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Archive of November 11, 2011

Medical expert finds growing secular support for Catholic teachings

Rome, Italy, Nov 11, 2011 (CNA) - A Catholic medical expert says he finds growing support for Church teachings among non-believers in the field of pediatrics, as shown by a recent secular journal that expresses love and care for the disabled.

The publication—“Current Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Health Care”—dedicated an entire edition this year to the question of “The Quality of Life of Young Children and Infants with Chronic Medical Problems.”

“The edition is beautiful as it expresses in easy words the sense of love and acceptance of the life of the sick and disabled,” said Dr. Carlo Bellieni, a consultant for the Pontifical Academy for Life.

“And I think it’s particularly important as the articles are largely written by atheists and non-Catholics and yet they express what the Church teaches on abortion, accepting disabled babies and so on.”

Bellieni is a Director of the Neonatal Intensive Therapy Unit at Siena University Hospital and is an internationally recognized expert in the field of neo-natal care.

In a Nov. 2 interview, he explained the significance of some of the articles to CNA.

“For instance,” he said, “Antoine Payot of the University of Montreal shows that the consequences of being born severely premature are not so disastrous as those who support neo-natal euthanasia say.”

Other experts featured in the publication are drawn from the universities at Stanford, Duke, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Kansas. 

Professor Felicia Cohn of the University of California wrote about the quality of life enjoyed by her disabled daughter.

“Amanda is now a sweet, smart, giving little girl, who, like others her age, regularly cries ‘no fair!’ in response to the distribution of toys or dessert,” she said.

From her daughter, Cohn said she has learned “what justice might look like—a world in which all children may benefit from medicine as she did and all families are supported in making the difficult decisions about what constitutes that benefit—and that I have an obligation, as a health care professional, to work toward that vision.”

Bellieni said he believes the debate in medical ethics has moved on from simply “pro-life” versus “pro-choice.”

He said the divide is now between those who believe in “solidarity” and those who prioritize “autonomy.” The latter option, he said, is not in fact freedom but merely “a form of loneliness.”

“The Church is not only pro-life but also pro-solidarity—a word much loved by John Paul II and Benedict XVI,” he said.

A “woman who chooses abortion has been left alone, therefore her decision is not free, and the person who chooses to withdraw treatment from newborn is often alone too,” Bellieni explained.

Those “who believe the highest law is autonomy want to leave people alone—they want people to be left alone to choose in loneliness.”

“So they would say the answer to the sick baby or sick fetus is to give you a sheet of paper with the option on it for you to put an 'x' next to your choice,” he noted. “They call this autonomy but, as I said, this is actually loneliness. We say the true law is love and the true manifestation of that love is solidarity.”

Bellieni also highlighted another paper written by Professor Peter Ubel of Duke University, who summarized the arguments running through the edition.

Prof. Ubel observed that the “compelling stories presented here suggest that the real borderline between moral and immoral” is in fact the “space between empathy and obliviousness.”

Bellieni said he believes this view reflects a growing trend among medical workers in the Western world. “All this is very encouraging and inspiring, and should be highlighted,” he said.

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Archbishop Chaput challenges Catholic educators to 'convert the culture'

Worcester, Mass., Nov 11, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput encouraged Catholic universities to rediscover the Church's intellectual tradition and use it to shape society's future.

“Catholic higher education is heir to the greatest intellectual, moral and cultural patrimony in human history,” the archbishop said in a Nov. 10 address at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts.

The Catholic intellectual tradition, he said, offers a “deeply satisfying answer” to the questions of human life, and is “beautiful because it's true.”

“It has nothing to be embarrassed about and every reason to be on fire with confidence and apostolic zeal. We only defeat ourselves – and we certainly don’t serve God – if we allow ourselves to ever think otherwise.”

The Philadelphia archbishop said that Catholic institutions of higher learning have suffered even more than other Church ministries from secularization that has taken place under the banner of “academic freedom.”

“Instead of Catholics converting the culture, the culture too often bleached out the apostolic zeal in Catholics while leaving the brand label intact,” he noted.

“And the lack of a vigorous Catholic witness … applies in a uniquely hurtful way to Catholic higher education.”

He acknowledged several reasons for the decline of Catholic academic life, including economic pressure and the loss of teaching personnel from religious orders.

