Washington D.C., Apr 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The leader of the Knights of Columbus called for strong Catholic witnesses to defend religious liberty before a gathering of roughly 1000 members of the faith in Washington, D.C.
At the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast on April 19, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson called for “a new Great Awakening in America,” in which Catholics “play a greater role than ever before.”
Anderson warned that the present moment is a critical one for the future of religious freedom in the United States and urged Catholics to call on God as they work to preserve this fundamental liberty.
“The spirit of our age is profoundly secular,” he cautioned. “And secularism accepts religion – if it accepts it at all – only on its own terms.”
During his remarks, he observed that religious freedom benefits not only believers but society as a whole.
Catholics “value religious liberty not only because it protects our personal autonomy,” he explained, but “because of the good which religion brings into the life of the individual believer and into the life of our nation.”
Anderson argued that the historical connection between Christian and liberty was not a coincidence but something fundamental.
The American founders unequivocally stated that people’s basic, inalienable rights came from their Creator, he said, and those views “have echoed down through our history,” stated by individuals from George Washington to John F. Kennedy to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Yet today we find a new hostility to the role of religious institutions in American life at a time when government is expanding its reach in extraordinary ways,” he said.
He pointed to the recent Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC case, in which the Obama administration attempted to restrict the definition of a religious minister to those “who perform exclusively religious functions,” a definition that was unanimously rejected by the Supreme Court in January.
Furthermore, he observed, Catholics across the country have rallied in opposition to a federal mandate that will require employers to offer health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and abortion drugs, even if doing so violates their religious beliefs.
He also noted that after successfully running a program to help human trafficking victims, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was recently denied its request for a grant renewal when the administration decided to prohibit funding of groups that would not provide or refer for abortion and contraception.
Anderson said that these recent infringements upon religious liberty show that America is now seeing “a new government intolerance of religion,” under which “religion is subordinated to the political interests of the secular state.”
“A government willing to affect the faith and mission of the church is a government willing to change the identity of the church,” the Supreme Knight cautioned, questioning what further violations of religious freedom can be expected from such an administration.
As Christians we are called to be witnesses, praying and working to preserve our Catholic identity, he said.
Although the struggle will be difficult, we have a “reason for hope” based on past successes, even “in the face of established power structures,” he added.
“Every great religious renewal in America has led to an advance in civil rights,” he said, recalling the contribution of religious efforts to the founding of America, the abolition of slavery and the push for racial equality.
Now, Anderson said, Catholics must come together and make their voices heard in order “to keep open the doors of religious liberty.”
New York City, N.Y., Apr 20, 2012 (CNA) - A lewd picture on “The Daily Show” that placed a Nativity scene manger ornament between a naked woman's spread legs provoked heavy criticism and the threat of a boycott from Catholics.
“What Jon Stewart did ranks with the most vulgar expression of hate speech ever aired on television. His incivility cannot go unanswered,” Catholic League President Bill Donohue said on April 19, calling for a boycott of the show's sponsors.
On the April 16 episode of the Comedy Central cable channel’s satirical newscast “The Daily Show,” host Jon Stewart criticized Fox News commentators’ and reporters’ treatment of the “war on women” political catchphrase. He juxtaposed their comments with other Fox News coverage, including the many past “war on Christmas” controversies about the role of the holiday in public life.
After showing a clip of Fox News commentator Steve Doocy objecting to an elementary school that barred poinsettias on the grounds they might offend non-Christians, Stewart said:
“What can women do to generate the same sense of outrage from Fox as the removal of decorative slightly poisonous holiday plants? Perhaps they could play into the theme? Maybe women could protect their reproductive organs from unwanted medical intrusions with vagina mangers.”
The show then displayed an image of a naked woman on a table. Covering her genitals was a manger with the Christ child.
“I –I had not seen that picture,” Stewart said, laughing. “That really could be anything.”
Donohue observed in an initial statement Wednesday that although the segment was done “to protest Fox’s alleged indifference to the 'war on women,'” it ultimately made not only “a vulgar attack on Christians” but served to objectify women.
The Catholic League president also criticized what he said was a media “cover-up” of the offensive scene. “The Daily Show” episode drew news coverage from outlets like Reuters, the Chicago Tribune, MSNBC.com, Yahoo! Movies, the Los Angeles Times blogs, Gawker, Huffington Post, and others, but these outlets did not report the scene involving the manger.
Media Research Center head L. Brent Bozell called the show a “grotesque stunt” that displayed a Nativity scene “in a vulgar manner.”
