Archive of April 5, 2012

Xavier University to halt contraception, sterilization coverage

Cincinnati, Ohio, Apr 5, 2012 (CNA) - Xavier University president Fr. Michael J. Graham, S.J. has directed the Jesuit school to stop its health plan's insurance coverage of contraception and sterilization.

“As a Catholic priest and as president of a Catholic university, I have concluded that, absent a legal mandate, it is inconsistent for a Catholic institution to cover those drugs and procedures the Church opposes,” he said in an April 2 letter to members of the Xavier University community.

Fr. Graham said he reviewed the university’s policy amid controversy over the Obama administration's federal mandate requiring insurance coverage of contraception and sterilization under the new health care law.

The priest explained that the Catholic Church finds these drugs and procedures “morally problematic.” He has asked the university’s Office of Human Resources to work with Humana, the university’s insurance carrier, to no longer cover sterilizations and contraceptives “except for cases of medical necessity for non-contraceptive purposes.”

The change is intended to take effect July 1.

“While I recognize the inconvenience and potential hardship this may cause in some circumstances, I trust you will understand why I have required that these steps be taken,” Fr. Graham said.

The move drew some criticism the Xavier University faculty committee, which questioned whether the university president’s decision violated the principle of shared governance with the faculty. It also asked whether he has the right to make changes to health coverage plan in the middle of the year.

“We would like to see if insurance law permits an employer to change benefits after six months that employees are expecting for the entire year,” the committee said in an April 2 letter.

The committee also questioned the decision’s timing, observing that if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the Affordable Health Care Act which allowed the mandates, then the coverage will be mandatory. It speculated that the U.S. bishops were involved.

“We can only assume (the) U.S. Catholic bishops decided to compel Catholic institutions that are not already mandated by state law to provide this coverage to come out publicly against it,” the faculty letter said.

The committee said it is “very concerned” about the precedent the bishops’ possible involvement may set in “weakening the semi-autonomous status of our university.”

CNA contacted Xavier University to determine whether the bishops were involved in the university’s decision. Spokeswoman Debora Del Valle said the university is not making any statements on the topic.
The faculty committee added that it was “heartened” by Fr. Graham’s distinction between birth control and medical need.

Shannon Byrne, Xavier University faculty committee chair, has invited faculty to a meeting to discuss the new policy.

Under the current Health and Human Services contraception rule, by next year all employers that do not qualify for a narrow religious exemption must provide insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including some abortion-causing drugs. The Obama administration has proposed a change to the rules mandating that insurance companies, not employers, provide the coverage.

While supporters of this proposal see it as a compromise, Fr. Graham said the proposal is “insufficient for a number of reasons.”

“(I)t is likely that the constitutional issue of religious freedom at the heart of the controversy will be decided by the courts,” he said. “Several lawsuits have already been filed toward that end.”

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Did NY Times columnist invent story of Catholic-turned-abortionist?

Denver, Colo., Apr 5, 2012 (CNA) -

A New York Times writer is facing allegations that he embellished or fabricated the story of a college classmate who turned from a practicing Catholic to a non-religious abortionist.

“The column you are questioning was written by Frank Bruni, a well respected, first class journalist, and it was written in keeping with the high editorial standards of The New York Times,” the paper's vice president for corporate communications Eileen Murphy told CNA on April 3, when asked about factual concerns raised after its publication. The piece, she said, is “entirely authentic.”

But Murphy and the paper’s journalistic integrity office have offered no direct response to questions about whether the piece was fact-checked or otherwise verified. While Bruni insists that he cannot identify his source for privacy reasons, a fellow member of his college class – who organized its 25th anniversary reunion – says she has no memory of the person profiled.

Bruni's March 24 column, “Rethinking His Religion,” told the story of an unnamed college classmate who “attended Catholic services every Sunday in a jacket and tie.” The openly gay columnist said he kept his distance, since he had “arrived at college determined to be honest about my sexual orientation and steer clear of people who might make that uncomfortable or worse. I figured him for one of them.”

“About two years ago, out of nowhere, he found me,” Bruni wrote. “His life, he wanted me to know, had taken interesting turns … As a doctor, he has spent a part of his time providing abortions.”

