Washington D.C., Jul 28, 2011 (CNA) - In the midst of increasingly fierce budget debates, the U.S. bishops are urging lawmakers to look beyond partisan bickering and take into account the poor and vulnerable when deciding which funds get cut.
“The moral measure of this budget debate is not which party wins or which powerful interests prevail, but rather how those who are jobless, hungry, homeless or poor are treated,” the bishops wrote in a July 26 letter to all U.S. representatives.
“Their voices are too often missing in these debates, but they have the most compelling moral claim on our consciences and our common resources.”
Only six days remain before the Aug. 2 deadline, which financial experts say could bring a government default if congressional leaders can't agree to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.
The Congressional Budget Office ruled July 26 that Speaker Boehner's plan would save an estimated $850 billion instead of about $1 trillion, and Sen. Reid's plan would realize a projected savings from $2.2 trillion over 10 years, instead of his original $2.7 trillion projection.
The Speaker's projected savings are less than Sen. Reid’s, since his proposal would raise the $14.3 trillion debt limit in two stages and would defer cuts to costly entitlement programs until later.
The debates coupled with the failure on the part of congressional leaders to reach an agreement have left financial markets on edge.
In their Tuesday letter, the U.S. bishops pointed to the moral dimension of the budget debate, saying that every decision “should be assessed by whether it protects or threatens human life and dignity.”
They said that the government and other institutions have a shared responsibility to promote the common good, especially for ordinary workers and families who are struggling though the economic crisis.
“A just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons,” the bishops wrote.
Rather, it “requires shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs fairly.”
The Church leaders also expressed fear over the “human and social costs” of substantial cuts to programs that serve impoverished families, child development and education, and affordable housing.
“We also fear the costs of undermining international assistance which is an essential tool to promote human life and dignity, advance solidarity with poorer nations, and enhance global security,” they said.
The bishops criticized Speaker Boehner's proposal, claiming that it would require “massive cuts” to programs such as disease fighting drugs, assistance to poor farmers and orphans, food aid for the nation's hungry, aid to victims of natural disasters and help to international refugees.
“The Catholic bishops of the United States continue to stand ready to work with leaders of both parties for a budget that reduces future deficits, protects poor and vulnerable people, advances the common good, and promotes human life and dignity.”
Washington D.C., Jul 28, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Catholics across the nation are grieving the loss of Vatican representative to the U.S. Archbishop Pietro Sambi, who died at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore on July 27, at the age of 73.
“He had a ready smile, was approachable, and was good with people from every walk of life,” Monsignor Walter Rossi, head of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. told CNA on July 28.
Archbishop Sambi “was truly a man of faith, keen insight and good humor,” Msgr. Rossi noted.
The Washington D.C. nunciature along with Archbishop Sambi's family – who traveled to Baltimore from Italy after his condition worsened – had implored the faithful for prayers earlier this week just days before his death.
Archbishop Sambi was appointed by Pope Benedict in 2005 as the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States. He began his duties in Washington, D.C. in February of 2006.
“With Archbishop Sambi we had a nuncio who had a great affection for the Church in the United States,” Msgr. Rossi said.
The priest recalled how Archbishop Sambi “was keenly interested in the welfare of the entire Church, lay faithful, priests, bishop, consecrated men and women.”
“Even though he was the Holy Father’s personal representative, and a diplomat, Archbishop Sambi was just like one of us,” he said.
“He shared the joys as well as the heartache of the Church in the United States, he regaled in our vitality and wherever he went, he encouraged us to become better disciples and a holier people.”
The news of Archbishop Sambi's death on Wednesday evening caused an outpouring of grief from Catholic leaders around the U.S.
Archbishop of New York Timothy M. Dolan, who is the head of the U.S. bishops' conference, said that the announcement of his passing “brings deep sadness for the church in the United States.”
