Archive of June 30, 2011

Veterans sue VA over attempts to censor graveside prayers

Houston, Texas, Jun 30, 2011 (CNA) - The Liberty Institute has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs, after it continuously tried to prevent veterans from including prayers in funeral services at the Houston National Cemetery.

“We do know that this is unconstitutional, this violates their rights. We have brought a federal lawsuit and we hope the government will do the right thing and correct this policy,” said Erin Leu, attorney for the Liberty Institute, in an interview with CNA on June 30.

She said the institute was optimistic that the Southern District Court of Texas will rule in the veterans’ favor and find that the private groups have a “constitutional right to reference God and Jesus in their private speech.”

On June 28, the Liberty Institute went to court on behalf of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and the National Memorial Ladies.

Leu explained that the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American League were told by the Houston National Cemetery director, Arleen Ocasio, not to include prayer in funeral services, unless they received her personal approval by submitting a written copy of the prayer to her.

The National Memorial Ladies faced a similar setback. Ocasio said that the condolence cards given to the families of veterans could no longer include the words “God bless,” nor could the women verbally convey the same message to grieving the families during funerals.

"We are thankful that these groups are coming forward and fighting this unconstitutional suppression of their speech,” said Leu.

If the court rules against the Veterans Affairs department, Leu believes that it will be “another clear message that the government cannot discriminate against religious speech.”

Federal District Judge Lynn N. Hughes presided over the June 28 hearing and gave the government an extension to respond by July 15.

Judge Hughes closed a previous case against the Veterans Affairs department on May 26 with a temporary restraining order, barring the department from preventing Pastor Scott Rainey from praying “in Jesus’ name”during a Memorial Day service.

In the temporary restraint document, Judge Hughes said “The men buried in the cemetery fought for their fellow Americans – for us.”

“Beyond (the) narrow, practical proprietary interest, the government may not dictate what people say.”

Leu said the verdict was a “great ruling and a great victory.”

“Pastor Rainey’s case is a clear message that the government has no right to censor or discriminate his private religious speech,” she asserted.

Leu explained that the veterans think the censorship “is appalling, because they fought in wars, risked everything for our freedoms.”

“It’s so offensive that the government is saying that the freedoms fought for can no longer be practiced when honoring fellow soldiers,” she insisted.

“It’s like a slap in the face to veterans and their families.”

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Pope praying for AIDS victims and missionary sisters in July

Vatican City, Jun 30, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican announced today that Pope Benedict will be praying in July for victims of AIDS and religious women in mission territories.

The Pope's general intention is "that Christ may ease the physical and spiritual sufferings of those who are sick with AIDS, especially in the poorest countries."

His mission intention is "that religious women in mission territories may be witnesses of the joy of the Gospel and living signs of the love of Christ."

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Portuguese cardinal 'not accurate in comments on the priesthood,' says source

Lima, Peru, Jun 30, 2011 (CNA) - A source from the Bishop’s Conference of Portugal has explained to CNA that the Patriarch of Lisbon,  is not in favor of women's ordination even though “he was not accurate in commenting on the priesthood during a recent interview.”

The source clarified that the reports claiming that the Patriarch of Lisbon, Cardinal Jose Policarpo, is a supporter of women’s ordination are based on “deliberately selective excerpts from an interview that in itself was unclear.”
Cardinal Policarpo, who was elected president of the Bishops’ Conference of Portugal in 2011, “tried to explain Catholic teaching on the priesthood to a secular media outlet unfamiliar with Catholicism,” the source added. “The outcome of the interview wasn’t great, but to conclude that he was supporting the ordination of women is an exaggeration and even a distortion of what he said.”
The cardinal addressed the issue of priestly ordination in two questions during an extensive interview for the May 2011 edition of a magazine published by the Portuguese Order of Lawyers. His answers are reprinted below in their entirety:
Question: Women cannot occupy positions of responsibility in the Catholic Church. What is your opinion on this?