He questioned whether Stewart would be “equally brave” to offend Muslims and Jews and dared Stewart to do something similarly offensive to them, CNSNews.com reported.
Donohue said that Stewart has refused to apologize for the incident, which Donohue deemed an “unprecedented assault on Christian sensibilities.”
The Catholic League has launched an effort to receive an apology from Stewart and is asking the regular sponsors of “The Daily Show” to pull their advertising and threatening a boycott of their products
The organization is contacting Kraft Foods, Inc., whose product MiO Energy was among the advertising sponsors during the objectionable episode. It is contacting religious leaders and organizations to rally support.
The board members and senior management of Comedy Central owner Viacom will also be contacted about the image.
“We will take out ads in newspapers,” Donohue said. “We are not going away.”
Washington D.C., Apr 20, 2012 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops voiced concerns that proposed budget cuts for the 2013 fiscal year could adversely impact the most vulnerable members of society.
In an April 16 letter, Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, who chairs the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, urged leaders of the House Agriculture Committee to resist “unacceptable cuts to hunger and nutrition programs.”
He said that reductions to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the modern federal food stamp program, “are unjustified and wrong.”
The bishop argued that the program “helps feed millions of households,” most of which include a child, senior or disabled individual.
In a time of “economic turmoil and growing poverty,” Congress should not cut an “effective and efficient anti-hunger program that helps people live in dignity,” he said.
“If savings need to be achieved, cuts to agricultural subsidies and direct payments should be considered before cutting anti-hunger programs that help feed poor and vulnerable people.”
The letter was sent several weeks after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a $3.5 trillion budget resolution crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
Ryan has said that his budget is guided by Catholic principles and that it allows for the common good to be advanced not only through government but through civic society. He also argued that the poor are hurt by extreme levels of debt more than they are by budget reductions.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) – who is also Catholic – said that in the broader picture, the cuts are necessary to prevent a financial crisis that would completely wipe out the critical aid programs.
However, Bishop Blaire said that the budget falls short of the moral criteria laid out by the bishops.
In recent months, the U.S. bishops have offered principles for evaluating budget decisions, which include the promotion of the common good and the protection of human life and dignity, as well as consideration for the needs of the poor and homeless.
Leaders of the U.S. bishops have called for a “circle of protection” to be maintained around the poor and vulnerable during budget debates, preventing critical services from being slashed.
Bishop Blaire has previously cautioned against cutting funding for housing assistance programs.
In a separate letter to the leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee, he also voiced opposition to “unfair proposals” that would “exclude children of hard-working, immigrant families” from the Child Tax Credit.
He said that the bishops’ conference supports the tax credit program as an effective anti-poverty program that is both “pro-work” and “pro-family.”
Santiago, Chile, Apr 20, 2012 (CNA) - Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati of Santiago, Chile has decided to canonically disband the Priestly Union of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, led for many years by disgraced priest Father Fernando Karadima.
“We are looking forward,” Archbishop Ezzati told reporters April 16. “The past is gone, of course it has consequences for the future, but we should emphasis the dynamism that the Resurrection of the Lord and the Gospel of the Lord offer us.”
In 2011 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found the Chilean priest guilty of sexual abuse and ordered him to retire to a life of penance and prayer. In its decree, the congregation suggested that the Priestly Union receive an apostolic visitation.
The visitation was ordered to examine the economic management of the association as well as its formation program and was carried out by Uruguayan Bishop Carlos Maria Collazi of Mercedes between December 4-8, 2011, and January 25-27, 2012.
In August of 2010, before the congregation's ruling, ten priests of the Union decided to leave the association after concluding that the charges against Father Karadima were likely to be true.
In a statement this week, the Archdiocese of Santiago said the decision to canonically close the Union “was made independently of the apostolic visitation” and after consultation with the members of the Union’s governing council.
“The aim of this juridical act is to build new meaningful bonds of charity and fraternity between the members of the clergy of Santiago, to grow in their identification with Jesus Christ, in communion and collaboration with the Bishop and the presbytery of the Archdiocese, giving living witness to the desire of Jesus that “all may be one,'” the archdiocese said.
Archbishop Ezzati told the press that the goal now is “for the clergy to be united, very united to the bishop and to each other.”
“We want to overcome, and I think that with this we are overcoming, conflicts and issues that at one point were very difficult for the life of this community and that had an influence on the life of the Church and the country.”
Rome, Italy, Apr 20, 2012 (CNA) - During the funeral Mass for a young Italian soccer star who died suddenly during a match on April 14, Father Luciano Manenti of the Diocese of Bergamo said the tragedy provides believers with an opportunity to reflect on their faith and the fragility of life.