“But another cause is the discomfort too many Catholics feel with a scholarly tradition that can be made to seem shabby and primitive in an age of scientific doubt,” observed the archbishop.

Instead of seeking to impress the world on its own terms, he said, Catholic schools must recapture the “genius” that once gave life to Western civilization with its harmony of reason and faith.

This type of education “refuses to separate intellectual and moral formation because they are inextricably linked.” And while honoring all subjects, “ it gives primacy to the disciplines that guide the formation of a holistic view of reality – philosophy and theology.”

Authentic Catholic learning, he noted, also makes an impact outside the university campus because it “aids in the creation of a Christian culture and explains what this means for human thriving.”

This type of cultural renewal is not a luxury, but an urgent need, Archbishop Chaput stressed.

Believers, he said, must use all of the Catholic tradition's resources to shape the future. Otherwise they will find themselves lost in “the 'next America' we now see emerging – an America ignorant or cynical toward religion in general and Christianity in particular.”

He noted that believers themselves had fostered this cultural crisis, both by their actions and by things left undone.

“We can blame the mass media, or the academy, or science, or special interest groups for the environment we now face,” Archbishop Chaput said.

“But we Christians–including we Catholics–helped create it with our eagerness to fit in, our distractions and overconfidence, and our own lukewarm faith.”

In the next several decades, the archbishop see an America emerging that is “likely to be much less friendly to Christian faith than anything in our country’s past … It’s not a question of when or if it might happen.”

And in that type of cultural environment, colleges and other Catholic institutions could use their freedom meaningfully, or continue losing it, he warned.

“It's happening today,” he said, citing state pressure on Catholic hospitals and adoption agencies, as well as lawsuits attacking religious liberty, restrictions on the conscience rights of doctors and other professionals, and attacks on religious institutions' tax-exempt status and hiring rights.

“Freedom of belief and religious practice used to be a concern that Americans had about other countries,” Archbishop Chaput said. “Now it’s a concern in ours.”

He told his Assumption College audience that their calling, in this context, was not to conform themselves to the world, but to oversee a revival in culture and the life of the mind.

“The vocation of a Catholic college is to feed the soul as well as the mind … to offer a vision of men and women made whole by the love of God, the knowledge of creation, and the reality of things unseen,” Archbishop Chaput reflected.

This, he said, “is the work that sets fire to a young person’s heart … Our task is to start that blaze and let it grow.”

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Maryland bishops warn of rising restrictions on religious freedom

Baltimore, Md., Nov 11, 2011 (CNA) - Religious freedom is fundamental to a free society, but some political and cultural trends are threatening that freedom, the Catholic bishops of Maryland said in a new statement.

“Efforts to restrict the rights of individuals and institutions because of their religious or moral beliefs are on the rise here in Maryland and around the nation,” the bishops wrote.

“Religious liberty—a right rooted in our human dignity and protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution—is being silently and subtly eroded.”

The 12-page document, titled “The Most Sacred of all Property: Religious Freedom and the People of Maryland,” was signed by Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington; Archbishop Edwin O’Brien, the apostolic administrator of Baltimore, and Bishop W. Francis Malooly of Wilmington.

The document took its title from American Founding Father James Madison, who called conscience “the most sacred of all property” and its exercise “a natural and unalienable right.”

Religious liberty is a “foundational element of a vibrant democracy” that helps guarantee other freedoms, the bishops underscored. 

“The only way to preserve it is through the vigilance of concerned citizens and their willingness to stand up for this right.”

While Americans presently enjoy many freedoms, there has recently been a “subtle promotion” of the idea that religious freedom should be restricted only to Sunday worship. 

“The right to exercise our faith and follow our conscience in all aspects of our lives is a right increasingly viewed with hostility.”

Health care professionals have come under pressure to perform abortions or distribute drugs that violate their pro-life principles, the bishops noted. The Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate requiring health plans to cover contraception and sterilization is another example of this threat.

The 600 Catholic hospitals in the United States are coming under increased scrutiny for “providing care in accordance with their—our—religious beliefs.” The American Civil Liberties Union has also asked the federal government to investigate Catholic hospitals for declining to provide abortion and emergency contraception, alleging that the hospitals are violating federal law.

