Peoria, Ill., Dec 13, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - A Dec. 11 Mass in Peoria, Ill. marked the official conclusion of an investigation tribunal into an alleged miracle that many attribute to the intercession of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.
Since Sept. 7, the tribunal has looked into the alleged miraculous healing of James Fulton Engstrom – a one-year-old born without a pulse last year – whose parents credit his survival to the late archbishop.
The Mass, open to members of the public, was held at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, where Archbishop Sheen was as an altar server when he as a boy.
Official tribunal documents were sealed at the Mass by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria and Monsignor Stanley Deptula. Msgr. Deptula is the executive director of the Archbishop Fulton Sheen Foundation, which is the official promoter of the archbishop’s cause for sainthood.
The documents will now be shipped to the Vatican for consideration.
If the alleged miracle is approved by the Pope, U.S. Catholics could witness the first ever beatification on American soil in the Diocese of Peoria, said the foundation.
On Sept. 16, 2010, Bonnie Engstrom and her husband Travis prayed fervently to Archbishop Sheen after she delivered a stillborn son.
The baby, whom they named James Fulton after the archbishop, had no pulse for 61 minutes after he was born.
As doctors prepared to declare the time of death, however, his heart started beating. Although the physicians predicted serious medical problems, James Fulton is now a happy, healthy one-year-old.
In addition to serving as an auxiliary bishop of New York and bishop of Rochester, Archbishop Sheen was best known for his weekly radio broadcast, “The Catholic Hour,” and his later weekly television program, “Life is Worth Living.”
The archbishop died in 1979 and his cause for sainthood was opened in 2002.
A second approved miracle will be necessary before Archbishop Sheen – currently called a Servant of God – will be declared a saint.
Washington D.C., Dec 13, 2011 (CNA) - The Obama administration’s overruling of an FDA proposal to provide the Plan B “morning-after pill” to preteen girls won praise from Catholic leaders who said it protected parental responsibility and the health of young adolescent girls.
“Our country must help parents exercise their responsibility to their children,” Catholic Health Association president and CEO Sr. Carol Keehan, D.C., said Dec. 9.
“Giving parents control over relatively inconsequential areas such as ear-piercing and then taking it away in such a serious area would not only put their children at risk but undermine parents' ability to parent. This great country is built on the strength of the family and this decision helps to maintain a strong role for parents in critical decisions.”
Sr. Keehan said the CHA is “very grateful” to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, calling her decision to override the FDA’s approval “intelligent and courageous.”
Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, the director of media relations for the U.S. bishops’ conference, also praised the decision.
“It is hard to imagine that any parent or teacher who ever has known an 11-year-old could disagree with the HHS decision. That’s true regardless of one’s view on the morality of contraception or one’s level of concern about the prospect that some of these drugs can serve as abortifacients.”
On Dec. 7 the Food and Drug Administration planned to announce that it would allow the “Plan B One-Step” drug, also known as the “morning after pill,” to be sold over the counter and without parental consent to girls of all ages.
FDA commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg had endorsed the pill, a high dose of the synthetic hormone progesterone, as “safe and effective” for all women of “child-bearing potential.”
However, Sebelius overruled the decision, citing the “significant cognitive and behavioral differences” between older adolescent girls and the youngest girls of reproductive age.
Current restrictions on the drug require a prescription for girls under the age of 17. Those meeting the age requirement can obtain the contraceptive over the counter.
Sr. Keehan cited “grave concern” about the safety of young girls self-administering the hormone and the lack of “strong science” demonstrating the safety of the drug.
Sr. Walsh said the FDA’s reasoning seemed not to consider that a medicine designed for adult women can have a “completely different effect” on a child.
“The Catholic Church has serious concerns about contraceptive use and doesn’t think Plan B is good for anybody, no secret there. But you don’t have to be a supporter of the church’s position to know that pushing Plan B to kids is wrong on many levels,” Sr. Walsh said.
