Archive of November 21, 2011

Author hopes to reignite appreciation of motherhood

Toronto, Canada, Nov 21, 2011 (CNA) - Dorothy Pilarski's new book, “Motherhood Matters,” reflects a growing need for the vocation to be respected and appreciated in modern society.

“Our culture and economy, by making mothers too busy to care for their own children, has almost obliterated the sacredness of the mother,” Pilarski told CNA on Nov. 1.

We “put too much pressure on mothers,” she added, and are “squeezing out” a woman's “very nature, her dignity.”

Released in August, “Motherhood Matters” (Catholic Register Books, $14.99) is a collection of inspirational stories, prayers and quotes to encourage Catholic mothers.

“It is similar to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series in that the reader can pick and choose stories based on titles that intrigue them,” she explained. 

Pilarski said that the motivation for writing the book came from her own reflections in hosting a Catholic mothers group in her home for the past 15 years.

“We meet monthly, starting off with the rosary and then have a speaker and then herbal teas, cookies and chatting,” she said. “Many graces came to me as a result of this mother's group.”

“In between the meetings I would be inspired to write letters to the mothers on my e-mail distribution list. Inspirations would come to me and I wanted to share them with other moms.”

Pilarski also said that she was encouraged to share what she has learned about motherhood by how she was raised by her own mother. 

“(My mother) stressed that children were a gift from God, that the most important job a mother had was to pass down the Catholic faith from one generation to the next—and that a mother was in the privileged position to do exactly both of those,” she said. 

“For many years I looked forward to having children—the thought of not looking after them never occurred to me since my own mother always stressed that a child's early years would affect them their entire lives.”

However, Pilarski said that when she had her first child, she was “startled” by what she began to notice around her.

“It seemed like my suburb was stranded during the day. There were all of these beautiful houses, but no children and no mothers,” she said. “It struck me odd that while we had these incredible homes, there was nobody home to actually at home to create a home.”

“Women were driving in and out of their neighborhoods leaving at the crack of dawn,” she recalled, “and coming back late in the evenings. I kept on thinking of all of the ironies of working so hard, but not having the time or children to actually relish in a family life.”

Pilarski remembers there being more nannies and daycares watching children than mothers where she lived.

“It really seemed eerie that many women who their entire lives looked forward to getting married and having children were giving up that privilege to a paid provider.”

The author observed that this dynamic can be traced to the basic problem that “motherhood is not valued in today's world.”

“The very thought that a mother is expected to have a baby and almost immediately go back to work is a clear indication that we are not valuing the mother,” she said.

“As a culture we are saying that it really doesn't matter who watches our children, so long as it's being cared for—that's all that matters. The mother child bond was not meant to be brokered into a financial transaction. The mother child bond is sacred and we as a culture have secularized it.”

She noted that many of the decisions families make in modern society “are based on the 'almighty' dollar.”

“Often when I ask moms why they are not watching their own children, they say, 'Do the math.' But there is more to family life than the bottom line, isn't there?”

Pilarski said her book challenges “our current North American cultural model of motherhood” and asks the reader “to prayerfully consider motherhood as a vocation a call from God.”

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Pope, bishops preparing for ‘Year of Faith’

Providence, R.I., Nov 21, 2011 (CNA) - It is a new twist on a venerable tradition, but it received a very favorable review from the first group of U.S. bishops to make an ad limina visit to the Vatican in seven years.

Pope Benedict XVI, instead of meeting individually with visiting bishops, has recently favored meeting with prelates in small groups during their visits, a process he has found to be a more efficient way of learning about how the Church is operating around the world.

“I found the new format, and I think all the bishops found the new format to be very enjoyable and very substantive,” said Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, R.I., who returned late last week from the Vatican, where he reported on the state of the diocese.

By its name, “ad limina” means “going to the threshold of the apostles.” Every five years or so, bishops from around the world make a pilgrimage to meet with the Pope and other Vatican dicasteries, not just to report on their dioceses, but also to reconnect with the actual roots of their faith as they journey to the tombs of the first apostles.

“The Holy Father gave each of us a chance to offer some observations and comments about anything, particularly about specific issues in our own diocese,” Bishop Tobin said.

“I thanked him for announcing the Year of Faith, which is going to begin in 2012 and go through 2013. I told the Holy Father about our Year of Evangelization that was so successful and how the Year of Faith that he has promulgated will build very nicely upon the Year of Evangelization we celebrated in the diocese last year.”

Bishop Tobin also shared with the Pope that the diocese, and other dioceses were well prepared to implement the new translations of the Roman Missal.

“He seemed very pleased with that,” the bishop noted of the Pope’s reaction.

