has lost its intellectual and religious bearings.
“The problem today is that our intellectuals and our cultural leaders no longer have confidence. They are skeptical that we can know our creator from what he has created,” Archbishop Gomez told the 82 graduating seniors and their families. “So we bracket off the question of God as something we cannot know.”
The archbishop contrasted this skeptical conclusion with the words of Blessed John Paul II, who described faith and reason as the “two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of the truth.” He pointed out that God “made us with minds that can reason and hearts that can believe,” with both abilities needed to know the truth about God and the world.
“When God is unknown, we are unknowable to ourselves,” Archbishop Gomez observed, citing the Second Vatican Council's warning that “without a creator, the creature vanishes.” He also noted that modern science, for all its important advances, had become the foundation for a world in which the question of God was no longer relevant.
“We have eliminated God from all the processes by which we seek knowledge about ourselves and about our world,” he explained. “God is no longer a factor in our methods. Hence, God is nowhere to be found among our conclusions.”
“We have allowed Almighty God to become eclipsed in our scientific and intellectual life — in higher education, and in our culture in general.”
In such a world, he said, even believers were expected to live as if God did not exist.
“You will realize very quickly,” he told the new graduates, “that in order to participate in the economic, political, and cultural life of our society, you will be asked to essentially conduct yourself as if you don't believe in God.”
“You need to resist that temptation in your own lives,” said the archbishop. “But you also have an important duty to confront this culture with the power and the promise of the Gospel.”
“Our world needs to be brought to a new remembrance of the God who created us and redeemed us,” Archbishop Gomez stated. “You must promote a new dialogue of reconciliation between faith and reason.”
This reconciliation, he explained, is an urgent task in a world that is quickly acquiring new technological abilities, while losing touch with its moral sense.
“We are building a world where faith and life are completely separated,” he warned. “Where knowledge and technical ability are separated from ethics and morality. Where power is divorced from responsibility.”
He noted that the modern scientific concept of reason “can find no reason to defend the weak, the unborn, or the human embryo.” This “self-limited” and exclusively practical form of reason “can find no reason, no value, in a person born with disabilities.”
Ultimately, he noted, a materialistic concept of reason can find no purpose or meaning in anything.
“Since we cannot see God with a telescope, or detect the human soul with an MRI machine, we conclude that trying to talk about these realities is a waste of time,” the archbishop said. “Do we really want to accept that reality is only what we can see, or touch, or prove with experiments?”
The void left by this skepticism, Archbishop Gomez observed, had not remained empty. Instead, because of man's essentially spiritual nature, it had become filled with various substitute-religions.
“You are entering a world that is a kind of ‘spiritual bazaar’ — filled with ancient religions, new spiritualities, new paganisms, and all sorts of obsessions and substitutes for religious faith.”
But most of these alternatives to Christianity appeal only to the factors – subjective experience, intuition, and emotion – that are written off by modern science.
The answer, Archbishop Gomez said, lies in the Catholic Church's integration of reason and faith.
“As St. Paul said, we can know the invisible nature and eternal power of our Creator, from the visible and temporal things of creation.”
But Archbishop Gomez told the graduates, who completed a rigorous program based on the “great books” of Western civilization, “we can never be content with only proving God’s existence.”
“We need to proclaim God’s love. We need to proclaim him as Lord of creation, master of history, and king of every human heart.”
Rome, Italy, May 17, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The chief exorcist of Rome is seeing a rising number of young people coming under the influence of evil, but he has found in recent years that Blessed John Paul II is a powerful intercessor in the battle for souls.
A small, unassuming office in south-west Rome seems a rather ordinary setting in which to play out a grand battle between good and evil. It is here, though, that Father Gabriele Amorth has carried out most of his 70,000 exorcisms over the past 26 years.
“The world must know that Satan exists,” he told CNA recently. “The devil and demons are many and they have two powers, the ordinary and the extraordinary.”
The 86-year-old Italian priest of the Society of St. Paul and official exorcist for the Diocese of Rome explained the difference.
“The so-called ordinary power is that of tempting man to distance himself from God and take him to Hell. This action is exercised against all men and women of all places and religions.”
As for the extraordinary powers used by Satan, Fr. Amorth explained it as how the Devil acts when he focuses his attention more specifically on a person. He categorized the expression of that attention into four types: diabolical possession; diabolical vexation like in the case of Padre Pio, who was beaten by the Devil; obsessions which are able to lead a person to desperation and infestation, and when the Devil occupies a space, an animal or even an object.”
Fr. Amorth says such extraordinary occurrences are rare but on the rise. He's particularly worried by the number of young people being affected by Satan through sects, séances and drugs. He never despairs though.
“With Jesus Christ and Mary, God has promised us that he will never allow temptations greater than our strengths.”
Hence he gives a very matter-of-fact guide that everybody can use in the fight against Satan.
“The temptations of the Devil are defeated first of all by avoiding occasions (of temptation), because the Devil always seeks out our weakest points. And, then, with prayer. We Christians have an advantage because we have the Word of Jesus, we have the sacraments, prayer to God.”