The subject of the profile – who purportedly knew the murdered late-term abortionist George Tiller – was said to have left behind religion, and changed his views on issues like abortion and homosexuality.

“He grew up in the South, in a setting so homogeneous and a family so untroubled that, he said, he had no cause to question his parents’ religious convictions … He said that college gave him cause, starting with me.” Bruni recalled how his subject “pledged a fraternity when he was still on my radar and then, when he wasn’t, quit in protest over how it had blackballed a Korean pledge candidate and a gay one.”

“After graduation he ventured to a desperately poor part of Africa to teach for a year,” Bruni wrote. There, he said, his classmate encountered a “teenage girl … dying of sepsis from a female circumcision performed with a kitchen knife,” along with other “cruelties born of the kind of bigotry that religion and false righteousness sometimes abet.”

In his 30s, Bruni's subject “read all 11 volumes of 'The Story of Civilization,' then tackled Erasmus, whose mention in those books intrigued him.” A study of Church history contributed to his loss of faith. But at dinner with his children, the doctor discussed “favorite quotations from Emerson, Thoreau, Confucius, Siddhartha, Gandhi, Marcus Aurelius, Martin Luther King,” and “the New Testament, too.”

The column ended with an anecdote in which Bruni's friend performed an abortion for a woman he had seen standing “year in and year out on a ladder, so that her head would be above other protesters’ as she shouted 'murderer' at him and other doctors and 'whore' at every woman who walked into the clinic.” A week after her abortion, according to Bruni's unnamed source, “she was back on her ladder.”

In their online comments, some New York Times readers hailed the column as a masterpiece – calling it “inspiring,” “terrific,” “well-written,” and “thought-provoking.” A reader from New Mexico declared: “I am just in awe of Bruni's prose. This piece is a poem.”

Others, however, called the account into question – wondering whether they were reading a work of fiction, a blend of fact and embellishment, or a set of exaggerations taken at face value by the author.

Several media outlets and observers proceeded to cast doubts on Bruni's account of his unidentified friend after its publication. Skeptics included conservative commentator Rod Dreher (“Frank Bruni, Fabulist?”), GetReligion's Mollie Hemingway (“Frank Bruni's Imaginary Friend?”), and Gawker contributor John Cook (“Frank Bruni’s Too-Good-to-Be-True Abortion Tale”).

Two National Catholic Register columnists, Mark Shea and Matthew Archbold, also declared their disbelief after the column's publication. Archbold drew from his own journalism background in declaring the column “horse hockey,” his onetime editor's term for “a source that said exactly what the reporter needed them to say with a flourish of the poet. And who wished to remain anonymous.”

Shea compared the piece to performer Mike Daisey's discredited “Apple Factory” monologue – which was retracted by producers of the public radio program “This American Life,” when Daisey was found to have fictionalized key details about his trip to electronics manufacturing plants in China.

“I don't believe the New York Times,” Shea declared, saying Bruni's “absolutely perfect narrative, tailor-made to reinforce the sensibilities of New York Times readers, sounds more like Mike Daisey.”

“Bruni’s 'anonymous friend' sounds completely bogus,” wrote Rod Dreher. “He is just too perfect an illustration of what a gay secular liberal would want to see from the 'conversion' of a conservative Catholic.” Dreher also noted that the quotations attributed to Bruni's friend “sound like lines taken from a piece of formal op-ed writing.”

Gawker, a site not known for sympathy with religious conservatives, was perhaps hardest on Bruni. John Cook savaged the anecdote of a pro-life protester's abortion – citing eight published instances of nearly identical stories, and calling it “a hoary old tale that pops up on the internet with such frequency that – if I didn't know better – I'd suspect Bruni was laundering a transparently false urban myth.”

After these concerns were raised, CNA sought Bruni's help in contacting the man profiled in “Rethinking His Religion.” The columnist explained that this was not possible.

“For reasons of safety and security, given that he has been an abortion provider and subject to protesters/protest, he didn't/doesn't want to be publicly identified, and spoke with me only because he trusted me not to print or in any way publicize his name, location, etc.,” Bruni wrote in an e-mail. “So I'm afraid I can't help you.”

