Archive of September 23, 2011

WikiLeaks exposes Cardinal Law’s work in Vatican-Vietnam relations

Vatican City, Sep 23, 2011 (CNA) -

The WikiLeaks release of secret and confidential State Department cables has revealed that American Cardinal Bernard Law is actively working in Vatican-Vietnam relations. His “personal involvement” helped confirm the December 2009 meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet.

“It took a visit to Vietnam last week by American Cardinal Bernard Law to finalize arrangements to allow the visit to go forward, according to a person close to the cardinal,” reports a secret December 4, 2009 cable from the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See.

The cable, signed by U.S. Ambassador Miguel Diaz, says that Cardinal Law told the embassy’s deputy mission chief that he discussed bilateral relations and the president’s visit directly with the Vietnamese.

“In these discussions, the Vietnamese expressed little interest in formal diplomatic relations but considerable interest in ensuring the already-announced visit would go forward,” the State Department cable says. “The Cardinal did not reveal whether he obtained any concessions from the Vietnamese in order to confirm the visit, but that seems likely.”

While WikiLeaks releases had been redacting the names of sensitive U.S. contacts, all the cables were released in unredacted form when WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange decided to release over 250,000 State Department cables on Aug. 30.

A notation in the December 2009 cable advises to “strictly protect” Cardinal Law’s identity.

The cardinal’s interactions with U.S. embassy officials in Hanoi are also noted in a confidential cable from the Hanoi embassy, dated November 25, 2009.

During Cardinal Law’s visit for the 350th anniversary of Catholicism in the country, he discussed with U.S. officials the proposed visit of the Vietnamese president to the Vatican. He also discussed the possible resignation of Archbishop Ngo Quang Kiet of Hanoi, which the Pope later accepted in May 2010.

The archbishop faced health issues and became a controversial figure because of his efforts to recover church property confiscated by the communist government.

The WikiLeaks cables first mention Cardinal Law in a January 30, 2004 cable from the U.S. embassy at the Vatican.

That document recounts that Cardinal Law reviewed with the embassy’s political officer his mid-December 2003 visit to Vietnam at the invitation of its new cardinal, Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man.

At that time, Cardinal Law saw no signs that the Vietnamese government was “even inching towards” allowing the Church a role in civil society. He also lamented the backlog of students approved for Catholic seminary, a backlog due to “government obstruction,” the cable reports.

The cardinal related that he had been scheduled to say an informal and unpublicized Mass at a rural monastery in Vietnam. However, when the American cardinal arrived his hosts told him that the police had called a half hour before his arrival. They had forbidden the monastery to allow “the foreigner” to preside at Mass.

Cardinal Law did see some progress in Vietnam at the time. Cardinal Pham told him that the government gave “prompt permission” to transfer over 30 priests, including allowing three to study abroad.

He also reported many new conversions to Catholicism in the Diocese of Hung Hoa. Some converts were apparently tuning in to Evangelical Christian radio transmitted from outside the country, then seeking out the nearest Christian church.

The January 2004 cable, signed by then-U.S. Ambassador James Nicholson, describes Cardinal Law as “a useful contact” for the State Department’s work in human rights and religious freedom.

“Though he is currently out of the spotlight due to the media's fixation on him as the chief scapegoat of the Catholic Church's sexual abuse crisis, Law has long been active in international affairs and interreligious dialogue at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops,” the cable summarizes. “He is also well-connected to the American Vietnamese community through his ministry to the immigrant communities of Boston.

CNA contacted Cardinal Law for comment, but his secretary said that he “never speaks with the media.”

In a Sept. 7 response to CNA inquiries, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said:

“As is known, from the beginning the Holy See and the Press Office have made no comments on the leaks, which are documents for which we assume no responsibility.”

Cardinal Law resigned as Archbishop of Boston in December 2002 after intense controversy over his handling of sexually abusive priests.

