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Archive of September 27, 2011

Ensure Catholic schools’ mission can continue, Archbishop Gomez urges

Los Angeles, Calif., Sep 27, 2011 (CNA) - Catholic schools make a “major contribution” to the Los Angeles region’s social fabric and to the common good of the country as a whole, Archbishop José H. Gomez said as he encouraged Catholics to be generous in supporting their school systems.

“Education remains essential to our Church’s mission. Catholic schools have given generations of immigrants and minority groups a way out of poverty and a chance to become leaders in our civic and cultural life, he said in a Sept. 23 column in the archdiocesan paper The Tidings.

“We need to make sure this Catholic mission of hope and uplift continues for our newest Americans and in the face of new challenges in our cities.”

He said the “most serious” challenge to Catholic schools is meeting the economic needs of families who can’t afford the costs of Catholic school tuition. “So we need to find a way to help,” he said.

Archbishop Gomez noted the responsibility of clergy, religious, and lay people to work together to grow Catholic schools and to expand into new areas.

He also praised the accomplishments of the Catholic school systems.

“What our students are achieving is really amazing. And this story is being repeated in Catholic schools all across our country,”

The Catholic schools of the Los Angeles region serve 80,000 students. They constitute the third largest school system in California. Nearly 70 percent of students are ethnic minorities and more than one in three come from families living below the poverty line. Catholic schools have more than two million students nationwide, 15 percent of whom are not Catholic.

“I have hoped for a long time that our politicians and civic leaders would start paying more attention to Catholic schools in their search for solutions to our nation’s education problems. Because studies over the years keep concluding that Catholic schools provide better educational outcomes at a lower cost than public schools,” Archbishop Gomez said.

Each public school student, on average, is educated at a cost of $10,300 a year, while Catholic schools spend only $7,000 per student. They graduate 99 percent of their students, compared to the 73 percent graduation rate in public schools. Catholic schools have higher college entrance rates and better SAT scores, especially among low-income and economically disadvantaged students, the archbishop said.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ Catholic Education Foundation recently received a $11.3 million endowment from the Frank and Blanche Seaver Trust, which will ensure tuition for at least 600 students in addition to the 7,300 awards already provided.

Inspired by the new grant, the archdiocese has launched an initiative headed by former Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan to raise $100 million for Catholic schools. The initiative could help another 5,000 students annually. The initiative asks supporters to make provisions in their trusts or wills for the education foundation.

There are 9,000 students on waiting lists for the schools in the archdiocese.

Archbishop Gomez asked for prayers, especially to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to help Catholics to be “generous in supporting the Church’s educational mission of teaching and proclaiming hope in the name of her Son.”

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Observers see gay agenda threatening religious freedom

Denver, Colo., Sep 27, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Legalizing “gay marriage” is having major repercussions for religious freedom, according to observers of the latest developments.

Princeton law professor Robert P. George cited the words of American Jewish Committee lawyer Marc Stern, who in 2006 said the conflict between religious liberty and same-sex marriage would be “a train wreck.”

“That train wreck has now arrived in states that have redefined marriage or have created schemes of legal recognition for same-sex partnerships as the equivalent of marriage,” George told CNA.

He cited incidents of religious adoption and foster care agencies being pushed out of work, and small business owners being fined or sued for not accommodating same-sex couples. Education is another “critical area.”

“Once a state recognizes same-sex partnerships as marriages or the equivalent, then naturally the argument is made that in family life classes in schools this has to be taught to be a valid partnership.”
 
Religious parents who do not want their children to be “indoctrinated in beliefs contrary to their own” are “out of luck,” said George, who founded the Manhattan Declaration project to defend religious liberty.
 
Town clerks and other officials with objections to participating in same-sex union ceremonies or to the granting of same-sex marriage licenses are already being told to find another job, George said.

For Catholics, Evangelical Christians, Orthodox Jews or others who cannot in conscience participate in such ceremonies, he explained, “you are not eligible to be a town clerk, because that’s one of the things that town clerks are required to do” in states that recognize the unions.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who pushed through the state’s new “gay marriage” law in June, has said that those who cannot follow the new law should not hold the position of town clerk. A July 13 memo from the New York State Department of Health said it is a misdemeanor for a clerk to refuse to provide a marriage license to eligible applicants.

The major Manhattan law firm Proskauer Rose is presently seeking the resignation of Rose Marie Belforti, a Ledyard, New York town clerk, who cannot provide the licenses on account of her religious objections.