When told that the man's identity would not be published or otherwise publicized, Bruni responded: “I'll gladly forward your messages to him – in fact, I'll do so the second after I hit 'send' on this – but I doubt that he's going to trust someone he doesn't know.”

Bruni acknowledged that several sources were now seeking to verify his college classmate's story. 

“I know and have no reason whatsoever to distrust him,” the columnist told CNA, explaining that others' interest in verifying the account was “less important to me than his safety, his comfort and my keeping my word to him. I'm truly sorry if that frustrates you. Not my intent.”

CNA also contacted the office of the New York Times Public Editor, which describes itself as dealing “specifically with issues of journalistic integrity at The New York Times.”

But Joseph Burgess, an assistant to Public Editor Arthur Brisbane, said his office could not answer questions about the publication of Bruni's column – including questions as to whether the source had been independently verified, or established as credible, by someone other than the columnist himself.

“Since this is a media request and your questions seem to indicate you are looking for specific answers relating to practices in the editorial pages, we're not in a position to speak on behalf of the Times since we operate outside the newsroom,” Burgess stated in an e-mail. He suggested contacting Eileen Murphy, the paper's vice president for corporate communications.

While Murphy responded to CNA's inquiry, she did not give a direct answer to questions about whether Bruni's column had been fact-checked.

Instead, she stated that the piece had been “written in keeping with the high editorial standards of the New York Times,” and was “entirely authentic.”

On the basis of these responses from Burgess and Murphy, it remains unknown whether anyone else at the New York Times ever independently checked Bruni's source or the details of the story.

One reader who was left particularly puzzled by the column is Dawn Peters, a member of Frank Bruni's 1986 graduating class at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

An organizer of the class' 25th reunion in 2011, Peters is an administrator of the “UNC Class of 1986” Facebook page. She read her old classmate's column in the New York Times, but could not recall anyone matching Bruni's distinctive description.

“I have no clue who that person is,” Peters told CNA on April 3. “I was wondering, too.”

“I know a lot of my class, but I didn't know who that was,” Peters said, when asked if she could offer any assistance locating Bruni's source.

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Pope Benedict: fidelity to Jesus is source of change in the Church

Vatican City, Apr 5, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -

During his homily at the Chrism Mass celebrated the morning of Holy Thursday, Pope Benedict XVI said that humble fidelity to Jesus and obedience to the magisterium is what brings true change to the Church.

Christ “lived out his task with obedience and humility all the way to the Cross, and so gave credibility to his mission,” the Pope said on April 5 at the Vatican.

“Not my will, but thine be done: these words reveal to us the Son, in his humility and his divinity, and they show us the true path.”

Bellow is the full text of his homily:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At this Holy Mass our thoughts go back to that moment when, through prayer and the laying on of hands, the bishop made us sharers in the priesthood of Jesus Christ, so that we might be "consecrated in truth" (Jn 17:19), as Jesus besought the Father for us in his high-priestly prayer. He himself is the truth. He has consecrated us, that is to say, handed us over to God for ever, so that we can offer men and women a service that comes from God and leads to him. But does our consecration extend to the daily reality of our lives – do we operate as men of God in fellowship with Jesus Christ? This question places the Lord before us and us before him. "Are you resolved to be more united with the Lord Jesus and more closely conformed to him, denying yourselves and confirming those promises about sacred duties towards Christ’s Church which, prompted by love of him, you willingly and joyfully pledged on the day of your priestly ordination?" After this homily, I shall be addressing that question to each of you here and to myself as well. Two things, above all, are asked of us: there is a need for an interior bond, a configuration to Christ, and at the same time there has to be a transcending of ourselves, a renunciation of what is simply our own, of the much-vaunted self-fulfilment. We need, I need, not to claim my life as my own, but to place it at the disposal of another – of Christ. I should be asking not what I stand to gain, but what I can give for him and so for others. Or to put it more specifically, this configuration to Christ, who came not to be served but to serve, who does not take, but rather gives – what form does it take in the often dramatic situation of the Church today? Recently a group of priests from a European country issued a summons to disobedience, and at the same time gave concrete examples of the forms this disobedience might take, even to the point of disregarding definitive decisions of the Church’s Magisterium, such as the question of women’s ordination, for which Blessed Pope John Paul II stated irrevocably that the Church has received no authority from the Lord. Is disobedience a path of renewal for the Church? We would like to believe that the authors of this summons are motivated by concern for the Church, that they are convinced that the slow pace of institutions has to be overcome by drastic measures, in order to open up new paths and to bring the Church up to date. But is disobedience really a way to do this? Do we sense here anything of that configuration to Christ which is the precondition for all true renewal, or do we merely sense a desperate push to do something to change the Church in accordance with one’s own preferences and ideas?

