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Archive of February 6, 2012

Hundreds of Paraguay teachers unite against abortion

Asunción, Paraguay, Feb 6, 2012 (CNA) - More than 500 teachers participating in the Catholic Teachers Congress in Paraguay rejected abortion and same-sex unions amid efforts to legalize both in neighboring countries such as Argentina.

In his message to the teachers during the Feb. 1-2 event in Asuncion, Archbishop Pastor Cuquejo said that the family is where education begins and where children are formed in their consciences.

“For this reason we defend the family made up of one man and one woman, who should do whatever necessary to provide comprehensive well being to their children,” the archbishop said.

He added that abortion and same-sex unions undermine the family, which is essential for society to exist and thrive. “If we weaken the family, we weaken society,” Archbishop Cuquejo said.

Congress member De los Santos Lima Huerta also weighed in and urged teachers not to give in to new tendencies in the country to impose sexual education on students.

He encouraged them to dialogue with students and said parents should take the lead in the education of their children. Families, and not the state or schools, are the primary educators of children, he said.

Parents should talk to their children and help them “to learn about their sexuality and not be afraid about confronting today’s situations,” Huerta emphasized.

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Cardinal warns Honduran president of increasing violence

Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Feb 6, 2012 (CNA) - Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez of Tegucigalpa urged Honduran president Porfirio Lobo to recognize the widespread violence and growing poverty afflicting the country.

“Our homeland is bleeding painfully,” he said on Feb. 3, “because of the ferocious violence, because of the growing poverty and lack of respect for life, the breakdown of the family, corruption in the police force, the impact of the drug trade subculture, unstoppable migration and religious confusion.”

Cardinal Maradiaga made his comments during the celebration of the 265th anniversary of the discovery of Our Lady of Suyapa, the patroness of Honduras. President Lobo, as well as other government officials, took part in the event.

“We must not be overcome by evil, but rather we must overcome evil with good,” the cardinal noted during his remarks. “We cannot live in fear and held hostage in our own homes, tormented by a collective psychosis consisting of fear, insomnia, nightmares and mourning.”

Honduras is becoming one of the most violent countries in Central America and one of the most dangerous for journalists, according to the organization Reporters without Borders. Since Lobo took office in January of 2010, more than 17 journalists have been killed.

Over 6,700 people were murdered in Honduras from January to December of 2011, according to data from the National Autonomous University of Honduras.

Despite this, Cardinal Maradiaga said Honduras is not “the worst country” or “the most violent,” but he said the country needs to recover its “legitimate self-esteem, knowing that the majority of the Honduran people want what is good and want to respect life.”

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Vatican City’s government rejects corruption allegations

Vatican City, Feb 6, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The body responsible for the governance of the Vatican City State is denying claims of corruption leveled by its former deputy governor, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò.

The allegations were made in private correspondence with Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, in spring 2011, but were only recently leaked to an Italian television station.
 
“The allegations contained in them cannot but lead to the impression that the Governorate of Vatican City State, instead of being an instrument of responsible government, is an unreliable entity, at the mercy of dark forces,” said an official statement issued Feb. 4.

“After careful examination of the contents of the two letters, the President of the Governorate sees it as its duty to publicly declare that those assertions are the result of erroneous assessments, or fears based on unsubstantiated evidence and are even openly contradicted by the main characters invoked as witnesses.”

The statement is signed by four leading figures involved in the running of the governorate, including the current president, Cardinal-designate Joseph Bertello, and his predecessor, Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo.

The Governorate of Vatican City State is the department responsible for such things as the buildings, maintenance, gardens and museums within the world’s smallest sovereign state. Archbishop Viganò was second-in-command between July 2009 and September 2011.

Since October 2011 he has been the papal nuncio to the United States.

In the leaked letters, which the Vatican has confirmed are authentic, Archbishop Viganò claimed nepotism and mismanagement were rife within the city-state.

In an April 4 letter to Pope Benedict, he alleged that a small number of Italian businesses were gaining the majority of contracts and then billing the Vatican at inflated prices.
 
“Work was always given to the same companies at costs at least double compared to those charged outside the Vatican,” he told the Pope.

The archbishop gave the example of the annual nativity scene that is built in St. Peter’s Square. His due diligence, he claimed, reduced the cost from $ 718,000 in 2009 to $392,000 in 2010.

He also criticized an unofficial group of Italian bankers, known as the Finance and Management Committee, who advise the Vatican City State on financial matters. In his April 4 letter, he claimed their involvement “resulted more in their own interests than ours,” and said that one recommended transaction “made us lose two and a half million dollars.”

During the two-year tenure of Archbishop Viganò, the governorate’s balance sheet went from running a deficit of $9.8 million in 2009 to a surplus of $28 million in 2010.
 