In all, 18 bishops from New England met with the Pope and Curia leaders over the course of the week discussing a range of issues, including the Church’s religious freedom in the United States, same-sex marriage and immigration.

Providence's Auxiliary Bishop Robert C. Evans also attended the ad limina visit. Each bishop was allowed to present one guest to the Holy Father at the beginning of their meeting, which took place on Saturday, Nov. 5 on the top floor of the Apostolic Palace and lasted about 30 minutes.

Father Timothy D. Reilly, diocesan chancellor, and Fr. George Nixon, a graduate priest studying at Pontifical North American College in Rome, were introduced to the Pope at the start of the visit.

“We were received by the Holy Father very graciously before the bishops met,” Fr.  Reilly said.

Fr.  Reilly also presented to the Pope an array of rosaries that Bishop Tobin asked the Holy Father to bless. He would present those rosaries, the bishop shared with Pope Benedict XVI, during his visits to nursing homes and to religious gatherings of young people around the diocese.

For Bishop Tobin, the experience was his fourth ad limina visit as a bishop.

A highlight of his week long visit, which also featured meetings with the heads of various departments, known as dicasteries, was celebrating Mass at the newly created tomb for Pope John Paul II, who appointed the bishop to the episcopacy in Youngstown, Ohio, when he was 44 years old.

“It was a great privilege for me to be the celebrant and homilist for the Mass at the tomb of Blessed John Paul II, and I was pleased that all the members of our diocesan contingent who were present had a particular role to play at the Mass,” Bishop Tobin said.

“So we were very well represented at the tomb of Blessed John Paul.”

While the bishops spent their days in meetings, they joined Fr. Reilly and Fr. Nixon later each afternoon to celebrate Mass.

“We had Mass at the four major patriarchal basilicas. We were so blessed to have Mass at the tomb of St. Peter in the grotto on the first morning to begin the ad limina,” said Fr. Reilly, who was grateful for the opportunity to view the process from a very unique perspective.

“It was such a unique experience. I realize the graces from a Roman pilgrimage for any of us take years to unfold, but because we went to the very threshold of the apostles—and I was invited on that journey—I can only imagine how far and how deep these graces will go into my ministry and please God into my life. I’m just very grateful to God and to the bishops.”

Printed with permission from the Rhode Island Catholic, newspaper for the Diocese of Providence, R.I.

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As holidays approach, Catholic aid agencies encourage generosity

Washington D.C., Nov 21, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Officials with Catholic charities and relief agencies have asked people to remember both the needs of the poor at home and those facing humanitarian disasters overseas.

Generosity is “so central to our faith,” said Tom Price, the senior communications manager with Catholic Relief Services. “It is the reason for the existence of any Christian charity.”

He cited Pope Benedict XVI’s words in his 2005 encyclical “Deus Caritas Est.” There, the Pope said that for the Catholic Church, charity is not “a kind of welfare activity” that could be left to others. Rather, charity is “a part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being.”

Candy Hill, Catholic Charities USA senior vice president of social policy and government relations, also noted the importance of giving.

“Our Catholic values, teachings, and traditions are the foundation for the work we do at CCUSA. The ultimate rationale for our services is our belief in the sanctity of the human person and the dignity of human life.”

Price, whose agency is dedicated to international relief work, told CNA that the ongoing drought and famine in East Africa is an “urgent situation” and those affected in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia are in need of prayers.

Hill, whose organization focuses on domestic aid, said that more than 46 million Americans live in poverty.

“At the local level, CCUSA’s 163 local agencies are seeing more and more people in need and addressing these needs innovatively,” she said on Nov. 18.

Each year, the organization serves over 10 million people regardless of their backgrounds. The charities support a “vast network” of soup kitchens, food pantries, emergency shelters, temporary and transitional housing, and permanent housing.

These help homeless families and individuals, “particularly during the holiday season when agencies face a dramatic increase in demand,” Hill said.

Last year, its member agencies served 1.9 million more individuals than they did in 2009. The agency’s quarterly survey on the needs of poor Americans will be released next week.

Price said the holiday season is “very special” for Catholic Relief Services.

“Our mission to serve those in need is year round but we do try to draw extra attention to the needs of the poor at the close of the year,” he said.

The relief agency’s Gift Catalogue allows gift givers to buy shares in CRS programs around the world, including programs like education, agriculture, clean water and health care.

“It is a way to share the joys of the season with those most in need. You are giving twice,” he commented.

The CRS staff members in Baltimore hold a Christmas gift drive through Catholic Charities to collect toys and warm clothing for underprivileged families.

“By Christmas week, the floor around our Christmas tree is filled yards out with these gifts,” Price said.