But let us not oversimplify matters. Surely Christ himself corrected human traditions which threatened to stifle the word and the will of God? Indeed he did, so as to rekindle obedience to the true will of God, to his ever enduring word. His concern was for true obedience, as opposed to human caprice. Nor must we forget: he was the Son, possessed of singular authority and responsibility to reveal the authentic will of God, so as to open up the path for God’s word to the world of the nations. And finally: he lived out his task with obedience and humility all the way to the Cross, and so gave credibility to his mission. Not my will, but thine be done: these words reveal to us the Son, in his humility and his divinity, and they show us the true path.

Let us ask again: do not such reflections serve simply to defend inertia, the fossilization of traditions?

No. Anyone who considers the history of the post-conciliar era can recognize the process of true renewal, which often took unexpected forms in living movements and made almost tangible the inexhaustible vitality of holy Church, the presence and effectiveness of the Holy Spirit. And if we look at the people from whom these fresh currents of life burst forth and continue to burst forth, then we see that this new fruitfulness requires being filled with the joy of faith, the radicalism of obedience, the dynamic of hope and the power of love.

Dear friends, it is clear that configuration to Christ is the precondition and the basis for all renewal. But perhaps at times the figure of Jesus Christ seems too lofty and too great for us to dare to measure ourselves by him. The Lord knows this. So he has provided "translations" on a scale that is more accessible and closer to us. For this same reason, Saint Paul did not hesitate to say to his communities: Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. For his disciples, he was a "translation" of Christ’s manner of life that they could see and identify with. Ever since Paul’s time, history has furnished a constant flow of other such "translations" of Jesus’ way into historical figures. We priests can call to mind a great throng of holy priests who have gone before us and shown us the way: from Polycarp of Smyrna and Ignatius of Antioch, from the great pastors Ambrose, Augustine and Gregory the Great, through to Ignatius of Loyola, Charles Borromeo, John Mary Vianney and the priest-martyrs of the 20th century, and finally Pope John Paul II, who gave us an example, through his activity and his suffering, of configuration to Christ as "gift and mystery". The saints show us how renewal works and how we can place ourselves at its service. And they help us realize that God is not concerned so much with great numbers and with outward successes, but achieves his victories under the humble sign of the mustard seed.

Dear friends, I would like briefly to touch on two more key phrases from the renewal of ordination promises, which should cause us to reflect at this time in the Church’s life and in our own lives. Firstly, the reminder that – as Saint Paul put it – we are "stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Cor 4:1) and we are charged with the ministry of teaching, the munus docendi, which forms a part of this stewardship of God’s mysteries, through which he shows us his face and his heart, in order to give us himself. At the meeting of Cardinals on the occasion of the recent Consistory, several of the pastors of the Church spoke, from experience, of the growing religious illiteracy found in the midst of our sophisticated society. The foundations of faith, which at one time every child knew, are now known less and less. But if we are to live and love our faith, if we are to love God and to hear him aright, we need to know what God has said to us – our minds and hearts must be touched by his word. The Year of Faith, commemorating the opening of the Second Vatican Council fifty years ago, should provide us with an occasion to proclaim the message of faith with new enthusiasm and new joy. We find it of course first and foremost in sacred Scripture, which we can never read and ponder enough. Yet at the same time we all experience the need for help in accurately expounding it in the present day, if it is truly to touch our hearts. This help we find first of all in the words of the teaching Church: the texts of the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church are essential tools which serve as an authentic guide to what the Church believes on the basis of God’s word. And of course this also includes the whole wealth of documents given to us by Pope John Paul II, still far from being fully explored.