On the efforts to redefine marriage, the bishops said that these initiatives put at risk the religious liberties of individuals and institutions that acknowledge heterosexual marriage “not only as a fact of nature but also as an article of faith.”

Legislation in Maryland to recognize same-sex “marriage,” which failed to pass in 2011, would have done “grave harm” to religious liberty because it provided no protections to individuals and only limited protections to institutions to allow them to maintain their “sincerely held beliefs about marriage.”

Religious business owners such as florists, bakers, musicians or photographers would not have been able to decline to participate in a same-sex “marriage” ceremony. 

After the District of Columbia passed a law recognizing same-sex “marriages,” the district government told the Archdiocese of Washington’s Catholic Charities that it could not continue its 80-year-old partnership in adoption and foster care services because the archdiocese would place children in homes only with a mother and a father.

The Maryland bishops also warned of a “growing trend of government intrusion into the institutional and administrative life of the Church.”

Proposed Connecticut legislation in 2009 provided “one of the most alarming” examples of this trend.

The legislation would have allowed the state government to mandate the structure and organization of Catholic parishes. It also would have removed many administrative and pastoral responsibilities from the pastor and placed them in the hands of committees defined by the legislature.

The bishops’ statement hearkened back to the Maryland colony’s Toleration Act of 1649, the first American law to protect religious freedom. The bishops recounted how this practice ended only decades later when the colony was placed under royal control and the Church of England became the established religion.

This history teaches that religious liberty requires “constant vigilance and protection, or it will disappear.”

The bishops stressed that prayer and education are needed to counter threats to religious liberty and gave the faithful practical suggestions, noting that Catholics should first thank God for religious liberty.

They should also pray for elected leaders and public officials whose actions affect religious freedom, and for those who disdain or do not appreciate that freedom, the bishops said.

The Catholic community must also stay informed about threats to religious liberty through media like diocesan newspapers. The bishops advised readers of their document to share it with others. 

Political action is also necessary to defend religious liberty, they said. Maryland Catholics should vote in every election. They should register with the Maryland Catholic Conference’s Catholic Advocacy network and participate in religious liberty events like Catholic Lobby Night held in Annapolis every President’s Day.

“Everyone has the right to live in accordance with his or her particular religious beliefs, subject only to such limits as are necessary for the safe operation of society,” they said. “Society as a whole benefits when all citizens in our pluralistic democracy—including religious citizens and institutions—remain free to participate in public life and to do so in accordance with their sincerely held beliefs.”

Religious freedom upholds human dignity and is integral to the establishment of a good and just society, the statement said. It invoked religious groups’ work to abolish slavery, work with the mentally or physically disabled, and religious involvement in labor rights.

The document referenced the work of the civil rights movement, which made an “explicitly religious call” for equal treatment for African Americans. The bishops cited Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s description of churches as “the conscience of the state.”

“Rev. King’s message of equality and justice thus presupposed and deliberately relied upon a free and flourishing religious tradition to bring about its noble goals,” they said.

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Secretariat of State to scrutinize Vatican agencies’ statements

Vatican City, Nov 11, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican’s Secretariat of State plans to take greater control over the publication of documents produced by Vatican agencies.

The move follows widespread disquiet within the Roman Curia after last month’s publication from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace which advocated the creation of a global financial authority.

Veteran Vatican correspondent Sandro Magister wrote Nov. 10 in L’Espresso’s religious affairs website Chiesa that a meeting was convoked Nov. 4 by the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, to discuss the issue.

Magister says that Cardinal Bertone complained he did not know about the document until the last moment and only after the media had been informed about a press conference to launch it.

He also claims that Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, the president of the Institute for the Works of Religion, did not agree with the economic analysis in the publication.
 
According to Magister, the conclusion of the summit was a “binding order” which has gone out to all the offices of the Curia. That order clearly states that from now on nothing in writing is to be released without first being inspected and authorized by the Secretariat of State.
 
The details of the order and where it was sent, were confirmed for CNA by sources in the Curia.

Vatican insiders, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told CNA that the production process of the Justice and Peace document seemed to lack their expected degree of consultation and approval with the two main curial departments – the Secretariat of State and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The Justice and Peace document, entitled “Towards reforming the international financial and monetary systems in the context of a global public authority,” was unveiled to the media on Oct. 24. It attempted to analyze the present economic crisis as well as provide some possible solutions, including a tax on international financial transactions.

