Archive of April 19, 2012

Catholic group won't endorse Romney before VP pick

Washington D.C., Apr 19, 2012 (CNA) - Presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s choice for vice president is such a critical decision that Catholic Advocate has said it will not endorse the candidate until his running mate is announced.

“Catholics and all people of faith need to be assured that they have a real choice between candidates on the crucial issues of life, marriage, religious liberty, and economic policies that will help to alleviate poverty,”  Catholic Advocate Chairman Deal W. Hudson said April 16.

Matt Smith, the president of Catholic Advocate, emphasized the importance of the vice presidential pick.
“People of faith across the country have told us they want a clear choice between the major political parties and that begins with a nominee’s first major personnel choice,” he said.

The D.C.-based Catholic Advocate is a non-partisan group that encourages faithful Catholics to participate in the political process in support of elected officials and policies consistent with Catholic teaching.

The group decided to delay endorsement after its recent meetings with Catholics at its Call to Catholic Citizenship grassroots activist training seminars.

Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, told ABC News he has named his former chief of staff Beth Myers to lead the search for his vice presidential pick.

A good vice presidential nominee is known to help a presidential candidate strengthen geographic, demographic, or political weaknesses. Vice presidents can also become their parties’ leading contenders for future presidential nominations.

Hudson said the choice of running mate will signal the kinds of cabinet and Supreme Court appointments that Romney will make if he is elected president.

“We look forward to Governor Romney announcing a running mate faithful Catholics across the country can support because of where they stand on the issues facing our families and our country,” Smith said.

Catholic Advocate’s Call to Catholic Citizenship has held grassroots activist training seminars in North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio and Iowa. Upcoming sessions are scheduled in Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Florida, Nevada, Colorado and Pennsylvania.

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Creator of Bible-based Facebook game lauds internet evangelism

Denver, Colo., Apr 19, 2012 (CNA) -

The internet and social media provide countless opportunities to reach people with God's message, says the creative force behind the new Bible-based Facebook game “The Journey of Moses.”

“There are so many people out in the world who are looking for this kind of content that is positive and shares God’s message,” said Brent Dusing, founder and CEO of the Mountain View, Calif.-based Lightside Games.

“There are a lot of people who know there is a God, they just don’t know how, or haven’t taken the time, to connect with him,” he told CNA on April 9.

“If you have a heart for evangelism, and you want to use social media, then you can go use the power of being able to spread that to millions and millions of people.”

This kind of work, Dusing underscored, must be “quality, and engaging, and authentic” and produced “in a way that draws people in and gets people to think about the core of the message and life’s big questions.”

He sees “The Journey of Moses,” launched in August of 2011, as one such work that tells the story of the Bible and spreads “God’s message in a way that is fun and engaging.”

The game follows the life of Moses beginning with his time in the court of the Pharaoh. Players collect items and trade them with their Facebook friends to progress through Moses’ story.

“We get not only into the biblical authenticity of the story, but also use it as a way to have people connect with the real human, emotional elements that these people really went through,” Dusing said.

The game plot is based on the biblical account of Moses’ life, from his youth through his discovery of his origins, his return to Egypt and his leading the Hebrew exodus out of Egypt.

The game depicts Moses meeting his wife Zipporah and includes an interactive wedding scene. One intense series of events from Moses’ return to Egypt is particularly popular with gamers.

“One of the things that our players really love is playing the plagues,” Dusing explained. “You get to turn the water into blood, you get to have the frogs appear. All of the plagues come down.”

Though every player plays the role of Moses, a user’s Facebook friends can help players with supplies and completing tasks in the game.

Dusing noted that Facebook games are increasing in popularity around the world and that 300 million people play them every week.

“For many, this may be the only time they encounter God’s word. So we want to deliver it in a way that’s authentic to God’s message,” he said.

Over 217,000 people have “liked” the Moses game on Facebook.

Dusing said he took inspiration from the 2004 Mel Gibson movie “The Passion of the Christ,” which impressed him both spiritually and from a business standpoint.

“One of the things that movie did well was it was high quality. The story was fantastic, the cinematography was great, the acting was great. You emote with these characters even though they speak Aramaic,” he said.

“The execution is so good, I believe that if you do the same things in games, not only could you attract a lot of people to play the games, but you could provide a way for people to experience the Bible and God’s message maybe in a way they haven’t been exposed to.”

