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Archive of August 12, 2011

New York City’s mandatory sex ed program draws fire

New York City, N.Y., Aug 12, 2011 (CNA) - Updated Aug. 12, 2011 at 9:43 a.m. MDT. Includes words from Meecham about opt-out clause in 11th paragraph.

The City of New York’s new requirement that one semester of sex education be taught in all public middle and high schools continues a “failed experiment” and substitutes parents’ beliefs and values with those of the schools, Catholic leaders said.

“The decision of the City of New York to mandate sex education classes, including teaching grade school children about sex and condom use, is troubling,” Joseph Zwilling, the Archdiocese of New York’s communications director, said Aug. 10.

He said 40 years’ experience has shown it is a “misguided effort” and a “failure” to try to make sexual activity devoid of consequences.

“Rates of teen sexual activity and pregnancies continue to soar, despite condoms being freely given away, including in our public schools,” Zwilling continued.

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League said that under Mayor Michael Bloomberg “literally tens of millions of condoms have been promiscuously distributed all over the city to anyone who wants them.

“And yet the rate of sexually transmitted diseases continues to skyrocket.”

Previously, public school principals have chosen whether to teach about sex and what to teach about it. On Tuesday the city announced the new mandate. The city recommends its program to schools that do not have one in place.

The recommended curriculum includes package lesson plans titled “HealthSmart” and “Reducing the Risk,” the New York Times reports. They describe abstinence as the best method to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease, but they also teach condom use and discuss the appropriate age for sexual activity.

Zwilling said the schools should teach abstinence.

“Abstinence before marriage is the only sure way to avoid pregnancy and disease, and recent scholarship has shown that abstinence education leads to healthier, better adjusted teens and young adults,” he said. “The City would be better advised to put its efforts into promoting what truly works rather than continuing to promote a failed experiment.”

Edward Mechmann, a lawyer for the archdiocese, said he would encourage parents to use an opt-out clause and remove their children from lessons about contraception.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn responded to the city's decision by calling it “one more example of political agendas being forced on children and their families.”

He said it is “offensive to parents” to suggest that the mandate is needed.

“Yet again, our political leaders follow the trend of transferring authority to teachers from parents, and parents continue to lose the right to parent their own children. We will work with everyone, but especially with the parents of our public school children enrolled in our religious education programs, to assist them in asserting their parental rights.”

Zwilling said that parents have “the right and the responsibility to be the first and primary educators of their children.”

“This mandate by the city usurps that role, and allows the public school system to substitute its beliefs and values for those of the parents,” he added.

In the 1990s city school boards had the authority to bar the mention of contraception, abortion, and homosexuality. However, the boards are now under mayoral control.

Donohue said sex education should discourage sex the way other programs discourage smoking.

“We don't tell kids not to smoke and then instruct them on the proper way to inhale,” he added.

Students should learn about how abortion affects women and unborn children, about the greater likelihood of acquiring a sexually transmitted disease, and about the link between unwed motherhood and poverty, Donohue advised.

In January, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York decried the city’s “chilling” abortion rate. About 41 percent of all unborn babies in the city are killed in the womb.

Supporters of the sex education program include Vanessa Mercado, the after-school program manager at the Inwood Academy for Leadership.

“Children are exposed to sex in so many forms now that it’s better they get the right information from someone,” she told the New York Times.

However, Lucy Accardo, a mother of four on the Community Education Council for District 24, said sex education is not the proper activity of the schools.

“I don’t agree with it, because I think parents should teach their children at their own discretion,” she said.

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Canada sending 6,000 to World Youth Day

Ottawa, Canada, Aug 12, 2011 (CNA) - A contingent of 6,000 Canadian Catholics will attend World Youth Day in Madrid, where they will hold their first ever national celebration at the global Catholic event.

Spanish dioceses will help host 2,500 of the young Canadians and help them in their various cultural activities, visits to tourist sites, festivities, prayer events and celebrations.

