Washington D.C., Feb 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The archbishop who oversees American Catholic military chaplains worldwide claims the U.S. Army violated his rights by stifling a pastoral letter condemning the Obama administration's contraception mandate.
Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio stands “firm in the belief, based on legal precedent,” that the Army defied his rights to free speech and free exercise of religion, according to a Feb. 3 statement from the military archdiocese.
U.S. Catholic military chaplains around the country were initially told to disobey their archbishop’s instruction to read a pastoral letter from the pulpit at all Sunday Masses on Jan. 28-29.
Although an agreement was eventually reached allowing the letter to be read, a key passage urging Catholics to avoid complying with the “unjust law” was removed.
On Jan. 20, the Department of Health and Human Services announced a new mandate that will soon require virtually all employers to purchase health insurance coverage that includes contraception, sterilization and drugs that cause abortion.
The announcement sparked protest around the country, as Catholic leaders and religious organizations argued that they were being coerced to violate their religious beliefs.
Although a religious exemption to the mandate exists, it does not apply to organizations that are willing to serve or employ members of other faiths. As the mandate stands, most Catholic schools, hospitals and charity organizations would be excluded from the exemption.
More than 150 Catholic bishops across the country have spoken out against the directive, saying that it violates the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom. Several have called for civil disobedience in response to the new regulation.
On Jan. 26, Archbishop Broglio joined many of his fellow bishops around the country in issuing a pastoral letter on the mandate to be read from the pulpit at all Sunday Masses throughout the following weekend.
The pastoral letter argued that the mandate violated the religious freedom protected in the U.S. Constitution and called on Catholics to resist it.
However, according to the archdiocese’s statement, the Army’s Office of the Chief of Chaplains sent out an e-mail instructing that the letter “not be read from the pulpit.”
The e-mail said that the letter could instead be mentioned in the Mass announcements and distributed at the back of the chapel, but that it had not been coordinated with the office and should not be read during Mass.
After a discussion between Archbishop Broglio and Secretary of the Army John McHugh, “it was agreed that it was a mistake to stop the reading” of the letter.
However, the line, “We cannot – we will not – comply with this unjust law” was removed from the letter by the archbishop at the prompting of Secretary McHugh, who believed that it “could potentially be misunderstood as a call to civil disobedience.”
According to the archdiocese, Archbishop Broglio believes the move violated both his rights and “those same rights of all military chaplains and their congregants.”
The archdiocese did not give any indication that it intends to pursue legal action over the incident. It said that it “did not receive any objections to the reading of Archbishop Broglio's statement from the other branches of service.”
Merrimack, N.H., Feb 7, 2012 (CNA) - The HHS contraception mandate puts Catholic college and university presidents in peril because it forces them to choose between obeying the law and disowning their Catholic faith which they have sworn to uphold, Thomas More College President William Edmund Fahey said.
Fahey said in a Feb. 2 letter to New Hampshire’s legislators in Congress that each year he and his college’s faculty profess an oath to follow the Catholic bishops “with Christian obedience” and that the bishops are speaking with “one voice” against the mandate.
“I will stand by my oath and with my bishops. I hope that in so doing I will not be forced to stand against my own country,” he said in a Feb. 2 letter to Sens. Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen and Rep. Frank C. Guinta.
“Is such a dilemma now to become the norm for men and women of conscience and religious faith within the United States of America?”
The New Hampshire Catholic college president’s letter adds to the many responses to the Jan. 20 Department of Health and Human Services’ announcement of a final rule that mandates that employers provide “preventive care” insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including an early abortion-causing drug.
The mandate’s narrow religious exemption does not include most Catholic health care systems, charities and educational institutions.
Bishop Peter Libasci of Manchester, N.H. responded to the mandate in a Jan. 26 letter saying “we cannot – we will not – comply with this unjust law.”
Fahey characterized the Obama administration’s actions as “an insult to and direct attack against long-standing practices of the Roman Catholic Church.” The mandate “calls into question the administration’s willingness or ability to work within the western tradition of constitutional and natural law principles.”
