Madison, Wis., Oct 11, 2011 (CNA) - The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has ordained its first openly homosexual minister under a new policy allowing the practice. The action prompted one opponent to voice concerns the denomination is moving further away from mainstream Christianity.
“This action stands in contradiction to the PCUSA confessions of faith, which continue to teach that faithful Christians have the choice either to be faithful in marriage or chaste in singleness,” Gary Green, Presbyterian Action Committee chairman with the Institute on Religion and Democracy, said on Oct. 7.
He said the denomination’s decision to remove sexual conduct from its ordination vows is symptomatic of “a deeper, ongoing struggle within the church over the authority of holy scripture.”
The denomination is following the course of the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, he said.
“Traveling down that road is likely to lead to more division, greater membership declines, and marginalization from the mainstream of U.S. and global Christianity.”
Green’s comments came the day before the Oct. 8 ordination of Scott Anderson, 56, at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Madison, Wisconsin. Anderson had served as a minister from 1983 until 1990 in Sacramento, Calif. He announced his sexual orientation and resigned after a couple threatened to reveal it, the Associated Press reports.
The denomination barred homosexuals from serving as ministers until May 10, 2011, when a majority of its regional organizations known as presbyteries voted to ratify the national assembly’s proposal to remove clergy requirements of marital fidelity or single chastity.
Regional church bodies will still be able to decide whether or not to ordain open homosexuals, but some have already ordained homosexual clergy and lay leaders without approval.
At his ordination, Anderson thanked “the thousands of Presbyterians who have worked and prayed for almost 40 years for this day.”
“And I give thanks for those who disagree with what we're doing today yet who know that we are one in Jesus Christ,” said the minister, who serves as the executive director of the Wisconsin Council of Churches in Sun Prairie.
The U.S. denomination’s change in religious practices has “marginalized” it from global Presbyterianism, Green said. The National Presbyterian Church of Mexico, which has two million members, has broken relations with the national body. Presbyterian churches in Ghana and Brazil have also strongly denounced the move.
He said the “relaxed standard” for sexual conduct will alienate some ethnically Korean and Hispanic churches, which had been a growing segment in the denomination’s membership at a time when it has seen significant declines.
Philadelphia, Pa., Oct 11, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A Pennsylvania man says his miraculous healing shows God's outreach to those who seem far from their faith. The healing is credited to Blessed Louis Guanella, the Servants of Charity founder who will be canonized Oct. 23.
“It’s pretty amazing, obviously. I never thought this was anything I’d ever be involved with,” Springfeld resident William Glisson, Jr. told CNA on Oct. 6.
In March 2002, while rollerblading backwards on a busy commercial street, Glisson tripped and flew in the air, landing on the back of his head.
Glisson, who was 21 at the time, went into a coma and was expected to suffer permanent brain damage if he survived. He underwent five surgeries, including two to replace pieces of his skull.
But Glisson made a full recovery after a family friend organized prayers to Fr. Guanella, with the help of local members of the Servants of Charity as well as residents and students of the Don Guanella Village for those with developmental disabilities.
Only three months after his accident, Glisson was back to work at his family's home repair business.
“It happened due to the prayers of mostly men at the Don Guanella school while I was in my coma – men who didn’t know me or anything like that were praying for me,” Glisson recalled.
“And then their prayers were answered, and I was helped and I recovered.”
Participants in the prayer campaign used two relics of Fr. Louis Guanella and asked the late priest to intercede with God for their intention, according to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Father Denis Weber, S.C., now the local superior of the Servants of Charity, was administrator of the Don Guanella house at the time.
He told CNA that a former staff member, a friend of the Glisson family, contacted the house and asked for prayers after the accident.
“So we began praying for him, within the community, as well as with our residents,” Fr. Weber said in an Oct. 5 interview. “We prayed the Rosary each day with our residents, and we included this intention in praying for his recovery.”
Glisson is grateful for the prayers that helped give him back his life.