“Archbishop Sambi enjoyed the highest respect and deepest affection of the bishops of the United States and of our Catholic people,” Archbishop Dolan said July 28.
He remembered Archbishop Sambi as “a friend of the United States,” recalling the late nuncio's pivotal role in coordinating the Pope Benedict's visit to the country in 2008.
Archbishop Dolan also praised his “keen sense of diplomacy” and pastoral heart.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Washington, D.C. archdiocese said that he is “deeply saddened” by the archbishop's death and feels “the loss because, since his arrival in Washington five years ago, we had many occasions to collaborate.”
“Over the years we developed a friendship that I will greatly miss,” the cardinal added.
Archbishop of Baltimore Edwin F. O'Brien also expressed his grief, calling the nuncio's passing “a great loss for the Catholic Church, especially here in the United States.”
“Archbishop Sambi excelled through his gentle spirit and infectious goodness,” Archbishop O'Brien said, “and the impact of his work as Apostolic Nuncio to the United States will be felt for many years to come.”
John Garvey, president of the Catholic University of America, remembered the archbishop as being “a passionate advocate of Catholic education” who had an instant rapport with the school's students.
“We will always remember his enthusiastic proclamation of the Word, his cheerfulness, and his openness to everyone who crossed his path,” Garvey said.
Fr. Frank Pavone, director of Priests for Life, praised Archbishop Sambi for his personal investment in the pro-life cause and for his continual encouragement of the group's mission.
“In addition to his many responsibilities, which he carried out with great fidelity and joy, he also followed our work with great interest,” Fr. Pavone said.
The archbishop also received a tribute from the Vatican.
“He was a strong personality, a great bishop, an eminent nuncio, who served the Holy See and the Church with passion, intelligence and effectiveness,” Fr. Ciro Benedettini, vice director of the Vatican Press Office, told CNA on July 28.
“He made himself appreciated and loved both by the Popes, the Roman Curia and the bishops, the clergy and laity and the diplomatic personnel where he worked, especially in Indonesia, Israel and the US.”
Archbishop Pietro Sambi’s funeral will be at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, August 6th – the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, at 2:00 p.m.
The funeral will be televised live by EWTN.
Lima, Peru, Jul 28, 2011 (CNA) -
Bishop Raul Vera Lopez of Saltillo, Mexico has told a Mexican newspaper he has received “a series of questions” from the Vatican about his support for the San Elredo community, which holds positions on homosexuality that are contrary to Church teaching.
“There has been a call from the Vatican and I am ready to clear things up … I have to respond to a series of questions that Vatican City has sent me about my work with homosexuals,” Bishop Vera told the newspaper Zocalo.
He said the Vatican inquiry has come about “because a Catholic agency based in Peru, ACI Prensa, has made false claims that I promote homosexual relations.”
ACI Prensa is Catholic News Agency's Spanish-language sister publication.
He accused ACI Prensa of distorting his work. “They allege that I am against the magisterium of the Church and unfortunately they are driven by prejudice and phobias against the homosexual community.”
The request for clarification from the Holy See, he insisted, “is because this Catholic news agency has said outrageous things.”
Bishop Vera told the newspaper, “In the Diocese of Saltillo, we have very clear objectives. We work with (the gay community) to help them recover their human dignity, which is frequently attacked at home and in society, and they are treated like scum.”
“I am not against the magisterium of the Church, nor do I promote dishonesty. It would go against my principles to promote depravity and immorality,” he said.
In response to the Vatican inquiry, the coordinator of the San Elredo community, Noe Ruiz, told Zocalo the group would be willing to leave the diocese in order to prevent the work of Bishop Vera from being hindered.
“If tomorrow they come tell Bishop Raul Vera, ‘You are endangering your work in Saltillo because of such a small community, a network of barely 600 people,’ it would not be worth the risk,” he said.
In March of this year, Bishop Vera published a statement on the diocesan website expressing support for the “sexual, family and religious diversity forum.” The event was aimed at “eradicating what some sectors of the Church believe about homosexuality” — especially the belief “that homosexual actions are contrary to God.”