Childhood is a time of “immaturity and making mistakes,” she continued. “One would think that permitting kids to use their birthday money to buy meds without their parents’ or guardians’ knowledge would be beyond the pale.”
She characterized the proposal as a “dream” for the Israel-headquartered pharmaceutical company Teva, which produces the drug.
“(T)heir pills, which were not selling well as a prescription drug, would now be right up there on the shelf with meds for childhood illnesses like the common cold.”
Sr. Walsh voiced concerns that young adolescents might be too scared not to read the instructions and could overdose or ignore instructions about side effects.
She also worried that the young can be easily misled into thinking Plan B is a “free pass” for risky behavior. Teen pregnancy is a “serious social problem” that cannot be addressed by leading kids to think they can engage in “safe sex,” she stated.
Sr. Walsh also dismissed criticisms that Sebelius made a political decision to please the Catholic vote.
“This decision would be more apt to please the parent and grandparent vote. People with pre-adolescent and adolescent children probably hope their offspring are not sexually active. They certainly hope they aren’t secretly self-medicating with anything as serious as Plan B,” she said.
Washington D.C., Dec 13, 2011 (CNA) - Hispanic bishops from 33 different U.S. dioceses thanked immigrants for their contributions to society and called on all Americans to welcome newcomers with respect and Christ-like love.
In a Dec. 12 letter, the bishops expressed their solidarity with those immigrants “who lack proper authorization to live and work in our country” and invited them to participate fully in the life of the Church in America.
Among the signatories of the letter are: Archbishop José H. Gómez of Los Angeles, Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, and Auxiliary Bishop Alberto Rojas of Chicago.
They recalled how the Holy Family was forced to flee to Egypt, and reminded immigrants of their “infinite value and dignity” as human beings who are made in the “image of God.”
The bishops also noted the positive efforts made by immigrants to the U.S., such as their economic, cultural and spiritual contributions. They specifically highlighted their manifestation of Christian values, including determination, perseverance and fidelity.
The clergymen then touched on the “disdain for immigrants” that some Americans have shown. America is a nation of immigrants, they noted, emphasizing the need for solidarity rather than hatred in dealing with newcomers.
Americans can see “the true face of Jesus Christ” in the suffering of the migrants who must make great sacrifices for their families, working “difficult jobs” and receiving “miserable salaries and no health insurance or social security,” they said.
Furthermore, migrants can show us “Jesus the pilgrim,” they said, recalling Christ’s migration “from heaven to earth,” from Galilee to Jerusalem and “from death to life” as he accomplished the Father’s will.
Immigrants can also serve as a reminder to all Christians that they are “migrants on the way to eternal life,” they added.
The bishops offered assurance that they are continuing to advocate for “just, humane and effective reform of immigration laws” aimed at respecting “family unity” and allowing “an orderly and reasonable process for unauthorized persons to attain citizenship.”
They also committed to working for a worker visa program that respects immigrants’ human rights and provides for their basic needs, as well as working towards “global economic justice” that will give them opportunities to earn a living wage in their own countries.
Those who are considering immigrating should think seriously about whether such a move “is advisable” until such changes have been made to American immigration laws, the bishops said.
Lima, Peru, Dec 13, 2011 (CNA) - Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani urged acceptance of whatever Pope Benedict's decision may be in resolving the dispute between the Archdiocese of Lima and the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru.
“Once the explanation and clarification has been made, the only thing left for Catholics is to accept what the Pope and the Church ask of us,” Cardinal Cipriani, who leads the archdiocese of Lima, said Dec. 10 on his program Dialogue of Faith.
“I hope that with God’s help this is brought to a conclusion,” he added.
In September of this year, the university rejected a request by the Vatican to bring its statutes in line with the apostolic exhortation “Ex Corde Ecclesiae” or risk losing its status as a Catholic and pontifical institution.