Not surprisingly, ‘Jesus Christ’ is the name Fr. Amorth most often calls upon to expel demons. But he also turns to saintly men and women for their heavenly assistance. Interestingly, he said that in recent years one man – Blessed Pope John Paul II – has proved to be a particularly powerful intercessor.
“I have asked the demon more than once, ‘Why are you so scared of John Paul II and I have had two different responses, both interesting. One, ‘because he disrupted my plans.’ And, I think that he is referring to the fall of communism in Russia and Eastern Europe. The collapse of communism.”
“Another response that he gave me, ‘because he pulled so many young people from my hands.’ There are so many young people who, thanks to John Paul II, were converted. Perhaps some were already Christian but not practicing, but then with John Paul II they came back to the practice. ‘He pulled so many young people out of my hands.’”
And the most powerful intercessor of all?
“Of course, the Madonna is even more effective. Ah, when you invoke Mary!”
“And, once I also asked Satan, ‘but why are you more scared when I invoke Our Lady than when I invoke Jesus Christ?’ He answered me, ‘Because I am more humiliated to be defeated by a human creature than being defeated by him.”
The intercession of the living is also important, though, says Fr. Amorth. He reminds people that exorcism is a prayer and, as such, Christians can pray to liberate a soul or place from the Devil. However, three things are needed.
“The Lord gave them (the Apostles) an answer that also for us exorcists is very important. He said that overcoming this type of demon, you need much faith, much prayer and much fasting. Faith, prayer and fasting.”
“Especially faith, you need so much faith. Many times also in the healings, Jesus does not say in the Gospel it is me who has healed you. He says, you are healed thanks to your faith. He wants faith in the people, a strong and absolute faith. Without faith you can do nothing.”
Motherwell, Scotland, May 17, 2011 (CNA) - The Catholic Church in Scotland has condemned as “bigoted” a call by a leading legal journal to abolish the Catholic school system.
“The blunt truth is that sectarianism fuels the continuous attack on Catholic education in Scotland,” said Bishop Joseph Devine of Motherwell to the Scottish Catholic Observer May 13.
“The real enemy of all religious people is secularism which breeds sectarianism and those who espouse it and propagate it are Christianity’s greatest foes.”
The editorial in this month’s edition of the Scottish Legal Action Group journal was written in the wake of a parcel bomb being sent to the head coach of Celtic Football Club. The Glasgow soccer team is closely associated with the Catholic community in Scotland.
Devices were also sent to two prominent Celtic supporters, as well as to an Irish Republican supporters group. Two men have now been arrested in connection with the incident.
In the view of the legal journal, “The degree to which such legal measures can counteract sectarianism is questionable and even doubtful when in other regards our law and civic bodies continue to enshrine, protect and systematically promote social division on religious lines.”
“That is done most widely and effectively in our education system where the maintenance of religious instruction and observance, along with the public funding of denominational schools create and perpetuate religious discrimination.”
The Catholic school system in Scotland is fully funded by the state. The Church, though, provides pastoral care to its schools and maintains a veto over appointments to key teaching posts.
Bishop Devine says the success of the system should silence critics.
“I challenge these groups to produce the hard evidence to support their irresponsible claims or withdraw them. Around 130,000 young people—just over 20 per cent of the school population—are taught in 369 Catholic schools across Scotland. It would appear that the greater the achievements of (our) Catholic schools… the greater the hysteria grows for their abolition.”
He was also eager to point out that the Catholic school system enjoys the backing of all political leaders including the Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond, and the U.K. Prime Minister, David Cameron.
“The Prime Minister believes that faith schools should be seen as the model for all state schools to follow, while Scotland’s First Minister urges us to celebrate our distinguished achievements.”
“Most important of all, of course, is the fact that over 95 per cent of Catholic parents freely choose to have their children educated in Catholic schools.”
He concluded by noting the significant number of non-Catholic families who wish to send their children to Scotland’s Catholic schools.
“(This is a) a clear demonstration by their parents of their recognition of the value of Catholic schools in providing their children with an excellent academic, spiritual and well-rounded education,” Bishop Devine said.
Lima, Peru, May 17, 2011 (CNA) - The Latin American Bishops' Council will elect new leaders on May 18.
Bishop Heriberto Bodean, general secretary and spokesman for the Uruguayan bishops' conference told CNA that the bishops from all over Latin America are meeting in Uruguay for their general assembly this week.
The bishops will hold a series of sessions on issues related to the life of the Church in Latin America on May 17. The following day they will elect the council's new leaders.
The bishops will continue with their sessions and will conclude the meetings with Mass at a local Marian shrine on May 20.
In addition to the representatives of the 22 bishops' conferences of the region, other attendees include Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the prefect for the Congregation for Bishops and President of the Commission for Latin America, and Guzman Carriquiry of Uruguay, recently designated secretary of the Commission for Latin America by Pope Benedict XVI.
Carriquiry is the first layman appointed to such a post in the Roman Curia.