Rome, Italy, Mar 22, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The producer of a new film that brings to life the fight against the Mexican government’s persecution of Catholics in the 1920s says there are clear parallels to today’s situation in the United States and elsewhere.
“I think what we are living now is the same things that happened at that time, and after you watch the movie you will see there are a lot of topics that are very alive right now,” Pablo José Barroso, producer of “For Greater Glory,” told CNA on March 21.
“For Greater Glory” – formerly called “Cristiada” – charts the history of Mexico’s Cristero War that was sparked by anti-clerical legislation being passed by the Mexican President Elías Calles in 1926. Those laws banned religious orders, deprived the Church of property rights and denied priests civil liberties, including the right to trial by jury and the right to vote.
The persecution became so fierce that some Catholics began to forcibly resist, fighting under the slogan and banner of “Cristo Rey” (Christ the King).
“This story broke our hearts, but it’s a story that has to be told,” said Barroso.
“It is a real story about people who stood up for their beliefs, and as a Mexican, I am very proud to share with the world this Mexican story which even many Mexicans don’t know about.”
The film is directed by Dean Wright and stars award-winning actors Andy Garcia, Eva Longoria and Peter O’Toole among others. “We’re trying to do values movies” with high production quality, explained Barroso, who was present at a premier of the film in Rome on March 20.
On Sunday, March 25, Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate Mass with over 400,000 pilgrims in the central Mexican city of Silao. He will do so in the shadow of the 65-foot statue of Christ the King which was constructed in the 1940s as a memorial for those who died in the Cristero War.
Dozens of martyrs from the war have since been canonized and beatified by the Church, including 14-year-old Jose Sanchez del Rio who was declared blessed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005. His story is particularly highlighted in the new film.
“I hope that after seeing this movie that people start to stand up and really live by their religion,” said Barroso, who sees the threat to religious liberty emerging around the globe.
“As a Catholic, I think now is the time for laymen to stand up and do something.”
“For Greater Glory” will arrive in theaters in the United States on June 1, 2012.
Chicago, Ill., Mar 22, 2012 (CNA) - A $3 million strip club preparing to open next to a Catholic convent in an Illinois village is in violation of a state “buffer zone,” a legal group representing local residents and the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo has charged.
“For over 60 years, the Sisters of St. Charles have devoted their lives to teaching the children of Stone Park – service for which they’re now being repaid with a ‘porno palace’ towering over their convent,” Peter Breen, executive director of the Chicago-based Thomas More Society, said March 13.
“This facility was located in clear violation of state law, and zoning permissions were given without notice to the Sisters, whose convent is located immediately next to this facility.”
The dispute concerns the construction of the 18,000 square foot club “Get It” several feet from the property line of the sisters’ convent. It will have partially nude performers and alcohol.
Personnel with the strip club have reported that the facility is set to have its first “dry run” on April 1 and will officially open its doors during Holy Week.
Objectors say that the sisters and many neighbors were not properly notified of the project. Stone Park officials said that the village sent notifications to the wrong address because of incorrect property records.
The sisters’ retirement home is closest to the club building. Their property also includes a formation house for novices and provincial offices. The convent property has several chapels.
Sr. Madonna Daltoe, treasurer of the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo Scalabrinians, told EWTN News in February the sisters objected to the club on the grounds that it would add to the village’s social problems and would affect the prevalence of Christian values in the community.
Breen told a March 12 Stone Park Village Board meeting that state law requires a one-mile “buffer zone” between adult entertainment facilities and “places of worship.”
The club developer sued the village in April 2010, alleging that officials had tried to extort cash and part ownership of the club in exchange for approval to build the facility.
Although most of the village ordinances were unchallenged by the suit, the village agreed to repeal or amend some ordinances as part of a settlement. These included a local ordinance similar to the state statute that created a 1,000-foot buffer zone between adult entertainment businesses and schools, parks, churches and residential areas, the Thomas More Society said.
The Stone Park mayor said that the village chose not to defend against the lawsuit because it would cost $500,000.
Breen said the ordinances could not be successfully challenged because they were “valid and constitutional.”
