Archive of July 20, 2011

Brazilian bishops meet with delegation from state-run Chinese bishops' group

Brasilia, Brazil, Jul 20, 2011 (CNA) -

On the day that the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association illegitimately ordained a new bishop, a delegation from the institution met with the secretary of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Brazil, Archbishop Leonardo Steiner.
The 12 Chinese officials were in Brazil “to learn about the work of the Catholic Church” in that country and to “propose a dialogue between the two episcopal conferences,” according to a statement about the July 14 meeting. The document appeared briefly on the Brazilian bishop conference's website, but it was later removed.

The delegation was led by China’s Vice Minister of Religious Affairs, Jiang Jianyong, who oversees the activities of the government-backed Patriotic Association.
In a 2007 article on Pope Benedict XVI’s Letter to Catholics in China, the Italian magazine 30 Giorni explained that the Vatican does not recognize the existence of a Chinese bishops' conference because that would imply recognition of every illicit episcopal ordination that has taken place since the Communists rose to power in 1951 and severed relations with the Holy See.
The statement posted on the Brazilian bishops’ website said that during the meeting, “Archbishop Leonardo discussed the work of the Church in Brazil, explaining its structure and operations, the special care devoted to the poor, the relationship between the episcopal conferences of Latin America, the general directives of the Church’s work of evangelization in Brazil and the work of men’s and women’s religious communities, especially in social ministry.”
The statement quoted Vice Minister Jiang Jianyong as saying this was “this first time a delegation has visited South America and that they were invited to come by the Biblical Society of Brazil.”
The Biblical Society of Brazil is not part of the Brazilian bishops’ conference. It is currently led by a retired Presbyterian pastor.
Jianyong said the Chinese officials were interested in “learning about the characteristics of Catholicism in Brazil, and we have witnessed the relevance of the Church for the country.”
On July 16, two days after the meeting between Chinese officials and the representative of the bishops' conference of Brazil, the Vatican issued a statement announcing that Fr. Giuseppe Huang Bingzhang incurred excommunication when he was ordained a bishop on July 14 without the Pope’s authorization.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi called the illicit ordination a “sad and troubling” development for the universal Church. 

“The Holy See does not recognize him as bishop of the diocese of Shantou, and he lacks authority to govern the Catholic community of the diocese,” the Vatican statement said.
“Fr. Huang Bingzhang had been informed some time ago that he could not be approved by the Holy See as an episcopal candidate, inasmuch as the diocese of Shantou already has a legitimate bishop; Fr. Huang had been asked on numerous occasions not to accept episcopal ordination,” the Holy See noted.

On July 4, the Vatican also issued a statement announcing that Fr. Ley Shiyin, who has a daughter, also incurred excommunication after being illegitimately ordained on June 29 in the city of Leshan.
It said Fr. Shiyin, “ordained without the papal mandate and hence illegitimately, has no authority to govern the diocesan Catholic community, and the Holy See does not recognize him as the Bishop of the Diocese of Leshan.”
China does not recognize the Catholic Church’s authority to appoint bishops and allows Catholics to practice their faith only by belonging to the government-backed Patriotic Association.

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Vatican strips media group of 'Catholic' label

Vatican City, Jul 20, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

A Catholic media organization has lost its Vatican recognition because of its leaders’ “unacceptable lack of transparency and clarity.”

“The International Catholic Union of the Press (UCIP), after many years of worthwhile service to the mission of evangelization through the press, has in recent years been living through a worsening crisis of governance,” Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko and Archbishop Claudio Celli said in a July 15 announcement.

Cardinal Rylko is president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, while Archbishop Celli heads the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. Both Vatican councils have followed the situation of the union.

The councils’ oversight resulted in the invalidation of the union’s general assemblies, which took place in Canada in 2007, in Rome in 2008 and in Burkina Faso in 2010.

On March 23, 2011 the Pontifical Council of the Laity withdrew the canonical recognition of the organization as a private association of the Christian faithful and notified the union’s president of its decision. The letter said the organization must remove the word “Catholic” from its name.

On April 24, the union’s secretary general announced that the UCIP would change its name to International Catholic Organization of the Media. It announced its first assembly will take place in November 2011.

“This act has been strongly disapproved of by the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for Social Communications which do not recognize said organization which continues to claim the title Catholic,” the Vatican’s July 15 announcement said.

The new organization has also “unjustly appropriated” the “intellectual, financial and historical patrimony” of UCIP, including the logo and the website, the churchmen said.