The requirement “chiefly targets Roman Catholics,” he charged. Because the mandate requires a Catholic community to violate its faith in order to provide medical benefits, it “effectively prevents the full practice of its religion.”
“No public case was ever made; no public consensus called for this mandate. Its introduction clearly creates an undue burden without any sign of compelling interest.”
The depiction of birth control, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs as health care is also false, he stated. Human life and pregnancy are not diseases to be prevented and the “beauty and goodness of human sexuality” should not be reduced to “an individual, utilitarian and dangerous act.”
“Human life itself is now placed into a category of social burden, which the government now claims the competence and authority to control and define,” he continued. “Human life itself, by being put under the same category as heart disease, cancer, or syphilis, becomes a threat to health. By promoting this mandate, the (HHS) Department plays a treacherous game with language and the very meaning of health.”
Fahey urged members of Congress to eliminate the mandate.
“I hope that you will see that the mandate attempts to force self-identified and faithfully Catholic organizations to compromise central tenets of their belief or drop health care coverage for their employees,” Fahey told the legislators.
“Furthermore, I hope that you will see that the mandate undermines the Constitution, compromises the integrity of the government, and abuses the foundational principle that free associations form an essential part of the social fabric of the United States.”
Washington D.C., Feb 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The editorial board of USA Today disagreed with the Obama administration’s claim that its recent contraception mandate respects the religious freedom of groups who will be forced to comply with it.
The board said that justifications offered by Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “sidestep the central issue” of religious freedom.
Sebelius penned a Feb. 5 article in USA Today arguing that the narrow religious exemption included in the recent contraception mandate is an attempt to “strike the right balance” between respecting religious beliefs and providing “preventive health services.”
USA Today ran an accompanying editorial article arguing that the Obama administration has “failed” to strike this balance and has instead devised a policy that is “contrary to both Catholic doctrine and constitutional guarantees of religious freedom.”
The articles come amid growing controversy surrounding Sebelius’ Jan. 20 announcement that virtually all employers will soon be required to purchase health insurance plans that cover sterilization and contraception – including drugs that cause abortion – at no cost to their employees.
The move sparked massive displays of protest from religious organizations that have moral objections to the new requirements.
Although the mandate includes a religious exemption it has been heavily criticized for its narrow scope. The exemption excludes the vast majority of religious groups because it applies only to organizations that primarily restrict their employment and services to members of their own faith.
In her article, Sebelius defended free coverage of “preventive services” as “one of the key benefits of the 2010 health care law.”
She argued that “virtually all American women use contraception at some point in their lives” and that contraception has health benefits but is often prohibitively expensive.
USA Today responded in its editorial that good medical intentions “are not sufficient grounds to override religious freedom.”
It noted that the government is free to – and in fact, already does – promote contraception in other ways that do not coerce religious organizations to violate their teachings.
Sebelius said that the administration recognized that “many religious organizations have deeply held beliefs” opposing the requirements of the mandate, and has provided an exemption for “religious organizations that primarily employ people of their own faith.”
The editorial acknowledged that an exemption exists for many “churches and other houses of worship,” but observed that this exemption does not extend to “organizations that employ or serve large numbers of people of different faiths,” which is a defining element “of many Catholic colleges, hospitals and charities.”
Sebelius also justified the mandate by arguing that 28 states already “require contraception to be covered by insurance,” and eight of these states do not allow for a religious exemption.
The editorial responded by pointing out that the majority of these states have even “broader exemptions” than that offered by the federal mandate, and several others that do not have an explicit exemption still provide ways for organizations with moral objections to “get around the mandate.”
“The First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom deserves more weight than the administration allowed,” the editorial said.
It added that individuals freely choose employers and should therefore be able to choose to work for an institution that does not offer free contraception coverage.
The board argued that the government “should never try to force a religiously affiliated institution to violate a central tenet of its faith.”
USA Today editors urged the Obama administration to “reopen discussion with those affected” negatively by the mandate and seek a compromise that will “widen the exemption in a suitable way.”