All our preaching must measure itself against the saying of Jesus Christ: "My teaching is not mine" (Jn 7:16). We preach not private theories and opinions, but the faith of the Church, whose servants we are. Naturally this should not be taken to mean that I am not completely supportive of this teaching, or solidly anchored in it. In this regard I am always reminded of the words of Saint Augustine: what is so much mine as myself? And what is so little mine as myself? I do not own myself, and I become myself by the very fact that I transcend myself, and thereby become a part of Christ, a part of his body the Church. If we do not preach ourselves, and if we are inwardly so completely one with him who called us to be his ambassadors, that we are shaped by faith and live it, then our preaching will be credible. I do not seek to win people for myself, but I give myself. The Curé of Ars was no scholar, no intellectual, we know that. But his preaching touched people’s hearts because his own heart had been touched.

The last keyword that I should like to consider is "zeal for souls": animarum zelus. It is an old-fashioned expression, not much used these days. In some circles, the word "soul" is virtually banned because – ostensibly – it expresses a body-soul dualism that wrongly compartmentalizes the human being. Of course the human person is a unity, destined for eternity as body and soul. And yet that cannot mean that we no longer have a soul, a constituent principle guaranteeing our unity in this life and beyond earthly death. And as priests, of course, we are concerned for the whole person, including his or her physical needs – we care for the hungry, the sick, the homeless. And yet we are concerned not only with the body, but also with the needs of the soul: with those who suffer from the violation of their rights or from destroyed love, with those unable to perceive the truth, those who suffer for lack of truth and love. We are concerned with the salvation of men and women in body and soul. And as priests of Jesus Christ we carry out our task with enthusiasm. No one should ever have the impression that we work conscientiously when on duty, but before and after hours we belong only to ourselves. A priest never belongs to himself. People must sense our zeal, through which we bear credible witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us ask the Lord to fill us with joy in his message, so that we may serve his truth and his love with joyful zeal. Amen.

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Only union with God brings freedom, Pope says on Holy Thursday

Vatican City, Apr 5, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -

At the Mass of the Supper of the Lord on Holy Thursday, Pope Benedict said that men and women find true freedom only when they submit to God’s will.

“When human beings set themselves against God, they set themselves against the truth of their own being and consequently do not become free, but alienated from themselves,” the Pope said on April 5 at the Roman Basilica of St. John Lateran.

“We are free only if we stand in the truth of our being, if we are united to God.”

Below is the full text of the Pope’s homily:

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Holy Thursday is not only the day of the institution of the Most Holy Eucharist, whose splendour bathes all else and in some ways draws it to itself. To Holy Thursday also belongs the dark night of the Mount of Olives, to which Jesus goes with his disciples; the solitude and abandonment of Jesus, who in prayer goes forth to encounter the darkness of death; the betrayal of Judas, Jesus’ arrest and his denial by Peter; his indictment before the Sanhedrin and his being handed over to the Gentiles, to Pilate. Let us try at this hour to understand more deeply something of these events, for in them the mystery of our redemption takes place.

Jesus goes forth into the night. Night signifies lack of communication, a situation where people do not see one another. It is a symbol of incomprehension, of the obscuring of truth. It is the place where evil, which has to hide before the light, can grow. Jesus himself is light and truth, communication, purity and goodness. He enters into the night. Night is ultimately a symbol of death, the definitive loss of fellowship and life. Jesus enters into the night in order to overcome it and to inaugurate the new Day of God in the history of humanity.

On the way, he sang with his disciples Israel’s psalms of liberation and redemption, which evoked the first Passover in Egypt, the night of liberation. Now he goes, as was his custom, to pray in solitude and, as Son, to speak with the Father. But, unusually, he wants to have close to him three disciples: Peter, James and John. These are the three who had experienced his Transfiguration – when the light of God’s glory shone through his human figure – and had seen him standing between the Law and the Prophets, between Moses and Elijah. They had heard him speaking to both of them about his "exodus" to Jerusalem. Jesus’ exodus to Jerusalem – how mysterious are these words! Israel’s exodus from Egypt had been the event of escape and liberation for God’s People. What would be the form taken by the exodus of Jesus, in whom the meaning of that historic drama was to be definitively fulfilled? The disciples were now witnessing the first stage of that exodus – the utter abasement which was nonetheless the essential step of the going forth to the freedom and new life which was the goal of the exodus. The disciples, whom Jesus wanted to have close to him as an element of human support in that hour of extreme distress, quickly fell asleep. Yet they heard some fragments of the words of Jesus’ prayer and they witnessed his way of acting. Both were deeply impressed on their hearts and they transmitted them to Christians for all time. Jesus called God "Abba". The word means – as they add – "Father". Yet it is not the usual form of the word "father", but rather a children’s word – an affectionate name which one would not have dared to use in speaking to God. It is the language of the one who is truly a "child", the Son of the Father, the one who is conscious of being in communion with God, in deepest union with him.