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Court decision protects religious groups’ ministries, attorney says

Boise. Idaho, Sep 23, 2011 (CNA) - The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco unanimously rejected a lawsuit filed by two people who sued the Boise Rescue Mission for insisting they take part in religious services.

The Intermountain Fair Housing Council and two individuals who stayed at the mission’s shelters sued, saying the organization coerced residents into taking part in Christian-based services by giving preferential treatment to those who participated.

The appellate court said the individuals, Janene Cowles and Richard Chinn, did not have a protected right to take part in the mission’s programs.

“Our Constitution and civil rights laws protect the right of religious groups to minister to the poor and needy in accordance with their religious beliefs,” said Luke Goodrich, deputy national litigation director at the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

Goodrich argued the case for the mission before the court.

The lawsuit concerned two of the mission’s ministries: a homeless shelter for men and a Christian discipleship program for women recovering from substance abuse. According to the Becket Fund, the suit alleged that the ministries engaged in unlawful religious discrimination by encouraging attendance at chapel services at the homeless shelter and by requiring members of the discipleship program to participate in religious activities.

The drug treatment program places strong restrictions on participants’ activities and requires all participants to be or to desire to be Christian.

Cowles began staying at the Boise Rescue Mission drug treatment program in 2006 after a judge recommended she enter the program or face a year in the county jail. Before she was admitted, she sent a letter to the mission indicating she was aware of the religious nature of the program and stating that she wanted to change her life “through God and spiritual growth,” the ruling noted.

She said she was required to sign choir hymns, pray silently and out loud and allow the laying on of hands. She said she was also regularly required to “cast out demons” in the facility with oil and holy water, the Associated Press reports.

She said she became upset by the practices and left the room crying three times.

According to Cowles, when she asked if she could graduate from the drug treatment program without converting to Christianity, staffers told her that graduation without conversion had never happened. She charged that the mission barred her from certain activities and placed requirements on her phone call with her lawyer after she asked to be transferred into a non-religious treatment facility.

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development rejected a previous complaint from Cowles. The agency said the Fair Housing Act’s religious exemptions protected the mission. It also found that she had written to the state court after leaving the mission saying there were no hard feelings with the organization and that its staffers meant a lot to her.

Because of the letter, the agency did not believe Cowles’ allegations that she faced retaliation, the Associated Press reports.

Chinn periodically stayed at the mission group’s shelters for men, whose entrance forms state that guests are encouraged but not required to take part in the religious services.

Chinn, a Mormon, said he was offended by the religious services offered at the shelters because he frequently heard staffers refer to his faith as a “cult.” He also said that guests who didn’t attend religious services had to wait until service attendees got their food. He charged that the food served to non-attendees was often of inferior quality.

The Becket Fund said that participation in the mission’s ministries is “completely voluntary” and free of charge. The mission receives no government funding. The religious freedom group noted that the Intermountain Fair Housing Council received over $874,000 in federal funding from 2008 to 2010.

“Especially in these economic times, it makes no sense for federal taxpayers to subsidize baseless lawsuits against religious ministries who are trying to help the poor. The resources required to defend lawsuits ought to go towards food and shelter for the homeless,” Goodrich said.

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Paraguay bishops condemn terrorist attack that killed two police officers

Asunción, Paraguay, Sep 23, 2011 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Paraguay strongly condemned a terrorist attack that took place in the province of Horqueta and left two national police officers dead.

The Sept. 21 attack was carried out by the terrorist group the Army of the Paraguayan People, which launched grenades at a police station in the town of Capitan Gimenez, north of the capital Asuncion.

It was the second attack in the province of Horqueta in less than a week, after a similar incident occurred on Sunday. No one was injured in the first attack.

Paraguay’s Minister of the Interior, Carlos Filizzola, said the army has been entrenched in the region for the past ten years and that there are signs the group is recruiting more members.

In their message, the bishops offered their closeness and solidarity to the families of the two policemen killed in the most recent attack. “Violence is unacceptable from every point of view. Nothing justifies attacking the lives of persons.”

