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Archive of September 20, 2011

Cardinal O’Malley: initiative disguises ‘sheer brutality’ of assisted suicide

Boston, Mass., Sep 20, 2011 (CNA) - A proposed Massachusetts ballot initiative to allow terminally ill patients to take a lethal dose of prescription drugs corrupts the medical profession and undercuts efforts to prevent suicide, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston said.

Cardinal O’Malley hoped that Massachusetts citizens will not be “seduced” by language about “dignity and compassion,” charging that these words “disguise the sheer brutality of helping people kill themselves,” the Boston Globe reports.

He said people of all faiths must reassure the sick and dying of the value of human life and must work to improve end-of-life care.

At the end of their lives, people fear “losing control” and “being abandoned,” the cardinal told a Mass for Massachusetts lawyers and jurists at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Sept. 17. He said that society will be judged on how it responds to those “who believe their lives have diminished in value.”

Regardless of their religious beliefs, he added, most people “know that suicide is a tragedy, one that a compassionate society should work to prevent.”

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley recently certified the language for the “Death With Dignity” ballot question legalizing the self-administration of a lethal dose of prescription drugs for the terminally ill. Unless there is legislative action, it will be placed on the fall 2012 ballot.

The Catholic bishops of Massachusetts are “strongly opposed” to the measure, the Massachusetts Catholic Conference said Sept. 7.

“We are called upon to defend the gospel of life with courage and resolve,” Cardinal O’Malley told the jurists. “Your very profession invests in all of you a great responsibility to ensure that all laws are just.”

Steve Crawford, a spokesman for initiative sponsor Dignity 2012, voiced respect for the cardinal’s opinion but argued the proposal is meant to provide the terminally ill with a choice about how they die.

Cardinal O’Malley said that allowing physicians to prescribe the means for patients to kill themselves is “a corruption of the medical profession.”

“It even violates the Hippocratic Oath that has guided physicians for thousands of years,” he added.

The cardinal told the Boston Globe that the Catholic Conference plans a grassroots campaign to educate voters about its position.

Education is needed “to help people understand that what this petition is really about is suicide,” he explained.

The Massachusetts Catholic Conference said the initiative is “a first step in Massachusetts toward legalizing physician-assisted suicide, effectively authorizing the killing of human beings prior to their natural death.”

“The Roman Catholic Bishops of Massachusetts stand firm in the belief that a compassionate society should work to prevent suicide, which is always a terrible tragedy, no matter what form it may take.”

It clarified that Catholic teaching emphasizes the responsibility to preserve human life and opposes both euthanasia and assisted suicide. However, Church teaching allows the refusal of “extraordinary means” of treatment that may excessively burden the patient without alleviating his or her underlying condition.

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Pope makes rare television address to German people

Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Sep 20, 2011 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI gave a rare television address in which he urged Germans to restore God to their horizon, just before he travels to the country later this week.
 
“I am very happy to be departing for Germany in a few days time,” said the Pope on the German religious program, “Wort zum Sontag” or “Word on Sunday.” The brief address was recorded several days ago in his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.

“I think with particular joy of Berlin where I will attend many meetings and, naturally, of my address to the Bundestag and the great Mass we will celebrate at the Olympic stadium, ” he said Sept. 18.

Pope Benedict leaves for his four-day visit to Germany this Thursday, Sept. 22. He is scheduled to give 18 sermons and speeches during the 21st foreign trip of his six-year pontificate.

“This is not religious tourism; still less is it a ‘show,’” said the Pope, getting to the heart of his visit’s purpose.

“Its significance is well expressed in the motto accompanying these days: ‘Where God is, there lies the future.’ What this means is that we must restore God to our horizon, the God who is so often absent but of whom we have such great need.”

But some Germans are not eager for their fellow countryman to visit. Over 100 left-wing parliamentarians say they are planning to boycott the Pope’s Sept. 23 address to the Bundestag in Berlin, claiming it violates the separation of church and state.

In response, German Chancellor Angela Merkel used her weekly podcast to call upon all Germans to welcome the Pope. The daughter of a Lutheran pastor, she also called upon Germany’s Christians to recognize what unites them.
 
“I think it is important to constantly reinforce the unity of Christians at a time when we are confronted by a growing secularism,” Merkel said Sept. 18.

As well as visiting Berlin, the Pope will also travel to Erfurt - birthplace of the Lutheran Reformation 500 years ago this year – where he will join Protestant ministers for a joint-prayer service. He will then travel onto Freiburg in the southwest for a prayer vigil with young people. In each location he will celebrate a public Mass. The Pope told television viewers that he wanted Germans to learn how to re-connect with God.

“You may ask me: ‘But, does God exist? And if He exists does He really concern Himself with us? Can we reach Him?” he said on the TV program.