Canadian pilgrims will gather in Madrid on Aug. 16 for their national celebration at a World Youth Day. Their meeting at Madrid’s Palacio de Deportes will include a special Morning Prayer, music and testimonies from young Canadians.

Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J., of Ottawa will preside at the celebration. Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton will greet the assembly on behalf of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, which he serves as vice-president.

Graham Shantz, Canadian Ambassador to Spain, and Francisco Pascual de la Parte, the Spanish Consul General to Canada, will attend the gathering, according to the Canadian bishops’ conference.

The Knights of Columbus and the Sisters of Life have partnered with Canada’s Salt and Light Television and Holy Cross Family Ministries to provide a “Love and Life Site” rest area at the Palacio de Deportes.

Twenty-four Canadian bishops and nearly 100 priests and 30 seminarians will be part of Canada’s World Youth Day delegation.

Five Canadian bishops will serve as catechists for the young pilgrims, three in French and two in English. They will teach on the World Youth Day theme “Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith.”

Around one million pilgrims are expected to attend the event from Aug. 16 to 21. The Italian delegation numbers about 90,000 while Spain’s numbers 83,000. France is sending 50,000 pilgrims, the U.S. is sending 30,000, while Germany is sending 16,000 and Australia is sending 4,300.

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Pope offers special indulgence to World Youth Day pilgrims

Vatican City, Aug 12, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Pope Benedict XVI has declared that pilgrims to World Youth Day in Madrid will be able to obtain a special indulgence while attending the event.

“We are very happy because the Holy Father reinforces with this decision the penitential meaning of World Youth Day in Madrid,” communications director Rafa Rubio told CNA on Aug. 11.

The indulgence will allow young people to draw closer to God and grow in their friendship with Christ, Rubio added.

An indulgence is the means by which the Catholic Church – with the authority of Jesus Christ – rescinds the temporal consequences of sins that have already been forgiven in confession.

Indulgences replaced the severe penances imposed in the early Church and can be either “plenary” or “partial,” which respectively rescind all or part of the punishment caused by sin.

The Pope’s intentions were announced Aug. 11 in a decree from the Apostolic Penitentiary in Rome, the Vatican body responsible for issues related to the forgiveness of sins.

The Penitentiary explained that the Latin-language edict “grants a plenary indulgence to the faithful who attend the occasion of ‘World Youth Day XXVI’ in Madrid in a spirit of pilgrimage.” A partial indulgence can also be gained by “everyone, wherever they are, who prays for the spiritual purpose of this meeting and for its happy outcome.”

In order to receive the plenary indulgence it states that Madrid pilgrims must go to confession, receive Holy Communion and pray for the intentions of Pope Benedict.

The partial indulgence is available to those “wherever they are” during next week’s events if “with contrite hearts, they lift up their prayers to God the Holy Spirit, to the end that He might urge the young to charity and that He might give them the strength to announce the Gospel with their own lives.”

The decree also explains that the indulgences were requested by Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela of Madrid, as he wanted “young people to receive the desired fruits of sanctification” from World Youth Day in his home city.

Finally, it asks that all priests in Madrid next week make themselves available as confessors for the young pilgrims.

World Youth Day is a series of events running from Tuesday, August 16 to Sunday, August 21. The Pope will arrive on the evening of Thursday, August 18. He will preside at a total of nine events culminating in Sunday Mass at Cuatro Vientos Airport. The latest estimate is that one million young people will descend upon the Spanish capital during the week.

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Spanish archbishop: Catholics have the right to freedom of expression

Madrid, Spain, Aug 12, 2011 (CNA) - Archbishop Braulio Rodriguez of Toledo, Spain spoke out Aug. 11 in defense of World Youth Day 2011. He said that Spain is a free country where Catholics have the right to express themselves.
 
“Why are freethinkers, atheists and secularists more right than others?” he asked.  “It should be noted that Catholics, who pay taxes just like everyone else, make up the vast majority in Spain,” the archbishop added.

The news agency EFE said the archbishop’s comments came in response to critics of the Christian nature of World Youth Day and opposition to Pope Benedict XVI’s visit.
 