Rome, Italy, Feb 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI called upon bishops to respond in a “Christ-like” manner to clerical abuse as part of a “profound renewal” of the Church.
His Feb. 6 comments marked the opening of an international symposium in Rome to discuss the issue. The Pope’s wishes were expressed in a communiqué from Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's Secretary of State.
“He (the Pope) asks the Lord that, through your deliberations, many bishops and religious superiors throughout the world may be helped to respond in a truly Christ-like manner to the tragedy of child abuse,” the statement said.
“As His Holiness has often observed, healing for victims must be of paramount concern in the Christian community, and it must go hand in hand with a profound renewal of the Church at every level.”
The “Towards Healing and Renewal” symposium is being organized by Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University and runs from Feb. 6 - 9. Delegates have arrived come from about 110 bishops’ conferences, along with the superiors of more than 30 religious orders.
The message from Cardinal Bertone said that the Pope “supports and encourages every effort to respond with evangelical charity to the challenge of providing children and vulnerable adults with an ecclesial environment conducive to their human and spiritual growth.”
Pope Benedict urged symposium participants to “continue drawing on a wide range of expertise” to promote “a vigorous culture of effective safeguarding and victim support” throughout the Church.
All bishops’ conferences around the world have until May 2012 to draw up guidelines for dealing with cases of abuse. Those guidelines will then have to be approved by the Vatican. Many countries already have approved guidelines in place.
The symposium was opened on the evening of Feb. 6 with an address from Cardinal William J. Levada, Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. His department has handled all alleged cases of abuse since 2001 when his predecessor Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, was in charge of the congregation.
“The Pope has had to suffer attacks by the media over these past years in various parts of the world, when he should receive the gratitude of us all, in the Church and outside it,” Cardinal Levada told delegates.
He outlined how then-Cardinal Ratzinger centralized and streamlined the Vatican’s procedures for dealing with allegations of abuse, while also significantly increasing penalties for those found guilty.
Cardinal Levada also explained how since his election to the papacy in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI has made a priority of implementing best practices for handling abuse allegations around the globe.
The Pope was also praised by Cardinal Levada for meeting with abuse victims during his pastoral visits to England, Malta, Germany, Australia and the United States.
“I think is it hardly possible to overestimate the importance of this example for us bishops, and for us priests, in being available to victims for this important moment in their healing and reconciliation.”
Panama City, Panama, Feb 7, 2012 (CNA/Europa Press) -
The Archdiocese of Panama City called for dialogue to resolve the violence between the government and the local Gnöbe bugle Indian tribe which has left one person killed and 42 wounded.
Members of the tribe began protesting last week to oppose plans by the government to expand hydropower and mining operations in the country. According to Europa Press, they have refused to sit down for talks with the government of President Ricardo Martinelli.
On Feb. 5, hundreds of tribe members blocked the only highway that connects Panama with the rest of Central America, and police efforts to clear the highway led to riots. One person was killed, 42 were injured and more than 40 were arrested.
The confrontations “further infuriated the Indians, who closed the door to any chance for dialogue” and said they would not sit down for talks until all those detained are released, the archdiocese said.
Tribe members say they want the Panamanian Congress to enact a law restricting mining companies from building hydroelectric plants in their region, arguing that the plants would have the negative impact on the environment as mining.
The Archdiocese of Panama called on authorities to “seek a solution through respectful and responsible dialogue with the Gnöbe leaders and to avoid violent confrontations that jeopardize the lives of people who are protesting.”
Lima, Peru, Feb 7, 2012 (CNA) - The president of the Peruvian bishops' conference says the Church will always defend life and reject abortion even if this stance conflicts with society.
In remarks to CNA on Feb. 6, Archbishop Salvador Pineiro Garcia Calderon stressed the importance of “proclaiming life from its beginning to its end” and said that fidelity, fertility and the education of children in love seem like concepts from the past.