“It is, indeed, true that we cannot place God on the table, we cannot touch Him or pick Him up like an ordinary object. We must rediscover our capacity to perceive God, a capacity that exists within us.”

The Pope suggested to viewers that they can get some idea of the greatness of God from observing the cosmos because it reveals that “the world is built in a rational way; and in the great rationality of the world we can get some idea of the Creator Spirit from which it comes; in the beauty of creation we can get some idea of the beauty, the greatness and the goodness of God.”

He added that we also “catch a glimpse of God” in Holy Scriptures where “we hear the words of eternal life” and in meeting “people who have been touched” by God. This not only includes the great saints, he said, but also “the many simple people about whom nobody speaks” yet whose lives emanate “goodness, sincerity and joy,” so that “we know that God is there and that He also touches us.”

“Thus, over these days,” said the Pope concluding his television address, “let us commit ourselves to seeing God again, to becoming people who bring the light of hope into the world, a light that comes from God and that helps us to live.”

“Word on Sunday” has been running on German television for over 50 years and each week features a priest or pastor with a sermon. Pope John Paul II appeared on the same program back in 1987.

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Teacher strike ends in Philadelphia with contract about Catholic identity

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 20, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Catholic high school teachers in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia will return to classes after agreeing to a new contract on Sept. 19. The contract includes provisions about job security and the importance of the Catholic identity of the schools.

“I’m very grateful that our teachers ratified this contract today,” Richard McCarron, the archdiocese’s Secretary for Catholic Education, told a press conference Monday. “We view this contract as a watershed contract for the archdiocese’s schools.”

“It really gives us a cutting-edge program for the students and parents that we serve.”

More than 700 teachers began the strike on Sept. 6. They cited proposed changes in tenure and sick leave as well as plans to increase use of part-time instructors as their reasons for the walkout. Administrators backing a new contract pointed to the need to update the local Catholic educational system.

The new contract includes better job protections for instructors, pay increases totaling about 8.3 percent over an individual’s three-year contract, and provisions about Catholic identity.

“It was never about money. It was about job security and it was about respect,” said Rita Schwartz, president the Association of Catholic Teachers Local 1776.

The contract affirms the vital importance of the presence of vowed religious faculty members. It requires all teachers to assist in the religious formation and education ministry of the school.

While some labor leaders had proposed mediation for the contract dispute, McCarron said mediation might have interfered with Catholic identity measures.

“We had several Catholic identity issues on the table to preserve the religious teaching faculty in our schools,” McCarron explained. “We inserted a preamble at the beginning of the contract which discussed our faith formation process. There are several times where we refer to attendance at religious exercises and retreats.

“We did not want to have an outside person enter into those discussions with us, because they are central to our mission.”

Under the new contract, all teachers will be required to use a computerized grading system which allows parents to monitor their children’s performance. The contract will expand the archdiocese’s online course offerings and will allow schools to create pilot programs to address certain issues.

Archdiocesan education officials said that no full-time teachers will be replaced by part time teachers. The contract creates special provisions for each school to choose two departments in which they may hire additional part-time teachers.

“We regret that the strike caused a delay in the school year and inconveniences for you,” McCarron and school superintendent Mary E. Rochford said in a Sept. 19 letter to parents. “Please know that our only desire was to continue to offer the best academic programs possible for your children.”

There are 16,502 students at 17 archdiocesan high schools in the five-county Philadelphia region.

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‘No Meat Fridays’ return to England and Wales

London, England, Sep 20, 2011 (CNA) -

The practice of abstaining from eating meat on Fridays has returned to the Catholic Church in England and Wales after an absence of 27 years.

“I think it’s a very good idea,” father-of-three Dominic Schofield told CNA. He and his wife Margaret, along with their three young daughters, were about to sit down to a Friday dinner of fried fish in their London home.
 
“Over the past 20 to 30 years we’ve perhaps lost touch with some of the more grounded Catholic practices and that, in turn, has chipped away at belief in more fundamental things too. So the restoration of this ancient Catholic tradition can help reverse that trend,” Schofield said.

The decision to reinstate the custom was announced by the bishops of England and Wales in May. September 16 was chosen as the reintroduction date because it marks the first anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI’s arrival in the United Kingdom.

The practice of abstaining from meat on Fridays was traditionally a way of remembering that Jesus Christ died on that day of the week. However, the Church in England and Wales abandoned the centuries-old custom back in 1984.

At the time, the bishops stressed that other forms of Friday penances were also acceptable. The result, though, seemed to be that the practice of Friday penance fell away altogether.

“I think what hadn't been envisaged at the time was that because people wouldn't be carrying out the same act together that this might lead to the loss of penance in people's lives,” said Fr. Marcus Stock, General Secretary of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, in a Sept. 16 interview with the BBC.

