Washington D.C., Jul 21, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Following President Barack Obama’s backing of a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), an official with the U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference says Catholics and others cannot take the legislation for granted but should be prepared to defend it.
“We just can’t simply sit back. Every Catholic and every Catholic institution concerned about marriage and the family will need to be able to step forward and advocate for the Defense of Marriage Act as federal policy,” commented Dan Avila, a policy advisor to the U.S. bishops on marriage and family issues and a member of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.
“We can’t just take DOMA for granted,” he told CNA on July 20. “Even if there’s no immediate prospect for this bill to race through Congress, the fact is that the pressure is building and the case is being made for the eventual demise of DOMA. All those concerned about the preservation of marriage simply need to pay attention, stay tuned, and be ready to respond.”
The Defense of Marriage Act defines marriage for the purposes of federal law and protects states which do not recognize “gay marriage” from being forced to recognize unions contracted in states which do.
On July 19, White House press secretary Jay Carney announced that President Obama supports Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) Respect for Marriage Act that would repeal DOMA. Carney said the proposal would “uphold the principle that the federal government should not deny gay and lesbian couples” the same rights as others, the Washington Post reports.
But Avila warned that a repeal would begin “a further and more intense erosion of public policy on marriage.”
“Marriage is the keystone of the common good. When you erase from a policy on marriage any reference to sexual difference, you will force the government to ignore and to be indifferent to the absence of either the man or the woman in the most fundamental relationship that we know of.”
Marriage between a man and a woman is a “first cell” of society that helps bridge “the most fundamental difference between man and woman, in a way that no other relationship can.”
The redefinition of marriage at the federal level would have “extraordinarily broad effects,” Avila warned.
“Attempts to redefine it through statute forces anyone who disagrees to take the position of being a threat to the public good,” he explained. “The whole premise of redefining marriage is that marriage as we define it now is a form of bigotry and prejudice. Therefore anyone who disagrees with this redefinition will be treated as equal to racists, for example.”
This premise carries “great threats” to the Catholic Church and all like-minded organizations.
Avila cited various instances where recognition of same-sex unions has affected religious liberty.
“In New York right now, long-serving faithful public servants, who have the responsibility of issuing marriage licenses, are being told that they have to be fired if they refuse to issue licenses to same-sex couples.”
Soon after the Massachusetts Supreme Court redefined marriage, he noted, Catholic Charities in Boston was required to make legal adoptions to same-sex couples and was forced out of the adoption business.
State tax exempt status was revoked from a Methodist organization in New Jersey which indicated that they would not allow a same-sex couple to rent a beachfront pavilion for a civil union ceremony. A bed and breakfast in Vermont is now being sued after it refused for religious reasons to allow its facilities to be used for a same-sex “marriage” ceremony.
In February the Justice Department stopped defending the Defense of Marriage Act against a federal lawsuit on the grounds it believes it is unconstitutional because it discriminates against homosexuals.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) praised President Obama’s support for the repeal, calling the Defense of Marriage Act “discriminatory and cruel.”
Avila contended that claims that Defense of Marriage Ac is discriminatory are not decisive arguments, because at issue is a question of whose discrimination will be adopted.
“I would daresay that Congressman Nadler and others who are advocating the repeal of DOMA are not also advocating for the repeal of the requirement that be limited to people,” he said. Many who argue for same-sex marriage have taken positions against recognizing group marriage, even as polygamists have filed suit charging that polygamy bans are discriminatory.
“Having a mom and dad in the home is best for children,” Avila stated.
The Defense of Marriage Ac passed in 1996 with “overwhelming” bipartisan support and was signed into law by a Democratic president, Avila noted, while 31 states have amended their constitutions to define marriage as a union of a man and a woman.
“It still represents the will of the people in this country,” he said. “DOMA strongly affirms the consensus that marriage is between a man and a woman.”
Kolkata, India, Jul 21, 2011 (CNA) -
Elizabeth Anikuzhikattil, a Catholic mother whose 15 children included five priests, a bishop, and four religious sisters, died at the age of 94 on July 14.
“We mourn the death of a holy mother,” said Fr. Augustine Kootala, a family friend, in an interview with India's Bosco Information Service.
Elizabeth Anikuzhikattil and her husband Luke, who died in 2006, raised eight boys and seven girls. Four of her daughters became religious sisters. Two joined the Sacred Heart Sisters in Kerala, one is a Salesian Sister, and another is a Franciscan Missionary of Mary.
Six of her sons have become priests, with the oldest going on to become the current bishop of the Diocese of Idukki in southern India.
“Don Bosco's promise of heaven for her is surely fulfilled,” said Archbishop Dominic Jala of the Diocese of Shillong. St. Don Bosco taught that a priest is the single greatest blessing to a family, and those who give their sons to the Church as priests will blessed for generations.
