Archive of August 3, 2011

Holiness is possible when we walk with the Church, Spanish bishop says

Rome, Italy, Aug 3, 2011 (CNA) - Bishop Jose Ignacio Munilla of San Sebastian, Spain recently explained that man can only achieve holiness in communion with the tradition of the Catholic Church.

The bishops words came at a Mass celebrating the memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Bishop Munilla celebrated Mass at the parish of St. Sebastian in the city of Azpeitia, where the baptismal font used to baptize St. Ignatius is preserved. The spirituality of this Spanish saint, he said, was the best antidote to the rupture Luther introduced between Christ and His Church.
“St. Ignatius is an example of a living and unabated faith in the ‘whole Christ’ faithfully upheld at a historic time in which many broke with the Church.  He shows us that only saints authentically interpret the Gospel, in communion with the Tradition of the Church.  Everything else is a mere ideology of man, even though sometimes it may be wrapped in theological language,” the bishop said.
“The followers of Jesus are called to live a life that his Christ-centered and not self-centered,” as St. Ignatius did, he added.
Bishop Munilla pointed out that when belief in the divinity of Christ is weakened and He is portrayed as a mere man, the Church ends up being seen as a mere human institution.  “But when Christ is proclaimed as true God and true man, the Church then becomes much more.  She is the prolongation of the presence of God among us; she is the Mystical Body of Christ through whose veins runs the Spirit of Christ,” he said.
St. Ignatius of Loyola

Inigo Lopez de Loyola was born in 1491 in Azpeitia, Spain, to a noble family. He fought in the war against France and spent long hours at the shrine of Our Lady of Montserrat, where he began a life of poverty, prayer and penance.
After a powerful mystical experience, he wrote the Spiritual Exercises and later founded the Society of Jesus, which today includes 19,000 priests, students and brothers.

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Religion 'purifies' politics, Cardinal Burke says

Denver, Colo., Aug 3, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Raymond Burke, head of the Vatican's highest court, said on Aug. 2 that without religion in society, political leaders run the risk violating the fundamental human rights of citizens.

“All nations should guarantee the free exercise of religion, which aims to protect the teaching and practice of religious faith for the sake of the common good,” said Cardinal Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura.

“When reason is not purified by faith in the political realm,” he warned, “the powerful and influential of the time exercise a tyranny which violates the fundamental rights of the very people whom political leaders are called to serve.” 

Cardinal Burke made his remarks at the Knights of Columbus' festive, black tie “States Dinner” at the Colorado Convention Center during the group's 129th Supreme Convention this week.

Over 2,000 delegates and their families from the order waved colorful state and country flags representing councils from all over the globe and cheered while dozens of cardinals and bishops processed in.

During his keynote address following dinner, the cardinal expressed his “deepest esteem” for the Knights of Columbus, of which he has been a member for over 36 years.

He then discussed the legacy of Blessed Pope John Paul II  and the role of clergy religious and laity in bringing about what the late pontiff referred to as the New Evangelization.

“Even as the first disciples faced a pagan world which had not even heard of our Lord Jesus Christ, so, we, too face a culture which is forgetful of God and hostile to His Law written upon every human heart,” he said.

The cardinal said that an “erroneous notion” in modern society of moral law and conscience has led “to an equally erroneous exclusion of the discussion of the moral law and of questions of conscience from public life.”

“In many so-called advanced nations, we witness an increasing tendency to deny to citizens the most fundamental right, the right to observe the dictates of one’s conscience, formed through right reason and the teaching of the Church,” he said.

Cardinal Burke touched on political leaders who profess to be Catholics “and yet vote for legislation which violates the moral law.” Although these politicians claim that they personally believe in moral law, they argue that their political office demands they “follow a different law in making decisions for those whom they represent and govern.”

Moral law, however, is not “a confessional practice,” the cardinal said, but rather “a response to what is inscribed in the depths of every human heart.”

“Religious faith plainly articulates the natural moral law,” which enables men and women of faith “to recognize more readily what their own human nature and the nature of things demand of them, and to conform their lives to the truth which they recognize,” he added.

“For that reason, religious faith and practice is important for the life of every nation, specifically for the right formation of the conscience of her citizens.”

Religious faith, he noted, also serves to evangelize and bring hope to men and women today who are “lost in the unreal and destructive world of moral relativism and, therefore, tempted to despair.”