At the press conference to present the document, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., stressed that the publication was “not an expression of papal magisterium,” and that it would be wrong to attach the words “Pope Benedict says,” to any subsequent reporting of it. However, he did add that the document was an “authoritative note of a Vatican agency.”

CNA learned that some Vatican officials felt that while Fr. Lombardi’s formulation was technically correct, it was so nuanced that it created confusion in the minds of the media and general public about the authority of the document.

Consequently, all documents will now have to be cleared well in advance by the Secretariat of State.

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Argentinean bishop calls for Christian alternatives to graduation trips

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 11, 2011 (CNA) - Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata, Argentina, criticized the trend of graduation trips for young people that often include excessive partying and drug and alcohol abuse.

“It’s understandable that young people want to have a good time, but we need to make them think about what that kind of diversion or partying symbolizes,” he said.

Archbishop Aguer, president of the Bishops’ Committee on Catholic Education, made his remarks on his media program, “Keys for a Better World.”
 
The archbishop insisted that students be given Christian alternatives to graduation party trips and gave some suggestions.

“There are many adventure sports that are great fun for young people, as well as cultural or research trips,” he noted. “They can also take trips to areas where they can show solidarity by helping schools that are in need.”

Archbishop Aguer also observed how dance clubs have become a fad for students and that club owners are turning young people into a means to make a profit.

The growing phenomenon means “they have not properly grasped what they have been taught throughout the many years of their education,” he said.

“As with every dangerous fad,” the archbishop said, “We need to think about what we can do to change it.”

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Christian volunteering more than an act of good will, Pope says

Vatican City, Nov 11, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Pope Benedict XVI says that Christian volunteer efforts should not merely be “an expression of good will” but should be “based on a personal experience of Christ.”

“He was the first to serve humanity, he freely gave his life for the good of all. That gift was not based on our merits. From this we learn that God gives us himself. More than that: Deus Caritas est – God is love,” he said.

The Pope made his remarks Nov. 11 at the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace. He was speaking to a group of around 160 Catholic volunteer workers from 25 countries who are in Rome for a two-day meeting marking the European Union’s Year of Volunteering.

The Pope told them that their experience of God’s generous love should “challenge us and liberate us,” to adopt “the same attitude towards our brothers and sisters: ‘you received without paying, give without pay.’”
 
For Catholics this is most clearly manifested in the Eucharist, where Jesus “brings together the vertical dimension of his divine gift” and the “horizontal dimension of our service to our brother and sisters.”

Christ’s grace received in Holy Communion, he said, helps us to discover “a human desire for solidarity and a fundamental vocation to love” within ourselves. It also helps “perfect, strengthen and elevate” that vocation so that we can serve others “without reward, satisfaction or any recompense.”

Today’s meeting – along with this week’s conference – was organized by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum. It is the Vatican dicastery that coordinates the Pope’s personal charitable activities.

Pope Benedict was keen to remind the group of the powerful witness given by Christian volunteers who serve as “visible instruments” of Christ’s love to a world “that still profoundly yearns for that love amid the poverty, loneliness, marginalization and ignorance that we see all around us.”

He also highlighted the Catholic roots of volunteering found in Christianity’s “concern for safeguarding, without discrimination, the dignity of the human person created in the image and likeness of God.”

This is something, he said, that Catholic volunteers should remember in order to avoid being “seduced by ideologies that want to change the world according to a purely human vision.”

“If these spiritual roots are denied or obscured and the criteria of our collaboration become purely utilitarian, what is most distinctive about the service you provide risks being lost, to the detriment of society as a whole,” he warned.

Pope Benedict brought his remarks to a close by challenging young people, who“readily react to the call of love.”

Catholic volunteers, he said, should “not be afraid to set before them a radical and life-changing challenge” to give of themselves. It is in living selflessly, the Pope said, “that we come to live life in all its fullness.”
 

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Brooklyn Catholics object to crucifix video

New York City, N.Y., Nov 11, 2011 (CNA) - Catholic leaders in the Diocese of Brooklyn have objected to a Brooklyn Museum art exhibit’s planned inclusion of a video that includes a disturbing use of the crucifix.