Thanksgiving time is also when the agency relays to donors the gratitude from those it serves around the world.

Hill gave thanks to the over 260,000 employees, volunteers and donors who assist Catholic Charities agencies each year.

“These individuals are the backbone of the Catholic Charities network and we are grateful for their support, whether it is through monetary donations, in-kind, or in-person at any of our agencies across the country.”

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Nicaraguan bishops warn of fraud in presidential elections

Managua, Nicaragua, Nov 21, 2011 (CNA) - Bishops in Nicaragua questioned the legitimacy of the Nov. 6 presidential elections after accusations of fraud and dishonesty were leveled against election officials.

In a joint statement issued Nov. 16, the bishops said Nicaragua’s Supreme Electoral Council was “incapable of carrying out its job responsibly and honestly” and could not ensure a transparent count of the votes that “would leave no doubt as to the will of the people in these elections.”

“As believers, it is our firm conviction that any dishonest action that threatens the sovereignty of the people is not only ethically wrong but also reproachable in the eyes of God,” they underscored.

Although the Organization of American States issued a report declaring that President Daniel Ortega had won re-election by a 62 percent vote, opponents are protesting the results. Clashes throughout the country since Nov. 6 have left at least four people dead and dozens injured, according to police.

The bishops said voters have the right to peacefully protest and “to demand that our institutions fulfill their duty and that State officials carry out their obligations.”

“It is urgent that the rule of law be recovered and that those in power be subject to the law. If this is not achieved, democracy will not advance in Nicaragua and the errors of the past will continue to be repeated, which could lead to greater division in the country,” they stated.

Politicians and government officials must “urgently find the best legal and civic solution to overcoming the country’s present-day crisis,” the bishops said. “Nicaragua needs all of her sons and daughters to encounter one another and live together in a society based on truth, tolerance and justice.”

The Church leaders also encouraged Nicaraguans to avoid falling into pessimism and to have hope for a swift political resolution.

“To hope is to have the ability to see, even when we cannot see with our eyes. To hope is to regain our ability to keep dreaming of a better society for all and to strive to make that possible.”

Last week the U.S. government urged the Organization of American States “to seriously consider the state of democracy in Nicaragua” given the questionable tactics that gave President Ortega a second term.

EU election observers said the irregularities “signify a serious step backwards in the democratic quality of the elections in Nicaragua” and need to be corrected in the future.

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Pro-life Democrats predict broad religious exemption from contraception mandate

Washington D.C., Nov 21, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Though Catholics fear their institutions’ religious freedom is at risk, pro-life Democrats are predicting that the federal government will create a broader religious exemption to federal mandates requiring contraception coverage in all new health care plans.

“I would have never voted for the final version of the bill if I expected the Obama administration to force Catholic hospitals and Catholic colleges and universities to pay for contraception,” former Pennsylvania Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper said Nov. 21.

“We worked hard to prevent abortion funding in health care and to include clear conscience protections for those with moral objections to abortion and contraceptive devices that cause abortion. I trust that the President will honor the commitment he made to those of us who supported final passage.”

Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life, also expressed confidence that the Obama administration will provide a sufficient exemption.

“The administration has no intention of forcing Catholic institutions to provide insurance coverage for services that are directly in opposition to their moral beliefs. It does not make any sense from a public policy perspective and it certainly is not smart politically to alienate Catholic voters,” she said.

Day charged that the Obama administration is “unfairly under attack by Catholic conservatives who are using the proposed final rule to spread anti-Obama sentiment to lay Catholics.”

On Aug. 1 the Department of Health and Human Services announced regulations for preventive care as required by the 2010 health care legislation. The rules mandate that new health care plans cover all FDA-approved sterilizations and contraception, including contraceptives with abortion-causing effects.

The regulations accompanied a proposed exemption only for religious employers whose primary purpose is the inculcation of religious values and who primarily employ and serve those who share their religious tenets. Catholic bishops and scholars have said the exemption would not include most Catholic health care systems, charitable agencies and institutions of higher education.

Democrats for Life said that the health care legislation itself proposed to continue to allow employers an exemption to mandatory contraception coverage if the employer objected on moral or religious grounds.

“This was part of the agreement reached by pro-life Democrats,” the organization said Nov. 19. “The issue for pro-life Democrats is that certain types of birth control cause abortions of new embryos.”

Other commentators have said that Health and Human Services’ narrow proposed exemption uses language originally intended to target Catholics.

The exemption originated in a California debate about a state-level contraception mandate, William J. Cox, president and CEO of the California-based Alliance of Catholic Health Care, told a Nov. 2 hearing of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health.