Cardinal Burke said that Catholics today encounter an intense “struggle with those who would falsely exclude the purifying and illuminating service of faith,” and “those who would insist that, when it comes to civic life, we must bracket our religious faith, even to the point of violating our own conscience.”

“But we know the truth about the critical service which our faith brings to political reasoning,” he underscored, and “we must remain steadfast in giving witness to it, even in the face of indifference and hostility.”

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Pope recommends Bible for vacation reading

Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Aug 3, 2011 (National Catholic Register) - Pope Benedict XVI has urged Catholics to read the Bible while on vacation, particularly the lesser known books of sacred scripture.

“This seems to be a good thing to do on the holidays: take a book of the Bible, so you have some relaxation and, at the same time, enter into the great expanse of ​​the Word of God and deepen our contact with the Eternal,” said the Pope in his Wednesday General Audience address at his holiday residence of Castle Gandolfo, 15 miles south of Rome, Aug. 3. 

Pope Benedict noted how “each of us needs time and space for meditation, reflection and calm” adding “thank God it’s so!” He said this tells us that “we are not made only for work but also to think, reflect, or simply to follow a story with our minds and hearts.” Hence many books are read “mostly for escapism.”

The Pope, however, challenged pilgrims to attempt some slightly “more challenging” reading.

“Why not discover some books of the Bible, which are normally unknown? Or of which we have maybe heard some passages during the liturgy, but we never read in its entirety? In fact, many Christians have never read the Bible, and have a very limited and superficial knowledge of it.”

The Pope even gave those gathered in the small hilltop town’s Liberty Square suggestions as to which books of the Bible to read reminding them that “the Bible - as the name implies - is a collection of books, a small ‘library,’ born over a millennium.”

From the Old Testament he suggested some of the shorter books which “can be read through in one hour.” These include, he said, the Book of Tobit “a story that contains a very high sense of family and marriage”, the Book of Esther “in which the Jewish Queen, with faith and prayer, save her people from extermination” and the Book of Ruth, “a foreigner who knows God and experiences His providence.”

He also emphasized the worth of “more challenging” Old Testament books which the Pope deemed to be “authentic masterpieces.”  

“The Book of Job, which tackles the great problem of innocent suffering, Ecclesiastes for its disconcerting modernity which questions the meaning of life and the world, the Song of Songs, a beautiful poem symbolic of human love.”

Turning to the New Testament the Pope reminded pilgrims of “the beauty of reading one Gospel straight through” as well as the merits of other books such as the Acts of the Apostles.

In conclusion he suggested that pilgrims keep a Bible “on hand during the summer or during breaks.” 

“In doing so they can become moments of relaxation, as well as cultural enrichment, even nourishment of the spirit, capable of fostering knowledge of God and dialogue with God – prayer.”

Today’s brief address continues Pope Benedict’s theme of prayer which he has been developing during his Wednesday audiences since earlier this year.

The Pope then imparted his apostolic blessing before descending from the balcony of his papal apartment to personally meet and greet the sick in the town square below.

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Democrat's 'defamation' lawsuit against pro-life group will go forward

Denver, Colo., Aug 3, 2011 (CNA) - Former Ohio Democratic Representative Steve Driehaus' lawsuit against the Susan B. Anthony list will go forward, after a judge held on Aug. 1 that a statement about his alleged vote “for taxpayer-funded abortion” was not protected speech.

Susan B. Anthony List Executive Director Emily Buchanan said U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black mistakenly applied “a narrow reading” of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, in reaching his conclusion. “The judge's position in this case ignores the entire policy debate that took place during health care reform,” Buchanan told CNA on Aug. 2.

“From the very beginning,” she recalled, “the Susan B. Anthony List has said that without the original Stupak-Pitts language, the bill would lead to taxpayer funding of abortion.” The list has found itself in legal trouble for declaring in advertisements that Driehaus, a now-defeated pro-life Democrat, “voted for taxpayer-funded abortion” by voting for the final version of the Affordable Care Act. 

Judge Black rejected the Susan B. Anthony List's contention that the phrase “taxpayer-funded abortion” was an ambiguous term that could have different possible meanings. “The common meaning that reasonable readers would ascribe to that phrase,” Black held, is that “the law in question contains a provision that appropriates money derived from tax revenues to pay for abortion.”

