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Archive of May 27, 2011

US House approves Jesuit priest as next chaplain

Washington D.C., May 27, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously voted on May 25 to approve Fr. Patrick J. Conroy, S.J., as the next House chaplain.

“Father Pat Conroy comes with a healthy respect for what we do,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D – Calif.), The Hill reports. “It is a beautiful honor steeped in history — deeply personal, free of politics — and we wish him every success in that job.”

He will be the 60th House chaplain, but only the second Catholic priest to serve in that role.

Fr. Conroy told Religion News Service that a chaplain’s role is more like “a counselor” than a pastor.

“As chaplain, I won't be responsible for the religious life of the people working on Capitol Hill, how they practice their faith in their respective congregations,” he said.

Asked whether he would pray “in the name of Jesus,” he responded:

“I never pray in the name of Jesus -- except when I'm doing something Catholic -- saying Mass, for example.”

The priest also discussed how he was interviewed for the position and had to discuss whether there was anything in his past that might become an embarrassment to House Speaker John Boehner, who nominated him. As a member of the Jesuits’ Oregon Province, which has faced major lawsuits for some members’ sexual abuse, Fr. Conroy told congressional staffers that his name might turn up in court documents.

He also discussed a 1986 letter he wrote to an archbishop about a young man who said a priest had propositioned him.

“I didn't hear back from the archbishop. There was no crime committed. I did what I was supposed to do, but the letter did come out later,” he told Religion News Service.

Defenders of Fr. Conroy’s appointment had criticized questions about the priest’s membership in the Oregon Province as an attempt to tar the priest with “guilt by association.”

Ordained in 1983, Fr. Conroy has served as a parish priest in his native Washington state and served the people of the Colville Indian Reservation and the Spokane Indian Reservation. He was chaplain at Georgetown University from 1990 to 1994 and from 1997 to 2003. Between those periods, he served as chaplain at Seattle University.

At present he teaches at Jesuit High school in Portland, Ore.

Catholic priest Fr. Daniel Coughlin, the previous House chaplain, retired in April to widespread praise.

The House chaplain position dates back to 1789, when the Continental Congress began a tradition of having the day’s proceedings open with a prayer.

The chaplain’s present duties include leading the daily prayer, providing counseling and pastoral services, coordinating the scheduling of guest chaplains and helping to arrange memorial services for House members and staff.

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Peruvian bishops call for tolerance and respect as election approaches

Lima, Peru, May 27, 2011 (CNA) - The Peruvian bishops' conference recently lamented “the manner in which the electoral campaigns are being carried out.” The bishops called on Peruvians to show respect and tolerance as the June 5 presidential runoff election approaches.

“We call on the candidates and voters to ensure that anti-democratic conduct, violations of human rights, unwarranted nationalizations, corruption, threats against freedom of expression, and development models that only cause poverty and pull the country back, do not occur again,” the bishops said in a May 26 statement.

The statement came as supporters of both candidates in the runoff election have recently engaged in heated confrontations. 

In the city of Cajamarca, members of Ollanta Humala’s party threw eggs at his opponent Keiko Fujimori while she was speaking to group of her own supporters gathered to celebrate her 36th birthday on May 25.
 
On the other hand, supporters of Fujimori stood outside Humala’s home the same day with megaphones shouting insults against the presidential candidate, even though he and his wife were not there at the time.
 
“This is the time to think about the comprehensive development of our entire nation and not just about the benefits for certain individuals or groups,” the bishops' statement continued.

They also urged the media to be unbiased in their reporting, as “all citizens deserve respect and truthful information.”
 
The bishops reiterated their defense of life and the family and their commitment to collaborate “with the country in its historic, cultural and moral development.”  They emphasized that the Catholic Church has always played an important role at all levels of society, “especially with the poor and in the most remote places of Peru.”
 
“Let us invoke God to enlighten voters and candidates in this runoff election to build a better country in democracy and respect for the rule of law,” the bishops said.

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Critic of Boehner's Catholic credibility faces tough questions of his own

Washington D.C., May 27, 2011 (CNA) - The lead author of a letter criticizing House Speaker John Boehner on “matters of faith and morals” says the letter was a bid for dialogue, not a political stunt. But Dr. Stephen Schneck's own critics say he promotes a distorted version of Catholic social teaching.

Professor Schneck, who directs the Catholic University of America's Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, was the top signer of a letter protesting Boehner's May 14 commencement speech at the institution where Schneck works as a political scientist.

Schneck told CNA on May 23 that he did not intend to cause the “crazy media frenzy” that arose when the letter was made public three days before Boehner's address.

“We were completely caught off guard,” he said. “Faculty sign letters all the time. With this one, I don't quite understand how it became 'viral' so quickly.”