Lightside Games, he said, takes pride in building products that are “high quality and fun for people to play.”

“People have time on the internet where they want to have fun. We want people to have fun and also experience stories that affirm their values,” he explained. “We’re building things so that those who love God and love Jesus can be affirmed.”

The company is developing another game based on the Bible that will be released soon. Dusing suggested it will be “a big surprise.”

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Supporters say Natural Family Planning celebrates sexuality, life

Washington D.C., Apr 19, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - While debates over contraception dominate national headlines, promoters of Natural Family Planning aim to impart the depth of Church teaching on human sexuality to younger generations.

“God gave us reason” along with the gift of sexuality, said Professor Janet E. Smith, who teaches moral theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Michigan.

Smith told CNA on April 18 that Natural Family Planning (NFP) is not an obligation to “live without planning,” but a call to use reason while respecting the nature of human sexuality.

Supported by the Catholic Church, NFP is a method of spacing children by practicing periodic abstinence based on physical indicators of a woman’s fertility.

In an essay titled “The Moral Use of Natural Family Planning,” Smith explained that although the Church teaches that “bringing forth new life is a great good,” this does not mean that all married couples have an “obligation to have as many children as they could possibly care for.”

Despite the cultural assumption that Catholics are required to ceaselessly procreate, Pope Paul VI's 1968 encyclical “Humanae Vitae” clarified that there are “serious reasons” for which a couple may seek to avoid conception “for either a certain or an indefinite period of time.”

The spectrum of these reasons “is broader and perhaps more liberal than many think,” said Smith.

She noted that the Church calls married couples to use prudence in examining their physical, psychological, and financial conditions as well as other factors when looking at the future of their families.

Couples should not be selfish in their decision, and they are called to look “beyond their own comfort and convenience,” but they can morally use NFP to prevent conception for a variety of reasons beyond mere health concerns, she said.

At the same time, it is important to explain that NFP is not simply the Catholic version of contraception, said Catholic convert and writer Jennifer Fulwiler.

Rather, Natural Family Planning is based on a “fundamentally different understanding of what human sexuality is.”

A mother of five, Fulwiler explained that even though each sexual act may not be aimed specifically at creating a new life, NFP always acknowledges that the human sexual act and the creation of new life are intricately connected – a concept she says has been abandoned by today's culture.

Fulwiler acknowledged that the practice “definitely has a poor image,” and while this is partly due to the way in which some NFP classes are taught, it is also largely caused by “cultural misconceptions.”

The secular world looks at couples practicing NFP who have large families and assumes that the method does not work to prevent pregnancy, an assumption that Fulwiler describes as “a mountain of misunderstanding.”

When you embrace the Church’s teaching on human sexuality and life, you tend to be open to more kids, she explained, adding that this is not failure on the part of natural planning.

Presenting NFP can be challenging, Fulwiler admitted, because it is “very difficult to sum up the fullness of Church teaching” in a brochure.

She believes that one effective way to initiate a “dialogue with the culture” is to engage those who have had a negative experience with contraception. Once people have established that artificial birth control is not the perfect solution, they are more willing to hear a new view of sexuality, she observed.

“I think there is a big interest in women really listening to their bodies,” Fulwiler said.

After years of being told to “take a pill and shut up,” women are eager for an approach that looks “at the whole woman.”

Emily Stimpson, author of “The Catholic Girl's Survival Guide for the Single Years,” added that in promoting NFP to a secular world, Catholics should not shy away from presenting the level of self-discipline that is required.

We need to be “as clear as we can up front” in order to “set people up for success,” she explained. People need to “realize that it is possible, but will take work.”

Stimpson said that arguments against Natural Family Planning based on the sacrifices it requires are “dangerous” and reveal that the problems with contraception are part of a “much larger issue.”

As a culture, we should “be careful where we set the bar for ourselves,” she warned.

If we don’t cultivate these virtues in our sex lives, we won’t have them in other areas either, she explained. But if we do build these virtues, we will be able to make use of them in all areas of our lives.

In a world that is “filled with temptation,” self-discipline is crucial, and a failure to develop it can lead people into disaster, both in their marriages and in other areas of their lives, she said.

The Church is not asking the impossible, stressed Stimpson, adding that she knows many people who are living out the Church’s teaching on sexuality.