“There was no reason to agree to the repeal of the ordinances protecting the people of Stone Park from strip clubs coming into their residential and other child-heavy areas,” he said.
The Thomas More Society offered free legal services to the village if it joins residents in acting against the facility.
Opponents of the club have organized a prayer march and candlelight vigil for the evening of March 21, the Christian Post reports.
Washington D.C., Mar 22, 2012 (CNA) - In honor of the 125th anniversary of its founding, The Catholic University of America community in Washington, D.C. completed 125,000 hours of charitable service in just over eight months.
President John Garvey said on March 16 that he was “astounded and immensely proud” of the tremendous generosity demonstrated by the students, alumni and faculty.
Garvey had challenged the university community to complete 125,000 hours of service between May 15, 2011, and April 10, 2012, which marks the anniversary of the university’s founding.
“For 125 years, our pursuit of truth through reason and faith has found its fulfillment in charity,” he said in a statement outlining the goal on the project's website. “In this way, our University has borne witness to the idea that knowing, loving and serving God are part of the same enterprise.”
Founded in 1887 by the U.S. bishops with the support of Pope Leo XIII, The Catholic University of America is the Catholic Church’s national university in the U.S.
It currently serves around 3,633 undergraduate and 3,261 graduate students in numerous courses of study.
Garvey said that “reason, faith, and service” unite all Catholic University students, from 1887 until today.
He encouraged the entire community to give of their time and talent to the Church, the disadvantaged and the community in the months leading up to the school’s 125th anniversary.
The response from the university community was immense. Students, alumni, faculty, staff and administration members all participated in the initiative, volunteering for projects including food banks, women’s shelters, habitat for humanity events and mission trips to Jamaica and Costa Rica.
Individuals volunteered alone or in groups. Several clubs and departments held volunteer events together.
The initiative even drew the participation of alumni who graduated more than 60 years ago.
Due to the strong response, the university reached its goal on Jan. 24, nearly three months before the goal date. However, the community did not stop there, but continued its efforts to serve others.
As of March 24, the university had recorded 194,074 service hours, and more will be accepted until April 10.
A webpage dedicated to the school’s anniversary allows students to find service opportunities and offer reflections on what serving others has meant to them.
“I serve because of the joy that it brings others,” said senior Andrew Laux, who started to get involved with service at the university during his freshman year.
After volunteering in different capacities, Laux found his “niche” in helping out as a service leader at the Little Sisters of the Poor Nursing Home.
He said that the experience has helped him to “really appreciate the act of conversation” and understand how God can use him to bless others “by a simple act of talking.”
He noted that the elderly residents are “constantly teaching me things about myself, my faith, and my life.”
Laux also believes that service has helped him grow in his relationship with God.
“I find myself praying more often and realizing how blessed I am to have my family so close and so supportive,” he said.
Alumna Laura Hehman said that she became a full-time volunteer at A Simple House of Sts. Francis and Alphonsus after graduating in 2005. Initially, she only intended to stay for a few months.
However, six years later, Hehman is still at A Simple House. She was recently married to another volunteer and graduate of The Catholic University of America.
She explained that A Simple House seeks to provide for the material and spiritual needs of the poor. This includes a wide range of service that encompasses delivering diapers and groceries to families in need, inviting people to Bible studies and visiting with those who are lonely.
Hehman said that her years of volunteering have shown her the importance of love and taught her that “the problems of the poor cannot be fixed by material solutions alone.”
“A Simple House has been a place for us to learn humility and sow deep friendships,” she said, adding that she and her husband “plan to continue our work here.”
Montgomery, Ala., Mar 22, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The state of Alabama is joining the world's largest religious media network in its lawsuit against the U.S. government's contraception and sterilization coverage mandate.
“We are grateful to Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange for taking such a strong stand on this issue,” said Michael P. Warsaw, president and CEO of the Eternal Word Television Network, in an announcement made after Strange filed in federal court as a co-plaintiff on March 22.
“This suit demonstrates that the Alabama motto, ‘We dare to defend our rights,’ is no mere slogan,” Warsaw observed.