Maggie Gallagher, former chair of the National Organization for Marriage, said that the Nassau County district attorney has threatened clerks with criminal prosecution if they tried to refer a same-sex couple to another employee.

“Kudos to those who have refused to bow to Caesar’s demands. And even more kudos to those who've decided not to resign but to stay and fight for their own, and all our rights,” Gallagher said to CNA.

She characterized town clerks as “canaries in the coal mine” because they are among the first to be affected by the ideas embedded in the recognition of same-sex “marriage.”

“If we start speaking out, rising up together, this kind of persecution would not, cannot continue. Their hope is that we give up, give in, acknowledge their sovereignty over God’s,” she said.

“This we cannot do. We have to find the unshakeable 10 percent who will stand, who will speak truth in love to the new power, and make it clear we cannot be bribed or coerced into muting or disappearing.”

Gallagher said Gov. Cuomo should apologize to 65-year-old Ruth Sheldon, a Granby town clerk who resigned because she could not in good conscience sign same-sex marriage licenses.

“There is no cost to protecting religious liberty--failing to do so is simply mean-spirited and pointless.”

Assurances of religious freedom protections appear not to have helped Catholic Charities agencies in Illinois, where the state government is now refusing to renew its contracts for foster care and adoption services after the passage of a civil unions bill last December.

“They believe we’re in violation of the law and are refusing to contract with us because of our religious beliefs, that children are best raised in a home with a mother and a father,” Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, told CNA.

The conference believes the state is interpreting the law in an incorrect manner. Gilligan noted that the civil unions bill included religious freedom protection in its title and the Illinois Human Rights Act “clearly allows a religious adoption agency to discriminate.” An exchange on the Senate floor also established that it was not the intention of the bill to impede Catholic Charities’ or other faith-based organizations’ religious practice.

Nevertheless, Catholic child placement agencies may lose their funding and face closure.

“It’s really a tragedy if the state decides it can’t embrace different organizations of different faiths to perform social services and health care,” Gilligan said. He characterized the action as an impediment to religious liberties of both organizations and individuals.

“There are Catholic foster parents out there that only wish to perform foster care with Catholic Charities agencies,” he said.

Gilligan believes the actions in Illinois signal a major change in the place of Catholic institutions in the public square.

Scholars like Chai Feldblum, a Georgetown Law Center professor and lesbian activist who was appointed to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, foresaw many conflicts coming between gay rights and religious liberty.

“She had trouble thinking of any cases where she believed the rights of religious liberty should triumph over gay rights,” George said.

He insisted that “(p)eople are bound to follow their consciences, especially in matters of religion, and the state should, to the extent possible, accommodate the religious consciences of its citizens.”

But instead of allowing religious freedom, marriage laws and anti-discrimination laws are being used as “instruments to whip dissenters from the laws into line” in order to change people’s views and to advance an agenda, George charged.

The laws are being used to “brand and label as bigots and the equivalent of racists people who have the temerity to say that marriage is a union of a man and a woman and to say that sex belongs in marriage and not outside of it.”
 
“It’s a great way to change the culture, by depicting your opponents as bigots and haters, and imposing on them civil disabilities by using the weapons of anti-discrimination law.

“It’s a brilliant strategy. I have to applaud them for the brilliance of the strategy as much as I loathe its bad faith and consequences,” George said.

Gallagher encouraged those who object to the legal recognition of same-sex unions.

“I think Christians and other people from traditional faith communities are being called in a new way to courage,” she said. “Are we going to volunteer to live in a world where the idea that marriage is the union of husband and wife because children need their mom and dad can be treated as the moral equivalent of racism?”

Proponents of same-sex “marriage” cannot win “unless they get us to agree to our own inferiority. Otherwise we are too many to stigmatize.”

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Vatican rebuffs reports of planned papal resignation

Freiburg, Germany, Sep 27, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi has dismissed reports published by an Italian newspaper that Pope Benedict XVI plans to resign from the papacy in 2012.
 
Fr. Lombardi recalled that the Pope displayed “great energy” during his trip to Germany, which included a demanding schedule over four days.
 
His remarks came in response to a story by Italian journalist Antonio Socci of Libero, who claimed that the Pope is considering resignation next April, when he will turn 85.
 
Fr. Lombardi told reporters in Freiburg, Germany that Benedict XVI is in “good health, as we are seeing during this trip to Germany. He is in good condition and holding up well during a visit to his country as intense as this one. From the point of view of the pontiff’s health, it has been a success.”
 