The letter's provocative language drew national attention. Signed by more than 75 academics from various Catholic colleges, it described Republican budget proposals as “anti-life” for their possible effect on the poor and elderly.

The signers charged the House Speaker, himself a Roman Catholic, with ignoring “the teachings of your Church on matters of faith and morals as they relate to governance.” They said the speaker's voting record was “at variance from one of the Church’s most ancient moral teachings,” regarding the obligations of “those in power” toward the poor and vulnerable.

But this form of faith-based protest has opened up Schneck to criticism over his own approach to the Church's social teaching.

Professor Schneck is a member of the board of directors at Democrats for Life, an organization he describes as “fundamentally and wholly concerned with trying to overturn Roe v. Wade.”

He is also a board member of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. That organization has received funding from George Soros' Open Society Institute, which promotes abortion as a “reproductive right.”

Catholics in Alliance typically backs Democratic policies, presenting abortion as an issue that should be addressed by ending poverty. In 2009, Schneck joined a “Catholics for Sebelius” initiative, supporting an Obama nominee whose bishop told her not to receive Communion over her abortion record.

In his interview with CNA, Schneck said he saw the work of Democrats for Life and Catholics in Alliance as complementary.

“I feel like it's both/and,” he said. “I belong to an organization whose primary focus is advancing Catholic social thought, as well as an organization whose primary focus is to end abortion on demand. I don't see these, somehow, as really separate.”

“They're both going about it in slightly different ways – but I don't see them as working in opposition, but actually as working in tandem to build this culture of life.”

Schneck opposes the Democratic Party's commitment to legal abortion, a principle made explicit in the party platform. “That's not where I am,” he said, “and surprisingly, many other Democrats are with me.”

He would “like to turn the Democratic Party in a direction where it's much more supportive of what we're trying to accomplish.”

Schneck pointed out that Democrats for Life had spoken out “many times” against the party's abortion commitment. But he acknowedged that “Catholics in Alliance hasn't, so much.”

That's because, Schneck said, “it is more concerned with what are generally thought of as Catholic social thought issues – more concerned with issues like poverty and a living wage, and collective bargaining, those sorts of things.”

“I think that it would be nice if all of our groups embraced the whole range of Catholic social teaching, especially as it relates to the dignity of the human person,” he said.

But “for reasons of practicality,” he says it “makes sense for some groups to focus primarily on the issue of ending abortion on demand, and other groups to focus on the environment or anti-poverty programs.”

When asked whether he thought pro-life Democrats had done an adequate job confronting former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on abortion, Schneck said it was a “fair question” and promised to “do my best” in the future.

Pelosi's 2007 commencement address at the Catholic University of San Francisco was not accompanied by a public protest akin to the Boehner letter.

Professor Stephen Krason, a political scientist at Franciscan University of Steubenville and President of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists, disagrees with Schneck's stand against Boehner.

Krason personally identifies himself politically as “neither left, nor right, but Catholic.” He told CNA on May 24 that Schneck's letter to Boehner mistakenly identified Catholic teaching with leftist politics.

“I look at that letter and see them taking political positions, and trying to put them forth as the teaching of the Church – things which are in the realm of prudential judgment,” Krason said. “They seem to identify these policies with Catholic social teaching.”

Krason said Schneck and the other signers were “convoluting certain basic teachings of the Church, especially subsidiarity.”

That principle of Catholic teaching, which the Boehner protesters invoke against budget cuts, favors smaller-scale action through local communities unless a problem demands a central solution.

“They're wanting to continue a kind of policy-from-the-center, policy from the highest level of government,” Krason pointed out. “You only go to the highest level if there's a genuine need to do that. I don't know that they've made that case.”

Krason also questions whether the policies preferred by Schneck and his allies have actually worked to create their intended effects.

“They seem to identify these policies that are out there as policies which are good for the poor and disadvantaged,” he observed. “I'm not sure that is historically and evidentially accurate.”

At a basic level, Krason said that Catholics “have the freedom to choose different approaches and policies to uphold and further the principles of Catholic social teaching.”

He said the authors of the Boehner letter were “making the approaches and policies into the teachings – when they are just certain approaches.”

Krason observed that by appearing to equate budget cuts with abortion, Schneck and the other signers were confusing what are essentially different issues.

“Things like abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, same-sex 'marriage' – these things can never be permitted,” he explained. “They're in opposition to natural law.”

Krason offered advice to those who treat abortion as one issue among many, not as an assault on the foundation of all human rights. He suggested they consult Blessed John Paul II's social encyclical “Sollicitudo Rei Socialis.”

“There's a hierarchy of rights that John Paul II talked about,” he said. “Right there at the top of the hierarchy is the right to life.”