“The state could simply have chosen to file a brief advising the court of the impact of the case on its citizens. Instead, it is intervening in the suit as a co-plaintiff with EWTN.”
The move sends a message “that this unjust, unconstitutional mandate hurts not only EWTN, but the entire community,” Warsaw said.
The media network filed its lawsuit against the government on Feb. 9, one day before the administration confirmed the rule that requires many religious ministries to cover contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing drugs in their health plans.
The network, assisted by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, was among the first religious organizations to sue the federal government over the contraception mandate. Alabama's filing on Thursday makes it the eighth state whose attorney general is challenging the rule in court.
On a March 22 conference call with reporters, EWTN General Counsel John Manos said the network was “no longer alone in this fight for religious freedom, but is joined by the entire state of Alabama to fight this egregious mandate.”
“We are grateful and relieved,” said Manos, “because this mandate, which forces people to act contrary to their beliefs, affects everyone – not just EWTN.”
In his filing, Alabama's attorney general explains that current law in his state allows religious ministries to make insurance contracts that exclude the controversial services. Under the administration's rule, formulated under the 2010 health care law, many non-exempt religious groups would lose this right.
“Alabama’s government and people have a long tradition of respect for religious freedom and the right to conscience,” Attorney General Strange states in his motion to intervene as co-plaintiff.
The state constitution “has always declared 'that the civil rights, privileges, and capacities of any citizen shall not be in any manner affected by his religious principles.'” In 1998, Alabama voters amended their state constitution to include the provisions of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
During Thursday's conference call, Becket Fund General Counsel Kyle Duncan told reporters that Alabama's intervention highlighted “another massive problem caused by the HHS mandate” – namely, the clash between its requirements and those of different state constitutions.
“The mandate, which is a command from the federal government, prohibits a state like Alabama from protecting its own citizens' religious liberties as it manages its own healthcare market in response to the Affordable Care Act,” he told reporters.
As a result, Duncan said, Alabama's state government “can't comply with the federal law without violating its own constitutional guarantees of religious freedom for all of its citizens.”
Alabama's attorney general is also concerned that the contraception mandate will burden his state financially. If non-exempt religious employers must drop their insurance plans for reasons of conscience, employees would be forced to find insurance through public programs like Medicaid.
Strange's filing also stresses his responsibility, as attorney general, to ensure that charitable institutions fulfill their mission in accordance with their own stated purposes and bylaws. He argues that the mandate intrudes on both this duty of his office, and the missions of the religious nonprofits it oversees.
Under the mandate, Warsaw said, the federal government can force religious institutions to compromise their mission – and put an end to these groups if they refuse.
“When the federal government uses its power to coerce a faith-based organization to act contrary to its deeply held values, it destroys that organization’s capacity to fulfill its mission,” EWTN's president and CEO explained.
“Ultimately, as is the case with the HHS mandate, if that organization is unwilling to compromise its beliefs, it is destroyed by fines and crushing government penalties; it ceases to exist.”
“In joining EWTN’s lawsuit, Attorney General Strange shows that he understands this is unacceptable. I am very grateful that he has chosen to use the state’s power to intervene for the common good.”
In his own remarks on the lawsuit, Strange reminded the public that religious liberty “is our ‘first freedom’ under the United States Constitution.”
“The people of Alabama have recognized the importance of this freedom and have enshrined it in their constitution as well,” he noted. “Alabama law does not allow anyone to be forced to offer a product that is against his or her religious beliefs or conscience.”
“The issue is simple,” the attorney general stated. “Either Alabamians and Americans around the country will be allowed to exercise their religious freedom to say ‘no’ to something they disagree with, or they won’t.”
“We hope the Obama Administration will listen, and adopt a position that supports our first freedom rather than undermines it.”
Alabama's entry into the contraception mandate lawsuit comes as the Supreme Court prepares for a March 26-28 hearing that will weigh the constitutionality of the federal health care law as a whole. The court will focus on its “individual mandate,” which requires citizens to obtain health insurance.
In his remarks to reporters on Thursday, Attorney General Strange argued that the dispute over the contraception mandate “is the natural consequence of Obamacare's individual mandate.”