Pope Benedict has appointed Cardinal Peter Erdo as apostolic visitor to facilitate a resolution to the conflict. Following a Dec. 7 meeting with Cardinal Erdo, Cardinal Cipriani told reporters, “we are very thankful that the Holy Father has given us this sign of cordiality and closeness in order to help us resolve this situation.”
Cardinal Cipriani said during his program that Cardinal Erdo is suited for the task and is preparing to soon explain the Vatican's proposal for the situation.
He also urged a spirit of peace and reconciliation for all involved especially during the Advent and Christmas seasons.
“In the atmosphere of Christmas and of the faith, let us try to elevate our lives to that level where there is peace and hope,” Cardinal Cipriani said.
Rome, Italy, Dec 13, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishop Charles Morerod, the newest bishop in the Catholic Church, is ready to evangelize Switzerland, despite the size of the challenge.
Upon his appointment to Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg in Switzerland he disarmed the Swiss media by admitting, “in all frankness, I was hoping that the choice would not fall on me,” but “what the Pope wants, you cannot refuse.”
The 50-year-old Swiss Dominican was ordained a bishop on Sunday after spending the past 15 years in Rome, most recently as the rector of the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas. He is also Secretary General of the International Theological Commission and a consultant for the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
“It is quite frightening,” he told CNA before he left Rome for his new post. “And the only reason that I’m not too afraid is that when God calls he also helps, and I know that because I have noticed that in my life already.”
Bishop Morerod returned to a homeland where Catholics are statistically the majority – 42 percent of the population – but where secularization has eaten away at the practice of that faith in recent decades.
It is in these types of traditionally Christian countries that Pope Benedict XVI wants to launch a “new evangelization.”
“If we compare the new evangelization to the first one,” said Bishop Morerod, “in a sense, we now have to speak to people who think they know Christianity and who think they know it well enough to know there is nothing to be found there – or are even who are in reaction to it.”
The Christian gospel was first preached to the people of Switzerland in the third century. Bishop Morerod said that, in comparison, the task now is “more difficult” but is still “worth it.”
“I would like people to know it is beautiful to be a believer. Oddly enough, it seems that many don’t even suspect that. There is a very deep ignorance of faith. I think that could be addressed.”
He is also convinced that the current experience of the Church offers many reasons for hope, beginning with “trust in God and the Holy Spirit,” as well as the increasing thirst for reasons to believe in God, Jesus and the Catholic Church.
“I have been quite surprised by the number of questions I’ve received on Facebook since my appointment was announced,” he said. Most of those questions come from “people who say, ‘I’ve been asking this question for years but never found anybody who would reply with some answers.’”
Bishop Morerod says that he has also been asked many questions about “the relationship between faith and reason” by journalists, although they are usually tied to hot button moral issues.
“I try to tell them that Jesus did not choose saints as his apostles or disciples but that they became saints because they were with him,” said Bishop Morerod, making that point that “morality is not a starting point but is rather a consequence” of a relationship with Jesus Christ.
With that relationship as the starting point, he said, the Church can explain how Christian morality can help “build a better society.” At the same time, convincing people of the goodness of Christianity also requires avoiding scandals, he pointed out.
Fundamentally, Bishop Morerod believes that the evangelization of countries like Switzerland is ambitious but realistic, “because basically if I did not think it was possible I would do something else with my life.”
Despite being a native of the Fribourg region, the new bishop is eager to reacquaint himself with his homeland after a decade and a half in Italy. While Rome “is a beautiful city,” he finds it “more pleasant” to live in “more or less in the countryside of Switzerland.”
But he will miss the many friends and students he has gotten to know and love during his time in Rome.
“As a professor I hope I have helped some students,” he said, recalling how he received a message a few days ago from a former student who told him, “I was in a bus in Albania and I was surrounded by Jehovah’s Witnesses and thanks to your class I could speak to them in favor of the Trinity, so I must thank you.”
Vatican City, Dec 13, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Australia and Indonesia are set to appoint two new resident ambassadors to the Holy See, easing fears in Rome that some countries would follow in the footsteps of Ireland, which is closing its Vatican embassy.
