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Archive of September 1, 2011

Kerala parishes create incentives for larger families

Thiruvananthapuram, India, Sep 1, 2011 (CNA) - Catholic parishes in Kerala have created incentives for Catholics to have larger families because of concerns that the Catholic population has started to decline.

A parish in Kerala’s Wayand district now offers fixed-rate deposits of $225 that are held in the name of the fifth child born to a Catholic family in 2011.
 
Fr. Jose Kocharackal, vicar of St. Vincent De Paul Forane Church in Kalpetta, said that the church had issued deposits to two families in the parish. Part of the Sunday collection is set aside for funding the deposits.

The program was planned and instituted with help from the Sion Prolife Movement in the Diocese of Mananthavady, UCA News reports.

Salu Mecheril, the organization’s regional coordinator, said the campaign’s popularity is increasing. A second parish is preparing to adopt the same plan.

“We are working to spread the campaign in all the parishes of the diocese,” Mecheril said.

One father of five, Abraham Jacob Chettipuzha, said he was “happy the Church is promoting the culture of life.”

The plan runs counter to a federal government initiative to encourage parents to make two children the norm.

In 2008 the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Conference said that a family trend to have only one child or none at all would imperil the Catholic community.

The 2001 census said that Christians made up 19 percent of Kerala’s population of over 31 million, a drop from the 1991 census which showed they made up 19.5 percent. Kerala is mostly Hindu, but Muslims account for about 25 percent of the population.

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NY Times editor slammed for column on presidential candidates' religions

Washington D.C., Sep 1, 2011 (CNA) -

The New York Times is being strongly criticized for a column by its executive editor Bill Keller that scrutinized the religions of the GOP presidential candidates and likened the Catholic belief in the Eucharist to belief in aliens.

“Keller could have made his point about politics and religion without insulting Catholics,” Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, told CNA on Aug. 30.

“But true to form, he did what comes naturally to him – he trashed Catholicism.”

In his Aug. 25 editorial, “Asking Candidates Tougher Questions About Faith,” outgoing executive editor Keller urged greater scrutiny of Republican candidates' religious beliefs, touching on Mormonism, Evangelical Christianity and his own past adherence to Catholicism.

“If a candidate for president said he believed that space aliens dwell among us, would that affect your willingness to vote for him?” he asked.

“Personally, I might not disqualify him out of hand; one out of three Americans believe we have had Visitors and, hey, who knows? But I would certainly want to ask a few questions. Like, where does he get his information? Does he talk to the aliens? Do they have an economic plan?”

Keller later writes: “Every faith has its baggage, and every faith holds beliefs that will seem bizarre to outsiders. I grew up believing that a priest could turn a bread wafer into the actual flesh of Christ.”

In response to the piece, Donohue criticized Keller for allowing a personal vendetta against the Catholic Church to seep through his article.

“It does not speak well about the New York Times that only embittered ex-Catholics are allowed to climb to the top,” he said.

“It is one thing to promote to senior positions those who were raised Catholic and have grown indifferent,” Donohue added. “It is quite another to put bigots in such spots.”

In his column, Keller also incorrectly described Republican hopeful Rick Santorum as a belonging to “fervid subsets of evangelical Christianity,” along with GOP candidates Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann.

This, he wrote, “has raised concerns about their respect for the separation of church and state, not to mention the separation of fact and fiction.”

The Times has since corrected the article and now lists Santorum as a Catholic.

Keller has also faced criticism for the paper allegedly giving minimal and uncritical coverage of President Obama's religious beliefs during his presidential campaign in 2008.

The president encountered controversy over his affiliation with Rev. Jeremiah Wright – a prominent Chicago pastor known for making extremist and racially charged statements.

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Thomas More College receives high marks for its curriculum

Merrimack, N.H., Sep 1, 2011 (CNA) - The New Hampshire Catholic school Thomas More College of Liberal Arts was recently named among the top two percent of colleges nationwide for educational quality.

“This is a decisive endorsement of our curriculum,” said college president William Fahey. “I am thrilled with the award and am proud of what the faculty and students have achieved.”

The 2011-12 “What will they Learn?” study, conducted by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, evaluated over 1,000 four-year liberal arts institutions across the U.S. on their curriculum.

Of all the schools, only 19 received an “A” rating. 

The organization rated the colleges on the number of courses they require of students in seven core areas: English composition, mathematics, science, economics, American history, literature, and foreign language.

Schools that required students to take at least six of the seven core subjects received an “A,” a desigination that Thomas More College received, making it one of only two institutions in the Northeast to receive the rating. 

The study also found that more than 60 percent of all institutions received a “C” or worse for requiring three or fewer subjects. One-third of the institutions received a “D” or “F” for requiring two or fewer subjects.

“The low grades of other institutions do not indicate a lack of talent or resources, simply the disappearance of the desire and ability to hold all students to a common high standard,” Fahey said in an Aug. 31 statement.

“Young people thirst for a good core education, and the ACTA rating is additional proof in Thomas More College’s ability to deliver it.”