The Vatican spokesman added, “the only thing we know about possible resignations is what the Pope said in his book ‘Light of the World.'” 
 
In the book published in 2010, Benedict XVI said a Pope has “the right, and according to the circumstances, the duty to resign” if he feels he lacks the “physical, psychological and spiritual” strength to carry out his office.
 
According to the Efe news agency, Fr. Lombardi added, “(y)ou would need to ask the newspaper where the story came from, but the strength and stamina that (the Pope) is displaying on this trip to Germany seems to me to speak more than eloquently of his ability to continue and to take on new commitments.”

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Madrid profits over $200 million from WYD

Madrid, Spain, Sep 27, 2011 (CNA) - The Spanish capital city of Madrid came away with over $200 million in profits after World Youth Day 2011 held this past August, officials said.

The WYD Madrid press office reported Sept. 26 that the Confederation of Businessmen of Madrid calculated that the capital took in some $216 million during the visit of Pope Benedict XVI.

The Community of Madrid estimated that WYD produced an increase of $199 million in the region’s Gross Interior Product. The contribution made by WYD was also recognized by the Madrid Consistory, which awarded the event with the Tourism Prize of the City of Madrid for promoting the city internationally. It also classified WYD as a National Patrimony.

Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela of Madrid, who received the prize, said, “The hospitality of Madrid was crucial to the success of World Youth Day. The kindness and friendliness with which the pilgrims were welcomed shows the human reflection of the city, which is what surprised WYD attendees the most,” he said.

After WYD, Madrid experienced an historic increase of 42 percent in the number of foreign visitors compared to August of 2010, according to government statistics.

The Commerce Confederation of Madrid said this has helped boost the city’s image as one of great “hospitality and capacity to host large events.”

Attendees of WYD said their experience in the Spanish capital was very positive.  A poll carried out by GAD3 revealed that the level of satisfaction towards the city was very high.  Around 80 percent of those surveyed said gave high marks to the streets and monuments of Madrid.  Over 75 percent said they would recommend to their friends a trip to Spain and 47 percent said the event improved their image of the country.

WYD Madrid 2011 also stood out for its impact in the media. More than 12 million followed the specials broadcast on the Spanish television networks.  Some 5,000 journalists were given credentials for covering the event.

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Abortion solves nothing, Mexican cardinal tells court

Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 27, 2011 (CNA) - As the Supreme Court in Mexico debates legalizing abortion in the country, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City underscored that “abortion is never a solution” for anything.

The cardinal’s comments came as the Supreme Court prepared to hold deliberations on a ruling proposed by Justice Fernando Franco that would overturn pro-life constitutional amendments enacted in numerous Mexican states and would effectively legalize abortion throughout the country.

The Church always reaches out to pregnant women who are being pressured at work, by family members or friends to remind each one of them of the great value of motherhood, the cardinal said on Sept. 25.

“We want to help women who are facing a difficult pregnancy to embrace the gift of motherhood, and the Church is set up to reach out to these women who are truly experiencing such difficulties,” he said.

He also noted that at their meeting last month in Monterrey, the Mexican bishops emphasized that the “taking of human life through the various abortifacient techniques must not be tolerated, and the taking of the life a human being, even in its initial phases, is not licit.”

Human life must never be considered “a commercial product,” the cardinal added. A “child is always a gift and never a right of anyone.”

“He has unique dignity that is personal and unrepeatable, and therefore the technological means for assisting in procreation must always respect this truth and avoid replacing the logic of love with the logic of reproduction as if the human being were the product of the market,” Cardinal Rivera said.

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Illinois Catholic Charities' foster care faces shutdown

Springfield, Ill., Sep 27, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Illinois Catholic Charities' foster care services may eventually cease to exist after a local judge refused to change his ruling that the state has the right to stop referring children to charities in four dioceses.

“If you don't have new referrals, the system basically just atrophies,” Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Illinois Catholic Conference, told CNA on Sept. 27.

“We can't continue to fight this in court if there are no children in the system.”

On Sept. 26, Illinois Circuit Court Judge John Schmidt reiterated his Aug. 18 ruling, which held that “no citizen has a recognized legal right to a contract with the government.”

Because of this, he explained, the state had no obligation to renew a long-standing arrangement with Catholic Charities in the dioceses, as it had annually for over 40 years.

Although the four dioceses are now seeking to appeal the decision in an appellate court and even the Illinois Supreme Court if necessary, Gilligan said that state departments are moving quickly to find other agencies to replace Catholic Charities' foster care services.