One of Anikuzhikattil's sons, Fr. Jose Anikuzhikattil, remembered his mother's perseverance in raising 15 children during the “frontier days” of a settlement in Idukki. The family moved to Idukki in 1949 with the first agricultural migrants to the area.
Fr. Anikuzhikattil said the family lived in a large tree house and frequently had to face wild elephants and other animals in the jungle who were displeased with the human intrusion.
His mother took care of one of her youngest sons when he was bedridden for 15 years, due to the paralyzing effects of an autoimmune disorder known as Guillain-Barre syndrome.
“My mother looked after him single-handedly for 15 years without even a single bed sore on him,” said Fr. Jose.
Elizabeth Anikuzhikattil was buried at Holy Family Parish near Munnar, India on July 18.
Lahore, Pakistan, Jul 21, 2011 (CNA) -
Farah Hatim, a Catholic Pakistani woman allegedly kidnapped and forced to marry a Muslim man and convert to Islam, has decided to stay with her Muslim husband in a tearful court appearance.
Hatim, 24, appeared in tears before the Punjab High Court’s Bahawalpur section on July 20.
The judge asked her “which family do you choose?”
After a long silence, she answered “both.”
When the court said that this is impossible, she chose her new Muslim family, Fides news agency reported.
The judge allowed Hatim to talk for 10 minutes with her family of origin.
The woman said that she was “taken in,” but was also visibly shaken and confided that she “cannot come back,” sources told Fides.
Farah’s family said the reasons for her choice are not clear. They speculated that she could be motivated by death threats or intimidations but also she could possibly be pregnant.
If she is pregnant, according to the customary law of Pakistan, she cannot help but stay with her husband. If she were repudiated, she would be “labeled forever” and no man would accept her.
Farah’s family told Fides they are concerned for the girl’s future and they are not convinced of the case’s outcome. They ask the international community to continue to pressure the Pakistan government to review the case.
The All Pakistan Minorities’ Alliance appealed to the court after a lower court had turned down a request to meet Hatim, who was allegedly kidnapped on May 7.
Local sources tell Fides that the woman was the victim of a “woman trafficking” network that has ties to the hospital where Hatim worked and to the world of politics, where it provides girls to politicians.
Her case attracted much attention in Pakistan’s Christian community, which is concerned about Christian girls who are kidnapped and forced into an Islamic marriage.
There are more than 700 such cases reported every year.
Archbishop Sivlano Tomasi, head of the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the United Nations in Geneva, had called for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to intervene in Hatim’s case.
Rome, Italy, Jul 21, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
President of the Vatican bank Ettore Gotti Tedeschi said July 21 that the best solution to the current economic crisis is for families to have more children.
Developed nations “must invest in the family and in children in order to generate rapid economic growth,” Tedeschi said in an editorial in the Vatican paper L'Osservatore Romano.
The Vatican bank president explained that because there aren't enough young people in society to support the increasing amount of elderly, population aging “can be considered the true origin of the current economic crisis.”
He said that in Western countries, such as the U.S. and Europe in particular, the percentage of the population over 60 years old continues to grow considerably. The “cost of this tendency is not sustainable,” he added.
Steven Mosher, the head of the Population Research Institute based in Virginia, agreed with the Vatican official's take.
“Larger families are absolutely the answer to the crisis,” he told CNA on July 21.
“If Americans averaged three children, the Social Security Trust Fund would be solvent forever, without recourse to raising taxes, postponing the age at retirement, or reducing benefits,” Mosher said.
“America would possess a more robust economy and our standard of living would be higher.”
Tedeschi warned in his editorial that within the next decade, the ever-increasing percentage of people who retire will become more of a fixed cost that will be impossible to absorb and sustain by younger workers.
“In addition, increasingly fewer people are entering into the production cycle and when they manage to, they do so very slowly,” he said. “Not to mention the factor of the changing concept of employment, which had been stable until some time ago.”
Tedeschi also noted that the economic cycle of production and savings is in “decline and destined to crumble” because of the drastic reduction in income.
Faced with this reality, he said, it is more necessary now than ever “to have the courage to address the theme of births and aging of the population.”
“To ignore it is dangerous and it has become unavoidable to define a strategy to concretely support families in their natural vocation to have children.”
“Only in this way can real economic recovery be triggered,” the bank president emphasized.
Tedeschi said that a two-income family today earns less than the same family earned 30 years ago with only one income. This, he explained, is the consequence of growing taxes on the GDP in developed countries, which are intended to absorb the consequences of aging due to decreased births.
“In the end,” he said, “nature itself teaches us that if a man and a woman do not generate children it is difficult that someone takes care of them when they age. The State can try, but at a very high cost.”
Mosher added that “human beings are the ultimate resource,” and one “that you absolutely cannot do without, and for which there is no substitute.”
Denver, Colo., Jul 21, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Archbishop Charles Chaput said on July 20 that he was “very grateful” for his time in Denver, and that it would be “very difficult” for him to leave the city for his new post in Philadelphia.