“If the federal government can mandate that everyone has to buy something, then the government can require us to buy something even if we are morally opposed to paying for it,” Strange said, expressing his hope that the Supreme Court will find the health care law unconstitutional.
Updated March 22, 2012 at 1:06 p.m. Central Time. Adds comments from press conference.
Brussels, Belgium, Mar 22, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholic charity Caritas Europa has called on the European Union to ensure that immigrants are allowed to bring their families with them as they assimilate into local countries.
“We raised our concerns over current practices in some EU member states that prevent migrants and refugees from being reunited with their families,” said Caritas Europa secretary general Jorge Nuño Mayer.
In an open letter, Caritas Europa's executive board – which governs the 49 member organizations within the network – urged a more concentrated effort from the EU to “ensure independent residence status for reunited family members as early as possible.”
The EU includes 27 sovereign member states across the European continent, with a combined population of over 500 million people.
During a meeting in Brussels from March 13-15, Caritas board members said they want a better implementation of the current EU directive on family reunification, a legislative act that will allow immigrants to bring their families to Europe.
The charity said the goal of the directive is to promote immigrants' family life in the EU and urged guarantees of equal treatment and “non-discrimination” of non-EU nationals and their family members, specifically within “the labor market, education and training.”
Washington D.C., Mar 22, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A legal group that works to defend religious freedom says new government recommendations on implementing the federal contraception mandate fail to address religious groups' concerns.
Hannah Smith, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told CNA on March 19 that the Obama administration is “trying to make it sound like an easy fix.”
However, its claims are “simply false” and its fundamental premise “defies basic economics,” she said.
On March 16, the Obama administration issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking to request feedback from the public on several possible ways to implement its “preventive services” mandate.
The administration has drawn heavy criticism over the mandate, which will require employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their religious beliefs.
Faced with a storm of protest, President Barack Obama promised on Feb. 10 an “accommodation” for religious freedom that would shift the payment of the objectionable coverage to an insurance issuer or other administrator. The newly-released recommendations are suggested means of implementing that accommodation.
However, many religious individuals and groups believe that the accommodation does not do enough to respect their religious liberty. The Becket Fund has filed lawsuits on behalf of several organizations that have voiced this objection.
A March 20 analysis by the Becket Fund responded to the proposals released for feedback by the administration.
The group's analysis said that all of the suggestions put forward are problematic because they “continue to have the religious group facilitating the access to contraception” by providing lists of employees to the insurance issuer or third party administrator.
The accommodation dictates that religious groups that use an outside insurance company will contract with an insurance issuer that will be required to provide separate contraception coverage to the group’s employees.
According to the administration, the insurance issuers will pay for the contraceptive coverage from “the estimated savings” of eliminating the need for “services” that arise from not covering contraception.
However, the administration also acknowledged that premiums from multiple organizations are gathered into a pool, “from which the issuer pays for services.”
The Becket Fund pointed out that “the practice of pooling makes it impossible to trace whether any savings are made from reduced pregnancies.”
A recent survey of insurance companies indicated that the mandate will not actually cut costs.
In reality, the Becket Fund said, religious group will still end up paying for the coverage because the insurance company will “pass along the extra costs in increased premiums.”
Problems for self-insured religious groups
For religious groups that self-insure – meaning that the religious group acts as its own insurance company – the government has recommended that a “third party administrator” would administer the separate contraception coverage.
The administration has offered four suggestions for funding in these cases, which are currently open for comments from the public.
In response, however, the Becket Fund’s analysis addressed each of these recommendations and rebuffed all four as inadequate.
The administration’s first suggestion was that third party administrators could fund the coverage using revenue from drug rebates, service fees or disease management program fees.
But the Becket Fund said that it may be illegal for the third party administrator to use such funds to pay for contraceptive coverage if that money actually belongs to the client.
It compared the situation to investing, explaining, “It is illegal for an investment house to keep dividends and not repay them to shareholders.”
The central question that would need to be answered under this proposal is whether the drug rebate money would properly belong to the third party administrator or to all the organizations that had originally supplied the money, it explained.