“I think it's pretty clear to all of us who are really close to this issue” that the state “is moving on,” Gilligan said.

“They are actively recruiting other child welfare agencies to provide care for children who are currently being provided care by Catholic Charities.”

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services previously told Catholic Charities that it was ending the contract over Catholic Charities' alleged refusal to obey the 2011 Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Act, which established legal privileges for same-sex and opposite-sex couples in civil unions.

Because of the recent court decisions, faith based agencies “are now basically barred from contracting with the state because they believe that children are best with a mother and a father,” Gilligan said.

Not only are foster parents going to “suffer” the effects of this, he added, but the “children who are currently receiving care will experience another disruption to their already fragile lives.”

Catholic Charities in the four dioceses of Belleville, Springfield, Peoria, and Joliet are now seeking a stay in court that would allow children who need foster homes to still be referred to them.

“If we can't get a court to stay these decisions in order to continue receiving children, I don't think we're going to be able to continue in a legal process,” he said.

Gilligan recalled that the state of Illinois has a history of dependence on faith-based organizations. He noted how Catholic, Jewish and Lutheran agencies helped the state's once severely disorganized child and family services department go from having 46,000 children in the foster care system in 1997 to only 16,000 today.

But, ironically, Gilligan added, the same religious values that led these agencies to help in such a drastic way are now being penalized by the state.

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Catholics obligated to defend right to life, emphasizes cardinal

Washington D.C., Sep 27, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Respect Life Month is a time for prayer, reflection and action to advance the right to life and to resist efforts to “silence” moral truth and violate religious liberty, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston has said.

“We will voice our opposition to the injustice and cruelty of abortion on behalf of those victims whose voices have been silenced,” he said. “At the same time, we will remind the living victims of abortion—the mothers and fathers who grieve the loss of an irreplaceable child—that God’s mercy is greater than any human sin.”

“Catholics must not shrink from the obligation to assert the values and principles we hold essential to the common good, beginning with the right to life of every human being and the right of every woman and man to express and live by his or her religious beliefs and well-formed conscience,” the cardinal said in a Sept. 26 letter marking Respect Life Month.

The Respect Life Program began in 1972 and is observed in the 195 Catholic dioceses in the U.S. It begins on Respect Life Sunday, the first Sunday in October.

Cardinal DiNardo, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, reflected on the month’s theme “I came so that all might have life and have it to the full,” Jesus’ words from John 10.

“Jesus refers both to our hope of eternal life, to be restored through his death and resurrection, and to our life in this world,” he added.

The cardinal contrasted unselfish love with the view of life as a “zero sum” game of advancing one’s own interests. The latter can lead to “callous unconcern” for anyone who is “especially weak, defenseless, and in need of our help.”

The weak include the unborn child, an aging parent seen as a “burden” on the medical system, the “excess” embryo in the fertility clinic, the disabled, and the severely cognitively impaired.

Each of these persons is at risk of being dismissed as a “life unworthy of life,” the cardinal warned.

Jesus’ promise of abundant life is “especially poignant” when American culture and, sometimes, government, promote values “inimical to the happiness and true good of individuals and society.”

“We face increasing attempts to expunge God and religious discourse from public life. This promotes the dangerous proposition that human beings enjoy no special status by virtue of their God-given humanity,” he said.

The cardinal also criticized a “selfish and demeaning view” of human sexuality promoted by advertising and entertainment media. This view has no place for openness to new life, he said.

“Hence contraceptives are promoted even to young teens as though they were essential to women’s well-being, and abortion defended as the ‘necessary’ back-up plan when contraceptives fail. And fail they do.”

Both distorted sexuality and disdain for religion are seen in the Department of Health and Human Services’ decision to mandate insurance coverage for surgical sterilization and contraceptive drugs and devices, including the abortifacient drug “Ella,” he charged.

The regulation offers an exemption that is “so extremely narrow that it protects almost no one.” It also treats pregnancy as a disease, and not “the normal, healthy state by which each of us came into the world.” The regulation does not show respect for women’s health or freedom, or respect for the conscience of those who do not want to provide such services.

“All these misguided efforts to foster false values among our youth, to silence the voice of moral truth in the public domain, and to deprive believers of their constitutionally-protected right to live according to their religious convictions, must be resisted by education, public advocacy, and above all by prayer,” Cardinal DiNardo concluded.

He called for prayer and reflection on how each Catholic might renew his or her commitment and witness to “respecting, promoting and teaching the transcendent nature of the human person.”

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