“I can’t believe that these men were willing to take the time out to pray for me, and the fact that it worked,” he said.
The 30-year-old man said he grew up in a Catholic household, but had not practiced his faith consistently. “I never said my prayers at night before bed or anything like that,” he recalled.
“But due to the prayers of other people, while I was in my coma … I was chosen because of their prayers to get better, which just shows you that anybody can be saved by God.”
“It doesn’t matter who you are. You don’t have to be a priest or the president or someone high up or anything like that. God chooses you. It’s his choice, and that’s what he did for me.”
“Now I’m just looking for the reason why I got a second chance,” Glisson reflected.
He may want to look to the example of the man credited with his healing.
Bl. Louis Guanella was born in Italy's Southern Alps during 1842. He became a priest and founded two orders – the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence and the Servants of Charity – to serve the poor and others abandoned by society.
The orders’ ministry revolves around care for the developmentally disabled, support for the elderly, and care for children from difficult backgrounds.
“Wherever there was any need,” Fr. Denis Weber recalled, “Fr. Guanella wanted to be present, to serve those who are marginalized, those who were seen as less by society.”
The priest said his order's founder “believed in the dignity of each and every person.” Fr. Guanella died on Oct. 24, 1915 and was beatified by Pope Paul VI in 1964.
Fr. Weber also stressed that the soon-to-be saint had “great trust and belief in the providence of God. God is a father, and we are his children. God is a God of love who loves all his children and wants to care for and protect them.”
In November 2009 the medical commission of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints said there were no scientific, natural or medical reasons for Glisson’s cure. In January 2010 the Pontifical Theological Commission affirmed that the healing took place through Bl. Louis Guanella’s intercession.
The local superior of the Servants of Charity feels excited to be involved in a miracle credited to the founder of his community.
“This is a great day for the Church, for the Servants of Charity, for the Guanellian family, but also for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which has experienced some difficulties here recently,” Fr. Weber observed.
He said it had been overwhelming for Glisson to have to relive a “terrible accident,” for the sake of the process to find out whether a miracle took place.
“But he’s been very open in talking to others,” the priest said.
For his part, Glisson is looking forward to the trip to Rome, where Pope Benedict XVI will declare Fr. Louis Guanella a saint of the universal Church. The Springfield resident says he's “never been anywhere before,” making this unusual journal a “very exciting first trip out of the country.”
Philadelphia Auxiliary Bishop John J. McIntyre will join the delegation to Rome, representing Archbishop Charles J. Chaput.
Bishop Robert P. Maginnis, a retired auxiliary bishop of the Philadelphia Archdiocese, will celebrate and preach at a Mass for St. Louis Guanella’s feast day on Oct. 24. The Mass will take place at the Cardinal Krol Center at Don Guanella Village in Springfield, Pennsylvania.
Los Angeles, Calif., Oct 11, 2011 (CNA) - Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez joined the California Catholic Conference in criticizing a new law that allows 12-year-olds to receive vaccinations against sexual diseases without their parent’s permission.
“Parents bear the first responsibility for their children’s physical and spiritual well-being. This new law, however, bypasses parental involvement, wisdom and guidance,” said Archbishop Gomez in his Oct. 10 response to Governor Jerry Brown's decision to sign the vaccination proposal into law.
The new law, which Brown authorized on Oct. 9, allows children as young as 12 to receive vaccinations and other medications to prevent sexually-transmitted diseases, including the Human Papilloma virus (HPV).
Archbishop Gomez called the governor's move a “serious erosion of parental rights in California,” saying children are “not mature enough to think through the consequences of complicated medical decisions.”
“As a result of this law, children will now face these decisions without parental guidance — and likely under pressure from adults and corporate interests that have financial and other motives to promote these medications,” he noted.
“Rather than excluding parents, our government should be working to support and assist them in making the best decisions possible for their children, especially when serious medical and moral issues are at stake.”