If we ask ourselves what is most characteristic of the figure of Jesus in the Gospels, we have to say that it is his relationship with God. He is constantly in communion with God. Being with the Father is the core of his personality. Through Christ we know God truly. "No one has ever seen God", says Saint John. The one "who is close to the Father’s heart … has made him known" (1:18). Now we know God as he truly is. He is Father, and this in an absolute goodness to which we can entrust ourselves. The evangelist Mark, who has preserved the memories of Saint Peter, relates that Jesus, after calling God "Abba", went on to say: "Everything is possible for you. You can do all things" (cf. 14:36). The one who is Goodness is at the same time Power; he is all-powerful. Power is goodness and goodness is power. We can learn this trust from Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives.

Before reflecting on the content of Jesus’ petition, we must still consider what the evangelists tell us about Jesus’ posture during his prayer. Matthew and Mark tell us that he "threw himself on the ground" (Mt 26:39; cf. Mk 14:35), thus assuming a posture of complete submission, as is preserved in the Roman liturgy of Good Friday. Luke, on the other hand, tells us that Jesus prayed on his knees. In the Acts of the Apostles, he speaks of the saints praying on their knees: Stephen during his stoning, Peter at the raising of someone who had died, Paul on his way to martyrdom. In this way Luke has sketched a brief history of prayer on one’s knees in the early Church. Christians, in kneeling, enter into Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives. When menaced by the power of evil, as they kneel, they are upright before the world, while as sons and daughters, they kneel before the Father. Before God’s glory we Christians kneel and acknowledge his divinity; by that posture we also express our confidence that he will prevail.

Jesus struggles with the Father. He struggles with himself. And he struggles for us. He experiences anguish before the power of death. First and foremost this is simply the dread natural to every living creature in the face of death. In Jesus, however, something more is at work. His gaze peers deeper, into the nights of evil. He sees the filthy flood of all the lies and all the disgrace which he will encounter in that chalice from which he must drink. His is the dread of one who is completely pure and holy as he sees the entire flood of this world’s evil bursting upon him. He also sees me, and he prays for me. This moment of Jesus’ mortal anguish is thus an essential part of the process of redemption. Consequently, the Letter to the Hebrews describes the struggle of Jesus on the Mount of Olives as a priestly event. In this prayer of Jesus, pervaded by mortal anguish, the Lord performs the office of a priest: he takes upon himself the sins of humanity, of us all, and he brings us before the Father.

Lastly, we must also pay attention to the content of Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives. Jesus says: "Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet not what I want, but what you want" (Mk 14:36). The natural will of the man Jesus recoils in fear before the enormity of the matter. He asks to be spared. Yet as the Son, he places this human will into the Father’s will: not I, but you. In this way he transformed the stance of Adam, the primordial human sin, and thus heals humanity. The stance of Adam was: not what you, O God, have desired; rather, I myself want to be a god. This pride is the real essence of sin. We think we are free and truly ourselves only if we follow our own will. God appears as the opposite of our freedom. We need to be free of him – so we think – and only then will we be free. This is the fundamental rebellion present throughout history and the fundamental lie which perverts life. When human beings set themselves against God, they set themselves against the truth of their own being and consequently do not become free, but alienated from themselves. We are free only if we stand in the truth of our being, if we are united to God. Then we become truly "like God" – not by resisting God, eliminating him, or denying him. In his anguished prayer on the Mount of Olives, Jesus resolved the false opposition between obedience and freedom, and opened the path to freedom. Let us ask the Lord to draw us into this "yes" to God’s will, and in this way to make us truly free. Amen.

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