The bishops said that what happened “in Horqueta shows, once again, the precariousness in which the National Police has to carry out its constitutional role and mission to ensure public security. This precariousness translates into a lack of infrastructure, equipping and appropriate training in order to confront organized criminals.”

“Violent actions by criminal groups, including the APP, in the northern region of the country is not new. However, the institutional measures adopted to reduce the resulting consequences have not been sufficient or adequate, the reason for which today we are lamenting the loss of human lives,” they added.

The bishops concluded with a call to Paraguayans to strengthen their values—especially respect for the sanctity of human life and the family—“which will allow the strengthening of the moral and social fabric of society as the best way to ensure safety for all.”

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Pope calls on Catholics, Muslims to improve society

Berlin, Germany, Sep 23, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholics and Muslims can work together for the common good, Pope Benedict said on the second day of his state visit to Germany.

“As believers, setting out from our respective convictions, we can offer an important witness in many key areas of life in society,” said the Pope at a Sept. 23 gathering of Catholic and Muslim leaders in Berlin.

“I am thinking, for example, of the protection of the family based on marriage, respect for life in every phase of its natural course or the promotion of greater social justice.”

Germany has a Muslim population of four million – 5 percent of its population – with Berlin being the home of the largest Islamic community and the country’s oldest mosque.

The Pope said that since the beginning of large-scale Muslim immigration to Germany in the 1970s, “a climate of respect and trust has grown up between the Catholic Church and the Muslim communities.”

This friendship, though, has to go further than mere “peaceful co-existence” towards a recognition of “the contribution that each can make towards building up the common good.”

The Pope noted that “many Muslims attribute great importance to the religious dimension of life,” and said that this witness “to the public dimension of religious adherence” is very important in “a society that tends to marginalize religion or at most to assign it a place among the individual’s personal choices.”

Today’s meeting between Pope Benedict and 15 representatives of the Muslim community took place at the residence of the papal nuncio in Berlin.

On his previous trip to Germany, in 2006, Pope Benedict offended some elements within the Muslim community after they construed to a speech he delivered at Regensburg as linking Islam to violence. Since then, the Pope has been eager to build a more substantial dialogue and understanding between Catholics and Muslims.

He concluded his meeting today by looking forward to his meeting with other world religions – including Muslims leaders – in the Italian town of Assisi next month.

“Through this gathering, we wish to express, with simplicity, that we believers have a special contribution to make towards building a better world, while acknowledging that if our actions are to be effective, we need to grow in dialogue and mutual esteem.”

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At Martin Luther’s monastery, Pope says personal sins matter

Erfurt, Germany, Sep 23, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

At Martin Luther’s former monastery, Pope Benedict XVI warned against the general presumption that personal sins are of little consequence to God and spoke about current challenges to Christian unity.
“Insofar as people today believe in an after-life and a divine judgment at all, nearly everyone presumes for all practical purposes that God is bound to be magnanimous and that ultimately he mercifully overlooks our small failings,” the Pope said at a meeting with the German Evangelical Church Council, gathered in the eastern German city of Erfurt.

“But are they really so small, our failings? Is not the world laid waste through the corruption of the great, but also of the small, who think only of their own advantage?”

The Pope gave four examples of sin - the drug trade, corruption, violence and economic exploitation – and concluded “no, evil is no small matter. Were we truly to place God at the center of our lives, it could not be so powerful.”

The meeting with the Lutheran contingent took place at the former Augustinian monastery in Erfurt on Sept. 23, the second day of the Pope’s state visit to his homeland. The historic building was home to the Catholic priest turned Protestant reformer, Martin Luther, between 1505 and 1511.

The Pope did not shy away from praising certain aspects of Luther’s life and work.

“For him theology was no mere academic pursuit, but the struggle for oneself, which in turn was a struggle for and with God,” said the Pope, observing that Luther constantly asked the question – ‘how do I receive God?’ “The fact that this question was the driving force of his whole life never ceases to make an impression on me,” said the Pope.