Edward Dolejsi, executive director of the bishops' public policy work at the California Catholic Conference, said he was “puzzled and disappointed” by Governor Brown's decision to remove parental oversight from childrens' STD vaccination choices.
Dolejsi explained that he was puzzled in light of the governor's cautious approach to other matters involving children and parents.
“On the same day he signed AB 499, the Governor signed a 'first-in-the-nation' law to prevent children under 18 years of age from using tanning beds,” the conference director pointed out.
“Just a month earlier, on September 7, 2011, he vetoed a bill to mandate helmets on underage youth, expressing his concern about the 'seemingly inexorable transfer of authority from parents to the state,' saying 'I believe parents have the ability and responsibility to make good choices for their children.'”
“In this case, it appears that by signing AB 499, the Governor abandoned the principle of parental responsibility he so eloquently stated earlier,” Dolejsi observed.
William B. May, chairman of Catholics for the Common Good, told CNA in September that the HPV vaccination of teenagers would likely end up squandering resources, as well as undermining families.
As May explained, 73 percent of teenagers who sign up to receive the Gardasil vaccine never complete the series of three shots, which must be received over the course of three months at a cost of $120 each.
Los Angeles, Calif., Oct 11, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - In an exclusive interview, the prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, addressed the “crisis” in the Catholic priesthood as portrayed by the media and said that each priest must respond by living his vocation faithfully.
As prefect, Cardinal Piacenza has the primary responsibility – after the Pope – of promoting the proper formation of diocesan priests and deacons. He is also responsible for the religious formation of all Catholics, especially through catechesis.
Cardinal Piacenza was born on Sept. 15, 1944, in Genoa, Italy. He was ordained a priest on Dec. 21, 1969 and was named president of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Goods of the Church in October of 2003. Later that year, he was ordained a bishop.
He was named secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy and was ordained an archbishop on May 7, 2007. In October of 2010, he was named prefect of the congregation. Then on Nov. 20, 2010, he was made a cardinal.
Cardinal Piacenza granted an interview to CNA while he was in Los Angeles, Calif., where he was attending a meeting with the archdiocese's priests.
The full interview follows.
CNA: A series of events and exaggerated reporting by the secular media has created a “crisis,” so to speak, of the image of a Catholic priest. How can we rescue that image for the good of the Church?
Cardenal Piacenza: In Catholic theology, image and reality are never separate. Image is repaired by repairing the interior. We must bring about healing first of all from “within.” We should not be too concerned about how things appear on the outside, but rather about “truly being.” It is easy to identify the dynamics that move these campaigns and the interests behind them.
We must never hide, but wherever necessary, we must recognize mistakes with humility and truthfulness and be willing to repair, whether humanly or spiritually, trusting more in the Lord than in our own poor human strengths. That is how the rescue will come, when a priest is who he is supposed to be: a man of God, a man of the sacred, and a man of prayer and, therefore, completely at the service of others, of their authentic and comprehensive well-being, whether spiritual or material, and of the good of the community as such.
CNA: How can we help Catholics who are disillusioned see that the so-called “sexual scandal” of the Church in no way defines the ministerial priesthood or the Church?
Cardinal Piacenza: On human level it is understandable – as the Holy Father mentioned during the in-flight interview on his way to Germany – that some might think that they cannot see themselves in a Church in which certain despicable acts occur. However, on that occasion Benedict XVI himself clearly invited us to go to the heart of the nature of the Church, which is the living Body of the Risen Christ that prolongs His existence and salvific action through time.
The horrible sins of a few do not delegitimize the good actions of many, nor do they change the nature of the Church. They certainly weaken her credibility enormously, and therefore we are called to work ceaselessly for the conversion of each person and for that evangelical radicalness and fidelity which should always characterize an authentic minister of Christ. We should remember that in order to be truly believable we have to be true believers.
CNA: Some believe that this “crisis” is another argument in favor of reforming the way the priesthood is lived. For example, the demand for married priests as a solution to both the loneliness priests experience and the lack of priestly vocations. What does “reforming the clergy” really mean in the mind and magisterium of Pope Benedict XVI?
