Archive of March 8, 2012

HHS mandate threatens Little Sisters of the Poor elder care

Baltimore, Md., Mar 8, 2012 (CNA) -

The Little Sisters of the Poor say the HHS contraception and sterilization mandate threatens their continued ministry to the impoverished elderly. They are “strongly objecting” to the federal rule and say it should be repealed as soon as possible.

“Because the Little Sisters of the Poor cannot in conscience directly provide or collaborate in the provision of services that conflict with Church teaching, we find ourselves in the irreconcilable situation of being forced to either stop serving and employing people of all faiths in our ministry – so that we will fall under the narrow exemption – or to stop providing health care coverage to our employees,” the order said on March 1.

“Either path threatens to end our service to the elderly in America. The Little Sisters are fervently praying that this issue will be resolved before we are forced to take concrete action in response to this unjust mandate.”

Their order serves 13,000 needy elderly of all faiths in 31 countries around the world. In the U.S., it has 30 homes for the elderly, accommodating 2,500 low-income seniors.

The Department of Health and Human Services mandate requires employers to provide coverage for “preventive health.” It defines this coverage to include sterilization and contraception, including some abortion-causing drugs. The Obama administration’s proposed compromise would mandate that insurance companies, not employers, provide this coverage.

The mandate’s religious exemption applies only to employers who primarily serve and employ their coreligionists and have the inculcation of religious values as their primary purpose.

The Little Sisters of the Poor said that even the indirect subsidizing of such benefits is “unconscionable to us.” Their longstanding health insurance has always explicitly excluded sterilization, contraception and abortion from covered services and this policy has “never been a matter of controversy in our homes.”

The sisters warned that the successful implementation of the federal rule could set a precedent for “further intrusion of government into health care.”

They have done their best to comply with all applicable government regulations and are not prone to making statements on politics or public policy, but they “cannot refrain from speaking out” about the mandate, the sisters said.

“If the federal government succeeds in enforcing this rule, what is to stop it from rationing health care to seniors or including euthanizing procedures on the list of required ‘preventive services’ as a way of eliminating the costs associated with caring for our aging population?” they asked.

“Would health care providers like the Little Sisters of the Poor then be forced to cooperate in such practices?”

“We wish to affirm that the HHS mandate is an unjust and dangerous infringement upon the natural and constitutional rights of Americans and that the only just solution is to rescind it. The Little Sisters of the Poor call upon Congress and the Executive Branch to reverse this decision as soon as possible and we pledge our prayers and sacrifices for the true good of our beloved country,” the order said.
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York said in a March 2 letter to all U.S. bishops that mandate negotiations with the White House appear stalled and that administration officials have said revising the mandate or broadening the exemption is “off the table.”

He urged his fellow bishops to “prepare for tough times.”

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New music video project to promote inspirational artists

Rome, Italy, Mar 8, 2012 (CNA) - A new Catholic non-profit project called Music Visions aims to promote music artists who have messages of faith, joy and hope to inspire the next generation.

“The social impact of music video via YouTube and other channels is undeniable and yet sadly today’s music video culture no longer respects the dignity of the human person,” music video director and Music Visions founder Manuel de Teffé said March 8.

“Hundreds of millions of young people spend the most formative years of their lives watching music videos which often promote an openly destructive lifestyle,” he pointed out.

“No space seems to be left for other artists who, despite their talent, cannot share their music simply for the lack of a well-produced music video. Music Visions would like to change that.”

De Teffé explained that the music video is the most popular internet content “by far.” Sixteen of the top 20 most watched YouTube videos are music videos, with more than four billion viewers.

Music Visions said it is seeking talented artists with unreleased songs, sponsors who understand the cultural challenges, and broadcasters interested in “taking a chance on something bold and new.”
The organization’s debut video “Beside You”  was directed by de Teffé and celebrates “the joy of motherhood” using music by the Italian artist Mario Maneri.

International pro-life organizations are invited to contact Music Visions to learn how the music video can help promote a culture of life.

The international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need is a sponsor of Music Visions, while the Catholic Radio and Television Network is also cooperating with the project.

The Music Visions website is

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Catholic leaders call for farming policies that help poor

Washington D.C., Mar 8, 2012 (CNA) -

Leaders of multiple Catholic organizations are asking a U.S. Senate committee to develop legislation that serves the needs of the poor and hungry, helps vulnerable farming communities and encourages sustainable stewardship of natural resources.

“Food production is unique because it is necessary for life itself,” said the Catholic leaders. “Catholic teaching maintains that food is a basic need and a fundamental right of the human person.”

The March 6 letter to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry addressed possible changes to U.S. policy for food and agriculture that the committee is considering as it holds hearings on the 2012 Farm Bill.

