Archive of April 13, 2012

Vatican consultant defends Cardinal Schönborn in parish council flap

Vienna, Austria, Apr 13, 2012 (CNA) -

An Italian politician and papal consultant has defended Viennese Cardinal Christoph Schönborn's choice to reinstate an Austrian parish council member living in a homosexual partnership.

“I defend the cardinal’s decision and I say that it seems to me that it is an intelligent pastoral reading of the Church's position toward homosexuals and homosexuality,” wrote Professor Rocco Buttiglione, a member of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, in the Italian daily Il Foglio.

“If the cardinal would say that homosexuality is not a serious moral disorder, he would be mistaken. But he doesn’t say that,” Buttiglione noted in the April 6 column. “According to the Catholic doctrine, homosexuality is a serious moral disorder … I don’t think Cardinal Schönborn denies this truth.”

“He just says that the homosexual is a faithful sinner, one who struggles for the faith and who needs support, with friendly and discrete dialogue, in this fight. He can’t be admitted to the sacraments, but he needs to be invited to participate in the religious functions and in the parish life.”

While the Church must maintain its teaching on homosexuality, Buttiglione stressed that the doctrine must not “be accompanied by an attitude of human closure or hostility towards homosexuals. This, I think, it is the lesson that we have these days from Vienna.”

Buttiglione, a personal friend of Blessed John Paul II, has been an outspoken proponent of Catholic teachings on sexuality. His comments came in response to Cardinal Schönborn's choice to uphold the election of Florian Stangl – a 26 year old man who lives in a registered same-sex partnership – to a parish council position.

Stangl's election to the position was initially overruled by parish priest Father Gerhard Swierzek. But after a meeting with the man and his partner over the weekend of March 31, Cardinal Schönborn decided to uphold the 26-year-old's membership on the parish council.

The Austrian Independent reported on April 10 that Fr. Swierzek was seeking a new pastoral assignment. A spokesman for Cardinal Schönborn told the Independent that the cardinal was traveling and would not be commenting further on the situation until his return to Austria.

In his April 2 Chrism Mass homily, however, the cardinal spoke about the pastoral challenge of lifestyles at odds with Church teaching, including “increasingly, people living in same-sex partnerships.”

During the homily, Cardinal Schönborn noted that the Church's teachings on sexuality are part of “the Creator's master plan,” in which “sexual union only corresponds to the order of creation when it is embedded in a marriage between a man and a woman.”

But he acknowledged that many people “don't live according to the master plan” – possibly because “it was not presented or taught to them as a genuine possibility,” or because they “honestly believed that they were simply unable to follow God’s master plan.”

The cardinal urged priests to rededicate themselves to communicating the Church's vision of sexuality, through an approach that is “neither rigorist nor lax, but in which the law is completed by love.”

“In order to understand and live the Creator’s ‘master plan,’ it’s important to recall the norm again and again—but it’s not enough,” he observed.

“There is only one way to do this, a way that Jesus’ disciples had the chance to learn: by coming to know Jesus better, by growing into his friendship. Only a lived friendship with Jesus can foster in us an inner understanding of the heart for the Creator’s master plan.”

A priest seeking to be a “good shepherd,” he said, “holds fast to both these things: to the conviction that God’s master plan is right …  and to the loving, patient path along which Jesus draws us into his friendship.”

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Conn. Catholic Conference praises repeal of death penalty

Hartford, Conn., Apr 13, 2012 (CNA) -

The Connecticut legislature’s passage of a bill to abolish the death penalty is “a wonderful step in the right direction,” says Michael C. Culhane, director of the state's Catholic conference.

“The Catholic Church supports the sanctity of life from conception until natural death,” he told CNA April 12. “The life, even of one who has committed a heinous crime, should not be taken.

The legislature voted on April 11 to end the death sentence for any future convictions. Eleven men presently remain on death row.

“I’m pleased the House passed the bill, and when it gets to my desk I will sign it,” Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said April 11. “Going forward, we will have a system that allows us to put these people away for life, in living conditions none of us would want to experience. Let’s throw away the key and have them spend the rest of their natural lives in jail.”

Connecticut has had only one execution in over 50 years. That execution took place in 2005, when serial killer Michael Ross volunteered for lethal injection.

The proposed legislation drew advocates from both sides of the debate, including murder victims’ families.

One of the supporters of the death penalty was Dr. William J. Petit Jr. He was the only survivor of a home invasion in 2007 when two burglars on parole killed his wife and two daughters.