Other Catholic schools that made the short “A” list were the University of Dallas and Thomas Aquinas College based in Santa Paula, Calif.

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Theologians say 'pressure' from authority preserved article's integrity

Denver, Colo., Sep 1, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Two theologians have responded to a rumor that the Vatican “pressured” a journal to publish their new article on marriage, saying Church authorities sought to ensure the work was published accurately.

If Theological Studies had published, without a mandate from higher authority, the unchanged final version of their article on marriage, “its doing so would have contributed to its credibility as a forum for fair and thorough treatment of vital theological controversies,” said Professor Germain Grisez and Father Peter F. Ryan, S.J., in an August 30 response to allegations that a Vatican congregation forced the article through.

Unidentified sources told the National Catholic Reporter that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Church's highest doctrinal office, has “been pressuring the editors at Theological Studies” since 2004, when it published an article advocating a change in Church teaching on divorce and remarriage.

Fr. James Coriden, one of the authors of that paper, told the Reporter that he “concluded (Theological Studies) had been forced to publish” Gisez and Fr. Ryan's new work that criticizes his arguments.

In a claim disputed by Grisez and Fr. Ryan, the Reporter also alleged that “Indissoluble Marriage: A Reply to Kenneth Himes and James Coriden,” had been published not only under threat, but “unedited and without undergoing normal peer review.”

Their article argued against claims made in the 2004 Theological Studies article “The Indissolubility of Marriage: Reasons to Reconsider.” The earlier article offered “several considerations that suggest the teaching on (marital) indissolubility ought to be revised … to admit of exceptions,” in order to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive the Eucharist.

“Indissoluble Marriage” appeared in the June 2011 issue of Theological Studies, stripped of the original abstract written by Grisez and Fr. Ryan. In place of the authors' customary summary of their work, there appeared a disclaimer they had not written, saying: “Except for minor stylistic changes, the article is published as it was received.”

Prior to publication, Grisez and Fr. Ryan had complained that the disclaimer was “misleading,” since they had done “a great deal of work to respond to the criticisms proposed by the first group of readers assigned by Theological Studies.” They had submitted the article for review in 2009 and again in 2010, having made revisions in response to professional feedback.

The disclaimer printed along with the published article, however, made it appear that the article had not undergone “normal peer review,” as the National Catholic Reporter mistakenly reported on August 29.

According to Grisez and Fr. Ryan, that disclaimer appeared because they – and later, a “higher authority” in the Church – opposed Theological Studies' editorial decision to publish their article in what the journal's editor called “a substantially reduced form.”

That “substantial” reduction, they said, effectively gutted the article by stripping away critical facts and rebuttals.

“The editor’s proposed 'trimmed version' … excised our arguments showing that much of Himes and Coriden’s case is unsound and that Piet Fransen’s interpretation of (the Council of) Trent on marriage, on which they rely, is based on false factual claims.”

Grisez and Fr. Ryan acknowledged that Church authority had played a role in getting the article published with these arguments intact. They maintained that the intervention served to prevent their work from being distorted and compromised.

“As for the quality of our scholarship,” they wrote, “we ask only that readers of the two articles set aside the fact that higher authority had to mandate publication of the unexpurgated version of our article and judge for themselves.”

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Pope praying for teachers in September

Vatican City, Sep 1, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI is dedicating the month of September to praying that teachers are able to hand on moral values to students and for Christian communities striving to share the Gospel in Asia.

Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for September is: “That all teachers may know how to communicate love of the truth and instill authentic moral and spiritual values.”

His mission intention is: “That the Christian communities of Asia may proclaim the Gospel with fervor, witnessing to its beauty with the joy of faith.”

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Spanish hospital sued for removing elderly woman's feeding tube

Huelva, Spain, Sep 1, 2011 (CNA/Europa Press) - The Right to Life Association in Spain has filed a lawsuit against the head of the Andalusia Health Department and the Blanca Paloma Hospital for withholding basic care from a 90-year-old woman.

Doctors say Ramona Estevez, who suffered a stroke on July 26 and was hospitalized, is in an irreversible coma.  Last weekend health officials in Andalusia gave an order to have Estevez’s feeding tube removed at the request of her family, who claimed to be carrying out her wishes.
 
Speaking to reporters, Nicolas Moron, a lawyer with Right to Life, said the organization believes the decision to remove the feeding tube violates the law.  He said Maria Jesus Montero, the head of the health department, is being sued for violating the duty to provide basic care, and the hospital for attempting to bring about the woman’s death. 

Estevez “will not die from her stroke but rather from starvation,” Montero pointed out.  He called the decision an unlawful act of “euthanasia directly aimed at causing the death of the patient.”
 
Moreover, Montero underscored that the irreversible nature of Estevez’s condition has not been substantiated and that her wishes were not that she be deprived of food and hydration but that she not receive extraordinary treatments.  Right to Life is not arguing that Estevez should be subject to undue suffering, but rather that she should at the least be administered “basic care,” he said.
 