Cardinal Policarpo:  Your statement is not accurate.  Look, since the time of St. Paul…The problem that has recently emerged is that of priestly ministry.  If we set that aside, there were periods in which women have been absolutely decisive; we need only think of the role of the monasteries, where the abbesses had great responsibilities.  The problem posed today has been accentuated by the fact that non-Catholic churches have ordained women for priestly ministry, which has, so to speak, created controversy.  The position of the Catholic Church is very much based on the Gospel.  She does not have the autonomy that, for example, a political party or a government has in general.  She has her faithfulness to the Gospel, to the person of Jesus and to a very strong tradition that we received from the apostles.  Already in Jesus’ times there was a very beautiful complementarity between the role of women and the role of men.  It was not a coincidence that Jesus chose men for the priesthood and gave women a different kind of consideration…I think this is a false problem.  One time I was with a group of young people here in the diocese and as we were talking, a young girl asked the question: Why can’t women be priests? I decided to risk an answer and I said: You are right, but in order for others to study the question we need to know if there are any female candidates…Which of you would like to be a candidate?  None of the girls looked up.  I have known and know responsible women in the Church who do not want the ministerial priesthood.  One time, during an international conference in Vienna on the new evangelization, this question was raised, and I said at this time there is no Pope who has the power for that.  That would cause tensions, and it would only happen if God wants it to happen and if it is His will, it will happen.  One time I asked an evangelical minister in Denmark about this question, and he said all women are part of the work of charity, with their tenderness and dedication; but with regards to presiding at the Sunday service, the pews have become empty as soon as women began presiding.  I don’t know why.  The Holy Father John Paul II, at one point, seemed to settle the issue.  I think the issue can’t be settled like this, theologically there is no fundamental obstacle; there is a tradition, so to speak…it has never been any other way.
Question: From the theological point of view there is no obstacle…

Cardinal Policarpo:  I don’t think there is any fundamental obstacle.  There is a fundamental equality for all the members of the Church.  The problem is from another perspective, from a strong tradition that comes from Jesus, and from the ease with which other reformed churches went in this direction.  This has not facilitated a solution to the problem, if the problem has a solution at all.  What’s certain is that it is not something for our lifetime, for today, the time in which we are living.  It is one of those problems that is best left untouched…it causes a whole host of reactions.

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Peruvian bishop denounces author's attacks on cardinal

Lima, Peru, Jun 30, 2011 (CNA) - A Peruvian author has falsely accused Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani of Lima of not opposing the forced sterilization program carried out by the government in the 1990s, stated  Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Miranda of Ayacucho, Peru.

“I lament and reject these unfounded criticisms by (Mario Vargas Llosa), which reveal a biased subjectivism with regard to the truth and the teachings of the Church, the bishops, and especially of the personal and pastoral work of the Archbishop of Lima, who has always defended human life,” the bishop said.
In an article published July 26 in the daily Expreso, Bishop Gabino noted that Cardinal Cipriani condemned “the sterilizations of the 1990s throughout courageous action recently highlighted for the public by the bishops and priests of the Archdiocese of Lima.”
He said the people of Ayacucho are very grateful for the work of then-Archbishop Cipriani, who was “a great promoter of peace.” 
“During that time we were all suffering from terrorist attacks in every sense, and he helped us, accompanied us and pastorally and emotionally guided us. He gave us hope amid the terror and desperation we were experiencing,” Bishop Gabino said.
“As historian Hector Lopez Martinez has pointed out, ‘Cardinal Cipriani, armed only with this profound faith and his sense of duty, never shrank from condemning … civilians, police officers or military officials for inappropriate behavior,” the bishop continued.
The pastoral work of Cardinal Cipriani “was the fruit of hours and hours of conversation with Christ in the tabernacle, of which I was also a witness, and we have recordings of most of his homilies at the Cathedral of Huamanga,” he said.
While Bishop Gabino said the passionate political debate during the presidential campaign was understandable, Vargas Llosa’s attitude towards Cardinal Cipriani has been unfortunate. 
“Decades ago, Mario Vargas Llosa gave this wise response during an interview with the press: ‘Religion was the only barrier to keep man from becoming a beast.’ This thought came from a man who was an admirer of religion, even though he wasn’t a believer. His words were quoted many times in church and secular circles. But ever since he became politically partisan he began distancing himself from his original thinking about religion and the Church, especially regarding Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani,” Bishop Gabino said.
“It seems Vargas Llosa does not understand that the 44 particular churches in Peru are entrusted by the Universal Church to a bishop, supported by priests. The ignorance of this doctrine is summarized in the statements of the writer,” he said.