He also expressed admiration for Luther’s attempt to put Christ at the center of his thinking and spirituality, which Pope Benedict called “thoroughly Christocentric.”

The Pope noted that Luther had always asked the “burning question” of “what is God’s position towards me, where do I stand before God?”

The Pope said that he did not want his qualified praise of Luther to simply “be an attempt to talk our way past the urgent problems” in ecumenical relations between the Catholic Church and other Christian bodies.
At the same time, Pope Benedict emphasized the importance of remembering “just how much we have in common, not losing sight of it amid the pressure towards secularization – everything that makes us Christian in the first place and continues to be our gift and our task.”
One “error of the Reformation,” he said, was that Christians “could only see what divided us.”
The Pope was also candid in his assessment of what threatens Christian unity, pointing to two current challenges. His first concern was about new forms of Christianity that are currently “spreading with overpowering missionary dynamism” and yet have “little institutional depth, little rationality and even less dogmatic content, and with little stability.” The second challenge he warned of was “the secularized context of the world in which we Christians today have to live and bear witness to our faith.”

“Are we to yield to the pressure of secularization, and become modern by watering down the faith?” he asked, giving the firm answer – no. He said that the Christian faith ought to be lived afresh but that this freshness comes “not by watering the faith down, but by living it today in its fullness.”

Pope Benedict concluded by raising up the Christian martyrs – Catholic and Lutheran – who died at the hands of the wartime Nazi regime as a shining example of genuine ecumenism in action.
The German Evangelical Church is a union of 22 Lutheran Churches. It has more than 24 million members, which is around 30 percent of the German population.

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Pope says Christian unity cannot be artificially engineered

Erfurt, Germany, Sep 23, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Pope Benedict XVI said at a Sept. 23 meeting of Christian churches that their unity cannot be artificially engineered by committee and compromise.
“The faith of Christians does not rest on such a weighing of benefits and drawbacks. A self-made faith is worthless. Faith is not something we work out intellectually or negotiate between us,” said the Pope in his address to a joint prayer service of Catholics and Lutherans on the second day of his state visit to Germany.

Christian faith, he said, “is the foundation for our lives,” and so “unity grows not by the weighing of benefits and drawbacks but only by entering ever more deeply into the faith in our thoughts and in our lives.”

The Pope was participating in an ecumenical celebration held at the church of the ancient Augustinian convent in Erfurt. During the ceremony, which was attended by some 300 people, the Pope greeted leaders of the German Evangelical Church before listening to a Lutheran bishop read out Martin Luther's German translation of Psalm 146.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, read the high priestly prayer of Jesus from the Gospel of St. John. In response, the Pope suggested that Jesus’ prayer formed a starting point for any attempts to undo the disunity created by Luther at the Reformation.
“In the prayer of Jesus we find the very heart of our unity. We will become one if we allow ourselves to be drawn into this prayer,” he said.

“Whenever we gather in prayer as Christians, Jesus’ concern for us, and his prayer to the Father for us, ought to touch our hearts. The more we allow ourselves to be drawn into this event, the more we grow in unity.”

He also said it was important to recognize the great strides taken by many towards this goal in recent years, and to “give thanks to God for all the elements of unity which he has preserved for us and bestows on us ever anew.”

Christians should not simply to “regret our divisions and separations,” he added.

The common task of all Christians at the present time, the Pope said, is “to bear witness to this living God” in a society which feels it can get by without him.

While this may seem possible in the short term, “the more the world withdraws from God, the clearer it becomes that man, in his hubris of power, in his emptiness of heart and in his longing for satisfaction and happiness, increasingly loses his life.”

The reason for this is that “a thirst for the infinite is indelibly present in human beings” because “man was created to have a relationship with God; we need him,” said the Pope.