Australia’s present Vatican ambassador, Tim Fischer, is due to step down in January. He was appointed in 2008 as the country’s first resident ambassador to the Holy See since the two states established relations in 1973.
Indonesia, meanwhile, has not had a resident ambassador in Rome since the early 2011 departure of Suprapto Martosetomo.
Ireland’s decision to withdraw from Rome fueled fears that other country's diplomatic posts would remain unfilled or that other embassies to the Vatican might close. So far, that has not happened.
The two new appointments are not yet public, but CNA has learned from a source in the Vatican diplomatic community that both will be announced in the first quarter of 2012.
At present, the Holy See has diplomatic relations with 179 states, with about half of them maintaining permanent embassies in Rome.
Ireland's new ambassador to the Holy See will reside in Dublin, after the government announced Nov. 3 that it was closing its permanent embassy in Rome, citing financial woes. Some leading Irish Catholics were skeptical of the stated reason for the closure and asserted that it was more likely tied to the fallout between the two states over government reports on clerical abuse.
“I think the benefits of having a resident ambassador are numerous,” said U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Miguel Diaz in Dec. 13 remarks to CNA.
“Certainly the kind of context and relationships that are enabled by that physical presence of an ambassador in a particular place is really something that is hard to deny.”
“Diplomacy is about human relations.” Ambassador Diaz said. “(I)t is about, many times, a physical presence and about being at the right place at the right time and having the contacts to bring about the kind of results we all seek.”
His sentiments were echoed by the resident ambassador from Costa Rica, Fernando Sanchez Campos, who explained to CNA that 64 percent of people in Latin America view the Catholic Church as the most trusted institution in civil society.
“Whatever the Church says is important for people, and whatever the Pope says is important to the world,” he said.
Ambassador Sanchez added, “for any important country that wants to have major diplomatic links, it is important to have a good relationship with the Holy See.”
St. Paul, Minn., Dec 13, 2011 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis did not violate state campaign laws by mailing a DVD on marriage to 400,000 Catholics before the 2010 election, Minnesota’s Campaign Finance Board ruled Dec. 8.
Kurt Anderson, an attorney from Minneapolis who received the DVD, filed a complaint with the board alleging that the archdiocese failed to register as a lobbyist, political fund or a principal as required by state law.
The state board rejected the complaint on the grounds that the marriage issue was not on the ballot at the time of the mailing and was not an issue before the legislature.
“There is a sufficient basis on which to reasonably conclude that the archdiocese's communications were for a purpose other than to influence legislative action,” the board said.
The archdiocese provided its initial response to the complaint in May 2011. It characterized the DVD and letter packet as a message from the archbishop to Catholics about an important matter of public concern in which the archbishop explains his position.
The archdiocese emphasized that the packet was not sent to legislators or to the general public. Rather, it was “a private message to church members.” It did not request or instruct Church members to contact their legislators.
Anderson told Minnesota Public Radio News that he thought the campaign review board’s decision “ignores the plain language of Minnesota Statutes.”
“Unfortunately Catholics such as myself, who are sitting in the pews every Sunday when the collection baskets come around, have no accounting for this expenditure; and Minnesotans generally have been subjected to a large and potentially corrupting dose of hidden political money.”
The Minnesota legislature has placed a constitutional amendment to the November 2012 ballot to define marriage as one man and one woman. At present, the definition of marriage can be changed by the Minnesota legislature, and several legislators had pledged to act to recognize gay “marriage.”
On Dec. 9 Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis released a prayer for the success of the amendment and “all efforts to strengthen marriage.”
He called upon all Catholics of his archdiocese to embrace Fridays as a “particular day of prayer and sacrifice” for the amendment’s success.
The prayer asks God:
“Grant to us all the gift of courage to proclaim and defend your plan for marriage, which is the union of one man and one woman in a lifelong, exclusive relationship of loving trust, compassion, and generosity, open to the conception of children.”