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State Department action on ‘LGBT rights’ could split Catholic countries

Washington D.C., Jun 30, 2011 (CNA) - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has praised State Department action on “LGBT” rights which includes support for Gay Pride marches and a Lady Gaga concert in Rome. But two critics said U.S. advocacy is “far beyond the mainstream” and risks alienating the Church from social life in Catholic countries.

“The administration has made the LGBT agenda one of the cornerstones of their foreign policy,” said Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. “They have directed their embassies everywhere to monitor and assist domestic homosexual movements whether the host country and their people accept it or not.”

“The U.S. is very powerful and can force governments to submit to its social policy views,” Ruse told CNA June 28.
Rebecca Marchinda, director of advocacy for the U.N.-focused World Youth Alliance, warned that U.S. activism—in Catholic countries especially—could result in the alienation of “the Church from the public sphere and the debate about these issues.”

“Instead of recognizing that states have legitimate reasons for recognizing marriage and family as an institution (and not other arrangements), the U.S. will help to pit the Catholic Church against civil society by stating that opposition to the U.S. ideas is based solely on outdated religious ideas.”

Some of these legitimate reasons, she noted, exist prior to religion and promote dignity and the common good.

Secretary Clinton discussed the U.S. administration’s role in homosexual advocacy at a June 27 LGBT Pride Month celebration co-hosted by the State Department and the organization Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies.

The U.S. Embassy in Rome played an “instrumental role” in bringing Lady Gaga to Italy for a EuroPride concert, Clinton said. Organizers of the event “desperately” wanted the American music star to perform and a letter to Lady Gaga from Ambassador David Thorne played a key role in securing the agreement.

“Over one million people attended the event, which included powerful words in support of equality and justice,” Clinton said.

Lady Gaga, a leading advocate for homosexual political causes, has also created several highly sexualized music videos that use Catholic religious symbols.

Paola Concia, a homosexual deputy of Italy’s Democratic Party, told the Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano that Ambassador Thorne’s intervention in the event was “surely” influenced by the political situation in Italy—the only founding nation of the European Union without a law on so-called homosexual rights.

The ambassador has frequently referred to Secretary Clinton’s phrase that “gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights.”

In her June 27 remarks, Secretary Clinton added that U.S. embassy staff in Slovakia worked “overtime” to help make the Pride parade in that country a success after the first one ended in violence.

The staff brought together more than 20 chiefs of mission from other nations to sign a public statement of support for the march and hosted a “respectful, productive debate on LGBT rights.”

“And on the day of the parade, our ambassador marched in solidarity right next to the mayor of Bratislava,” she said.

Clinton said the State Department was also involved in advocating LGBT rights in Honduras, Uganda, Malawi, Russia, Turkey, China and other places.

She noted the United States’ “major effort” at the Human Rights Council in Geneva to support a statement in ending violence and criminalization based on “sexual orientation and gender identity.” The United States’ Bureau for Western Affairs and its permanent mission to the Organization of American States helped create a special rapporteur for LGBT rights within the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights.

Ruse said such advocacy is not simply about stopping violence against gays.

“They are intent on forcing homosexual marriage and homosexual adoption on countries that are offended by such things. They are intent on forcing sexual orientation and gender identity as new categories of non-discrimination that will trump the rights of religious believers.

“On this topic, this administration is far beyond the mainstream,” Ruse stated.

He said that most people around the world still understand homosexuality as “outside the norm” and as “something to be avoided and certainly not approved.”

“Most people recognize that the homosexual lifestyle is harmful to public health and morals. The effect of the Obama policy is to offend billions of people and force this view on reluctant governments. This is most especially offensive to countries that are predominantly Christian and Muslim. In fact, Christianity and Islam are among the chief obstacles of this agenda and policy.”

Marchinda suggested that Clinton’s comments express a “misunderstanding” about the nature of the debate on LGBT rights and that debate’s relationship to state sovereignty and human rights in general.