Bishops Stephen E. Blaire and Richard E. Pates and other Catholic leaders observed that the bill will have a particularly strong impact on the poor, as well as those who are “struggling to keep farming a viable way of life.”

The letter was also signed by Fr. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA; Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo, president of Catholic Relief Services; and Mr. James F. Ennis, executive director of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference.

In their letter, they outlined priorities to consider that would help provide for the poor and hungry, offer support to farms that are truly in need, and encourage stewardship of the nation’s resources.

Agricultural policy should strive to ensure that food is provided for all and to reduce poverty on farms in America and around the world, they said.

The signatories called on the senators to address the demands of domestic hunger and nutrition - particularly during the current period of high unemployment and a struggling economy - through food assistance programs for those in need. 

They also asked that sufficient resources be put aside for both emergency food assistance and development aid abroad. They encouraged the legislators to consider the continuation of international programs to fight hunger, provide nutrition to those living in poverty and build resilience against natural disasters such as drought.

In addition, the Catholic leaders voiced support for full funding of “conservation initiatives that promote stewardship of the land and environmentally sound agriculture practices.”

They promoted programs that offer incentives and technical aid for farmers to implement practices to cultivate clean air, water and wildlife habitats.

Emphasizing “the public health benefits of improving water and air quality,” they also welcomed consideration of easement programs to preserve the nation’s “abundant natural resources.”

Financial aid for poor farmers was also on the Catholic leaders’ list of priorities. They acknowledged a need for “shared sacrifice” in “times of financial hardship,” and said that government resources should support those who “truly need assistance” and are willing to utilize “environmentally sound and sustainable farming practices.”

Due to budget limitations and the high price of commodities, they suggested that the overall level of agricultural subsidies be reduced and sent to smaller farms, particularly those owned by minorities.

Furthermore, they said, programs and policies should promote the development and well-being of rural communities and small towns, which they described as “the backbone of the social and economic life of America.”

In particular, they voiced support for Value-Added Producer grants, which aid small and mid-sized farms and ranches, as well as those that are socially disadvantaged and just starting out.

They also spoke in favor of the Rural Micro-Entrepreneur Assistance Program and access to broad-band telecommunications services, which they called “essential tools” for farmers and ranchers.

The bishops and other Catholic leaders welcomed the 2012 Farm Bill as “an opportunity to address our nation’s broken and outdated agricultural policies.”

They said that the present moment is “a crucial time to build a more just framework” of policies that promote the common good by helping those in need and encouraging sustainable stewardship.

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Vatican astronomer: Science one of the best ways to know God

Denver, Colo., Mar 8, 2012 (CNA) -

The astronomer for the Vatican Observatory, Brother Guy Consolmagno, S.J., says that his study of the universe through science has helped him better understand the person of Christ.

Despite people often having the “crazy idea” that science and religion conflict, science is “really one of our best principles for getting to know God,” he told CNA.

Br. Consolmagno – who also serves as the Vatican's curator of meteorites – spoke on March 3 at the Living the Catholic Faith Conference in the Archdiocese of Denver, Colo. 

During his talk, titled “The Word Became Flesh,” the planetary scientist explained that modern atheists tend to understand God as being merely a force that “fills the gaps” in our understanding of the universe.

“To use God to fill the gaps in our knowledge is theologically treacherous,” Br. Consolmagno said, because it minimizes God to just another force inside the universe rather than recognizing him as the source of creation.

Those who believe in God should not be afraid of science, but should see it as a an opportunity that God gave humanity to get to know him better.

Br. Consolmagno said that he believes in God, “not because he is at the end of some logical chain of calculations” but because he “experienced what physics and logic can show me but cannot explain: beauty and reason and love.”

The primary difference between him and atheistic scientist Stephen Hawking is that he recognizes that God is not another part of the universe that explains the inexplicable, but rather “Logos” and  “Reason itself.”

He spoke of the faith needed to embrace Christianity and said that although other world religions and philosophies can give us a rational view of the universe, “only the Gospel could tell us that Reason itself became flesh and dwelt among us” in the form of Jesus Christ.

The Incarnation is remarkable because it happened, Br. Consolmagno said, and also due to the way it occurred. In coming into the world as an infant, God “exercised a kind of supernatural restraint” which still respected the laws of nature.

The Vatican Observatory was established in 1891 by Pope Leo XIII near St. Peter's Basilica but was moved a few miles outside of Rome in 1935 when pollution made visibility difficult. The Vatican established a new division of the Observatory in Tuscon, Ariz. in 1980 and built its own telescope in 1987.