He then said Christians can show man’s need for God in “a very practical way by our commitment to that creature which he wished in his own image: to man,” starting with the Christian duty to “defend the inviolable dignity of human beings from conception to death – from issues of prenatal diagnosis to the question of euthanasia.”

The meeting closed with all those present praying the Our Father together and Pope Benedict imparting his apostolic blessing.

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Top Vatican official condemns execution of Troy Davis

Vatican City, Sep 23, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

The president of the Vatican’s Council for Justice and Peace has condemned the execution of inmate Troy Davis by the state of Georgia on Sept. 21.
“My wish in the case of Troy Davis was that it would be a case that aimed at saving life and working on conversion, reintegration and change, rather than elimination. So I wish it had not happened,” Cardinal Peter Turkson told CNA in the hours following the execution.

The execution of 42-year-old Davis was delayed for hours while the U.S. Supreme Court considered an eleventh-hour appeal for clemency, a plea that was ultimately rejected.

Davis maintained his innocence in the 1989 fatal shooting of policeman Mark MacPhail until the end. “I am innocent. I did not have a gun,” he told the slain officer’s family.
“For those about to take my life, may God have mercy on your souls. May God bless your souls,” he said before being executed by lethal injection.

“I’m not playing down the effect of crime on victims – the pain and the sadness and its ability to destroy society – but should we not aim at healing and also causing a change in somebody’s life?” asked Cardinal Turkson.
“When we do that (execute a person), it is society which is diminished. The human society less one person is still a reduction of the human society.”
Cardinal Turkson had already spoken out earlier in the week against the execution of Davis. His voice was joined by, among others, former President Jimmy Carter and the former FBI director William Sessions.

Cardinal Turkson said he believed that a system of justice that offers the chance for repentance and change would also be welcomed by victim’s relatives.

“I think the person who has been offended would find a greater satisfaction if the offender was able to come and say, ‘I am sorry for what I did.’ I think the restoration effect will be far greater than just seeing the disappearance of that person,” he said.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the traditional teaching of the Church “does not exclude,” recourse to the death penalty, “when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor.” It adds, however, that today such cases are “very rare, if not practically non-existent.”

Cardinal Turkson said the type of justice system that would work best is one that “no matter how tedious and difficult it may be, rehabilitates and integrates people into society through conversion and a change of heart.”

He urged everyone to pray for the souls of all those who have died as a result of this incident.

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Mary teaches us how to be happy, Pope tells Germans

Etzelsbach, Germany, Sep 23, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

At the Etzelsbach Marian shrine in Germany, Pope Benedict said that Mary helps us understand our purpose in life and shows us the path to authentic happiness.

“'Understand,' she seems to say to us, that God, who is the source of all that is good and who never desires anything other than your true happiness, has the right to demand of you a life that yields unreservedly and joyfully to his will, striving at the same time that others may do likewise,” he said.

The Marian Vespers service on Sept. 23 is the latest in a series of events planned for Pope Benedict's Sept. 22-25 state visit to his native land.

Before presiding over the vespers in an esplanade near the small chapel, the Pope greeted the crowds as they gathered in the field of Wallfahrtkapelle for the service. 

In his homily, Pope Benedict said that Christians throughout history have turned to Mary, “acting on the spontaneous conviction that Jesus cannot refuse his mother what she asks.”

We rely “on the unshakable trust that Mary is also our mother—a mother who has experienced the greatest of all sorrows, who feels all our griefs with us and ponders in a maternal way how to overcome them.”

“How many people down the centuries have made pilgrimages to Mary, in order to find comfort and strength before the image of the Mother of Sorrows?” he asked.

Pope Benedict explained that Marian devotion focuses on the contemplation of “the relationship between the Mother and her divine Son,” and helps modern man in his search for happiness.

“It is not self-fulfillment that truly enables people to flourish, according to the model that modern life so often proposes to us, which can easily turn into a sophisticated form of selfishness,” he underscored.

“Rather it is an attitude of self-giving directed towards the heart of Mary and hence also towards the heart of the Redeemer.”