The judge, finding no such provision in the law, held that Driehaus could continue to seek damages from the pro-life group. “Either the Act includes language indicating that it will fund abortion or it does not,” Black wrote, explaining that only such language would count as a provision for “taxpayer-funded abortion” in his view.

“Whether it is possible, under contingent circumstances, that at some point in the future – upon the execution of X, Y, and Z – that the (Affordable Care Act) would not prevent taxpayer funded abortion is entirely different,” he stated. “The express language of the (Act) does not provide for taxpayer-funded abortion.”

Buchanan disagreed, and said Black's definition of what constitutes “taxpayer funding” failed to take account of the prolonged public debate over what the health care law would fund by indirect means.

“Abortion was implicitly included in the bill, because it was not explicitly excluded,” she explained. “To say that in order for something to be funded, it has to be explicitly mentioned in the bill, is completely ignoring the policy reality that everyone was reacting to at the time.”

SBA List says that Driehaus himself originally opposed the bill, for failing to exclude taxpayer coverage of elective abortion through health care exchanges and community health centers. They contend that Driehaus later changed his position on the bill – even when restrictions he had previously insisted on were not included – and then sued the list for saying he voted for publicly-funded abortion.

Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, thinks Driehaus was right to challenge this characterization of his vote. She claims that Driehaus' vote was not a betrayal of his pro-life principles, since he joined with other pro-life Democrats to obtain a presidential executive order and other regulations restricting funding for the procedure.

In an Aug. 2 interview with CNA, Day maintained that “there is no taxpayer funding of abortion” in high-risk pools or health care exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. That funding is “explicitly not there,” because of “the executive order plus the regulations” issued by the Department of Health and Human Services.

She also believes community health centers “do not want to be involved in abortion,” even though she acknowledged that some regulations on this subject could have “been better.” Day said that NARAL and Planned Parenthood did court these health centers, “trying to get them to do abortion, but (the centers) have made it very clear that they are not abortion providers.”

Day added that the SBA List was wrong to insist that Driehaus' alleged “vote for taxpayer-funded abortion” could have multiple meanings other than the single “common meaning” Judge Black used in reaching his decision.

“Everybody in the pro-life movement knows what 'taxpayer funding of abortion' means,” she said. “To claim that you don't, is not a good argument.”

But Emily Buchanan said her group wasn't feigning ignorance about what their words meant. She explained the Susan B. Anthony List used the words to express their understanding of the law in question, gained through an analysis of its contents released by the Congressional Research Service.

Buchanan cited a July 2010 letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from 13 U.S. Senators who concluded, drawing on that analysis, that “neither the restrictions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Presidential Executive Order 13535 nor the recently released HHS contract materials actually prohibit a state high-risk pool from covering elective abortions.”

In the end, Judge Black's order rested only partly on his idea of what “taxpayer-funded abortion” could mean in a political ad. It also arose from his judgment that SBA List was making a statement of fact, and not – as the group claimed for itself – merely a statement of opinion about Driehaus' vote.

“Ohio courts have recognized,” he wrote,” that, when the allegedly defamatory statements are accompanied by explicit language professing its truth, reasonable readings normally view the statement as conveying information of a factual nature.”

He rejected the list's attempt to defend its claims as unverifiable statements of opinion, citing a series of statements by the group indicating it was a matter of verifiable fact: “It is a fact that Steve Driehaus has voted for a bill that includes taxpayer funding of abortion.” “Help us spread the truth about his vote.” “Please help us defend ourselves and redouble our efforts to share the truth about Rep. Driehaus' vote.”

Kristen Day said it was disingenuous for the SBA List to present its claims in public as straightforward matters of fact, then attempt to defend them in court as matters of opinion that could not be proven or disproven.

She added that the list made a mistake by presenting its claims to the public as facts, and to the court as mere opinions.

“They keep repeating 'the truth' and 'the facts,' over and over again,” Day said. “They're not saying, 'In our opinion, this bill could fund abortion' – which would probably be acceptable, and this case wouldn't be where we are today.”

Buchanan confirmed that her organization's legal defense involved setting aside the objective truth or falsehood of the statement about Driehaus, in order to defend it instead as a protected opinion.

“Our lawyers,” Buchanan said, “are saying that even if there is a question as to whether or not it is true, people and organizations in the public sphere are allowed to have an opinion – and that is protected speech.”