The bishops also hope the custom will help draw others to the Catholic Church. In a statement earlier this month, they observed that “traditional Catholic devotions such as making the sign of the cross with care and reverence, praying the Angelus, saying a prayer before and after our meals, to name only a few,” can be “a powerful call to faith.”
 
“I’d agree,” says Dominic Schofield, “the decision by the bishops will have great apostolic value.

“For example, when somebody now asks ‘Do you have any special dietary requirements?’ we can now say, ‘Yes, I can’t eat meat on a Friday. I’m a Catholic!’”

Although the Catholic Church has never stipulated what food should be consumed instead of meat, a general tradition emerged of eating fish on a Friday. The penance applies to all those over the age of 14, although the sick, elderly, pregnant, manual workers and seafarers are exempted.

The Bishops' Conference of England and Wales also has a guide to the new Friday penance on their website.

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Chile is called to respect life from its very beginning, says archbishop

Santiago, Chile, Sep 20, 2011 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Chile, Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati, said the most important legacy that Chileans must pass on is “absolute respect and love for life,” because everyone “has the right to a life of fullness, as children of God.”
 
He noted that children and young people “represent an enormous potential for the present and the future of our country.”

Archbishop Ezzati made his comments on Sept. 18 during an ecumenical prayer service at the Cathedral of Santiago.

“Work is a fundamental right and good for the person … Chile’s magnificent and exuberant outdoor and natural resources are part of her patrimony. For this reason we thank the Lord for the gift of creation,” the archbishop continued.
 
He also praised Chileans for the solidarity and faith that unified the country in response to events such as the 2010 earthquake, the rescue of the miners trapped in the San Jose Mine, the deaths of prisoners at the San Miguel Prison and the recent plane crash in the Juan Fernandez islands.
 
The difficulties that Chile has faced, Archbishop Ezzati said, “are unrepeatable and challenging opportunities to reflect upon the most beautiful and noble part of our identity and to let it shine forth.” 

“Everyone is needed in this task,” he added.
 
The ecumenical service, which marked Chile's independence, was attended by the president of the Chilean Biblical Society, Pastor Pablo Alvarez, Archbishop Sergio Abad of the Orthodox Church and members of the Muslim and Jewish communities in Chile.

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Evangelical leader defends religious symbols in Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sep 20, 2011 (CNA) - Marcelo Figueroa, an Evangelical leader, recently expressed opposition to a proposed measure that would ban religious symbols from public places in Argentina.
 
In a statement sent to the Argentinean news agency AICA on Sept. 19, Figueroa explained that although the government is secular, “it should not be secularist.” He said it is “highly contradictory” to implement a religious ban in the name of a “supposed equality.”
 
He noted that the proposal put forth by two Buenos Aires lawmakers allows exceptions for cemeteries and hospitals, as long as they allow the same access for other faiths. “In my Christian Evangelical identity, I clearly identify with a secular State while at the same time recognizing that religious images are not part of the protestant liturgy.”
 
“Therefore, from own personal perspective, I should be in favor of this measure, even though I admit that the presence of these images does not affect my own religious faith. But this would be a short-sighted outlook that ignores the underlying intention,” he added.
 
“The images in question belong to the Catholic Church, for whom such images are indeed important,” Figueroa explained. “The religious sensibilities of its followers would be affected by this prohibition which includes, as mentioned, the removal of those symbols that are already in place. 

“Out of ecumenical solidarity, then, I cannot support what would cause profound sadness to my brothers and sisters in their faith identity.”

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CNA launches resource page for new missal translation

Denver, Colo., Sep 20, 2011 (CNA) -

Catholic News Agency has launched a comprehensive and user-friendly resource page to help prepare the U.S. faithful for the new Roman Missal translation.

“This new page shows why CNA has become the leading source for authentically Catholic news on the web,” editor-in-chief David Scott said Sept. 20.

The new section, http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/Missal/, provides news coverage, official statements, educational tools and extended reflections on the Mass from both a priestly and lay perspective.

Catholics can also get step-by-step instruction on the missal changes, which are set to be fully implemented nationwide by the beginning of Advent, Nov. 27, of this year.

“This a great service to the universal Church. It brings together in one place the finest resources available — from bishops, priests, and lay people — to help pastors and people in the pews prepare for this important new phase in the liturgical renewal,” Scott said.

He noted that the site also has the most comprehensive collection of original speeches and writings on the new missal from members of the Church hierarchy, such as Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia and Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles.

On May 31 of this year, CNA also launched its Editors Service which supplies a full range of news, features, commentary and photojournalism. All content is provided free-of-charge for publication in print or online, and editors are only required to pay small fees for photos provided by Getty Images, one of the world’s top names in news photography.

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