“It is possible,” she said. “It’s just difficult.”

Developing the virtues needed for NFP is a process that should begin long before marriage, said Stimpson. Practicing the “basics of Christian holiness” can help single people achieve success with NFP after they are married.

However, people also “like practical steps,” she added, suggesting the promotion of specific practices such as fasting that the Church has given us to build basic virtue and self-disciple.

Stimpson believes that the next generation is “very willing” to respond to the message of NFP. She explained that in addition to an aversion to chemicals and affinity for things that are radical and counter-cultural, young people have seen the results of a contraceptive mentality in their parents’ generation and are longing for something better.

At the same time, she cautioned, younger generations are not always prepared to make sacrifices or take a more difficult path.

Still, she said, when presented with the complete and honest message of NFP, young people are often “open to learning that there’s a new way.”

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Archbishop Gomez: Year of Faith is Pope's best anniversary present

Vatican City, Apr 19, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles says the forthcoming Year of Faith is the best present Pope Benedict could give the Church as he marks his seventh anniversary as pontiff.

“Today we give thanks to God for the election of the Holy Father and are praying for him as we the bright future of his pontificate, especially the Year of Faith which he has called for starting this October,”Archbishop Gomez told CNA April 19.

“It will be a great opportunity for us Catholics to reflect upon our faith, to try to understand better our faith, because in the end the most important issue we have in our times in the Church is education in the faith.”

The Los Angeles archbishop is in Rome this week on his “ad limina” visit along with his fellow Californian bishops and the hierarchies of Hawaii, Utah and Nevada. Archbishop Gomez said it a “great blessing to physically participate in the celebrations this week” beginning with the Pope’s 85th birthday on Monday.

To mark the election of Pope Benedict XVI on April 19, 2005, the Vatican has taken the day off. Tomorrow the Pope will resume his public duties, though, with a meeting with Archbishop Gomez and a delegation of his fellow bishops.  

“We want to share with him the reality of the church in Los Angeles and California how active the people of the archdiocese are in practicing their faith,” said Archbishop Gomez.

He particularly wants to discuss the promotion of vocations the priesthood. The Province of Los Angeles currently has about 200 seminarians which, said Archbishop Gomes, is “a great blessing for our province, the Church in California and the Universal Church.”

The bishops are also looking to hear if the Pope has “some specific advice or recommendations” for the bishops before they go back to California at the weekend.

Upon his return, Archbishop Gomez says he intends work on plans for the Year of Faith, which is slated to begin in October of this year. Already scheduled is the diocesan Guadalupe Festival in August which celebrates devotion to Our Lady and September’s 10th anniversary of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Fundamental for the archbishop, though, is “education in the faith.”

“I think as Catholics we all need to know our faith better,” he concluded. “The more that we know God, the more that we know the life and teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, the more that we know about the action of the Holy Spirit, the more we that can love God. And at the end of the day our Christian faith is about loving God.”

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West Virginia bishop denies sexual abuse allegations

Charleston, W.Va., Apr 19, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of Wheeling-Charelston, W.Va. denied allegations of sex abuse against him during April 18 court proceedings in the criminal trial against a Pennsylvania priest.

“To now be unfairly included in that group and to hear the horrific allegations that are being made of me is unbelievable and shocking,” Bishop Bransfield said in an April 19 statement.

A witness in the trial against Monsignor William Lynn – who is accused of covering up sex abuse accusations within the Philadelphia Archdiocese – told the court that he was sexually abused by Philadelphia priest Fr. Stanely Gana on property belonging to Bishop Bransfield over 30 years ago.

The same witness, a 48-year-old man identified as “John,” claims that Bishop Bransfield brought several teenage boys to a farm owned by Fr. Gana, who told “John” that the bishop was having sex with one of them, reported the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Bishop Bransfield, a 68-year-old native of Philadelphia, said in his statement Thursday that although he is subject to criticism as a public figure, these allegations “go way beyond any sense of fairness and propriety.”

“I have never sexually abused anyone,” he said.

As Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston since 2004, Bishop Bransfield said he has “openly been an advocate for the eradication of abusive priests in every diocese.”

The news of these allegations reached him while he was attending meetings at the Vatican. “To say I was shocked and saddened would be an understatement,” he said.

When he first heard of the child sexual abuse case involving his former colleagues from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Pennsylvania, he was “deeply saddened.”