Cardinal Piacenza: This kind of argument, if it were followed, would create an unprecedented break. The suggested cures would make the disease even worse and would turn the Gospel on its head. The issue is loneliness? Why? Is Christ a ghost? Is the Church dead or alive? Were the holy priests of centuries past abnormal men? Is holiness a utopia, a matter for a predestined few, or a universal vocation, as the Second Vatican Council reminded us? If the climb is arduous, we should take vitamins, strengthen ourselves, and with great impetus, continue upwards with joy in our hearts.
Vocation means “calling,” and God continues to call, but we need to know how to listen, and in order to listen we must not cover our ears. We need to be silent, we need to see examples and signs and we need to draw close to the Church as the Body in which the encounter with Christ always takes place.
In order to be faithful we must be in love. Obedience, chastity in celibacy, total dedication to the ministry without limits of time or days, are not seen as constrictions if one is truly in love, but rather as the demands of the love that one cannot help but give. They aren’t a bunch of “no’s” but rather one big “yes,” like that of the Virgin Mary at the Annunciation.
The reform of the clergy? It is what I have been calling for since my time as a seminarian and later as a young priest (I am referring to 1968-69), and I am thrilled to hear the Holy Father continually call it one of the most urgent reforms needed in the Church. But let us remember that the reform we are speaking about is Catholic and not “worldly!”
To be extremely brief, we could say that the Pope greatly values a clergy that is truly and humbly proud of its identity and completely absorbed with the gift of grace it has received, and that consequently sees a clear distinction between the “Kingdom of God” and the world. A clergy that is not secularized and does not succumb to the passing fads and ways of the world. A clergy that recognizes, lives and proposes the primacy of God and understands how to bring out all of the consequences that flow from it. This means trusting not so much in structures or in human endeavor but rather, and above all, in the strength of the Spirit.
CNA: There is often talk of “women priests.” In fact, a movement exists in the United States that is demanding that women be made priests and bishops. It claims to have received this mandate from the successors of the apostles.
Cardinal Piacenza: Apostolic tradition in this sense is absolutely unequivocally clear. The great, uninterrupted tradition of the Church has always recognized that the Church has not received the power from Christ to confer ordination on women.
Any other claim smacks of self-justification and is historically and dogmatically unfounded. In any case, the Church cannot “innovate,” simply because she does not have the power to do so in this case. The Church does not have greater power than Christ!
When we see non-Catholic communities led by women we should not be shocked, because where the ordained priesthood is not recognized, leadership is obviously entrusted to the lay faithful, and in such a case, what’s the difference if that lay faithful is a man or woman? The preference of one over the other would be a mere sociological fact and therefore changeable over time. If they were only men it would be discriminatory. The issue is not between men and women but between ordained faithful and lay faithful, and the Church is hierarchical because Jesus Christ founded it that way.
Priestly ordination, which is particular to the Catholic Church and to the Orthodox churches, is reserved to men, and this is not discrimination against women, but rather a consequence of the unsurpassed historicity of the act of the Incarnation and of the Pauline theology on the mystical body, in which each one has his own role and is sanctified and produces fruit consistent with his own place.
If this is seen in terms of power, then we are totally off base, because in the Church only the Blessed Virgin Mary is “suppliant omnipotence” like none other, and thus she is more powerful in that sense than St. Peter. But Peter and the Virgin Mary have distinct roles that are both essential. I have heard this in not a few circles of the Anglican Communion as well.
CNA: From the point of view of numbers and quality, how does the Catholic Church look today in comparison with her recent past, and how does the future look?
Cardinal Piacenza: In general, the Catholic Church is growing in the world, especially because of the enormous contributions from the continents of Asia and Africa. These young churches are bringing a great freshness to the faith.
In recent decades – if I could use the expression – we have been playing rugby with the faith, hitting each other and sometimes hurting each other, and in the end no one scores any points.
