Springfield, Ill., Nov 15, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishops in three Illinois dioceses announced Nov. 14 that they have dropped their lawsuit against the state and will shut down their adoption and foster care programs, after a civil union law required them to provide their services to same-sex couples.
“The decision not to pursue further appeals was reached with great reluctance, but was necessitated by the fact that the State of Illinois has made it financially impossible for our agencies to continue to provide these services,” said Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville, and Bishop R. Daniel Conlon of Joliet.
“Since we now need to close offices and lay off employees, further appeals would be moot,” the bishops said.
Catholic Charities branches from the dioceses of Belleville, Springfield, Peoria, and Joliet had filed a lawsuit in June 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.
Peter Breen, an attorney with the Thomas More Society, which represented the charities in their lawsuit against the state, called the news “tragic.”
In a Nov. 14 statement, Breen said the situation “stands as a stark lesson to the rest of the nation that legislators promising 'religious protection' in same sex marriage and civil union laws may not be able to deliver on those promises.”
In their remarks, the bishops noted how the Church has “successfully partnered with the State for half a century” and lamented the fact that the “the losers will be the children, foster care families and adoptive parents who will no longer have the option of Catholic, faith-based services.”
“We are sad to lose the dedicated employees who have served our Catholic foster care and adoption services so faithfully for so many years,” the bishops added. “We are grateful to them and reluctantly bid them farewell with our prayers and best wishes.”
Bishop Paprocki clarified that despite the loss of foster care and adoption services in his diocese, “our Catholic Charities in the Diocese Springfield in Illinois will continue to address the basic human needs of the poor in central Illinois in other ways.”
“The silver lining of this decision is that our Catholic Charities going forward will be able to focus on being more Catholic and more charitable,” he said, “while less dependent on government funding and less encumbered by intrusive state policies.”
The news of the decision to close the programs follows the Nov. 11 announcement by the Catholic Social Services of Southern Illinois that will it separate from the Belleville diocese and offer adoptions and foster-care services to same-sex couples.
The Catholic Social Services agency, which had been operating at the Belleville diocese since 1947, said 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.
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 non-profit 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.
Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Illinois Catholic Conference, summarized what he believes to be the underlying problem in remarks to CNA on Nov. 11.
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,” Gilligan said.
Vatican City, Nov 15, 2011 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI will visit the West African country of Benin from Nov. 18 to 20 this week. He has asked for prayers for his upcoming trip and for “the people of the beloved African continent,” especially those who suffer insecurity and violence.
“May Our Lady of Africa accompany and support the efforts of all the people who work for reconciliation, justice and peace,” he told French-speaking pilgrims after the Angelus on Nov. 13.
Pope Benedict will visit for the release of the post-synodal apostolic exhortation of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. The synod took place in Rome on Oct. 2009.
In his Sunday remarks, the Pope cited the parable of the talents. He said that God has given each person gifts, entrusting them with the responsibility to make their gifts “fruitful.” Christ’s words guided the works of the special assembly, the Pope said.
“I hope to repeat them all as I prepare to go to Benin to reconfirm faith and hope of the Christians in Africa and adjacent islands.”
The Pope is scheduled to arrive at Cardinal Bernardin Gantin airport in Benin’s largest city, Cotonou, at 3 p.m. local time on Nov. 18. He will visit the city’s cathedral later that day.
On Nov. 19 he will meet with government officials, civil society representatives, diplomats and religious leaders at the Presidential Palace of Cotonou before making a courtesy visit with the country’s president.
He will visit the tomb of Cardinal Bernardin Gantin and meet with priests, seminarians, religious and lay faithful at St. Gall Seminary in Ouidah. He will then visit Ouidah’s Basilica of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, where he will sign the apostolic exhortation.
Later that day he will meet with children and with the bishops of Benin.
On Sunday, Nov. 20 he will celebrate a 9 a.m. Mass at a Contonou stadium and recite the Angelus. After lunching with synod leaders, he will deliver a farewell address at the Cotonou airport and depart at 4:30 p.m. local time.
There are almost three million Catholics in Benin, out of a population of about 8.8 million. The country has 11 bishops, 684 diocesan priests and 127 religious priests, over 1,200 professed religious and over 11,000 catechists.
Hanoi, Vietnam, Nov 15, 2011 (CNA) - An official with the Vietnamese bishops’ conference foresees a confident future for the Christian community in Vietnam. He cites the “flourishing” of priestly vocations and the government’s “signs of openness.”