He said the Church would always resist abortion in all its forms, including abortion for alleged health reasons, “no matter how much they to try to justify it by saying the baby is sick or deformed.”
Local groups as well as some government officials have been stepping up efforts over recent months to pressure the country to legalize what's being called “therapeutic” abortion.
“I know I am going against the flow and it would easier for me to teach the contrary, but I would only receive cheap applause in return and I would not be a follower of Jesus,” the archbishop said.
“To snuff out life is the saddest of sins. It harms the soul because it means taking the life of an innocent being.”
Archbishop Calderon also commented on the problem of terrorism that Peru experienced for many years, which he called “a social curse permeated with hatred and injustice.”
The Peruvian government recently rejected a request by the Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights to form a political party. The organization is led by Manuel Fajardo, who is the lawyer for the leader of the terrorist group Sendero Luminoso (The Luminous Way).
Archbishop Garcia Calderon urged all Peruvians to work for peace and reconciliation and to “proclaim hope with loving hearts that are at the service of others.”
He also announced that he would travel to Leon to participate in the Pope’s visit to Mexico in March, as a representative of the bishops of Peru.
“I have the joy of bring him the greetings of the Church in Peru, the affection and filial obedience in this first encounter as president of the Peruvian bishops in order to ask his blessing for all the sons and daughters of Peru, who love the Pope so much and want to receive his message,” he said.
San Francisco, Calif., Feb 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that California’s Proposition 8 unconstitutionally defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, clearing the way for a possible U.S. Supreme Court hearing on “gay marriage.”
Proposition 8 “served no purpose, and had no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California,” the federal court said.
The 2008 California ballot measure garnered 52 percent of the vote. It overturned a previous state Supreme Court ruling which imposed legal recognition of the unions.
Prop. 8 backers may now appeal to a larger panel of the Ninth Circuit or may appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The high court has never heard a case on same-sex ‘marriage’ before but it is believed to be divided on the issue. Many legal scholars believe Justice Anthony Kennedy will be the deciding vote, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The ruling’s effects are likely to be limited to California.
Ahead of the decision, Prop. 8 backer Catholics for the Common Good called for a “massive response” by supporters involving e-mails and calls to radio and TV talk shows and letters to the editor of newspapers.
“Our opponents made an unprecedented request that the court give them 24 hours' notice before releasing their decision. They are no doubt rallying their troops and want to make the issue about gays and lesbians,” the San Francisco-based organization said.
In May 2009, the California Supreme Court upheld Prop. 8.
However, on Aug. 4, 2010, U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that the initiative “unconstitutionally burdens the exercise of the fundamental right to marry and creates an irrational classification on the basis of sexual orientation.” He said it fails to advance “any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license.”
Judge Walker, an appointee of Republican President George H.W. Bush, is himself homosexual.
His decision declared several findings of fact, including the claim that religious teachings like those of Pope Benedict XVI “harm” homosexuals.
The Ninth Circuit appeals court refused today to invalidate his ruling. Prop. 8 backers had requested the invalidation on the grounds that he should have disclosed he was in a same-sex relationship and could have personally benefited from the decision.
Catholics for the Common Good charged that Walker’s ruling created “an entirely new definition of marriage as merely the public recognition of a committed relationship between adults.”
“In reality, Prop. 8 protected the only decision that unites children with their moms and dads. How can anyone fail to see the value in that for children and society?”
Rome, Italy, Feb 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - An Irish woman who was abused by a priest in her youth told an international symposium on clerical abuse that Pope Benedict is a model of how to listen to victims.
“Listening to victims is one of the most important things, and it was something that was maybe not done enough, and the Pope is giving an example as to how it should be done,” Marie Collins said Feb. 7.
Collins, 65, was abused while a patient in a Dublin children’s hospital. She told journalists at the “Towards Healing and Renewal” symposium at the Pontifical Gregorian University that she was particularly impressed by the Pope’s numerous meetings with victims during his apostolic visits abroad.
“The bishops should take their example from him and from his lead and listen more to victims and what they have to say,” she said.