There have been and there are problems in the Church, but we need to look forward with great hope! Not so much in the name of some naïve or superficial optimism, but rather in the name of the magnificent hope that is Christ, made real in the faith of each person, in the holiness of each person and in the perennial authentic reform of the Church.
If the great event of the Second Vatican Council was a breath of the Spirit that has blown into the world through the windows of the Church, then we need to recognize that a lot of worldliness has also blown in with the Spirit, creating a current and blowing the leaves all over. We’ve seen everything, and yet nothing has been lost, but order must patiently be restored. Order is restored above all by strongly affirming the primacy of the Risen Christ, present in the Eucharist. There is a great peaceful battle to be waged which is that of perpetual Eucharistic Adoration, so that the entire world can become part of a network of prayer. United to the holy Rosary, in which we reflect on the salvific mysteries of Christ together with Mary, this will generate and develop a movement of reparation and penetration.
I dream of a time in which there will not be a single diocese without at least one church or parish where the Sacrament of Love is adored day and night. Love must be loved! In every diocese, and better yet in every city and town, there should be hands raised to heaven pleading for a downpour of mercy upon everyone, those close and those far away, and then everything would change.
Do you remember what happened when Moses’ hands were raised and what happened when they fell? Jesus has come to bring fire and he wishes for it to burn everywhere in order for the civilization of love to appear.
This is the climate of the Catholic reform, the climate for the sanctification of the clergy and for the increase in holy priestly and religious vocations. This is the climate for the growth of Christian families that are true domestic churches. This is the climate for collaboration from the lay faithful and the clergy. We must truly believe this, and in the United States there are and always have been many promising resources. Continue forward!
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Oct 11, 2011 (CNA) - Saudi Arabia’s religious police detained a Colombian soccer player at a shopping mall on Oct. 7 for not covering up an image of Jesus tattooed on his shoulder.
Juan Pablo Pino, 24, who plays with the Al Nasr Soccer Club in Saudi Arabia, was wearing a sleeveless shirt while out with his pregnant wife at a mall in the capital city of Riyadh.
Locals who saw the tattoo began insulting him, which drew the attention of the officers from a group known as the Police Force for the Promotion of Virtue of the Prevention of Vice, who detained the couple.
The local paper Sharq reported that officers escorted the pair to a car and then waited for Al Nasr club officials to arrive. Pino and his wife were later released.
The Efe news agency reported that after the detention, the soccer club issued a statement saying Pino was “deeply saddened” over what had happened and that he fully respects Saudi law. He also said that he and his wife had been shopping for clothing they could wear that would be “more respectful” of Islamic customs.
Sharq reported that after the incidents on Friday, Pino’s wife has asked that the family leave the country.
The Al Nasr club has asked its Argentinean coach Gustavo Costas try to convince the couple to change their minds but so far he has not been able to do so, the newspaper said.
In September, Costas—who was head coach for the Peruvian soccer team Alianza Lima, before coaching Saudi Arabia—revealed some details about his new life to Peru's El Comercio newspaper.
He recalled that while he was in Lima, he made the sign of the cross before every game and wore a rosary around his neck. Now in Saudi Arabia, he said, “I can’t do it. I do it before heading out to the field, in the locker room. If I sign myself, they’ll kill me or stone me,” Costas said.
Last year a similar incident took place when the Romanian soccer player Mirel Radoi of the Al Hilal club kissed the tattoo of a cross he has on his arm after scoring a goal. The gesture earned him the ire of many Muslims in Saudi Arabia, where Islam is the dominant religion.
Lima, Peru, Oct 11, 2011 (CNA) -
Reporter Diana Seminario of the Peruvian newspaper El Comercio recently exhorted Catholics in Peru to not remain silent and to defend the Church and her leaders against the attacks being leveled by the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru and some government officials.