The Pope said that Mary desires “to help us grasp the breadth and depth of our Christian vocation,” and that with “a mother’s tenderness, she wants to make us understand that our whole life should be a response to the love of our God, who is so rich in mercy.”

“Where God is, there is a future,” the Pontiff said, reiterating the theme for his papal visit to Germany. “Indeed—when we allow God’s love to influence the whole of our lives, then heaven stands open.”

On Sept. 24, Pope Benedict will travel to Freiburg, where he will meet with representatives of the Orthodox Churches along with seminarians at the local St. Charles Borromeo Seminary Chapel. That evening, he will attend a prayer vigil with young people at Frieburg's trade fair grounds.

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Canon lawyer analyzes issues in Fr. Pavone case

Detroit, Mich., Sep 23, 2011 (CNA) - Well-known canon lawyer Edward Peters delved into the unresolved issues on both sides of the situation involving Father Frank Pavone being called back to Amarillo, Texas by his bishop.

“Fr. Pavone has already undertaken the correct move by returning to Amarillo,” Peters told CNA on Sept. 20, adding that the diocese has also “since stated that Pavone is not under any penalty.” 

“For the both sides, these things represent a start, but only a start, toward resolving this conflict.”

Fr. Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, is appealing his suspension from active ministry outside the Diocese of Amarillo to the Congregation for Clergy in Rome and is denying charges made by Bishop Patrick J. Zurek—whose jurisdiction he is under—that he had disobeyed the bishop and  failed to allow all of the Priests for Life ministries to undergo financial auditing.  

Peters, a professor at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, said that although Fr. Pavone has every right to appeal his suspension, the priest's attitude of obedience towards his bishop has been “deficient.”

“Priests who are labeled by a bishop as 'suspended,' but who have not even been charged, let alone convicted of a canonical crime, have every right to protest vigorously such treatment and to insist that it be retracted,” he said.

But Fr. Pavone has “continually spoken of the obedience that he owes Bishop Zurek in very nuanced and highly-qualified terms,” Peters remarked.

“Whatever set this conflict off, it’s unfolding has exposed, in my opinion, a deficient attitude from Fr. Pavone in regard to the clerical obedience he owes his bishop and even in his understanding of the purpose of priesthood.”

Bishop Zurek announced in a Sept. 9 letter to his fellow bishops that he had suspended Fr. Pavone from public ministry outside the diocese, beginning Sept. 13.

The bishop cited “deep concerns regarding his stewardship of the finances of the Priests for Life (PFL) organization.” The 990 Forms submitted to the IRS from 2008, the most recent date available, show Priests for Life had income totaling $10.8 million.

Fr. Pavone said that he had been actively talking with Bishop Zurek for months about spending more time in the diocese before the bishop forbid him from ministry outside of the diocese.

In an Sept. 14 interview with CNA, he said that he arrived in Amarillo the day before, in obedience to Bishop Zurek’s order, but found that the bishop left town that day and would be out of the country for two weeks.

Fr. Pavone stated that independent audits were conducted on Priests for Life between 2005 and 2010, but that the diocese never acknowledged the receipt of those audits. He also noted that he does not receive a salary from either Priests for Life or the Diocese of Amarillo.

The priest has additionally said that if his bishop does not allow him to return to full-time pro-life work, he will consider pursuing incardination in a different diocese.

“For diocesan priests like Fr. Pavone, 'incardination' is the mechanism by which they are canonically assigned to a particular church and receive a bishop to whom they owe primary obedience,” Peters explained. 

“The authority of Bishop Zurek over Fr. Pavone is based on the fact that Fr. Pavone is 'incardinated' in the Diocese of Amarillo which Zurek leads.”

Peters recalled that Fr. Pavone was originally ordained for and incardinated in the Archdiocese of New York, but later he lawfully sought excardination from New York and was incardinated in the Diocese of Amarillo.