“Over the years, I have felt devastation for both the victims and the church as I learned about the terrible actions they took with innocent victims.”

He also said the statement that the witness made about the abuse taking place in a home that he owned is “misleading” because it fails to mention that he allowed many people to use his home and that he was neither present nor aware of the incident.

Bishop Bransfield asked for prayers for himself, the parishoners in his diocese and Philadelphia and all those “who have been affected by sexual abuse.”

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Ailing Venezuelan bishop says President Chavez must repent

Caracas, Venezuela, Apr 19, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Retired Bishop Eduardo Herrera Riera of Carora, who is suffering from terminal cancer, called on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to repent of his “injustices” against the country.

“As a Head of State, you have the most gravest of obligations, first and foremost, to procure the peace and security of Venezuelans,” the bishop said in an open letter April 9. “Unfortunately, you have been very weak and negligent in confronting this most serious of problems.”

The controversial president has battled illness himself in recent years, traveling last month to Cuba in order to have a potentially cancerous tumor removed.

Bishop Herrera listed several ethical concerns as well as human rights complaints against the Venezuelan leader and urged him to repair damage caused if he wants to share in “eternal happiness in the Kingdom of our Lord and God.”

Below is the full text of the bishops' letter:

To Mr. Hugo Chavez Frias, President of the Republic.

I write you as the elderly 84-year-old bishop emeritus of Carona, suffering from the serious side-effects of powerful chemotherapy and radiation, which has left me extremely weak because of my weight loss of more than 35 pounds.

I am a walking skeleton unable to move on my own, and I must use a wheelchair constantly. All of this makes me certain that my death draws near and should make you understand the sincerity and healthy desire that move me to speak to you as clearly as possible…

There is a phrase Jesus uses in the Gospel, which, by the way, Cardinal Urosa just mentioned on television, which says: “Not everyone who says Lord, Lord, will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only he who does the will of my Heavenly Father.”  You have displayed various acts of faith and trust in God, calling him “My sweet God,” hugging and kissing crucifixes, visiting the Shrine of Santo Cristo de la Grita and many other similar things.

If this is all sincere, it is very praiseworthy and I applaud you for it.  However, unfortunately this is not enough to receive God’s forgiveness and enter into the kingdom of Heaven. Repairing the evil and the injustices that have been done to people and to institutions is also strictly necessary, and in your pride you have committed such acts on innumerable occasions.  Sacred Scripture calls pride “the great sin,” and that is what led the most beautiful and powerful Archangel Lucifer to rebel and to want to emulate the power of God, rising up against Him, together with a group of angels who followed him in his mad endeavor.  But God sent the powerful Archangel Michael against them, who fought them, overcame them and sent them to the terrible and eternal sufferings of hell.  Since then, Lucifer, known today as Satan and who did not lose his gifts of intelligence and power, has worked non-stop to bring all human beings who despise the infinite love and mercy of God our Father into his realm.

As I said, Mr. President, you have committed numerous and very grave injustices.  Just to remind you of a few of the most emblematic cases: The unjust imprisonment of Maria de Lourdes Afiuni and of three police chiefs.  In the same way, innumerable other cases have caused great suffering to individuals and their families.

All of this can and should be repaired by your order, which I am sure would be obeyed immediately upon opening the prison doors of all political prisoners, as well as the doors of the country to those in exile who have been forced to leave their country and flee the almost certain reprisals that you would carry out against them.

Another very grave sin you have committed, Mr. President, are the expropriations or thefts, as you were clearly told by Maria Corina Machado. Carried away in your very own pride, like thunderous Jupiter you said, “Expropriate, Expropriate,” without considering the laws that oversee this matter, that is, without an evaluation beforehand, an agreement with the person or persons in question and a just payment for the goods expropriated.

If you want God’s forgiveness, you should make reparation at once and pay the hundreds of that have been affected, whether they are individuals or institutions.

Moreover, there is another evil, Mr. President, which you have brought upon the country: Your inexplicable preaching of hatred and violence that has brought to all the cities of our country a painful river of blood that flows daily through our streets.

As a Head of State, you have the most gravest of obligations, first and foremost, to procure the peace and security of Venezuelans, beginning with all those who illegally bear arms, and to attack firmly and decisively all violent groups, after a serious study carried out by the many competent experts on this question in our country.