Since being elected in 2005, Pope Benedict has met with victims of abuse during his pastoral visits to the United States, England, Germany, Australia and Malta. In the latter case, he wept while listening to what he heard from victims.
The four-day symposium has gathered representatives from 110 bishops’ conferences and more than 30 religious orders at the Jesuit-run Roman university. Its aim is to share best practices from around the world amongst the bishops and religious superiors present.
This morning the delegates heard Collins give a joint presentation with Baroness Sheila Hollins on “Healing a wound at the Heart of the Church and Society.” The baroness, who is a professor of psychiatry at St. George’s medical school at the University of London, also described Pope Benedict’s meetings with victims as “incredibly important.”
“I felt he was modeling to bishops in all of those places, ‘this is how you sit and listen to victims,’ and I think that was very, very important. That he had the ability to be able to sit and listen to what people were saying. I have huge respect for him for doing that,” she said.
The Vatican has given those bishops’ conferences and religious orders that do not have abuse guidelines in place until May 2012 to do so. They must then submit them to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Rome for approval, revision or rejection.
“There’s absolutely no doubt that this symposium will contribute very, very positively to the various writings of those guidelines, because it’s a very valuable resource for those taking part,” said Collins.
In recent decades, Marie Collins has become a well-known campaigner in Ireland for the protection of children and justice for survivors of clerical sexual abuse. She said she found it “difficult” to tell her story today, but she persevered because it’s important for bishops and religious superiors “hear a victim’s experience” as part of the symposium.
“I felt for that reason that I should do it, and I’m very glad I did. And the response was very good,” she said.
She explained how one African bishop told them that he had “not really given the issue a great deal of importance” but that “after hearing us both speak he had changed his mind and felt that this was something he had to give a lot more attention to. So I think it was important that what we both said was heard.”
Baroness Hollins had explained to delegates how mental health problems are “very common” among victims of abuse, including “depression, anxiety, eating disorders or suicidal thoughts.” She also said she believes that listening to victims is key to helping them to heal their psychological wounds.
“Listening isn’t just something that happens once,” she remarked, “it is quite hard to listen in a way which helps a victim, a survivor feel like they’ve been heard. And so that listening has to keep on, particularly for somebody where the abuse happened a long time ago” and who has not be able to tell their story for many years.
Rome, Italy, Feb 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - One of the Catholic Church’s leading experts on clerical abuse says he welcomes a significant drop in the number of cases being reported in the United States – but won’t rest until that figure reaches zero.
“The instance of new allegations have dropped precipitously, it’s a marked drop, which is great news, although we’re not going to stop till we've stopped it completely,” Monsignor Steve Rossetti, associate professor at the Catholic University of America, told CNA Feb 7.
Msgr. Rossetti was in Rome to address an international symposium on the issue of clerical abuse at the Jesuit-run Gregorian University. The Feb. 6 - 9 gathering has brought together representatives from over 140 bishops’ conferences and 30 religious orders worldwide.
Msgr. Rossetti said that recent research suggests two reasons for the sharp drop in reported cases in the U.S. First, “society has now mandatory reporting and prison sentences,” he explained, and second,“the Church has a much stronger prevention program.”
Such prevention programs, he emphasized, “do work.” By changing “the culture in which people live,” he added, “molesters realize they no longer have any safe haven in the Church or in society,” and if and when abuse does occur, “we respond much more quickly.”
Msgr. Rossetti, a priest of the Diocese of Syracuse, New York and licensed psychologist, served as a psychological consultant to the U.S. Bishops’ Conference in drafting the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. He is currently a consultant to the USCCB ad hoc committee on revising that Charter.
He addressed delegates today on the topic of “Ministering to Offenders: Learning from Our Past Mistakes.”
“I was really trying to share with the bishops around the world many of the mistakes that had been made in responding to allegations with child sexual abuse, and so that they wouldn’t make the same mistakes,” he said.
His primary message was that the most important thing a bishop can do is to listen to victims as in doing so “you understand the pain caused, the need to reach out to the victims, to listen to their stories, and to bring some healing from the Church.”