“Peru is a majority Catholic country that is respectful of other confessions. According to the latest census, of its 28,220,763 inhabitants, 22,943,479 are Catholic, that is, 81.3 percent. Evangelical Christians represent 12.5 percent of the population, those of other religions 3.3 percent and those of no religion 2.9 percent. The statistics speak for themselves, and consequently this is not a question of perception,” she said in her Oct. 8 article.
“However,” she warned, “just as in other parts of the world, here as well the minority is louder than the majority, as in recent weeks we have been witnesses of an assault against the Catholic Church and against everything she represents, which undoubtedly constitutes an attack against the high percentage of Peruvians who say they are Catholic.”
Seminario said the attacks took on greater ferocity in light of the controversy between the university and the Church, represented by the Archdiocese of Lima. “Since then, there has been no letup in the attacks against Catholicism and the leader of the Church in Peru (Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani).”
The conflict between the university and the archdiocese has centered on the university’s refusal to follow a directive from the Vatican to modify its statutes in accord with the Church’s teaching on Catholic universities outlined in the document “Ex Corde Ecclesiae.”
“Since then, the strategy has been to discredit the archbishop, when in reality the conflict is with the Vatican. The archbishop is temporary and the Church has been around for more than 2,000 years,” she said.
The latest official to join in the attacks on the Church is ironically the government’s anti-corruption czar, Julio Arbizu, who defended the university and called Cardinal Cipriani and the Church “a burden to a free, modern and full society.”
“Arbizu is free to say whatever he wants, but it is sad that a citizen who has been appointed to an office supposedly because of his merits and achievements would offend an institution that embraces the majority of Peruvians in this way,” Seminario said.
“Arbizu is now part of a government that should be respectful and tolerant of the different faiths that coexist in our country,” she added.
For this reason, she encouraged Catholics to speak out against the attacks. “If we don’t say anything now, we can’t complain later when state officials attack and insult different people and institutions and defend themselves under the guise of ‘personal opinion.’”
Vatican City, Oct 11, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - This month’s meeting of world religious leaders in Assisi will downplay prayer as a feature of the event and will not contain inter-religious prayers.
“The emphasis this time is on pilgrimage and not on prayer,” said Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Vatican’s Council for Justice and Peace, to CNA. He is also a key organizer of the Oct. 27 event in the birthplace of St. Francis.
“In fact, from what I understand of the program, and it’s still being worked on, is that prayer is going to be out, if not very minimal.”
This year’s Assisi gathering is entitled “Pilgrims of Truth, Pilgrims of Peace,” and is being convened to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the first World Day for Peace, held by Pope John Paul II in 1986.
That summit came under fire from some Catholic groups who claimed it unwittingly blurred the distinctions between Catholicism and other religions.
Cardinal Turkson, who was in Assisi in 1986 along with two other African priests, said he understands why the event drew criticism. He recalled how “they were given some room in the city hall” to pray while “some non-Catholics appeared to have been given a church.” It was such incidents, he said, that “drew this sort of criticism.”
This time there will be no inter-religious prayer, the Vatican has already confirmed.
Instead, there will be a specifically Catholic prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square in Rome the night before.
“So the praying is not going to happen there (in Assisi), it’s going to happen here (in Rome) and that’s going to be the Pope amongst his people, other Catholics,” explained Cardinal Turkson.
The following morning, participants will travel from Rome to Assisi on a special chartered train that will depart from the Vatican’s train station. Upon arrival, speeches will be given and all will have lunch together. The meal will be followed by a period of silence for individual reflection and prayer. The group will then make a pilgrimage to the Basilica of St. Francis, the saint’s place of burial, where each delegate will recommit to peace.
Cardinal Turkson also explained why non-religious figures from the world of culture and science – some who will be atheists and agnostics – are being invited to join the Pope in Assisi.
Peace, he said, is “a preoccupation of both believers and unbelievers,” so that “those who do not practice any faith, they also can contribute and have a part in this pilgrimage.”
Cardinal Turkson will unveil final details of the Assisi event at a Vatican press conference next Tuesday, Oct. 18.