“Hope for the new generations of Vietnamese youth is faith in Christ: the young people who look to a market economy, consumerism, the civilization of looking for new answers for their thirst for truth and new ways of life,” Fr. Joseph Do Manh Hung said.
The priest and theologian is vice-rector of the major seminary in Ho Chi Minh City and secretary of the Vietnam bishops’ Commission for the Clergy. He told Fides news agency his evaluation of the state of the Catholic Church in the country.
Young people are “the driving force” for the Church’s mission in society, he said. Almost all of the country’s 80,000 catechists are young people.
Young people are the majority of the seven million Catholics in Vietnam, whose overall population numbers 87 million..
“Of course, young people in Vietnam live surrounded by social problems like unemployment and life which, for families, remains difficult because of poverty. But the proclamation of the Gospel to young people is a great challenge that requires a lot of perseverance.”
With over 1,500 seminarians, the abundance of vocations is “a boost of confidence for us,” he added.
“Faith is strengthened, but at the same time, there is the challenge represented by the opening of a market economy, consumerism, by the civilization of image. This challenge mainly affects young people, including seminarians and future priests who need adequate formation,” the priest said.
Fr. Hung said that there is now a “gradual opening” of the government towards the Christian faith and the Catholic Church. After 1975, the entire country was under communist rule and seminaries were closed down. The seminaries reopened in 1986, though under significant restrictions governing the years in which new seminarians could be admitted.
Those restrictions were lifted in 2008, but local government authorities must still receive a list of candidates and authorize it.
“Nevertheless, we can say that there has been a marked improvement since 1986, and today we see the fruits,” he said.
The difficulties that the Church experiences are overcome through “constructive dialogue.” The problems mainly concern issues regarding church personnel or property and land confiscated from the Church.
Property disputes have turned violent in recent years. Just under two weeks ago on Nov. 3, a mob led by government officials attacked a convent and church. About 100 people, accompanied by security officials and members of the press, damaged a gate and verbally abused and physically assaulted several Redemptorist priests and lay people at Thai Ha Church in Hanoi.
Local state-run media said the attackers were locals angry at parish opposition to a government-run sewage treatment project close to the Dong Da hospital, UCA News reports.
Fr. Hong told Fides that in 2009 at the God’s People’s Assembly marking the fiftieth anniversary of Vietnam’s Catholic hierarchy, participants agreed that despite the difficulties they face, Catholics want to be “in service to society” by participating actively in the nation’s development.
Santiago, Chile, Nov 15, 2011 (CNA) - Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati of Santiago opened the Chilean bishops' annual meeting by emphasizing the priority of Church leaders to help young people encounter Jesus and follow him.
“As bishops of the Catholic Church we want to fix our gaze upon the lives of young people, to discover in them the seeds of so much good and so much hope, in order to be mediators of the encounter with the Lord Jesus for them, so that they might have abundant life,” Archbishop Ezzati told reporters during the bishops' Nov.14-18 meeting in the city of Punta de Tralca.
Archbishop Ivo Scapolo, the apostolic nuncio to Chile, presided at the assembly's opening Mass.
In his homily, he underscored the need for communion among believers who live in a society that overlooks essential values such as life, the family, and the dignity of persons, particularly children.
He noted that 2012 would be especially devoted to young people, with the celebration of the country's youth mission, which is part of the Great Continental Mission taking place across Latin America next year. In addition to those involved in education and youth ministry, he added, the entire Church in Chile is invited to participate in the outreach.
Archbishop Ezzati said he was looking forward to hearing from the 15 young people invited to address the bishops during their meeting.
“The life of the Church is everything good that is being done in the country: the work with poor, the proclamation of justice, the reflection on what is happening in Chile today,” the archbishop added.
Lima, Peru, Nov 15, 2011 (CNA) - Catholics in the Diocese of Tacna-Moquegua in southern Peru joyfully welcomed a relic of Blessed John Paul II, which consists of a vial of the late pontiff’s blood.
The enthronement of the relic took place at the Cathedral of Tacna on Nov. 12, where a special place was prepared on the altar for it to be venerated by the local community.
The altar features a painting of John Paul II’s papal coat of arms as well as the Vatican's coat of arms. It is also decorated with the late Pope’s papal motto, “Totus Tuus” (Totally Yours), which he chose at the beginning of his pontificate in 1978 as a sign of his love for the Virgin Mary.