In 2011 he persuaded state senators to delay the legislation until after the death penalty trial of one of the two killers.

Elizabeth Brancato, whose mother was murdered in 1979, lobbied in favor of the repeal.

“For those of us who believe killing is wrong, it somehow diminishes the deaths of our loved ones if we say in certain circumstances it is okay to kill,’ she said, according to the Associated Press.

Culhane told CNA the legislative effort to repeal the death penalty was the third since 2009.

“We’re very happy that this year the effort was successful and capital punishment will no longer be the law of the land in Connecticut,” he said.

Sixteen other U.S. states have repealed the death penalty.

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University forces Vanderbilt Catholic group to change its name

Nashville, Tenn., Apr 13, 2012 (CNA) - Forced to leave campus for reasons of conscience, Vanderbilt University's Catholic student organization has now been ordered by the university to change its name.

“The name that's important is the name of Jesus Christ. I don't think they can take that name from us,” said Father John Sims Baker, chaplain of the group that has been told to stop calling itself Vanderbilt Catholic.

“Technically and legally, if we wanted to push the issue, I doubt that the university could keep us from that,” Fr. Baker told CNA on April 12.

He indicated that the group could also switch to a name incorporating the phrase “at Vanderbilt,” which would “certainly” be acceptable.

University spokesperson Beth Fortune told Fox News that students groups “who choose not to comply with the university’s nondiscrimination policy” thereby “forfeit the privileges associated with registered student organization status and that includes the use of the Vanderbilt name.”

Vanderbilt Catholic is leaving the campus over a dispute with the administration’s “non-discrimination” policy, a rule that Fr. Baker has criticized as a form of religious discrimination in itself.

Under the recently-confirmed policy, any student must be considered potentially eligible for offices in a registered student organization. Groups such as Vanderbilt Catholic would be forced to allow non-Catholics to serve in leadership positions.

Confronted with the new policy, Vanderbilt Catholic chose to forfeit its status as a registered group – a choice which will also require it to find a new name.

The university, Fr. Baker said, seemed to be focusing on small details of the situation, while “glossing over” the “fundamental issues” such as students' religious freedom.

“This whole policy,” the chaplain said, “is detrimental to the mission of a university. But Vanderbilt seems intent on going down this path.”

“It undermines so many of the kinds of things that Vanderbilt says it stands for: diversity of points of view, including religious expression, and that sort of thing.”

“They're saying that religious can only be tolerated, frankly, if you don't really take it seriously – if you say, 'Well, it doesn't really matter who leads our group, then religious can be tolerated.'”

“But if you say, 'No, who we are as Catholics really is fundamental to what this organization is about,' then you're not welcome on campus.”

While Vanderbilt Catholic has chosen to move and change its name, 11 other student religious groups – acting under the name “Vanderbilt Solidarity” – have simply refused to change their statutes. On April 9, they registered with the school while keeping their previous faith requirements.

Vanderbilt Catholic has not joined the campaign, and Fr. Baker is not aware of any official response from the university to the Solidarity group's non-compliant charter submissions.

The priest urged students, alumni, and other concerned observers to pray for university officials, and to maintain an attitude of love and charity in the course of the dispute.

Meanwhile, Fr. Baker said Vanderbilt Catholic has “gotten a lot of supportive comments from people who certainly aren't Catholic or even particularly religious,” who nonetheless see the denial of religious freedom as a loss for the school.

“I don't think you have to be religious to see what is wrong with this,” the priest observed.

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Church grieves death of Bishop Agustin Román, leader of Cuban exiles

Miami, Fla., Apr 13, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholics worldwide are grieving the death of retired Bishop Agustin A. Román of Miami, considered the leader of the Cuban community in exile, who passed away on the evening of April 11 at the age of 83.

According to the Archdiocese of Miami, Bishop Román suffered a heart attack outside the local Shrine of Our Lady of Charity. He was taken to Mercy Hospital nearby and after various attempts to resuscitate him, he was pronounced dead at 8:45 p.m.

Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski said the U.S. Church “has lost a great evangelizer who tirelessly preached the Gospel to all” and that “the Cuban nation has lost a great patriot.”

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) called his passing “not just a loss for the Catholic faithful in South Florida but for all in our community who have fled oppressive regimes or have sought refuge and comfort in the words and support of this gentle man.” 

“He was an advocate for God, for fundamental freedoms, and for those whom society had sometimes forgotten,” she noted. “This grand man of prayer and love united us like no other and in his passing we mourn the death of a priest loved by all who met him or heard his homilies.”