Aspects of the previous organization date back to the 1890s. The union itself was founded and recognized by the Holy See in 1927.

The leadership of the newly formed organization says it focuses on “value-oriented journalism” and provides international networking and educational opportunities for those in the media.

Its membership is open to all media professionals and publications. On its website, it names service to society, the Church and humanity at large as one of its objectives.

The organization also notes its working relationship with the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The Vatican statement said that both pontifical councils are grateful to all the members of UCIP who have been “disenfranchised by recent management.” They have given “great service” and the councils encourage them to “spread the Gospel in the world of print media.”

Cardinal Rylko and Archbishop Celli gave assurances that their councils are exploring new forms of association for journalists who wish to remain in communion with the Catholic Church.

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Vatican did not aid abuse cover-up in Ireland, says spokesman

Vatican City, Jul 20, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Fr. Federico Lombardi said claims that the Vatican encouraged Irish bishops to not report sex abuse cases to police are untrue and ignore everything the Holy See has done to the counteract the issue.

“In attributing grave responsibility to the Holy See for what happened in Ireland,” Fr. Lombardi, S.J., wrote, “such accusations … demonstrate little awareness of what the Holy See has actually done over the years to help effectively address the problem.”

Fr. Lombardi clarified that his comments were not an official Vatican response, which is scheduled to be issued soon.

The Vatican spokesman made his remarks July 20 amid accusations by Irish lawmakers that a 1997 letter to Irish bishops sabotaged their child protection policy by instructing them to handle abuse cases strictly by canon law.

The letter was highlighted in the recently issued report on the Diocese of Cloyne that identified nine cases between 1996 and 2005 which should have been reported by the authorities but were not. The July 13 Cloyne report is one of several government investigations conducted in the wake of frequently mishandled and covered-up abuse cases in the Irish Church.

Prime Minister Enda Kelly harshly criticized the Vatican on Wednesday, saying that Church leaders are steeped in a climate of “narcissism” and sought to defend their institutions as opposed to protecting children.

However, speaking to Vatican Radio, Fr. Lombardi argued that there is “no reason” to interpret the 1997 letter “as being intended to cover up cases of abuse.”

He explained that the letter was written to the Irish bishops' conference by the then-papal nuncio in Ireland. It detailed how their 1996 document “Child Sexual Abuse: Framework for a Church Response” was problematic from a canon law perspective.

Fr. Lombardi emphasized that the letter never told Irish bishops to only address abuse cases from a canon law approach, but that some of the canonical details in the protection policy needed to be amended to prevent them from being invalid.

The letter “warned against the risk that measures were being taken which could later turn out to be questionable or invalid from the canonical point of view, thus defeating the purpose of the effective sanctions proposed by the Irish bishops,” he said.

Fr. Lombardi also clarified that there “is absolutely nothing in the letter that is an invitation to disregard the laws of the country.”

He said that any reference the letter had to bishops providing abuse information to police “did not object to any civil law to that effect” because civil law of that kind did not exist in Ireland at the time.

The Vatican spokesman called the criticism by the government “curious,” saying it's as “if the Holy See was guilty of not having given merit under canon law to norms which a State did not consider necessary to give value under civil law.”

Fr. Lombardi was also critical of the accusations against the Vatican in light of everything Pope Benedict XVI has done to address the sex abuse problem in the Irish Catholic Church.

He recalled the Pope's “intense feelings of grief and condemnation” and that the pontiff spoke openly of his “shock and shame” at the “heinous crimes” committed.

In addition to the Pope summoning the Irish bishops to the Vatican in December of 2009 and February of 2010, he also published a letter to the Catholics of Ireland “which contains the strongest and most eloquent expressions of his participation in the suffering of victims and their families, as well as a reminder of the terrible responsibility of the guilty and the failures of Church leaders in their tasks of government or supervision,” Fr. Lombardi said.

An Apostolic Visitation of the Church in Ireland – divided into four visitations of the archdiocese, the seminaries and religious congregations – also followed the Pope's letter and the “results of the visitation are at an advanced stage of study and evaluation,” he said.

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Illinois backs off second attempt to block Catholic Charities foster work

Springfield, Ill., Jul 20, 2011 (CNA) - The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has abandoned a second attempt to block Catholic Charities from providing foster care services, one week after a judge's order kept the state from ending its contract.

Catholic Charities attorney Bradley Huff told CNA on July 18 that the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services' most recent attempt to cut off Catholic Charities would have put its foster care ministry “out of business.”