Father Robert Coogan, the American priest who founded San Elredo, maintained that the group’s work is not contrary to the teachings of the Church.
He added: “How can a person with same-sex attraction have a fulfilling life? And the only answer the Catechism gives is to tell them to be celibate, and that is not enough."
Lima, Peru, Jul 28, 2011 (CNA) - Spanish Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera recently recommended that Catholics receive Communion on the tongue, while kneeling.
“It is to simply know that we are before God himself and that He came to us and that we are undeserving,” the prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments said in an interview with CNA during his visit to Lima, Peru.
The cardinal’s remarks came in response to a question on whether Catholics should receive Communion in the hand or on the tongue.
He recommended that Catholics “receive Communion on the tongue and while kneeling.”
Receiving Communion in this way, the cardinal continued, “is the sign of adoration that needs to be recovered. I think the entire Church needs to receive Communion while kneeling.”
“In fact,” he added, “if one receives while standing, a genuflection or profound bow should be made, and this is not happening.”
“If we trivialize Communion, we trivialize everything, and we cannot lose a moment as important as that of receiving Communion, of recognizing the real presence of Christ there, of the God who is the love above all loves, as we sing in a hymn in Spanish.”
In response to a question about the liturgical abuses that often occur, Cardinal Canizares said they must be “corrected, especially through proper formation: formation for seminarians, for priests, for catechists, for all the Christian faithful.”
Such a formation should ensure that liturgical celebrations take place “in accord with the demands and dignity of the celebration, in accord with the norms of the Church, which is the only way we can authentically celebrate the Eucharist,” he added.
“Bishops have a unique responsibility” in the task of liturgical formation and the correction of abuses, the cardinal said, “and we must not fail to fulfill it, because everything we do to ensure that the Eucharist is celebrated properly will ensure proper participation in the Eucharist.”
Washington D.C., Jul 28, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Representatives from Catholic Relief Services and the U.S. bishops' conference have warned against making drastic cuts in the area of foreign aid, which could affect East Africans already suffering from a severe drought.
“These fiscal decisions, which seem removed, can play out as they affect the poorest people from around the world,” said Ryan Williams, a representative of Catholic Relief Services, in a July 26 webcast.
Sean Callahan, Catholic Relief Services' executive vice president of overseas operations, said the humanitarian emergency in East Africa should be a “wake up call to many that these programs should not be cut.”
Catholic Relief Services and the U.S. bishops have warned the House and Senate for months about the international consequences of a proposed 26 percent cut in poverty-focused foreign aid.
Steve Colecchi, director of the USCCB's Office of International Justice and Peace, said the House and Senate are considering a 29 percent cut in emergency refugee assistance funding.
But Williams stated that the U.S. government representatives already working in the drought-affected areas “do not have the resources to respond at the level they need to.”
Callahan recently visited a group of refugee camps in Kenya, near the Somali border, to interview refugees and assess their needs. He said that most of the refugees have traveled between 17 and 60 days from Somalia, the country most seriously affected by the drought.
He reported that most of the refugees saw no reason to return to Somalia, where an unstable government and rising violence have added to the problems caused by the lack of rain.
The huge influx of Somali refugees has placed a huge strain on Kenyan refugee camps that were built with the capacity for 90,000 people. Right now, Callahan said, they are attempting to shelter between 300,000 to 500,000 people.
The refugee influx has placed increased pressure on the Kenyan government, which Callahan says is “hoping the international community will get involved.”
New York City, N.Y., Jul 28, 2011 (CNA) -
“Usually when that sort of thing is read there's booing or hissing. But it was all applause,” said Tyler Ament, director of the International Youth Coalition, about the initial reaction to the presentation of his group’s “Statement of Youth to the U.N. and the World” at the U.N.’s General Assembly.