Bishop Agustin Román was born on May 5, 1928 in the Cuban town of San Antonio de los Baños.  He was ordained a priest on July 4, 1959, for the Diocese of Matanzas. Appointed auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Miami in 1979, Bishop Roman was the first Cuban to be appointed bishop in the U.S.

He left Cuba in 1961 after being expelled by Fidel Castro's regime together with 132 other priests.  Bishop Roman came to Miami in 1966, where he founded the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity, Cuba's patroness. 

For seven years he oversaw its construction, encouraging exiled Cubans to donate to the project. The shrine became beloved by thousands of Latinos from dozens of countries who live in south Florida. 

Bishop Román remained active there even after retiring as its rector and as Miami auxiliary bishop, and up to the last days of his life.

As Auxiliary Bishop of Miami, he served on the Committee for Hispanic Affairs of the United States Catholic Bishops’ Conference and was a member of the Committee on Migration and Tourism. 

He worked as a chaplain at Mercy Hospital (1968-1973), as director of the Spanish-speaking Cursillo Movement (1978?1979); spiritual director of the Charismatic Movement (1977?1979); member of the committee on Popular Piety; and episcopal vicar for the Spanish-speaking people of the Archdiocese (1976– 1984).

He was known for his skill to reaching the faithful through parables and stories filled with symbolism. 

In December of 1986, he intervened when Cuban detainees rioted in federal prisons in Atlanta, Ga., and Oakdale, La., to protest their indefinite incarceration and probable deportation to Cuba.

Seeking a mediator for their negotiations with federal agents, the prisoners called on Bishop Román, who had been corresponding with many of them or their families since their arrival on the 1980 Mariel boatlift.

His role in ending the crisis without loss of blood earned him recognition as ABC News' Person of the Week, “a man of compassion, gentility and commitment...a man with a strong personality and humble spirit.”

When the press began calling him a hero, Bishop Román responded with his characteristic humility: “A bishop, a priest, is a servant, not a hero.”

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Brazil's bishops condemn abortion legalization in cases of anencephaly

Brasilia, Brazil, Apr 13, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -

The Bishops of Brazil condemned the local Supreme Court's 8-2 vote on April 12 legalizing abortion in cases of unborn babies with anencephaly.

“To legalize abortion in cases of anencephalic babies, erroneously diagnosed as brain-dead, is to throw away a fragile and defenseless human being,” the the bishops said.

“It is ethically inadmissible to take an innocent human life, without exception.”
Anencephaly is a condition in which the brain is partially developed or completely absent. Over 80 percent of Brazilians have said they do not support abortion in such cases and the country’s bishops have repeatedly voice opposition to any such proposals.

After two days of testimony, Justices Marco Aurelio Mello (who wrote for the majority), Rosa Weber, Carmen Luica, Joaquim Barbosa, Luis Fux, Carlos Ayres Britto, Gilmar Mendes and Celso de Mello voted to legalize the procedure.

Justices Ricardo Lewandowski and Chief Justice Cezar Peluzo were the lone voices opposing the move. Justice Dias Toffoli recused himself because of his stance in favor of abortion in cases of anencephaly when he was Attorney General.

Eight of the currrent Supreme Court justices were appointed by former President Lula Da Silva and two by current President Dilma Rousseff.  Analysts said the ruling that ended an eight year-long battle over the issue of abortion in such cases was the result of an orchestrated campaign by abortion rights supporters, who were unable to make their case in Congress and took the issue instead to the Brazilian courts. In 2004 the Confederation of Medical Professionals filed a lawsuit demanding that abortion be declared “a woman’s right.”

In his dissent, Chief Justice Cesar Peluzo wrote, “The anencephalic fetus is alive, even if for a short time, and that life is constitutionally protected.”  As a person, he added, “its rights are protected, which include the protection of its life.”

He said the argument that babies with anencephaly pose a “danger” to the life of the mother “are not relevant, because the hypothesis on health risks are already expressed in the law. Moreover, every pregnancy in some way involves a theoretical risk to the health of the mother.”

The Conference of Catholic Bishops of Brazil issued a statement on April 12 expressing “profound regret” over the decision by the Supreme Court.

“Anencephalic fetuses, like all innocent and fragil human beings, cannot be thrown away or stripped of their fundamental rights,” they emphasized.