Msgr. Rossetti also explained to CNA that the vast majority of cases of clerical abuse actually took place in the 1970s. His research provides two main reasons for the spike in criminal behavior at that time.
First, “the Church took in a cohort of men who had greater amounts of sexual deviancy for some reason, not sure why, but in that time frame, there were a number of men who had more, frankly, more sexual problems.”
He also added that statistically the 1960s and 1970s was a “more permissive environment,” when “crimes of all sorts, not just child abuse, spiked up during that time frame.”
“So, when you have a permissive environment, and in that permissive environment you place a group of men with deviant sexual interests, you end up with an explosion,” he concluded.
The Vatican has now given bishops conferences and religious congregations until May 2012 to submit their guidelines for dealing with clerical abuse to the Vatican for approval or revision. Many are looking towards the U.S. model as a template.
“My understanding is that the Bishops’ Conference in the U.S. has been helping anyone who comes and asks for help,” said Msgr. Rossetti, “not only other countries or bishops, but also other secular programs.”
He has seen religious and non-religious groups approach the U.S. bishops of the and say “we have heard about your guidelines, we want to learn from them and implement them in our organization.”
Vatican City, Feb 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Catholic Church must demonstrate the power of love and show the limitations of an individualistic worldview, Pope Benedict XVI taught in a Lenten message released two weeks before Ash Wednesday.
In the letter released Feb. 7, the Pope contrasted an ethic of “custody' of others,” with “a mentality that, by reducing life exclusively to its earthly dimension … accepts any moral choice in the name of personal freedom.”
A society with this mindset, he warned, “can become blind to physical sufferings and to the spiritual and moral demands of life. This must not be the case in the Christian community!”
The Pope's message for Lent of 2012, which begins Feb. 22, drew from the New Testament's Letter to the Hebrews – particularly the verse that proclaims, “Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works.”
“All too often, however, our attitude is just the opposite,” Pope Benedict observed, describing “an indifference and disinterest born of selfishness and masked as a respect for 'privacy.'”
“Today too, the Lord’s voice summons all of us to be concerned for one another. Even today God asks us to be 'guardians' of our brothers and sisters, to establish relationships based on mutual consideration and attentiveness to the well-being, the integral well-being of others.”
He encouraged believers “to recognize in others a true 'alter ego,' infinitely loved by the Lord.”
“If we cultivate this way of seeing others as our brothers and sisters, solidarity, justice, mercy and compassion will naturally well up in our hearts.”
But when this love and care for others diminishes, social and global problems correspondingly increase.
The Pope cited the words of his predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI, who declared that the world was “sorely ill” – with a sickness caused not by material factors, but by selfishness and “the weakening of brotherly ties between individuals and nations.”
“Contemporary culture seems to have lost the sense of good and evil,” Pope Benedict said, as he warned about the danger of “a sort of 'spiritual anesthesia' which numbs us to the suffering of others.”
“What hinders this humane and loving gaze towards our brothers and sisters?” he asked.
“Often it is the possession of material riches and a sense of sufficiency, but it can also be the tendency to put our own interests and problems above all else.”
“We should never be incapable of showing mercy towards those who suffer. Our hearts should never be so wrapped up in our affairs and problems that they fail to hear the cry of the poor.”
Yet even when the world's love grows cold, goodness “does exist and will prevail – because God is 'generous and acts generously',” through those who work on behalf of “life, brotherhood, and communion.”
“In a world which demands of Christians a renewed witness of love and fidelity to the Lord, may all of us feel the urgent need to anticipate one another in charity, service and good works,” the Pope stated, as he called all believers to practice the traditional Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
“This is a favorable time to renew our journey of faith, both as individuals and as a community, with the help of the word of God and the sacraments. This journey is one marked by prayer and sharing, silence and fasting, in anticipation of the joy of Easter.”
All of these ancient practices are meant to help the faithful grow in charity – which Pope Benedict described as “the very heart of Christian life.”