“It is worrisome that the United States has moved beyond defending the legitimate rights of all people to be free from violence to helping usurp the laws of (United Nations) member states concerning marriage and local regulations pertaining to parades and other events,” she told CNA on June 28.

“U.S. advocacy on these issues promotes a particular definition of human rights that is not accepted by all nations. It is increasingly a Western definition that the U.S. uses to promote its interests abroad and this definition guides its distribution of foreign aid to developing countries.”

Marchinda noted that there is presently no internationally-accepted definition of terms like “sexual orientation,” “LGBT,” or “gender identity,” though the U.S. continues to use this language in its human rights work.

“This causes confusion among member states of the United Nations and especially among those receiving aid with policy-type strings attached.”

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Rhode Island governor pardons Catholic man executed in 1800s

Providence, R.I., Jun 30, 2011 (CNA) - Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee signed an official pardon on June 29 for an Irish Catholic man who was hanged in the state for a crime he didn't commit in 1845.

The move closes an ugly chapter in the long history of discrimination against Catholics in the U.S. and follows the May 4 decision by the Rhode Island legislature to pardon John Gordon – a 29 year-old Irish immigrant who was executed for a murder many say he was falsely accused of.

“Rhode Island is reaffirming its commitment to religious tolerance,”  Nancy Schultz, Ph.D of Salem State University in Massachusetts told CNA on June 29.

Schultz said the pardon is evidence of a growing consciousness about the nation's history of anti-Catholic prejudice. 

“U.S. Catholic historians have done an admirable job bringing some of this history to light, and it has deepened national awareness of our past,” she said.

Gordon was convicted in 1843 and hanged two years later for allegedly killing a wealthy Rhode Island mill owner who had political connections.

Historians now believe that the evidence against Gordon was tainted and indicative of widespread discrimination against Irish Catholics. During trial, witnesses failed to positively identify Gordon and a judge instructed jurors to take “Yankee” witnesses more seriously than Irish ones.

“Anti-Catholicism was certainly one of the first religious prejudices brought to the New World, and it became widespread” in the 19th century, Schultz told CNA in a May 10 interview.

“Catholics had difficulty getting a fair trial in New England during the nineteenth century.”

Schultz is an authority in English and American Literature and is author of several books on historical religious discrimination in America.

Her new book, “Mrs. Mattingly's Miracle,” (Yale, $30) traces how the more tolerant Maryland tradition in the nation’s capital of accepting Catholicism during the 1820s began to decline into “full-fledged, New England-style anti-Catholicism.”

She said that from 1830 to 1860 in particular, movements such as the “Protestant Crusade” attempted to stop the spread of Catholicism in the United States.

Schultz pointed to examples of public discrimination against Catholics such as the case involving arsonists who burned down a Massachusetts convent in 1834. The trials, she said, “were an occasion for anti-Catholic mockery.”

When the mob leaders who destroyed the Charlestown convent were acquitted, there was “great rejoicing in the streets of Boston.”

Schultz also noted that Gordon’s hanging in 1845 came just nine years before a gift of a block of marble from Pope Pius IX for the construction of the Washington Monument “was thrown into the Potomac River” by members of the anti-Catholic “Know-Nothing” party.

She explained that “large numbers of Irish fleeing economic turmoil in nineteenth-century Ireland and immigrating to America” helped give rise to the nativist, or “Know-Nothing” party, which rose to national prominence in the mid-19th century.

The name came from the response of members of this anti-Catholic secret society. When asked about their activities, they would say, “I know nothing.”

According to Schultz, the roots of anti-Catholicism in the U.S. can be traced back to the Puritans, who came to New England several centuries ago.

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Catholic bishops call NY gay 'marriage' law profoundly unjust

Washington D.C., Jun 30, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The New York legislature’s recognition of same-sex “marriages” undermines the common good and will place officials in a position to “retaliate” against those who uphold basic truths about marriage, the U.S. bishops’ point man on the defense of marriage said.

“Making marriage law indifferent to the absence of either sex creates an institutional and cultural crisis with generational ramifications yet to be seen,” Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of Oakland said on June 28.

“To eliminate marriage’s very essence – its essence as the union of husband and wife – from its legal definition is to ignore not only basic anthropology and biology but also the purpose of law generally.”