Right to Life filed a petition before the court in Huelva on Aug. 26 requesting that Estevez’s feeding tube be reinserted.  According to Europa Press, the court said Right to Life lacked “the legitimacy” to file the request and did not provide evidence that a crime had been committed.

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US bishops say contraception mandate coerces religious groups

Washington D.C., Sep 1, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The HHS contraception mandate for insurance plans is “more radical” than any other in the United States and entails “nationwide coercion of religious people and groups,” the U.S. bishops’ general counsel said as he called for the mandate to be rescinded.

“Only rescission will eliminate all of the serious moral problems the mandate creates,” said Anthony Picarello, general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Picarello and bishops’ conference associate general counsel Michael Moses submitted an August 31 comment to the Department of Health and Human Services criticizing its requirement that insurers provide sterilization and contraception, including some drugs like Ella which can cause abortions.

It is “an unprecedented attack on religious liberty” to require that religious people and groups sell, broker or purchase services to which they have religious or moral objections, the attorneys said.

Under the new mandate, religiously-affiliated employers will be “affirmatively barred” from offering a plan to the public, or even to fellow believers, that excludes objectionable items.

“Until now, no federal law has prevented private insurers from accommodating purchasers and plan sponsors with moral or religious objections to certain services,” they said. “Likewise, federal law did not forbid any insurer, such as a religiously-affiliated insurer, to exclude from its plans any services to which the insurer itself had a moral or religious objection. Indeed, the freedom to exclude morally objectionable services has sometimes been stated affirmatively in federal law.”

Picarello and Moses said the mandate violates the Weldon amendment, the 2010 health care legislation and the Obama administration’s stated policy to exclude from the mandate any drug that can cause an abortion.

They criticized a proposed religious exemption as “narrower than any conscience clause ever enacted in federal law” and narrower than the “vast majority” of exemptions from state contraception mandates.

The exemptions cover a non-profit religious employer whose purpose is “the inculcation of religious values,” which primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets, and which primarily serves those who share its religious beliefs. The exemptions would not apply to many Catholic colleges and universities, charities, social service agencies and health care providers.

Secular organizations with objections to coverage of contraceptives or sterilization will also be ineligible, they noted.

The HHS released the mandates as part of the preventive care requirements of the 2010 health care legislation. A 60-day comment period on the regulations began on August 1.

Other prominent Catholics have opposed the regulations, including Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston.

“Pregnancy is not a disease, and fertility is not a pathological condition to be suppressed by any means technically possible,” he said July 19, while the rules were under consideration.

Sr. Carol Keehan, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, has criticized the religious exemption as “not broad enough to protect our Catholic health care providers.” She helped pass the health care legislation last year.

A group of Obama-friendly Catholic leaders and professors also issued an Aug. 26 open letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius seeking an expansion of religious protections.

The requirements are also being opposed by the San Diego-based St. Gianna Physician’s Guild, which has launched an online petition against them.

Unless the regulations are rescinded, they will take effect on Aug. 1, 2012.

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Sacred music reveals the 'harmonies of heaven,' Pope says

Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Sep 1, 2011 (CNA) -

Pope Benedict XVI has praised sacred music as a means of prayer, following a classical concert hosted in his honor at the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.

“This evening we are immersed in sacred music, that music which in a quite special way is born from faith and can express and communicate faith,” said the Pope. In the midst of daily activities, “you have offered us a moment of meditation and prayer, making us perceive the harmonies of heaven.”

The concert featured various compositions by Cardinal Domenico Bartolucci, the former director of the Sistine Chapel Choir.  The 94-year-old Italian has had a long and distinguished career as a composer of sacred music. Pope Benedict recognized this by raising him to the rank of cardinal last year.

“Faith is the light that has always guided and driven his life,” said the Pope in tribute to Cardinal Bartolucci, adding that he has “opened his heart to respond with generosity to the call of the Lord and that has also emerged in his way of composing music.” 

“For you, music is a privileged language for communicating the faith of the Church and to help those who listen to his works journey in faith.”

The Pope particularly praised the cardinal for the value he placed on “the precious treasure that is Gregorian chant and the wise use of polyphony, in fidelity to tradition,” while also being “open to new sounds.”

The concert was directed by conductor Simon Baiocchi and featured sopranos Lykke Anholm and Enrica Fabbri, as well as baritone Michele Govi. They were accompanied by the Rossini Chamber Choir of Pesaro and the Marchigiana Philharmonic Orchestra.

The program itself included four pieces composed by Cardinal Bartolucci. Amongst them was his “Ave Maria” as well as a composition based upon the words of the rite of baptism entitled “Baptisma.” The highlight, though, was his “Benedictus” which was specially written for the occasion and dedicated to Pope Benedict XVI.

“This evening you caused us to turn our hearts to Mary in prayer, the most beloved prayer of Christian tradition,” concluded Pope Benedict.
 
“Yet you also led us back to the beginning of our journey of faith, to the liturgy of Baptism, the moment in which we became Christian: an invitation always to drink from the only water that can quench our thirst - the living God - and to commit ourselves day-after-day to rejecting evil and to renewing our faith with the affirmation ‘I believe!’”

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