The bishops acknowledged that babies with such a condition are a cause of great sorrow for families, especially the mother, “but to consider abortion as the best option for the woman, and to deny the inviolable right to life of the unborn, ultimately ignores the negative psychological consequences for the mother.

“The State and society must defend and protect the unborn,” they said.

The bishops rejected arguments that the Church’s position on the issue constitutes intrusion into government affairs and said the Church has a right to promote the defense of human life and dignity.

“The resurrection of Jesus, which commemorates the victory of life over death, inspires us to reaffirm with conviction that human life is sacred and its dignity is inviolable,” the bishops said.

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Cardinal stresses spiritual meaning of Christian volunteer work

Vatican City, Apr 13, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Catholics can proclaim the Gospel through their acts of service for others, the Pope's director of charitable activities said as he presented a new book on the Church's volunteer efforts.

“We are just doing what Jesus has done for us,” said Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, an April 13 interview with CNA.

“I think charity must be a kind of evangelization – not direct evangelization, but to make each one know who Christ is, and know the love of God.”

On Friday, Cardinal Sarah briefed journalists on themes of the new publication “The Holy Father and European Volunteers,” which recounts key portions of a November 2011 meeting at the Vatican during Europe's “Year of Volunteering.”

The newly-compiled booklet features an address by Pope Benedict XVI on the Christian origins of volunteer service as an affirmation of humanity's dignity in the eyes of God. With its publication, the Pontifical Council Cor Unum hopes to maintain a focus on the religious value of charitable work.

As head of the council, Cardinal Sarah has been a strong advocate for the religious identity of Catholic charities. In his remarks to CNA, Cardinal Sarah explained that the Church's works of service are a concrete expression of its faith.

“Volunteering means acting in the name of Jesus Christ. So we must improve our formation, because we must insist on our identity as Catholics, when we act in charity.”

In some parts of the world, Christians find it “quite difficult” to carry out this mission, due to suspicion from followers of other religions who may interpret their charity as a veiled form of proselytism.

While the Church does show its faith through its works, Cardinal Sarah explained that it does not seek to impose this faith, or manipulate others by means of charity.

“With liberty, each one can choose his faith.” The Church, he said, is seeking “to make known the love of God.”

“We are brothers and sisters,” he affirmed. “Our one Father is God.”

On the basis of this belief, the Church looks to “promote the dignity of human beings” through its service to people of all convictions.

“If I live near a poor person, I must help him to improve his life. We don't impose any religion … but it is a task for us, to make known the love of God. It is not possible to hide our faith – even if it is difficult to say that in some countries.”

“We can imitate the way Mother Teresa acted,” Cardinal Sarah suggested. “When seeing Mother Teresa, we see God. We see the love of God, respecting everybody.”

It is in this spirit, Cardinal Sarah said, that Church institutions should carry out their mission, “even in very difficult contexts.”

Catholics engaged in charitable work, he said, “are the presence of God. We are the expression of the love of God, the compassion of God.”

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Catholic League: 'Three Stooges' movie wrong to mock nuns

New York City, N.Y., Apr 13, 2012 (CNA) - The new “The Three Stooges” movie departs from the classic comedy series by mocking nuns, Catholic League president Bill Donohue has argued.

“In the 1950s, Hollywood generally avoided crude fare and was respectful of religion. Today it specializes in crudity and trashes Christianity, especially Catholicism,” Donohue said April 13.

“Yes, the slapstick is there, along with the groans, pokes, thumps, and the like. But the TV show never mocked nuns or showed infants urinating in the face of the Stooges. The film does.”

The remake, from filmmakers Peter and Bobby Farrelly, has a plot device based on the Three Stooges raising money for their childhood orphanage run by nuns.

One of the religious sisters, played by swimsuit model Kate Upton, is shown wearing a nun's veil and a rosary along with a barely-there bikini. Another nun, played by Seinfeld creator Larry David, is named Sr. Mary Mengele, echoing the name of Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele.

Twentieth Century Fox is distributing the PG-rated movie, which was released to theaters nationwide on April 13.

A Fox spokesperson said that the nuns are “caring, heroic characters” in a “very broad comedy.”

“And as far as the nun attire, I think we did the audience a favor by letting Kate Upton wear the nun-kini rather than Larry David – it could have gone either way,” the spokesperson said, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Donohue also objected to Larry David’s disparaging remarks towards nuns he made to talk show host Conan O’Brien on April 11.

The Catholic League head contended that the movie is “not just another remake.”

“It is a cultural marker of sociological significance, and what it says about the way we’ve changed is not encouraging.”

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