Law is meant to uphold the common good, not undermine it, stated Bishop Cordileone, who heads the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.

He pointed to children as one group that will suffer the consequences of the vote, since their “basic right” to be raised by their mother and father ignored by the state.

“Also, as demonstrated in other states where marriage redefinition has occurred, officials there will be in a position to retaliate against those who continue to uphold these basic truths. This is a mark of a profoundly unjust law,” he said.

After a strong push by Catholic Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, homosexual activists, and several wealthy Republican backers, the legislation passed the New York Senate by a margin of 33 to 29 votes. All but one Democratic senator voted for the bill and all but four Republican senators voted against the bill.

Senate Republicans declined to use their control of the Senate to stop the legislation from coming to a vote.

Bishop Cordileone thanked those involved in the grassroots effort to oppose the bill.

“Those courageous legislators and active citizens in New York who defended marriage should be applauded for their inspiring witness,” he said.

While the bill contains some last-minute protections for religious organizations, the Oakland bishop said marriage is “a fundamental good that must be protected in every circumstance.”

“Exemptions of any kind never justify redefining marriage.”

The Catholic Bishops of New York reacted to the bill’s passage in a June 24 statement.

They said the legislature undermines marriage and the family, and also warned of attempts to enact “government sanctions” against churches and religious organizations that preach the truth about marriage.

Similar state senate legislation had failed in a 2009 vote of 38-24.

Efforts to recognize “gay marriage” in law have continued since the Massachusetts Supreme Court ordered the state to recognize such unions in a November 2003 ruling. State legislatures in New Hampshire, Vermont and Connecticut have passed “gay marriage” bills, as has the District of Columbia’s city council.

The Iowa Supreme Court unanimously imposed “gay marriage” on the state in 2009. Opponents have since voted to recall three state Supreme Court justices and are working to pass a marriage amendment there.

Forty-one U.S. states have laws or constitutional amendments defining marriage as a union of a man and a woman, the Associated Press reports. A marriage amendment will be on the Minnesota ballot in 2012.

Legislative efforts to redefine marriage in 2011 have failed in Maryland and Rhode Island.

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Notre Dame seminar explores alternatives to embryonic research

South Bend, Ind., Jun 30, 2011 (CNA) - Top medical experts at a University of Notre Dame conference this week are insisting on better alternatives to embryonic stem cells, and pushing for more research in the adult stem cell field.

“We think that it is crucial that ethical alternatives to embryonic stem cell research be pursued,” Notre Dame law professor O. Carter Snead told CNA June 29.

The current seminar, “Workshop on Adult and Non-embryonic Stem Cell Research,” is being held on campus through July 2, and features authorities who hail from schools such as Columbia University as well as pontifical academy members.

“Our elite scholars, across a variety of disciplines – science, engineering, law, and arts and letters – are enthusiastically committed to pursuing” other approaches to embryonic stem cell research, Snead said. 

He noted that this week's conference will zero in on discussing adult and what he called alternative – or non-embryonic – stem cell research by exploring developmental biology as it relates to ethics, theology, philosophy and law.

Snead said that the seminar has the backing of the Office of the President as well as several other university departments. 

“As the premier American Catholic research university, Notre Dame is ideally suited for this work,” he said.

The law professor said that Notre Dame is also able to contribute to the debate by affirming the Church’s commitment “to the equal dignity of every human being.” 

Snead said that “as a matter of basic justice, we do not participate in any research that depends on the use and destruction of embryonic human beings.” 

The “good news is that there are many fruitful avenues of inquiry that do not involve such practices.” 

The university workshop comes as some U.S. lawmakers are attempting to give legislative support to President Obama’s 2009 executive order allowing federal funding for research using discarded embryos from fertility clinics.

Although a federal appeals court upheld the order earlier this year, is still faces a legal obstacles. The Department of Justice recently asked a U.S. district judge to end a pending lawsuit against the order.

The embryonic stem cell legislation is sponsored by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Rep. Charlie Dent (D-Pa.). Rep. DeGette is slated to present the bill at the Craig Rehabilitation Hospital in Denver next week.

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