If the pool of money that generated the drug rebate was owned by the contributors rather than the third party administrator, the administrator would be required to pro-rate the discounts back to those who pooled the money, it said.
Under the proposal, the administrator “would potentially be taking money away from a religious employer because the religious group would not be getting the rebate anymore,” since it would be going towards contraceptive coverage, it explained.
The second suggestion offered by the federal government would involve the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which is responsible for contracting with certain insurers to offer multi-state plans.
In developing such plans, the administration has suggested, the office could require these insurers to offer the contraceptive coverage for self-insured entities.
The Becket Fund said that this suggestion bolsters the argument made in its lawsuit that the government does have a means of accomplishing its goal without requiring religious groups to pay for it.
Even so, it said, this route would not entirely address the objections of religious organizations because it would still require them to provide their employees’ information to the third party administrator.
A third possibility put forth by the administration makes use of a reinsurance program through which insurance companies decrease their risk.
As part of the process of creating new exchanges with individual plans, a program will be used to offset the cost of reinsurance.
Under the health care plan, insurers and third party administrators will pay money to a reinsurance entity, and these payments will be redistributed to those that are most at risk.
The administration has suggested that administrators that fund contraceptive coverage for religious organizations could offset this cost with a credit against their payments to the reinsurance fund.
However, the Becket Fund said that this proposal would essentially turn the reinsurance fund “into a slush fund to pay for contraceptive services.” It also noted that the administration has acknowledged that the reinsurance program is a transitional measure that is only intended to operate for a few years, so it would not provide a permanent solution to the problem.
The final option suggested by the administration is that a third party administrator could receive funding through donations from a private, non-profit organization.
The Becket Fund called this option “an obvious reference to Planned Parenthood and other similar organizations” where people can already receive contraception. It questioned the need for the mandate at all if such organizations already provide the controversial products and procedures for low-income individuals.
Rome, Italy, Mar 22, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A delegation from the Brazilian organizing committee for World Youth Day Rio will meet in Rome with the Pontifical Council for the Laity to discuss what can be learned from the previous gathering in Madrid and to answer logistical questions.
“The meeting in Rome will be first for learning from the experience in Madrid, and second for discussions with representatives of different countries and movements. It will address very practical questions, such as visa permits, vaccinations, hospitality, and the schedule and calendar for World Youth Day,” said World Youth Day Rio’s general coordinator Monsignor Joel Portella Amado.
Nearly 350 representatives of numerous bishops’ conferences, dioceses, communities, and movements from more than 80 countries are expected to attend the meeting, scheduled to take place March 28 to April 1.
The delegation from Brazil will arrive in two waves.
The first group, which has already left for Rome, includes, Archbishop Orani Joao Tempesta of Rio, president of the committee, Auxiliary Bishops Antonio Augusto Dias Duarte and Paulo Cezar Costa of Rio, and general coordinator Msgr. Portella. The second set of committee members will arrive in Rome for the meeting next week.
A week for sharing and reflecting
The upcoming meetings are a part of the next stage in preparing for World Youth Day arriving in Rio in 2013. In statements to the official World Youth Day Rio website, Msgr. Portella said preparations for the event include several key meetings between the organizing committee, the Brazilian bishops’ conference and the Pontifical Council for the Laity.
A delegation from the pontifical council, led by Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, met with local World Youth Day officials in Rio Feb. 27 – March 2 to discuss ongoing preparations.
“The meeting here showed that the way in which Rio is going to work, and how the event is going to be conceived and carried out is truly in accord with the identity and DNA of World Youth Day,” Msgr. Portella said.
On Palm Sunday in Rome, the Rio delegation will attend Mass with Pope Benedict to mark World Youth Day at the diocesan level. Officials from the committee are planning to bring a replica of the famous Christ the Redeemer statue to the celebration.
After Palm Sunday, the delegation will remain in Rome for another meeting with the president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, Archbishop Orani and Bishop Eduardo on April 2,” Msgr. Portella said.