“Even though Pavone works almost entirely outside of the territory of Amarillo—ironically, in Staten Island, in the Archdiocese of New York—he remains a priest of Amarillo and is primarily subject to its bishop.”

Peters was critical of the diocese's initial handling of the situation, saying that under canon law, Bishop Zurek's suspension is not simply a kind of “administrative limbo” imposed on the cleric until various issues get sorted out.

“Suspension itself is a canonical penalty and supposes that a cleric has been found guilty of a canonical crime.”

Because of this, Peters believes that a diocesan statement “expressly withdrawing any language about Pavone’s ever having been suspended” should have been made. A Sept. 15 statement was issued by the diocese which said that despite the questions about finances “Father Pavone is not being charged with any malfeasance or being accused of any wrong doing with the financial matters of Priests for Life.”

“The fact is that Bishop Zurek’s statement that Fr. Pavone was suspended made Pavone look guilty of something before he had even been accused of anything,” he said.

On what will happen next, Peters qualified that his predictions “are no more reliable than anyone else’s” but said that he believes the “open questions” in this case fall into two categories.

“The first questions regard the finances of Priests for Life and its various affiliate organizations,” he said. “Experts must assess whether there is anything amiss there. I have no sense of which way that might go.”

But secondly, and more importantly, he added, “how does Fr. Pavone understand the relationship between his priesthood and his pro-life work?”

If Fr. Pavone was directed by his bishop to give up his leadership of Priests for Life, cease his organized pro-life activities, and to return to Amarillo for full-time assignment, “would he comply?” Peters asked. 

“The Pavone case exposes a central question not just for Pavone, but for all young Catholic men, motivated by compassion for this suffering world and considering priesthood as the way to live out their love of Christ.”

“Is priesthood a man’s vocation, a calling that has the first place in a man’s person and life, or is priesthood a sort of built-in spiritual power-pack that helps one to shoulder the stresses of doing full-time charitable work?”

Peters clarified that Fr. Pavone has the right to seek a new diocese under canon law and noted the priest's “intense desire” to work in the pro-life movement. He is wary, however, that the same situation could occur for Fr. Pavone under the jurisdiction of a new bishop.

Also, “it surfaces the same fundamental question,” he added, “what is priesthood for in the first place?”

“Catholic pro-life work is carried on by clergy and laity, many of whom are married. As important as pro-life work is, the demands of one’s vocation come first.”

Peters pointed out that it’s easier to see those demands taking their toll in the case of a priest like Fr. Pavone than it is to see them in the case of married persons.

But “bottom line, if the demands of priesthood conflict with the demands of pro-life work, a priest is bound to fulfill his clerical duties first.”

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Pope expresses grief, compassion for German abuse victims

Erfurt, Germany, Sep 23, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict was moved and “deeply shaken” by his meeting with clerical sex abuse victims in Germany, expressing his profound grief and compassion for their suffering.

On the evening of Sept. 23 at the seminary in Erfurt, the Pope held a private audience with the victims and their families, on the second day of his Sept. 22-25 visit to Germany.

“He assured the people present that those in positions of responsibility in the Church are seriously concerned to deal with all crimes of abuse and are committed to the promotion of effective measures for the protection of children and young people,” the Vatican press office said.

“Pope Benedict XVI is close to the victims and he expresses the hope that the merciful God, Creator and Redeemer of all mankind, may heal the wounds of the victims and grant them inner peace.”

The Pope also met with victims of clerical sex abuse during his 2008 trip to the U.S. and his 2010 visit to Malta.

Earlier in the day, the Pope participated in a gathering with Muslims, an ecumenical prayer service, a meeting with Lutherans bishops, and presided over an outdoor vespers service at the Etzelsbach Marian shrine.

On Sept. 24, he will travel to Freiburg, where he will meet with representatives of the Orthodox Churches along with seminarians at the local St. Charles Borromeo Seminary Chapel. That evening, he will attend a prayer vigil with young people at Frieburg's trade fair grounds.

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