In his letters to Pope Benedict, the archbishop argued that it was his commitment to financial transparency that made him internal enemies who were seeking to push him out of the Vatican.
 
But the Feb. 4 statement from the Governorate of Vatican City State offered a detailed rebuttal of the claims made by Archbishop Viganò.

The statement explained that the budget of the governorate is regularly submitted to the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See and to its “college of international auditors” for scrutiny.

It also attributes the turnaround in the governorate’s financial situation during Archbishop Viganò’s tenure principally to two factors – improved returns from financial investments and “to an even greater extent, to the excellent results of the Vatican Museums.”

The governorate also insisted that it uses “standard bidding procedures” for major work carried out within the Vatican City State, such as the present restoration of the Colonnade of St. Peter’s Square. The bidding process is overseen by the Cardinal President of the Governorate and an “ad hoc” commission. Smaller projects are overseen by the staff of the Vatican’s Directorate of Technical Services or by “well known and well qualified external firms, on the basis of the prices in use in Italy,” the statement said.

The governorate also expressed “complete trust in, and respect for” the members of the Finance and Management Committee, and the governorate’s administrative offices and collaborators.

“All suspicions and accusations have, following careful examination, been shown to be unfounded, as have (almost to the point of seeming laughable) news reports – fruit of a certain kind of highly superficial journalism ….”
 
It does, however, say that the “implementation of the improvements” suggested by McKinsey management consultancy firm in a report commissioned by Cardinal Lajolo in 2009 will continue to be implemented.

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Longstanding racketeering lawsuit against Vatican dismissed

Jackson, Miss., Feb 6, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -

A federal court’s dismissal “with prejudice” of a 2002 lawsuit by five U.S. state commissioners against the Holy See shows the Vatican had “nothing to do” with a multi-million dollar criminal scheme against insurance companies, the Holy See’s U.S. attorney Jeffrey Lena said.

The suit charged that the Holy See had engaged in criminal fraud and racketeering in violation of federal law.

The allegations against the Holy See “make good fodder for conspiracy theorists,” said Lena, who added that journalists who “enthusiastically” publicized the allegations should “write with equal vigor upon the cases’ demise.”

State insurance regulators sued the Holy See for $600 million in 2002 in connection with the actions of financier Martin Frankel.

Frankel and his co-conspirators allegedly acquired several insurance companies from 1991 to 1999 in Mississippi, Tennessee, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas and illegally used the companies’ money for his own gain.

The Vatican was first approached by Frankel’s associates under the false pretense that Frankel, who used the pseudonym “David Rosse,” was a wealthy U.S. financier who wanted to donate millions of dollars to the Church to help the poor, Lena said in a Feb. 2 statement.

Frankel proposed the creation and funding of a charitable foundation in the Vatican, allegedly intending to use the foundation in an ongoing scheme to buy insurance companies and illegally exploit them.

“The Holy See categorically rejected the notion that ‘Rosse’ could ever create a Vatican foundation,” Lena said, citing a 1998 letter from then-Holy See Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano which said no such foundation could ever be created.

Frankel then created a false foundation in the British Virgin Islands named the St. Francis of Assisi Foundation to Serve and Help the Poor and Alleviate Suffering. He claimed the organization was affiliated with the Holy See and that John Paul II had personally authorized the funding.

According to Lena, the Vatican never received any money from Frankel.

“Through these machinations, the Holy See became the unwitting victim of Frankel’s fraud, which sought to trade on the Holy See’s name and reputation to continue to purchase and loot insurance companies,” the attorney commented.

Lena said the lawsuit was filed despite the fact that the Holy See never received money from Frankel.

The lawsuit was not dismissed because of a settlement agreement, he added. Rather, the insurance commissioners filed for dismissal of their own accord.

“As today’s dismissal with prejudice shows, the state insurance regulators’ decision to sue the Holy See for Frankel’s crimes was unsupported by the evidence,” said Lena, who reported that before the lawsuit was filed two government investigations concluded that state insurance regulators had allowed Frankel’s scheme to continue uninterrupted.

Lena suggested that state regulators sued the Holy See despite the findings of the U.S. Government Accounting Office and the Tennessee Comptroller that they bore “much of the blame” for allowing the scheme to continue.

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Pope appoints new bishop of Salina, Kansas

Salina, Kan., Feb 6, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has named Oklahoma priest Msgr. Edward John Weisenburger as the new bishop of Salina, Kansas.

Bishop-elect Weisenburger, 51, will succeed former Salina Bishop Paul S. Coakely, who was named Archbishop of Oklahoma City on Dec. 16. The bishop-elect is presently the vicar general of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the rector of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cathedral.

He served as an on-site chaplain for rescue workers at the site of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City after the April 19, 1995 bombing that killed 168 people.

He was born in Alton, Ill. on Dec. 23, 1960. His father was a military officer and his mother was a homemaker. He spent two years of his childhood in Hays, Kan. but grew up in Lawton, Okla.