“Ants were crawling on the image of the crucified Christ,” said Msgr. Kieran Harrington, a diocese spokesman. “Certainly we don’t think this would be tolerated if this was the image of the Prophet Mohammed or any other religious symbol.”

The museum intends to show a four-minute edit of a short unfinished film “A Fire in My Belly” by the late artist David Wojnarowicz.

The 10-second section at issue shows a crucifix laying on the ground as ants scamper across Jesus’ body. Other scenes from the film about suffering include images of blood-like drops falling into a dish, a boy breathing fire and bloody sewn-together human lips.

“As a Catholic, this is very sad for me,” Crown Heights resident Ginette Peterburs told the Daily News. “It is not art, it is just disguising.”

The Diocese of Brooklyn sent a letter to the Brooklyn Museum about the exhibit. Stephanie Gutierrez, the diocese’s press secretary, told CNA on Nov. 10 that the letter was a personal communication to the museum from Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and would not be released to the press.

The video’s creator intended it to explore the subject of AIDS, the Associated Press says. He created it before being diagnosed with the syndrome, whose effects killed him at age 37 in 1992.

The video is part of a larger collection of gender identity-themed artworks that were displayed at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington last year until controversy resulted in their removal in December 2010.

Brooklyn Museum director Arnold Lehman told the Associated Press the museum wanted to present the exhibition because “it’s such an important aspect of American art in the 20th century.”

"My hope is that this will be an extraordinarily important way in which to bring the entire city together to celebrate American art during this last century," Lehman continued.

"This is New York City. This is a city that has thrived on the incredible contributions from the gay and lesbian community. This is a state that's just passed a very progressive legalization of gay marriage."

The Brooklyn Museum was the center of controversy more than 10 years ago when it displayed an artwork of the Virgin Mary surrounded by shellacked clumps of elephant dung.

Then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani tried to cut the museum’s funding because of the exhibit.

In 2001, the museum showed an artwork which depicted Jesus Christ as a nude woman.

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said the exhibit was “anti-Catholic” and that the Brooklyn Museum was “New York’s most anti-Catholic museum.”

He said the Catholic League would not organize demonstrations outside the museum because it considers the removal of the exhibit from the National Portrait Gallery to be “the big prize” and because the video has been shown many times at other venues.

 

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Illinois Catholic charity to split from diocese, offer same-sex adoptions

Belleville, Ill., Nov 11, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Catholic Social Services of Southern Illinois announced that will it separate from the Belleville diocese and offer adoptions and foster-care services to same-sex couples.

“What you're seeing at the state level in Illinois, what you're seeing at the national level in Washington, D.C., is a consistent promulgation of policies and laws that are making it very difficult for faith-based agencies that believe that marriage is between one man and one woman,” Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Illinois Catholic Conference, told CNA on Nov. 11.

The Catholic Social Services agency, which had been operating at the Belleville diocese since 1947, announced on Nov. 11 that it will now be called Christian Social Services of Illinois.

Gary Huelsmann, the agency’s executive director, called the move a “solution” that will be “best for the children” as it ensures “their continuity of care.”

The Diocese of Belleville said in a Nov. 11 statement that the agency was unable “to remain faithful to the moral teaching of the Catholic Church” while adhering to the state's civil union law enacted in June.

“The message in Illinois from the state government—and increasingly from the national government—is that you (religious groups) cannot interact with the state” and receive public funds from it to assist “the most poor and vulnerable among us,” Gilligan said.

“That's a tragedy because our country has a long history of interaction with faith-based organizations
for social services.”

The Catholic Social Services of Bellville had previously joined Catholic Charities branches from the dioceses of Springfield, Peoria, and Joliet in a lawsuit against the Illinois Attorney General's Office and the state’s Department of Children and Family Services to prevent them from ending state contracts for foster care and adoption programs with the charities.

The department told the agencies that it was ending their contracts over their 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.

Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Peoria announced in October that it will withdraw from all state contracts and transfer its staff  to a new nonprofit organization with no affiliation to the Catholic Church.

The new organization, titled the Center for Youth and Family Solutions, will take on the caseload of foster children from Peoria Catholic Charities starting Feb. 1.

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