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Meet the longest-standing member of Opus Dei – Father Valenciano

Rome, Italy, Aug 3, 2011 (CNA) - He may be nearly 89 years old, but Father Fernando Valenciano can still recall with crystal clarity the day over seven decades ago when his life changed forever. 

“After the war had ended in Spain, in 1939, I met a young man who studied law and he told me that he wanted to introduce me to a priest by the name of Josemaria.”

That priest was St. Josemaria Escriva, who had founded Opus Dei 11 years earlier. Their encounter lasted only a few minutes. Its legacy, though, has shaped the rest of Fr. Fernando’s life. 

“He explained to me that Opus Dei was a group of consecrated people, that it was a form of serving God in the world, of being in the world, everyone serving God in their place in the world, sanctifying their tasks, as families, as professionals. That’s what he told me and nothing more.”

A month later the young Fernando met Fr. Josemaria again. This time the conversation was equally brief and equally significant, “I told him that I wanted to ask admission into Opus Dei. He said OK and, so, here I am.”

Fr. Valenciano spoke with CNA at the Roman headquarters of Opus Dei, in the chapel where St. Josemaria Escriva now lies entombed within the high altar. St. Josemaria died in 1975 and was canonized in 2002 by Pope John Paul II. He declared him to be “the saint of ordinary life.” 

“I come here every day at least once and sometimes twice, to pray,” Fr Valenciano said, “to ask for the many things that need to be asked for - fundamentally for the Church, for the Pope, for The Work, for perseverance, for people, and I mean the people of the entire world, not only Catholics, and also to carry forward a good apostolate.”

Although he has been a member of Opus Dei for a record 72 years, Fr. Valenciano wasn’t ordained a priest until two decades ago. As a cleric or layman, though, he tells us that his vocation has remained the absolutely the same – the pursuit of holiness.

“As St. Paul said in his epistle, each one of us does this without leaving his respective place. And that’s how I did it, working. I finished my degree and I began to work as an engineer in a construction company,” said Fr. Valenciano. “We have to do things well. It’s the will of God. We need to do them for love of God, not looking out only for ourselves.”

Not surprisingly, he said the example given to him over many years living with St. Josemaria has been the biggest human influence in his own search for sanctity.

“They used to say that he (St. Josemaria) was a man who knew how to let himself be loved but he never let things be done poorly precisely because he loved you and wanted you to be a good person, a servant of God in the whole world.”

And it is a saintly example he continues to learn more and more from even as he approaches his 89th birthday.

“I remember one a time I invited someone to see a film about St. Josemaria in which he takes part in a group discussion, and he said he'd already seen it. And, I thought, you can tell that this guy hasn't understood anything because every time you see him again (St. Josemaria), you discover a new reality.”

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Official responds to World Youth Day critics

Madrid, Spain, Aug 3, 2011 (CNA/Europa Press) - The executive director of World Youth Day Madrid 2011, Yago de la Cierva, recently stated that “nobody should be bothered” by a group of young people gathering for a festival and paying for it out of their own pockets.
In an interview with Europa Press, De la Cierva said some of the criticism of World Youth Day “has been based on incomplete or biased information.”  “It shouldn’t bother anybody that a group of young people use their own money organize a festival in which they aren’t going to be disparaging anyone.”

“Either it’s a lack of information or rancid prejudice,” he stated.
De la Cierva said the event is a “great international festival” that can help “improve the situation for young people.” While many people think religion is a “negative factor,” young people see it as “something positive that well help them to be better.”
Regarding protests against the Pope planned to take place the day before his arrival in Madrid, De la Cierva said Spain is “a free and democratic country” where freedom of expression is allowed within the limits of “public order and respect for persons.”

De la Cierva said the final cost of the event has not yet been determined, but that nearly 5,000 new registration forms are coming in each day. “This means more television screens, more showers and more food.” “We are adjusting the expenses according to the number of people who register to attend,” he said.
Record-breaking registration

De la Cierva noted that World Youth Day Madrid has broken all the records of previous World Youth Days for number of registrants with just two weeks to go until activities begin.  The president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, said more than 420,000 young people have  already signed up.

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Knights recognize extraordinary Catholic families

Denver, Colo., Aug 3, 2011 (CNA) - The Knights of Columbus awarded top honors to three Catholic families who have shown exceptional service to their surrounding communities.