He pointed out that activists who equate abortion with other issues of social justice, such as labor rights and the environment, often lose focus and accomplish little.

“If abortion is one issue among many, it can very easily get pushed aside,” he pointed out. “You could argue that that's what has happened with this approach.”

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CNA and EWTN News will launch news service for Catholic publications

Denver, Colo., May 27, 2011 (CNA) - Catholic News Agency and EWTN News will launch a new service for Catholic publications on May 31. The CNA Editors Service will supply a full range of news, features, commentary and photojournalism.

All content will be provided free-of-charge for publication in print or on the web. Editors will be required to pay small fees for the use of photos provided by Getty Images, one of the world’s top names in news photography.

In addition to news, editors will have free access to CNA’s wide range of columns. These include its “Catholic Womanhood” columns and “Bishop’s Corner,” which features opinion writing by leading U.S. bishops.

CNA is also offering a new weekly column, “Answering the Tough Questions,” by Father Rocky Hoffman, a canon lawyer.

The new service includes feature packages on special themes, such as health care and senior citizens. Editors will also have access free-of-charge to CNA’s video offerings, as well as to news and analysis in Spanish, through CNA’s sister agency, ACI Prensa.

“We are proud to be able to make this service available to the Church,” said David Scott, editor-in-chief of CNA/EWTN News.“No agency is providing better coverage of the Catholic world today than CNA/EWTN News,” he added.

“We have a great team of editors and writers worldwide committed to the highest professional values and to an editorial vision that is truly Catholic.”

With news bureaus in North and South America and Europe, CNA is one of the largest and fastest growing independent Catholic media outlets in the world.

EWTN News is the news arm of EWTN Global Catholic Network, which provides multimedia services to more than 140 countries and territories and is the world’s largest religious media company.

CNA and its sister websites publish 24 hours a day, seven days a week in English, Spanish and Portuguese. Together, they have a combined monthly readership of almost 3 million people.

In recent years, CNA has become a premier source for breaking news and analysis of the worldwide Catholic Church and contemporary culture.

The agency’s original reporting has been cited in leading media outlets ranging from the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox News and CNN, to the Vatican’s official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, the British dailies the Guardian and Telegraph, the Italian daily La Stampa, daily newspapers throughout Spain and Latin America, and special interest publications such as Politico.com, National Review Online, and the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

“Our vision is what makes us unique among other agencies in the field,” said Scott. “We believe the mission of Catholic journalism is to report and interpret the life of the world through a faithfully Catholic lens. And we believe our purpose is to advance the Gospel in a culture where many people are indifferent to God, and where important interests are unfriendly to the Church and her message.”

Editors interested in the new CNA Editors Service should contact Michaela Fay at [email protected]

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Mass of reparation held after Marian statues vandalized in Venezuela

Caracas, Venezuela, May 27, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The pastor of the cathedral in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, celebrated a Mass of Reparation on May 26 after several statues of Mary the Divine Pastor were damaged.

Local media reported that a large statue located on a main thoroughfare in Barquisimeto had been disfigured by what appeared to be bullets. Statues in other areas of the city were also damaged.

Mary the Divine Pastor is the patroness of the Venezuelan state of Lara.

Pastor Father Angel Castillo denounced the attacks and called on Catholics to attend the Mass of Reparation and pray for the conversion of those responsible for the acts.
 
Mary the Divine Pastor

In 1706 the statues of the Immaculate Conception and Mary the Divine Pastor were brought to Venezuela. They were delivered to the wrong parishes, but when workers tried to move the statue of Mary the Divine Pastor, it would not budge.

The decision was made to leave it at the parish of St. Rose. 

Then in 1812, an earthquake destroyed the parish but the statue was untouched. Later, in 1855, Fr. Jose Macario Yepez, pastor of the church, prayed for Mary the Divine Pastor’s intercession to stop the cholera epidemic that was decimating the population.
 
Fr. Macario Yepez took the statue out for a procession and offered his life in exchange for the end to the epidemic. Days later he died of cholera.

Since then, Catholics of Barquisimeto have carried the statue in procession through the streets of the city each year.

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Church operating 117,000 centers for AIDS patients worldwide

Vatican City, May 27, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care reported that the Catholic Church is currently running 117,000 centers to care for AIDS patients throughout the world.

Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski told L’Osservatore Romano that in the past 30 years, more than 60 million people have contracted HIV, mostly in Africa. He spoke to the Vatican paper on the eve of a congress on the treatment and prevention of HIV and AIDS.

The conference is taking place May 27-28. It was organized by the Good Samaritan Foundation, instituted by Blessed John Paul II in 2004 and entrusted to the Pontifical Council for Health Care.