Decisions for Rio 2013
In response to the frequent question about where the main events for World Youth Day 2013 will take place in Rio and the schedule for the event, Msgr. Portella said no final decisions have been made. He explained that the program for the event has already been created but requires the collective approval of the Rio archdiocese, the bishops’ conference, federal, state and local level Brazilian officials and Vatican organizers who work closely with the Holy Father.
“The same holds for the venues under consideration,” he said.
Msgr. Portella added that officials from the Holy See would be coming to Rio to make the final determination about these and other details.
Vatican City, Mar 22, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The document that will guide the deliberations of the world's bishops as they chart the re-evangelization of the West is on the verge of being released.
“Things are going well at this stage and the working document, the instrumentum laboris, is about to be published,” Cardinal Francis Arinze told CNA.“It is the actual one that every participant in the synod in October will have.”
The former prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship is now a member of the preparatory committee for this year’s Synod of Bishops. It will take place at the Vatican October 7-28 under the title of “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.”
Cardinal Arinze said the working document will outline “the necessity to revisit” those areas of the world “that have been evangelized maybe for 1000 years or 500 years and where the faith was once very strong” but where “now people are rather cold in the faith.”
It will also stress the need for this “new freshness” and “new ardor” to be communicated using new technology, he said.
This year’s Synod of Bishops will help launch Pope Benedict’s Year of Faith, which also relates to the Church’s New Evangelization efforts. It marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Cardinal Arinze believes that life in the Western world has “many other offers to the human person” which are “attracting” or even “distracting” people away from Christianity so that “the message of Christ can sometimes be forgotten, given a second place, put as a footnote.”
“So someone has to come who has the enthusiasm of an evangelizer, who has the convincing power of a witness who lives with conviction what that witness is preaching” and who is also “ready to use modern methods to contact people.”
This should also involve a direct appeal to “the intelligentsia” of western society, said Cardinal Arinze.
“When St Paul went to Athens he didn’t avoid the men of culture, the elite, but he presented the message of Christ to them in terminology that would be suitable for that group.”
Despite the focus being on the West, the 79-year-old Nigerian cleric believes that the rest world will also play its part and benefit from the New Evangelization.
“Africa can contribute because there’s a type of freshness which the African countries bring to the practice of Christianity” which can “contaminate” those “who have been evangelized for more years.”
Leon, Mexico, Mar 22, 2012 (CNA) -
Just one day before Pope Benedict's arrival in Leon, Mexico, Catholics are counting down the final hours until the Pope makes his first historic visit to the country from March 23-26.
Patricia Eugenia Cruz, a local mother of two, told CNA that she awaits the Pope’s arrival “with great happiness” and hopes he “brings a message of peace and hope to all Mexicans, and also especially a message of charity.”
Pope Benedict will arrive at Guanajuato International Airport in the area of Silao, on Friday, March 23 at 4:30 p.m. where he will be received by the Archbishop of Leon, Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago.
Also present for the reception of the Pope will be the Apostolic Nuncio in Mexico, Msgr. Christophe Pierre, and the Federal President of the Republic of Mexico, Felipe Calderon.
Catholic Felipe Martinez, who spoke to CNA outside the Cathedral of Leon, said that “with the Pope’s visit, I hope that values will be renewed, that the Pope will newly give us these values so needed not only by Mexico but all of Latin America.”
Among the various shows of affections that the people of Leon will present to the Pope – in addition to the presence of 3500 Catholics – there will be a traditional group of Mariachis to celebrate his arrival.
Leon resident Mrs. Leo de Tejada said she expects “many blessings,” from the Pope’s visit, “because we all need them here in Mexico.
According to parishioner Jose Miguelon “all Mexicans are very happy, myself and my fellow countrymen, for this event we, the people of Leon, have.”
The streets and highways on the outskirts of Leon are filled with signs that announce Benedict’s arrival. Among them can be seen signs that marks the Pope Mobile’s route and others that says Leon is ready to receive “the Pope and the world.”
In the opinion of Mauricio Velasquez, a father of two young children, Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Mexico will be the source of “a message of peace and hope” to everyone.
Accountant Martin Ernesto Davalos Segura pointed out that “the Pope’s visit is great blessing” but even more so, given “that it was the Holy Father himself who decided to come.”