Unfortunately, you have been very weak and negligent in confronting this most serious of problems.  If you don’t step up to solve this terrible evil with decisiveness and courage, God will hold you accountable for your negligence.

Mr. President, there may be other sins I should bring to your attention, but I don’t want to conclude without making you see your fault in your inexplicable negligence in decisively confronting the horrific corruption that is plaguing Venezuela, so much so that many believe you are an accomplice in these matters.

This has resulted in the corruption of the majority of our judges who issue unjust rulings and the decisions taken by the most powerful officials of the State, whom you manipulate according to your own pleasure, without any control or respect for the Constitution and our laws.  God will hold you accountable for all of this, if you do not immediately correct these grave faults.

I am sending you this long letter publicly because I want your followers to read it as well. They too, if they wish to save their souls, have the gravest of obligations to ask for God’s forgiveness with the greatest sincerity of heart and to make reparation for all of the abuses and injustices that have been committed.

As you can see, my esteemed President, I have addressed you, perhaps very coarsely, but with the holiest and best of all wishes that some day we may meet each other to enjoy eternal happiness in the Kingdom of our God and Lord.

Eduardo Herrera Riera
Bishop Emeritus of Carora

“As I live – oracle of the Lord GOD – I swear I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.”  Ez 33:11

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Vatican's UN observer says Americans must defend global religious liberty

Washington D.C., Apr 19, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - American Catholics must defend authentic religious freedom around the world to prevent the threat of religious persecution at home, said the head Vatican representative to the United Nations.

“What is at stake here is the future of humanity itself,” underscored Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt, who serves as the Holy See’s permanent observer to the U.N.

The archbishop delivered the keynote address at the eighth annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C.

The April 19 event drew a crowd of roughly 1000, including former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum and bipartisan members of Congress.

In his address, Archbishop Chullikatt spoke of his time as apostolic nuncio to Iraq, where he saw what it meant to risk death for living out the Christian faith.

“I have seen the horrors of sectarian violence,” he said, explaining that people he knew were arrested, tortured and even killed, suffering martyrdom for their faith.

“These are not abstract issues. These are not mere statistics,” he said. “They were and are my friends, my colleagues, my neighbors.”

The archbishop explained that this experience is “etched deeply” in his memory and inspires him to speak out on behalf of all those who are persecuted for living their faith.

“These martyrs of faith must not be forgotten,” he said.

The past century has shown what happens when religious freedom is stifled and God is set aside, he cautioned.

“Faith in God and respect for religious freedom go hand in hand,” he said. “The one who respects the existence of God will always and everywhere respect also religious freedom.”

Archbishop Chullikatt said that the human person has a fundamental and “sacred” right to seek, profess and share the truth.

He emphasized that “authentic religious liberty is more than just freedom of worship.” It must also include, among other things, “the right to preach, educate, evangelize and participate in the political process, as well as in public life.”

Noting the irreplaceable role of religion in society, he added that religious freedom is not only a moral issue, but also “a non-negotiable civil right, given by the Creator and not by the state.”

He explained that government “transgresses the limits of its authority” when it fails to respect the God-given right to religious freedom by coercing people to violate their religious beliefs or prohibiting them from participating in public life.

Although religious freedom is formally recognized as a civil right in most constitutions and national documents, there are many areas of the world where it is not fully respected, the archbishop said.

He voiced concern over increasing intolerance towards religion in many parts of the world today, often directed at Christians.

In the West, religion is treated as a destabilizing threat to modern society, he added.

Despite its strong Christian history, believers in much of Europe find themselves marginalized, impeded and discriminated against, as secular forces attempt to remove the voice of religion from society, he explained.

Archbishop Chullikatt warned that although the West has not yet reached a level of violent persecution and oppression, “it is from this marginalization and denial of religious freedom” that such violence is born.

Constant vigilance is necessary, he said, stressing that Americans cannot assume that liberty will always be secure at home and atrocities can only happen in other countries. 

Catholic bishops across America have warned that a domestic erosion of religious liberty has already begun, manifest in part by a federal health insurance mandate that will require religious individuals and institutions to violate Church teaching by offering contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.   

The archbishop urged Catholics to speak up for the religious freedom of their spiritual brothers and sisters around the world.

He explained that “by defending their rights, we shall be defending our own rights.”

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