Ronald and Elizabeth Simurdiak of Phillips, Wisconsin were named the International Family of the Year by the knights during the group's 129th convention in downtown Denver from Aug. 2-4.

The Simurdiaks mortgaged their family farm to purchase property that was transformed into a St. Vincent de Paul Thrift store for low income individuals. The whole family – including 19-year-old Joesph, 17-year-old John, and 9-year-old Jenna – worked together to raise funds for the effort.

Parents Ronald and Elizabeth also volunteer as teachers on a Native American reservation and assist with catechism and confirmation classes at their parish.

Their local pastor describes them as “the epitome of a giving family.”

The winners of the first runner-up Family of the Year are Ray and Tina Barr from Brook Park, Ohio. Ray and Tina, along with their four children, are deeply involved in their parish life. In addition to serving on multiple parish committees, Ray also serves on the local town council and community emergency response team.

Tina, who is active in the family church's youth ministry, is also a member of the local ladies auxiliary of the knights.
The couples' four children contribute as altar servers for their parish.

Sam and Mary Bazzarelli from St. Albert in Alberta, Canada are the second runner-up Family of the Year. Sam is a counselor for their local Squires Circle, president of his parish council and assists refugee families in adjusting to the community. Mary serves as chair of her local Catholic school, helps deliver meals to families in crisis and will chaperone her parish's trip to World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain later this month.

The Knights of Columbus convention in Denver this week brings together 500 delegates – including 85 bishops – from the global, 1.8 million member organization.

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Church and Justice Department bring lawsuits over Ala. immigration measure

Mobile, Ala., Aug 3, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Catholic Church and the Department of Justice have filed lawsuits to stop the enforcement of Alabama's new immigration law, which Governor Robert Bentley calls the “strongest” in the nation.

“No law is just which prevents the proclamation of the Gospel message, the baptizing of believers, or love shown to a neighbor in need,” Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi of Mobile said in an Aug. 1 statement.

The Catholic archbishop has joined with several Protestant denominations in seeking relief from what they say is “the nation's most merciless anti-immigration legislation.” The clergy claim that the law criminalizes aspects of the Church's mission, interfering with the right to the free exercise of religion.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department filed its own lawsuit on Aug. 1, saying the law intrudes on the federal government's immigration policies and responsibilities.

According to the Justice Department, the recently-passed HB 56 – which is scheduled to take effect Sept. 1 – “interferes with the numerous interests the federal government must balance when enforcing and administering the immigration laws, and disrupts the balance already established by the federal government.”

Alabama's Republican caucus has confirmed that the law “requires law enforcement officers to attempt to determine the immigration status of a person who they suspect is an unauthorized alien of this country.” It also criminalizes the “transport, concealment, harboring and housing of unauthorized aliens,” in a broad manner that critics say will make most forms of assistance to immigrants illegal.

Archbishop Rodi spelled out the law's implications for Catholics in an Aug. 1 letter to the faithful of his diocese.

“This new Alabama law makes it illegal for a Catholic priest to baptize, hear the confession of, celebrate the anointing of the sick with, or preach the word of God to, an undocumented immigrant,” he wrote. “Nor can we encourage them to attend Mass or give them a ride to Mass. It is illegal to allow them to attend adult scripture study groups, or attend CCD or Sunday school classes.

“It is illegal for the clergy to counsel them in times of difficulty or in preparation for marriage. It is illegal for them to come to Alcoholic Anonymous meetings or other recovery groups at our churches.”

The same law, he continued “prohibits almost every activity of our St. Vincent de Paul chapters or Catholic Social Services.”

“If it involves an undocumented immigrant, it is illegal to give the disabled person a ride to the doctor; give food or clothing or financial assistance in an emergency; allow them to shop at our thrift stores or to learn English; it is illegal to counsel a mother who has a problem pregnancy, or to help her with baby food or diapers, thus making it far more likely that she will choose abortion.”

“This law,” the archbishop stated, “attacks our very understanding of what it means to be a Christian.”

In his letter, Archbishop Rodi said he “did not wish to enter into a legal action against the government of Alabama.” He explained his participation in the lawsuit with a reference to his own episcopal motto, “The love of Christ impels us.”

“I do not wish,” he stated, “to stand before God and, when God asks me if I fed him when he was hungry or gave him to drink when he was thirsty, to reply:  'Yes, Lord, as long as you had the proper documents.'”

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