He underscored the testimony of “numerous health care workers and volunteers who, in their courageous care for the sick … have themselves contracted the infection.”
 
He also highlighted the work by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and the late Cardinal John Joseph O’Connor of New York, “who promoted numerous heath care centers for AIDS victims” and “many treatment and assistance programs in the United States and in other poor countries.”
 
The congress is intended to respond to the questions of “many bishops who contact our dicastery in order to receive constant help, with material assistance but above all with information on the latest advances in science in the fight against this disease,” Archbishop Zimowski said.
 
The objectives of the congress include the improvement of pastoral and health care for AIDS victims and the encouragement of the developed world  to show solidarity with poor countries, “as too many people die without access to the treatment they need, especially antiretrovirals” currently available only in developed countries.
 
In 2008, then-president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, reported that 27 percent of institutions around the world caringfor AIDS patients are Catholic; 44 percent are governmental; 11 percent are operated by NGOs; and 8 percent are run by other religious confessions.

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Pope Benedict backs changes at Caritas

Vatican City, May 27, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has given his backing to the reorganization of the international Catholic charity Caritas, which will see the organization work more closely under Vatican guidance in a bid to enhance its Catholic identity.

“Since Caritas Internationalis has a universal profile and is canonically a public juridical person, the Holy See is also responsible for following its activity and exercising oversight to ensure that its humanitarian and charitable activity, and the content of its documents, are completely in accord with the Apostolic See and the Church’s Magisterium,” the Pope told representatives of the organization at an audience in the Vatican May 27.

This week has seen 165 national affiliates of Caritas gather in Rome for the organizations general assembly. It’s been a week of turbulence and change.

In his opening address to the Caritas general assembly on May 22, Cardinal Robert Sarah of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum – the Vatican body responsible for Caritas – hinted at concerns over the charity’s lack of Catholic identity. Interestingly, four of Cardinal Sarah’s key concerns were almost identically echoed by the Pope today.

Just as Cardinal Sarah said in his opening address for the charity’s general assembly, Pope Benedict stated today that “Caritas Internationalis differs from other social agencies in that it is ecclesial; it shares in the mission of the Church.”

“This is what the Popes have always wanted and this is what your General Assembly is called forcefully to re-affirm,” the Pope said May 27.

The way Caritas carries out its work is different from humanitarian or philanthropic organizations, the Pope continued. “For us Christians, God himself is the source of charity; and charity is understood not merely as generic benevolence but as self-giving, even to the sacrifice of one’s life for others in imitation of the example of Jesus Christ.”

Pope Benedict built upon the importance of Caritas having a “transcendent foundation” that appreciates man’s eternal destiny, saying that without that solid mooring charities “risk falling prey to harmful ideologies.”

In May 22 remarks to CNA, Cardinal Sarah said that "the future will be very brilliant" for Caritas if it follows "the indication given by Pope Benedict XVI in 'Deus Caritas Est.'"

This was also the pole star for Caritas action offered by the Pope today. “In my first Encyclical, ‘Deus Caritas Est’, I reaffirmed how critical the witness of charity is for the Church in our day. Through such witness, seen in the daily lives of her members, the Church reaches out to millions of persons and makes it possible for them to recognize and sense the love of God, who is always close to every man and woman in need.”

Yesterday Caritas elected the 56-year-old Frenchman, Michel Roy, as its new general secretary. He follows in the footsteps of Lesley-Anne Knight, who was prevented from running for re-appointment to her post by the Vatican earlier this year. Meanwhile, the charity’s governance is also being revamped to give Vatican officials more control over its work.

Roy will now serve alongside Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga from Honduras who was re-elected for a second term as Caritas International’s president.

Caritas International is a confederate of 165 relief and social service organizations operating in over 200 countries and territories worldwide.

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National Catholic Reporter editor-in-chief passes away

Rockville, Md., May 27, 2011 (CNA) - Joseph Feuerherd, the editor-in-chief and publisher of the National Catholic Reporter, died on May 26 at a Maryland hospice facility. Feuerherd, 48, had been fighting cancer for 18 months.

Born on Long Island in 1962, Joseph was the sixth of eight children born to Victor and Lillian Feuerherd. Two of his brothers, Rick and Peter, also became journalists.

He studied history at the Catholic University of America and married Rebecca Bartron, whom he met working at a summer camp for disabled children. The couple had a daughter and two sons.

Feuerherd joined the National Catholic Reporter as an editorial intern in 1984. He worked as its Washington, D.C. bureau chief from 1988 to 1991, before leaving to join the Montgomery County Housing Opportunities Commission.

During that time he continued to contribute to the Reporter as an author. He returned to the paper's Washington bureau in 2002, and was named publisher in 2008.

Feuerherd is survived by his wife and three children.

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