The relic of Blessed John Paul II is a gift to the southern Peruvian Church from Pope Benedict XVI.
Newark, N.J., Nov 15, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - With the backing of a congressman, a group of nurses in New Jersey are speaking about their lawsuit challenging their hospital superiors’ orders to cooperate in abortions or lose their jobs.
“We come from different backgrounds but we all have the same conviction that we do not want to help in the killing that happens in abortion,” Fe Vinoya, a nurse in the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey hospital’s Same Day Surgery Unit, said at a Nov. 14 press conference in Newark.
Vinoya said she and her fellow nurses were “suddenly confronted with a choice between our faith and our jobs” in October when administrators told them to cooperate in abortions.
Managers told nurses they must begin training to assist abortion patients in “all aspects” of their care, in spite of the nurses’ “repeated effort” to inform managers of their own religious and moral objections, Vinoya said.
“They said very clearly that if we did not assist we would face termination,” she added. “Several of us have been forced to assist already despite objecting.”
“No nurse should be forced to violate her religious or moral beliefs in order to keep her job. Nursing is a healing profession, and the law protects our right not to provide any services related to abortion.”
Beryl Otieno Ngoje, another nurse in the hospital’s Same Day Surgery unit, said she was “shocked” that supervisors told the nurses they had to assist in abortion cases despite their objections, or face termination.
“I am a nurse so I can help to heal people, not help to kill. No health professional should be forced to choose between assisting abortions or being penalized at work.”
Ngoje said the hospital is not speaking truthfully when it says it does not compel nurses to violate their beliefs.
“Supervisors have explicitly told us we are required to assist abortion cases against our beliefs, and we have asked the hospital to change its position but they refuse to do so.”
Eight of the twelve nurses involved in the lawsuit attended the press conference, which was held across from the hospital’s administration building.
Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.) also attended the conference. He said that the policy is “illegal and highly unethical” and must cease “immediately.”
“Because the nurses recognize the innate value and dignity and preciousness of the child in the womb and have refused to participate or be complicit in an act of violence against a vulnerable child, they are punished,” Rep. Smith said.
The congressman characterized the objecting employees as “nurses of conscience” who are asserting their “fundamental civil rights” by refusing coerced participation in “the killing of unborn children.” He listed several federal acts protecting the nurses, such as the 1974 Church Amendment and the Hyde-Weldon conscience law of 2005, which protect conscience rights for employees of hospitals that receive federal funds.
New Jersey state law also bars hospitals from requiring that persons perform an abortion or assist in performing one.
Alliance Defense Fund attorneys are representing the nurses in the lawsuit.
“Pro-life nurses shouldn’t be forced to assist or train in services related to abortions,” said ADF legal counsel Matt Bowman. “These 12 nurses have encountered threats to their jobs at this hospital ever since a policy change required them to participate in abortion cases regardless of their religious and moral objections.”
Vinoya said there are only a handful of abortion cases each week. In previous years, the hospital has paid nurses who were willing to do it.
On Nov. 3 a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order against the hospital. It allows the nurses to opt out of assisting with abortion cases until a Dec. 5 court hearing.
According to the Newark Star-Ledger, the school released a statement that said the “University is in full compliance with all applicable state and federal laws and is confident its position will be vindicated when the court gives this matter a full hearing.”
Baltimore, Md., Nov 15, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. Catholic bishops have voted to establish a permanent Subcommittee on Health Care Issues to address ongoing concerns about one of the country’s most politically-charged and debated topics.
The bishops overwhelmingly approved the subcommittee by a vote of 214-15 on Nov. 14, the first day of their fall General Assembly in Baltimore. The new subcommittee will fall under the jurisdiction of the Committee on Doctrine.
As head of the doctrine committee, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl will appoint the chairman of the new subcommittee.
The creation of a permanent subcommittee was recommended by a task force on health care issues, which held its last meeting in June 2011. The task force was mandated with coordinating the conference’s activities on health care and helping decide what kind of structure would best meet the bishops’ needs.
The task force dealt with issues including the implementation of the bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, conscience protection cases, health care reform issues, the canonical status of Catholic health care facilities and non-Catholic hospitals that are a part of Catholic health care systems.
In recent years, the U.S. bishops have advocated health care reform, calling for “adequate and affordable health care for all.”
However, they have also spoken out against the health care bill passed in the 2010 session of Congress for failing to adequately ensure that taxpayer funds would not pay for abortions.
In addition, the bishops have argued against a mandate issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that would require contraception and sterilizations be covered by most private insurance plans.