He scolded the event's detractors for misinforming the public by claiming the event constitutes an expense for the state.  “If you don’t like World Youth Day or the Pope, fine, but don’t insult us and say things that aren’t true,” the archbishop said.
 
The archbishop also defended the right of Catholics to participate in an event “in which we can all truly say what we want to say.” 
 
He said the kind of criticism that has been leveled against World Youth Day 2011 is unprecedented. “(The criticism) has gone so far beyond the pale and has been so ridiculous, that I can’t help but feel indignant,” Archbishop Rodriguez said.
 
The president of the Catholic League for Civil Rights, Bill Donohue, also responded recently to the critics of next week's youth event, noting that World Youth Day will not cost the Spanish state a single penny and that young people will be injecting nearly $140 million into the ailing Spanish economy.

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Pope eagerly anticipating meeting world’s youth in Madrid

Vatican City, Aug 12, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Pope Benedict XVI is eager to meet the vast crowds of young people who are gathering in Madrid and is looking forward to the “wonderfully spiritual” moments that will occur during the four-day international event.
 
“The Pope is very happy and very much looking forward to meeting a million young people next week,” said papal spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., in Aug. 12 remarks to CNA.
 
“It will obviously be a very demanding trip for him because it is a four-day visit. But he knows from his previous World Youth Days in Cologne and Sydney that these are great occasions with great enthusiasm and he wants to give young people a witness to faith and encouragement to live lives of hope and charity.”
 
Fr. Lombardi gave his final briefing in Rome this morning ahead of World Youth Day’s launch next Tuesday, August 16.

Pope Benedict will arrive on the evening of Thursday, August 18. He will then preside at a total of nine events with young people over the next four days, culminating in Sunday morning Mass at the city’s Cuatro Vientos airport.

Fr. Lombardi revealed today that over 800 bishops plan to attend that Mass.

“Obviously the Eucharist on Sunday is the most important moment of the four days for the Pope, but he’s also looking forward to other very significant moments that will be wonderfully spiritual occasions,” said Fr. Lombardi.

He highlighted the Pope’s leading of the Way of the Cross through the streets of Madrid on the Friday – prayed with “the intensity of the Spanish spiritual tradition” - as one such moment.

The spokesman also said the Pope is looking forward to meeting with several young people and giving them the sacrament of Reconciliation at the city’s Jardines del Buen Retiro the next day.
 
“Also Mass with the seminarians on Saturday will be a wonderful reminder of the spirituality of the priesthood on, this, the 60th anniversary of the Pope’s ordination,” noted Fr. Lombardi. For Pope Benedict celebrating “the Mass of Jesus Christ, eternal high priest, will be great.”

Fr. Lombardi also explained that Pope John Paul II will be a significant figure at World Youth Day. The recently beatified pontiff was declared one of the patrons of the event earlier this year. He confirmed that the event’s inaugural Mass on Tuesday evening will be the “Mass of Blessed Pope John Paul II.”

It was also confirmed today that the Pope will make time next week to visit the King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia of Spain, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and opposition leader Mariano Rajoy.

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Benedict XVI to enjoy traditional lunch with Spanish bishops

Madrid, Spain, Aug 12, 2011 (CNA/Europa Press) - Pope Benedict XVI will enjoy a traditional Spanish lunch with the cardinals, bishops and auxiliary bishops of Madrid on Aug. 20.
 
According to Lucia De la Fuente, a professor at the Fuenllana School, the event “was expressly prepared by Cardinal Rouco Varela to mark his 75th birthday on August 20.”
 
Families and faculty from the school will present Pope Benedict XVI with a grant to be awarded to a seminarian from a third-world country to pay for his studies. 
 
Some 60 people in total will join the Pope at the lunch, where they will enjoy traditional Spanish appetizers and dishes.
 
De la Fuente called the lunch a once-in-a-lifetime experience and said she and the rest of the staff preparing the event are “very excited.”
 
She added that the tables for the lunch will be decorated with blue and white flowers in honor of the flag of Bavaria, the Pope's native land.

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