“I have a great love for the people of the Archdiocese of Denver,” Chaput said at Wednesday's press conference, one day after his new appointment was announced. “It's going to be hard—very, very hard for me to leave.”
Two weeks before the public announcement, Chaput received notification that Pope Benedict XVI was appointing him the next Archbishop of Philadelphia. His installation will take place September 8, the date on which the Church commemorates the birth of the Virgin Mary.
In the meantime, Archbishop Chaput said he would continue to lead the Archdiocese of Denver “in a limited kind of way.”
The archbishop reflected on his 14 years in Denver, saying he was most grateful for the opening of two seminaries during his time in the archdiocese.
“We've been blessed to create an environment where we've been able to attract vocations,” he said. “We have two rather extraordinary seminaries with extraordinary seminarians, so I am very grateful to God for that.”
He said he felt “like a father” to the seminarians, some of whom were at the press conference. During the few weeks before his official installation in Philadelphia, Archbishop Chaput plans to meet with the laity, seminarians and religious of the Denver archdiocese to “thank them for what they've been to me.”
Representatives from some of the other groups that benefited from Archbishop Chaput's leadership, such as the Augustine Institute, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, and the Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women program, were also in attendance at the press conference.
Dr. Timothy Gray, the president of the Augustine Institute, told CNA that the archbishop's “vision for laity formation” helped establish the graduate studies program six years ago.
Jeremy Rivera, communications director for the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, described the archbishop as “a very smart visionary.”
Gray said he knew the archbishop's move elsewhere was “only a matter of time.” But he was surprised at his own sadness upon hearing the news. “You can't replace a friend you've had for 20 years,” he said.
The Augustine Institute president remains hopeful that the next archbishop will have the “same energy for the new evangelization” as Archbishop Chaput does.
For his part, Archbishop Chaput is embracing the bittersweet news of his new appointment as a calling to “a new adventure.”
“The image that comes to mind is all of a sudden I have a new wife,” he said. “And that's quite an adventure isn't it? Especially if you don't know her in advance.”
Lima, Peru, Jul 21, 2011 (CNA) - Internet giant Google paid homage to Austrian priest and biologist Father Gregor Mendel, considered the father of modern genetics.
The design that appeared on the search engine’s homepage on July 21 featured the two pea plants that Fr. Mendel used in his experiment.
During a speech marking the 100th anniversary of the death of Fr. Mendel in 1984, Blessed Pope John Paul II said, “Gregor Mendel was a man of Christian and Catholic culture. During his life, prayer and praise sustained the research and reflection of this patient observer and scientific genius.”
“Based on the example of his teacher, St. Augustine, Gregor Mendel learned through the observation of nature and the contemplation of its Author to unite with one leap the search for the truth with the certainty of already knowing it in the Creator-Word,” the late Pope said.
Journalist Alberto Carrara explained that Fr. Mendel, who was born in Heinzendorf (in the present-day Czech Republic), took an interest in science because of his passion for agriculture. In 1843 he entered the Augustinian monastery at Altbrunn and in 1847 he made his religious vows and was ordained a priest.
While studying theology, he also attended courses on agriculture and vine growing, where he learned from Franz Diebl the method of artificial pollination as the main way of improving controlled plant growth.
Between 1851 and 1853, he studied at the University of Vienna where he heard the theories of Fr. Unger for the first time, on the mutation of species and the age of the earth.
In 1865 during a conference of the Natural Sciences Society, Fr. Mendel presented the results of his research, which would later form the scientific basis for modern genetics.
He died in Brunn on January 6, 1884.
Mendel’s three laws of genetics have proven to be essential in modern-day research.
The first law, called the Law of Segregation, states that offspring receive a pair of genes for each inherited trait, one gene from each of its parents. These pairs separate randomly when the offspring’s genes are formed. Thus, a parent hands down only one gene of each pair to its offspring.
The second law, called the Law of Independent Assortment, states that offspring inherit each of its traits independent of other traits because they are sorted separately.
The third is the Law of Dominance, which states that when offspring inherit two different genes for a trait, one gene will be dominant and the other will be recessive. The trait of the dominant gene will appear in the offspring.
Madrid, Spain, Jul 21, 2011 (CNA/Europa Press) - The World Youth Day cross and icon are now on display in the Cathedral of Madrid.
Cardinal Rouco Varela of Madrid led a prayer vigil at the cathedral on July 18 and reminded the young people gathered that only 30 days remain until the historic event.
He encouraged them to be “well-prepared” for Wold Youth Day by making a good confession. He said the event will be a milestone for the Church in Spain.
“In order for (World Youth Day) to have great significance in our journey toward heaven, God allows us to taste the grace and the glory of heaven,” Cardinal Rouco Varela told the young people.
The Cathedral of Madrid is the final stop for the World Youth Day cross and icon, which have traveled to dioceses across Spain over the last year in preparation for the event.