Shortly before a July 18 hearing that would have tested the legality of the state's move, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan agreed not to go forward with the plan to discontinue referrals to Catholic Charities, while continuing to pay the organization under its existing contract.

Both the Chicago Tribune and the Associated Press reported last week that the state would be stopping referrals, despite the contract extension ordered by Judge John Schmidt on July 12.

Monday's decision to reinstate the referrals marked another victory for Catholic Charities in its dispute with the state of Illinois over the recently passed Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Act.

Illinois' Department of Children and Family Services had stated in a July 8 letter that it was ending its relationship with Catholic Charities in three dioceses, over the Church ministries' alleged refusal to comply with the new civil union law.

The three branches of Catholic Charities have maintained they are following the law, even as they continue their practice of placing foster children only with married couples and non-cohabiting single persons.

On July 12, Judge Schmidt issued a preliminary injunction extending the foster care contract between Illinois and Catholic Charities, which the state refused to renew after it expired in June. The injunction ordered that business between the state and Catholic Charities should proceed as it did prior to the contract's expiration.

“Ceasing the flow of children was not business as usual,” said Peter Breen, executive director of the Thomas More Society and legal counsel for Catholic Charities in a July 18 interview with CNA.

After learning secondhand, through media reports, about the plan to stop referrals, Catholic Charities and its attorneys scrambled to get clarification from the state that it would continue to refer children to them.

When the state did not give such assurance by Friday afternoon, they filed an emergency motion, hoping the judge would reinforce the ruling he made in his July 12 injunction.

Just before the hearing on July 18, the attorney general agreed to continue the referrals, Breen said.

He confessed to being “confused” by the state's move, which he said flew in the face of Judge Schmidt's July 12 injunction.

Huff believes the disconnect may have been due to miscommunication.

“They are such a large bureaucratic organization that it is quite possible not everyone in the organization got the court's ruling,” he said.

But Breen remains suspicious.

“When you put a comment in the Chicago Tribune and AP news wire, it's usually not a miscommunication,” he argued. “But, at the same time we're glad they reversed their position.”

Catholic Charities will continue to provide foster care and adoption services until a hearing scheduled for August 17, to decide the merits of the diocesan charities' complaint against the state.

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Vatican releases Pope Benedict's schedule for Germany trip

Vatican City, Jul 20, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican has announced Pope Benedict XVI's schedule for his apostolic trip to Germany in September.

The Pope will begin his trip in Berlin on Sept. 22, according to the Vatican’s July 20 announcement.

During an opening welcome ceremony, the Pope will meet with the president of the Federal Republic of Germany, Christian Wulff, at his residence at Bellevue Castle. Afterward, he will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the headquarters of the German Bishop's Conference.

Later on the same day, the Pope will visit with the German parliament and representatives of the local Jewish community, before celebrating the first Mass of the apostolic visit in Berlin's Olympic stadium.

On Sept. 23, the Pope will meet with representatives of the local Muslim community, just ahead of flying to the city of Erfurt, which is located in the center of the country. In that city, he will visit St. Mary's Cathedral, and will address representatives of the German Evangelical Church Council before participating in a Christian celebration with them.

In the afternoon, the Pope will take a helicopter to Etzelsbach where he will pray Marian Vespers before returning to Erfurt.

On the morning of Sept. 24, he will celebrate Mass at Erfurt's Domplatz church. Pope Benedict will then fly to the southeastern city of Freiburg im Breisgau to visit the local cathedral and seminary.

While the Pope is in Freiburg, he will meet with former German chancellor Helmut Kohl, representatives from the Orthodox churches, local seminarians, and the Central Committee of German Catholics.

That evening, the Pope will preside over a prayer vigil with local youth at the Freiburg Fair.

On September 25, the final day of his trip, Pope Benedict will travel to the local airport where he will celebrate Mass, pray the Angelus, and bid his fellow countrymen farewell with a departure ceremony.

The trip will be the German Pope's third visit to his homeland since his election.

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Legal complaint fails to stop Catholic University's single-sex dorm plan

Washington D.C., Jul 20, 2011 (CNA) -

Catholic University of America is going ahead with its plan for single-sex residence halls despite a complaint filed on July 14 by Professor John Banzhaf, known for his lawsuits over fast food and women's bathrooms.

In a July 19 statement provided to CNA, the university said it “is moving ahead with its plans to house the incoming class of freshman in single-sex residence halls when they arrive on campus next month.”