“There was a voice missing from the discussion when this (U.N.) International Year of Youth started,” said Tyler Ament, director of the International Youth Coalition, in a July 26 press conference. “We wanted to make sure, through the International Youth Coalition, that the voice which promotes life, and family, and integrity would be heard in the conversation.”
The International Youth Coalition gathered in New York from July 24 to 26, for three days of events that coincided with the United Nations' High-Level Meeting on Youth and included a presentation of the group's statement at the General Assembly.
On July 25, the group announced that its founding statement had received the endorsement of 57,000 individuals under 30 years of age. The document, formulated at last year's World Youth Conference in Mexico, became a part of the discussion at the U.N.'s General Assembly on July 25 and 26, as organizations and state officials from around the world gathered to discuss issues facing young people.
The International Youth Coalition's “Statement of Youth to the U.N. and the World” affirms young people's need for strong family and community bonds, and ties their rights to the “evolving capacities” developed in the process of maturing.
The statement also speaks of the inviolable right to life at every stage of development, noting that many members of the last two generations “consider themselves survivors by virtue of our being born at all.”
Its authors and signers affirm the naturalness and complementarity of the two sexes, and hold that a “proper understanding of sexuality and healthy relationships” is essential to society's common good.
Ament told CNA that the declaration received positive responses both at the popular level, and in the General Assembly where it was read aloud on July 25.
“Countries were applauding the statement being read,” he recalled.
Katherine Nikas, who worked with the coalition as part of the Alliance Defense Fund's Blackstone Legal Fellowship, said it was “incredible to see the amount of young people who are actually on our side – the young people who wanted a different voice, who stood up for family values.”
Nikas said she has found that many members of her generation are “tired of the pain and the heartache of just having abortions pushed at us and condoms thrown at us.”
But Ament expressed disappointment at the U.N. meeting's outcome document, saying the international body “still isn't taking seriously the mutual dialogue with people who don't value abortion and things like that.”
“Unfortunately, the U.N. documents – especially the one that's reaffirmed by the high-level meeting on youth – promote a disintegration of the family,” he said.
“They want parental consent rules, and things like that, to be abolished wherever they're found, and they want youth to have rights outside the context of their families – which is in contradiction to larger documents from the U.N., like the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”
And while the International Youth Coalition's statement received positive responses in the assembly, Ament said many of the group's associates faced administrative hurdles that may indicate hostility to their viewpoint.
“A lot of our fellows who came to participate had their confirmation letters revoked, because the U.N. said there wasn't enough space for them,” he said. “As we've looked in the General Assembly over the past few days, the non-governmental organization galleries are empty except for a few people. So there's plenty of space for our fellows, but they weren't allowed in.”
He believes the meeting's structure also tends to block the kind of discussions the U.N. claims to be facilitating.
“If the U.N. really wants to have a mutual dialogue and understanding, then they need to set up discussion panels, instead of meetings that only have the country representatives speak and don't have any youth speak.”
The coalition's director said he still intends to “keep pushing forward” at the U.N. “The pro-life and pro-family movement hasn't paid enough attention to these international institutions,” he said. “We have lot of work to do.”
“The system at the U.N., at lower levels, tries to filter us out. But if we were able to actually get in there, I think we'd have a lot more support than they would like.”
Ament said some of the unexpected positive responses to the statement gave him hope for building a consensus.
“When we were doing the signature campaign, we had people – particularly in France – who really liked the statement. But they had one problem with it: they didn't like the mention of God in the preamble.”
Those were the people, he said, “that we really wanted to touch,” by speaking about “natural values that even someone who doesn't believe in the religious beliefs we believe in can see.”
He valued these readers' response to the principles of natural law, despite their ambivalence to make a public statement of faith.
“That was something we really appreciated, even though some of them said they wouldn't sign it because of the mention of God.”
“I think that really says … that it's not just our side saying something that we believe. It's something that's fundamental.”