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Vatican prevents complete website shutdown

Vatican City, Mar 8, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Despite launching an attack for several hours on the Vatican website, a group of hackers known as Anonymous was unsuccessful in completely shutting down the Holy See's official internet page.

Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See’s Press Office, confirmed to CNA on March 7 that the Vatican website was indeed the target of an attack.

However, the vice director of the press office, Father Ciro Benedettini, said on the following day that the hackers “were not able to achieve their objective” of completely bringing down the site.

He said Anonymous usually posts its signature banner on a website once it has completely taken it over, and its banner never appeared on the Holy See's online hub.

“The problem was solved right this evening,” Fr. Benedettini said on March 8.

The Anonymous logo features a man dressed in business suit flanked by two olive branches with a question mark in place of his head and a globe in the background.

An entry on the blog of Anonymous Italy said the attack was in response to the “doctrines, liturgies and the absurd and anachronistic precepts” that the Church spreads worldwide. It cited the sexual abuse of children, various historical and alleged misdeeds, and Church “interference” in Italian daily life and public policy as motives for the digital assault.

The hackers also objected to the Catholic stance against abortion and contraceptives.

They claimed the attack was not on the Christian religion or the Christian faithful but targeted the “corrupt Roman Apostolic Church.”

In August 2011, a faction of Anonymous unsuccessfully tried to attack the website of World Youth Day during the international Catholic event.

That campaign tried to recruit others to take part in the attack using YouTube videos, Twitter, and Facebook. It similarly cited clergy sex abuse as a motive, but also attacked Catholic practices like confession to priests.

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Cardinals approve heroic virtues of Father Felix Varela

Vatican City, Mar 8, 2012 (CNA) -

The Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of the Saints approved a decree on the heroic virtues of Cuban priest Father Felix Varela, moving him one step closer to being declared “venerable.”

“The vote of the commission of cardinals and bishops was positive, and that means that now the prefect of the congregation of saints has to go to the Pope for his authorization to proclaim the decree on heroic virtues,” explained Brother Rodolfo Meoli, the postulator of the cause for Fr. Felix's beatification.

Cardinal Angelo Amato, who heads the congregation, presided over the plenary meeting and vote which took place in Rome on March 6. 

In an interview with CNA on March 7, Br. Meoli said it is uncertain when Pope Benedict will approve the decree, but many think it will take place during the pontiff's March 25-28 trip to Cuba.

“I am thinking of calling Cardinal Amato to meet soon and find out if he plans to present the documentation before the Pope’s visit to Cuba,” he said.

“Generally, when the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints presents a decree to the Pope, he usually presents other decrees as well, and this can cause a delay.”

Br. Meoli said that as soon as the announcement about Fr. Varela’s heroic virtues was made, he called Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino of Havana. 

He also called Bishop Felipe de Jesus Estevez of St. Augustine in Florida, where Fr. Varela died, and  Bishop Anthony DiMarzio of Brooklyn – vice postulator of the cause – where the Cuban priest lived for many years.

“I am very happy,” Br. Meoli said. “Everyone responded with great enthusiasm hoping that the Pope will proclaim Felix Varela venerable when he goes to Havana.”

Felix Varela Morales was born in Havana on November 20, 1788. He was orphaned at a young age and was raised by his grandparents.  At the age of 23, he was ordained a priest and devoted himself to teaching.

In 1821 he was elected to represent of the Spanish colony of Cuba before the government of Madrid. He left for Spain that year, never imagining that he would never again return to Cuba.

Fr. Varela made three proposals to the Spanish crown that would lead to his exile. He called for the abolition of slavery, for Cuban independence and for self-rule for the colonies in the Caribbean.

With the outbreak of Absolutism in Spain in 1823, Varela fled Madrid and was denied entry into Cuba.  He was forced to settle in New York, where he worked as a pastor and eventually as vicar general. He continued speaking out and writing for the defense of human rights and freedom for Cuba.

His poor health forced him to move to St. Augustine, Florida, where he spent the last four years of his life. He died on February 25, 1853.

Br. Meoli emphasized that the priest's dedication to politics “should be understood within the context of his vocation to the service of God and to his homeland.”

He also observed that Fr. Varela could serve as an important figure of unity between Cuba and the United States, which are locked in an ideological conflict. 

“From the spiritual point of view, he is on both sides,” he said. While he was in Cuba, Fr. Varela worked as a philosopher, educator and writer. While in New York, “he worked to defend Catholicism from the Protestant majority.”

Fr. Varela additionally played a key role in teaching the faith to immigrants. “He kept them in the faith. He founded churches, orphanages and schools, and he was devoted to ministry for the poor, the uneducated and the marginalized,” Br. Meoli said.