The university said it received a copy of Banzhaf's complaint and will study it, but it remains “confident that the law does not require that men and women be housed together in residence halls.”

Banzhaf filed the complaint with the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights, saying the University is practicing illegal sex discrimination by eliminating mixed-gender dormitories.

According to his website, Banzhaf has been fighting what he calls sexual discrimination in Washington, D.C. for years. He has fought for women's admittance into male-only clubs, equal prices for men's and women's haircuts, and the removal of sexually-discriminatory ads in a newspaper.

The university's president, John Garvey, announced plans in June 2011 to return to single-sex dorms. The switch is part of an effort to strengthen the school's Catholic identity and combat students' destructive drinking and sexual behavior.

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Churches aid refugees of Indonesian volcano eruption

Jakarta, Indonesia, Jul 20, 2011 (CNA) - Christian churches have moved quickly to help the more than 5,000 people who have fled the volcanic eruption of Mount Lokon on the northern Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

Christian schools and church halls in Tomohon and Manado have welcomed the refugees, while other displaced persons have taken refuge in public buildings like the University of Manado.

Even as the alert level remains high, Christian volunteers are working to distribute food. Christian schools have also begun an education service to allow children to continue their lessons, Fides news agency reports.

The Diocese of Manado’s development commission has voiced concern about the large number of displaced families, who are mostly Muslims. It has appealed to all Catholic parishes and organizations so that they are “open and show solidarity, providing as much assistance as possible.”

“The local population has shown generosity and hospitality towards these brothers and sisters in need,” the diocese said.

Caritas Indonesia and the Indonesian Episcopal Conference are also assisting relief efforts.

The long-dormant volcano began rumbling on July 9. On Sunday, July 18 an eruption shot soot and debris 11,400 feet into the sky. Another two blasts took place 10 minutes apart on July 18. The larger blast sent ash as high as 2,000 feet into the air.

No injuries or damages from the Monday blasts have been reported. One person died of a heart attack during an evacuation last week.

More than 33,000 people live on the volcano’s fertile slopes, where they grow cloves and coffee. Over 10,000 were evacuated.

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Bishops oppose mandatory contraception and sterilization coverage

Washington D.C., Jul 20, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

The U.S. bishops “strongly oppose” a proposal to mandate coverage of surgical sterilization and all FDA-approved birth control in private health insurance plans nationwide. The mandate would undermine the good of women and children and the consciences of heath care providers, one leading bishop said.

“Pregnancy is not a disease, and fertility is not a pathological condition to be suppressed by any means technically possible,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

The health care legislation passed in 2010 directed the Obama administration to create a list of preventive services for women that all new health care plans must cover without deductibles or co-payments. In response, a committee of the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine drafted non-binding guidelines in a year-long review conducted at the request of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

The committee recommended “the full range” of federally approved contraceptives and sterilization procedures.

Cardinal DiNardo noted that the Institute of Medicine committee said it would have good reason to recommend mandatory coverage for surgical abortions, if such a mandate were not prevented by law.

“I can only conclude that there is an ideology at work in these recommendations that goes beyond any objective assessment of the health needs of women and children,” he said in a July 19 statement.

Planned Parenthood, the cardinal said, is “celebrating” the report, and if the HHS implements its recommendations it will violate the “deeply-held moral and religious convictions of many.”

For its part, the Institute of Medicine “missed an opportunity to promote better health care for women that is life-affirming and truly compassionate,” he added.

Catholic teaching regards direct sterilization procedures and artificial contraceptive use as sinful.

Americans United for Life also opposed the proposal, saying it would fund the abortion-inducing drug Ella.

Anna Franzonello, staff counsel for Americans United for Life, on July 20 said that her organization had warned about the possibility of funding abortion and abortion-causing drugs through the health care legislation’s mandate before its passage.

The pro-life group’s concerns are heightened by the Institute of Medicine’s invitation to abortion advocacy groups, including Planned Parenthood, to help form its recommendation. The group charged that Planned Parenthood stands to gain financially from the mandate.

Americans United for Life called on the Department of Health and Human Services to “respect the conscience rights of Americans” and honor Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s (D-Md.) promise that the mandate would be used to prevent diseases.

Cardinal DiNardo said the threat to consciences makes it “especially critical” for Congress to pass the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, which would forbid federal requirements that make health plans require providers to provide items or services which violate religious beliefs or moral convictions.

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