They have also supported stronger conscience protections for health care employees who object to participating in abortions.
Baltimore, Md., Nov 15, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. bishops approved adding optional memorials for Blessed Pope John Paul II and Blessed Marianne Cope to the U.S. Proper of Saints calendar.
The memorials were discussed and approved on Nov. 15 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops during their fall General Assembly, which was held in Baltimore.
By a vote of 154-2, the bishops approved placing a memorial for Bl. John Paul II on the calendar for Oct. 22, the anniversary of his election as Pope in 1978.
At the time of his death on April 2, 2005, devotion to Pope John Paul II was already widespread and cries of “Santo Subito!” (Saint Now!) were heard in St. Peter’s Square following his passing.
He was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI before a crowd of over one million people on May 1, 2011 in front of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Beatified individuals are not typically inscribed on the Church’s Universal Calendar. However, local authorities can suggest the addition of the observance of a beatified individual on a diocesan, religious or national calendar.
Blessed Mother Marianne Cope, OSF, spent her life caring for leprosy patients in Hawaii. She was beatified in May 2005.
Bl. Marianne Cope’s feast day was previously observed as an Optional Memorial on Jan. 23 in the Diocese of Syracuse, where she entered the Sisters of Saint Francis, and in the Diocese of Honolulu, where she served the sick for many years.
The bishops of Syracuse and Honolulu, along with the minister general of the Sisters of Saint Francis of the Neumann Communities, requested that the Optional Memorial of Blessed Marianne Cope be added to the proper calendar for all U.S. dioceses.
The bishops voted 216-2 in favor of adding an optional memorial for Bl. Cope to the calendar. They also approved a Spanish translation of the memorial texts.
The date of Bl. Marianne Cope’s memorial has not been finalized because the date of her death (Aug. 9) is already the feast day of St. Edith Stein. The bishops noted that it has been celebrated locally on Jan. 23, the date of Bl. Cope’s birth.
The Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship will have to confirm the bishops’ votes on the memorials before they can be implemented.
Baltimore, Md., Nov 15, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl announced today that an Anglican ordinariate in the United States will be canonically erected on Jan. 1, 2012, the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.
“I remain convinced this ordinariate will be a true expression of the Catholic Church,” said Cardinal Wuerl, who made the announcement Nov. 15 at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ fall general assembly in Baltimore.
Cardinal Wuerl is serving as the Vatican's delegate for establishing a U.S. Anglican ordinariate.
He explained that he recently received a letter from Cardinal William Joseph Levada, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, saying that Pope Benedict has approved the erection of a U.S. ordinariate.
Ordinariates are similar to dioceses but typically national in scope. Pope Benedict authorized the creation of ordinariates for Anglican communities seeking to enter the Catholic Church in his 2009 apostolic constitution, “Anglicanorum coetibus.”
They will allow entire communities to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church while retaining elements of their Anglican heritage and liturgical practices.
Cardinal Wuerl said that he anticipates approximately 2,000 people joining the American ordinariate when it is established in January.
He explained that two Anglican communities – one in the Diocese of Fort Worth and the other in the Archdiocese of Washington – have already come into full communion with the Catholic Church in anticipation of the new ordinariate being created.
In addition, he said, 67 dossiers from Anglican clergy seeking ordination have been sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome.
So far, 35 have received initial approval, meaning that they an now move on to the second stage of the process, which includes a criminal background check, psychological evaluation and vote of support from the local Catholic bishop, as well as from the local Anglican ecclesiastic authority, if possible.
Cardinal Wuerl also announced that the Holy See has approved a catechesis program for Anglican congregations that wish to join the ordinariate.
A formation program for those seeking ordination as Catholic priests has also been approved, he said. That program is currently based at St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston and can be completed either on campus or through a distance learning program.
Cardinal Wuerl also addressed some of the practical questions that have arisen as the ordinariate has begun to take shape.
A married Anglican priest can be ordained a Catholic priest but not a bishop, he explained.
As the ordinariate works to get established, it will have the option of using either the Roman Missal or the Anglican Book of Divine Worship. Meanwhile, Cardinal Wuerl said that a committee in Rome is working on future liturgical texts for the ordinariates.
Cardinal Wuerl thanked his brother bishops for the strong support that they have shown for the implementation of the ordinariate in recent months.
“Your involvement is one of the guarantees of the wellbeing of the ordinariate as it is established,” he said.