Cox said the American Civil Liberties Union “painstakingly crafted” the definition to “specifically exclude religious institutional missions like health care providers, universities and social service agencies.”

During the debate, the then-head of Planned Parenthood in California said the wording was designed to close the “Catholic gap” in contraceptive coverage, Cox reported.

Pro-abortion rights groups like Emily’s List and NARAL are seeking to preserve the present language of the exemption.

Democrats for Life charged that these groups are “attempting to push the mandate beyond its hard won legislative intent” and are using “scare tactics” to convince supporters they risk losing birth control coverage.

Organization board member Stephen Schneck of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholics Studies at Catholic University of America invoked a previous controversy over the effects of the health care legislation.

He said the Emily’s List campaign is “as dishonest as the Republican campaign” to convince voters that the health care legislation funds abortion.

“The PPACA does not fund abortion and not one woman will lose access to birth control under the new law. In fact, millions of women will now receive free birth control under that law,” he said.

Democrats for Life said that the campaign to preserve the narrow exemption could mean that “millions of Americans” will lose access to employer-sponsored health care. The organization cited the remarks of University of Notre Dame president Fr. John I. Jenkins, who said the rules would force the university either to violate Catholic moral teaching by paying for contraception and sterilization, or to violate Catholic social teaching by discontinuing employee and student health care plans. 

“Common sense would say health insurance, even if it does not include contraception coverage, is better than no insurance at all,” Dahlkemper said. “If common sense prevails, the final rule will allow fair conscience protections that will not force religious institutions (to) choose between social teaching and moral teaching.”

In his testimony before the House subcommittee, Cox recommended that Health and Human Services use the broader definition of religious employer provided in the Internal Revenue Code. It should also amend the rule to ensure that individuals and non-religious employers are similarly protected, he said.

The proposed rules are set to take effect in August 2012.

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Spanish government accused of corrupting minors with explicit website

Madrid, Spain, Nov 21, 2011 (CNA) - An ethics group filed a lawsuit against outgoing president Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero over content on the Ministry of Education’s website that promotes homosexuality and sexual activity at a young age.

Jaime Urcelay, president of Professionals for Ethics, said on Nov. 17 that the complaint is based on a resource posted online titled “Sexpresan” (which translates to “Sexpress Yourself”) and is recommended to students aged 12 to 16.

The lawsuit, which is aimed at the president as well as the Minister of Education, Angel Gabilondo, has garnered support from over 200 parents who have strongly criticized the “games” included in the website material.

Activities such as “My pleasure map” and “My first time” show children how to use a condom and how to “define your own way of being a man or a woman, overcoming the traditional models that have been imposed on us.”

Professionals for Ethics also condemned the website for proposing abortion as the only solution for unwanted pregnancies and took issue with the site being listed as a resource for the government sponsored course “Education for the Citizenry.”

The organization based its lawsuit on an article of the Spanish Penal Code, charging that the content promoted by the government endangers the development of children “with ideological positions that do not enjoy a social or scientific consensus and that are incompatible with the State’s obligation to remain neutral.”

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Pope accepts resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law from Vatican post

Vatican City, Nov 21, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict accepted the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law, former Archbishop of Boston, and appointed Spanish Archbishop Santos Abril y Castelló as the new archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

Cardinal Law, who resigned in 2002 as Archbishop of Boston in the wake of the sex abuse scandal, turned 80 on Nov. 4.

A Vatican official explained to CNA on Nov. 21 that although the official retirement age for a post such as archpriest is 80, it is customary for cardinals to hold their positions for a longer period of time.

Cardinal Law's predecessor, Cardinal Carlo Furno, remained in his post until he turned 82, and the former archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, retired only a month from turning 84.

The same source explained, however, that it was Cardinal Law himself who requested a rapid replacement at the basilica.

At the age of 80, Cardinal Law will no longer have a vote in the papal conclave and will also cease to be an active member of several Vatican dicasteries.

The American cardinal was a member of the Congregation for Bishops as well as the Vatican congregations for Divine Worship, Evangelization of Peoples, Clergy, Consecrated Life and Catholic Education.

Cardinal Law was appointed by Pope John Paul II as archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major in May of 2004 and has no plans to leave Rome in the near future.

His successor, 76-year-old Archbishop Castelló, has spent most of his life serving as an apostolic nuncio in countries such as Bolivia, Argentina, the former Yugoslavia and, most recently, Bosnia-Herzegovina.

As vice chamberlain of Holy Roman Church—a position he will maintain—the archbishop will be second in command in taking care of the papal funeral and the organization of a conclave after a pontiff dies.

Archbishop Abril will likely be created a cardinal in the next consistory, which Vatican sources believe will take place during the spring of 2012.

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