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Pope names new bishop of Baker, Oregon

Baker, Ore., Mar 8, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI’s March 7 appointment of Fr. Liam Stephen Cary as the new bishop of Oregon’s Baker diocese was warmly received by Catholic bishops in the region.

Archbishop John G. Vlazny of Portland, presently on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, praised the news and called Fr. Cary “one of Portland’s finest priests.”

“For me, the appointment is bittersweet. The gain for the Diocese of Baker and the college of bishops is apparent. At the same time, the loss for the clergy and people of the Archdiocese of Portland is significant,” the bishop said in a March 8 statement. “As they say, ‘the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the Lord.’”

“Through the ministry of Bishop Cary, the people of Baker will be wisely taught and truly blessed. From my experience I am confident that Bishop Cary will humbly and lovingly do his part.”

Bishop-designate Cary was born in Portland on Aug. 21, 1947 and was raised in the central Oregon city of Prineville. He graduated from Mount Angel Seminary High School in 1965 and received a degree in philosophy from Mount Angel Seminary four years later. He attended St. Patrick Seminary from 1969 to 1970.

After leaving seminary on his own decision, he took many positions in service to those in need. He volunteered in a legal assistance office in Chicago for three years and at a legal clinic sponsored by the United Farm Workers in Salinas, Calif.

He began working with St. Vincent de Paul Society in Eugene, Oregon, and his involvement in St. Mary’s Catholic Church there rekindled his desire to become a priest, the Archdiocese of Portland said.

The bishop-designate resumed studies for ordination in 1988 at the North American College of Rome. He attended the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and earned a licentiate in sacred theology in 1992.

Archbishop William J. Levada, the then-Archbishop of Portland who now heads the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, ordained Cary to the priesthood in 1992.

The priest has served in several pastoral assignments and as the director of vocations. Since July of 2011 he has been pastor of Eugene’s St. Mary Parish. In addition to English, he knows Spanish, Italian and Latin.

Archbishop Vlazny said Bishop-designate Cary understands church leadership is a “ministry of service.”

“God bless you Bishop Liam! You are a good man, disciple and priest. I have no doubt that you will be an excellent bishop, a devoted servant of God’s people, a brother, friend and neighbor whom the archbishop of Portland will treasure.”

Emeritus Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., who was the Diocese of Baker’s apostolic administrator, said the diocese welcomes the new bishop “with profound joy and gratitude to Pope Benedict XVI.”

“He will find vibrant communities of faith in this diocese even in the more remote rural parishes where parishioners live out their faith in remarkable ways,” Bishop Skylstad said March 8.

He asked Catholics to remember their future bishop in their prayers as he prepares for his new duties.

The bishop-to-be will be the third priest from the Archdiocese of Portland to be named Bishop of Baker.

The Diocese of Baker has about 34,000 Catholics in a population of over 526,000. Its previous bishop, Robert Vasa, is now coadjutor of the Diocese of Santa Rosa in California.

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Bishop Aquila receives Pope's praise for reordering sacraments

Rome, Italy, Mar 8, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo said he is delighted to have first-hand papal approval for changing the order by which children in his diocese receive the sacraments.

“I was very surprised in what the Pope said to me, in terms of how happy he was that the sacraments of initiation have been restored to their proper order of baptism, confirmation then first Eucharist,” said Bishop Aquila, after meeting Pope Benedict on March 8.
Bishop Aquila was one of five bishops from North and South Dakota to meet with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican as part of their March 5-10 “ad limina” visit to Rome.

Over the past seven years the Diocese of Fargo has changed the typical order of the sacraments of initiation. Instead of confirmation coming third and at an older age, it is now conferred on children at a younger age and prior to First Communion.
Bishop Aquila said he made the changes because “it really puts the emphasis on the Eucharist as being what completes the sacraments of initiation” and on confirmation as “sealing and completing baptism.”

When the sacraments are conferred in this order, he said, it becomes more obvious that “both baptism and confirmation lead to the Eucharist.” This sacramental assistance helps Catholics live “that intimate relationship of being the beloved sons and daughters of the Father in our daily lives,” he added.
The Bishop of Fargo said the changes have also distanced the Sacrament of Confirmation from “some false theologies that see it as being a sacrament of maturity or as a sacrament for ‘me choosing God.’”

Instead, young people in Fargo now have “the fullness of the spirit and the completion of the gifts of the spirit” to assist them in “living their lives within the world,” especially “in the trials they face in junior high and high school.”

Bishop Aquila explained his theological thinking to Pope Benedict during today’s meeting.

In response, he said, the Pope asked if he had “begun to speak to other bishops about this.” He told the pontiff that he had and that “certainly bishops within the Dakotas are now really looking towards the implementation in the restoration in the ordering of the sacraments.”

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