The bishop-elect attended Conception Seminary College in Conception, Mo. and the American College Seminary at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium. He was ordained to the priesthood in December 1987, after which he received a pontifical degree in canon law from the University of St. Paul in Ottawa, Canada.

He has served as pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in Okarche, Okla. and as promoter of justice for the cause of canonization of Servant of God Fr. Stanley Francis Rother. He has also worked in prison ministry and served on the archdiocesan tribunal for 20 years.

In October 2009, he was appointed a prelate of honor by Pope Benedict XVI and given the title reverend monsignor.

He enjoys reading and occasional travel.

The bishop-elect’s mother died in 1998, while his father resides in Oklahoma City. He has two sisters, a brother, and several nieces and nephews.

The date of his episcopal ordination and installation as Bishop of Salina will be announced in the near future.

The Diocese of Salina has over 48,000 Catholics in a population of 342,000. There are 76 priests in the diocese, seven permanent deacons, and 167 vowed religious.

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Kmiec rebukes Obama, may withdraw endorsement for 2012

Washington D.C., Feb 6, 2012 (CNA) - Professor Doug Kmiec, a Catholic supporter of Barack Obama in the 2008 election, has rebuked the president, saying he may withdraw his endorsement over the federal contraception coverage mandate.
 
“Where is the common good, sir, in not making room for the great Catholic traditions of education, health care, and meeting the needs of the least among us?” Kmiec asked the president in a letter he made public Feb. 6 through the website Catholic Online.

On the same day, the Washington, D.C. newspaper The Hill published excerpts of an e-mail from Kmiec saying he was “now unhappily without a candidate,” until he could “have an opportunity to speak with the president” about Health and Human Services' new rules on contraception coverage.

“This matter goes to the heart of who we are as a people,” Kmiec stated in his letter to the president, as he went on to ask why Obama would “put the cold calculus of politics above faith and freedom.”

The Pepperdine University professor, who served as U.S. ambassador to Malta from 2009 to 2011, suggested the president was forcing him to choose between “friendship” and his “duty to faith and country.”

“The Barack Obama I knew would never have asked me to make that choice,” he wrote.

On Jan. 20, Health and Human Services finalized rules on “preventive services,” which will take effect under the health care law signed by President Obama.

Over 160 U.S. Catholic bishops have spoken out against the mandate, which will require religious employers to cover contraception and sterilization. An exemption exists only for institutions that primarily work to “inculcate religious values” and mainly employ and serve members of their own faith.

In his e-mail to The Hill, Kmiec said he was left wondering, “Why exactly did we not walk down a path that would have led to common ground – namely, coverage without ethical objection?

“That’s what I need answered before deciding on 2012,” he wrote.

The former Maltese ambassador said he found it “most troubling to be tossed into this dilemma,” since he remains “very proud of the president’s success on the healthcare initiative” and other issues.

Both Kmiec's letter to the president, and his e-mail to The Hill, show a stronger opposition to the mandate than he had previously expressed in the run-up to the final rule.

During 2011, the former ambassador had called for a broader religious exemption, while simultaneously maintaining that even a universal mandate would not infringe on religious freedom.

In a Nov. 22 National Catholic Reporter column, he said there was “no violation of religious liberty when HHS announces a temporary or permanent regulation requiring all employers – religious or nonreligious, Catholic or not – to provide employees with an insurance benefit for artificial contraception.”

Religious freedom, Kmiec said in that essay, would only have been violated if the department had “demanded a religious employer to affirmatively endorse or require the use of artificial contraception or any other choice contrary to its own teaching.”

A vast majority of the U.S. bishops, however, have declared that the rule violates the Church's rights over its own ministries.

While Kmiec stopped short of explicitly reversing his past defense of the mandate, his rebuke of the president contained strong words on the topic of religious freedom.

Kmiec said the president's profession of faith at the Feb. 3 National Prayer Breakfast had “touched neither soul nor heart in the room,” coming just two weeks after his administration finalized the contraception rule over the objections of Catholics and others.

“In deciding against a reasonable accommodation of Catholic concerns in the implementation of the health care program, you lost sight of your own beliefs … The polite, but tepid applause this morning was a sign of concern that you have lost your way on this most essential topic.”

Kmiec warned the president that he had “already lost the votes” of many “people of independent mind.”

A self-described pro-life Catholic and Republican, Kmiec served as a constitutional legal counsel to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He caused controversy in 2008 by endorsing Barack Obama, arguing that his policies could reduce abortion without making it illegal.

Kmiec had previously worked as an adviser to Mitt Romney during his bid for the 2008 Republican nomination, until Romney's withdrawal from the race. In a February 2008 Slate column, Kmiec noted that Romney had spoken out “in defense of the best traditions of religious liberty” during his campaign.

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