Professional soccer player Piermario Morosini, 25, collapsed from a heart attack during a game last Saturday and was pronounced dead. The incident, seen live on television, shocked Italians nationwide.
The funeral Mass was held at a small church in Monterosso before a congregation of six hundred. Some five thousand people gathered at the Bergamo Stadium to follow the funeral on giant TV screens.
Morosini won the affection of his fellow soccer players on the five teams he played for at different times since he was a teenager. He was known for his perpetual smile despite a tragic life growing up. His mother died when he was 15, and soon after he lost his father as well. He was left to take care of his two handicapped siblings. His younger brother committed suicide and his older sister, Maria Carla, lives in a home for the mentally disabled in Bergamo.
Morosini’s death has sparked a network of solidarity among Italian soccer players, with some stepping forward to offer to care for his handicapped sister.
Dozens of players and coaches from Italian professional soccer attended the funeral Mass, as well as local and regional politicians.
During his homily, Father Manenti spoke of his long friendship with Morosini, as well as the affection and gratitude he always had for his deceased parents. Reflecting on the season of Easter, Father Manenti told those gathered, “None of us will experience Easter in our lives unless we accept the beauty of our fragility.”
“I thank you,” he said of the popular soccer player, “because in these days you have taught me to be a father and I have come to a greater understanding of what it means that God is our Father.”
Father Manenti also read a brief message from Bishop Francesco Beschi of Bergamo, who said Morosini’s smile brought great joy to his fellow soccer players and to his fans.
Vatican City, Apr 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The managing director of the world famous Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig said playing for Pope Benedict XVI April 20 is the pinnacle of the orchestra’s long and illustrious history.
“This concert,” said Andreas Schulz, “is the most important event in the history of the Gewandhaus Orchestra.”
“It is an unbelievable invitation. I remember when I got the invitation in October 2010 I was so surprised, so deeply honored, I can’t believe it when I saw the fax with the invitation,” he told Vatican Radio.
The concert was held in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall to mark the Pope’s 85th birthday earlier this week. Under the baton of Italian conductor Riccardo Chailly, the Gewandhaus Orchestra performed Felix Mendelssohn’s 2nd Symphony, the “Lobgesang” or “Hymn of Praise.”
At the end of the performance Pope Benedict praised the orchestra for their “tradition of high quality performance and undisputed fame.” He then gave a “hearty thank you” to the musicians, the choir, soloists.
The pontiff also thanked “in a very particular way” the conductor for a “moving interpretation” of a symphony through which “we praised and thank the Lord for his gifts.”
He also noted how Mendelssohn – a predecessor of Chailly as conductor of Gewandhaus Orchestra – used his work as a means of giving glory to God.
“Art as praise to God, the Supreme Beauty, was the basis of the method of composition by Mendelssohn and not only as concerns liturgical or sacred music but his entire repertoire.”
Schulz said the concert was all the more special as Pope Benedict is known to have a deep knowledge and passion for music.
“If you have a special person like say the Holy Father, because it’s his birthday and we know he is so close to music and all the arts, it’s really much better because it’s a person who can follow you.”
Washington D.C., Apr 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) says that it “was stunned” by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's recent assessment of the group.
Voicing strong concerns over the conference’s commitment to Jesus Christ and Catholic teaching, the Vatican announced on April 18 that it was appointing Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle to head renewal efforts for the LCWR.
In an April 19 statement, the presidency of the conference said that it was “taken by surprise” by the announcement and would need time to prepare a thorough response. The group also asserted that it already “follows canonically-approved statutes.”
However, the Vatican document maintains that a multi-year assessment of the LCWR has revealed significant need for reform.
It referenced letters from LCWR officers suggesting “corporate dissent” from Church teaching on topics including the sacramental priesthood and homosexuality.
The group has also hosted regular presentations that demonstrated theological and doctrinal errors, as well as a “prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith,” it said.
In one presentation, a speaker discussed “moving beyond the Church” and even beyond Jesus.
By hosting conference speakers whose messages are “incompatible with religious life” and often show little regard for the Magisterium, the LCWR risks distorting crucial Church teaching on the Eucharist, Sacred Scripture and the divinity of Christ, the assessment document explained.
Further adding to the confusion on Church teaching is the lack of adequate doctrinal formation offered by the group.
The assessment pointed to a formation handbook prepared by the LCWR, which “presents a situation in which sisters differ over whether the Eucharist should be at the center of a special community celebration” because some sisters object to the fact that an ordained priest is required for the celebration of the Mass.
It also observed that although the organization strongly promotes social justice issues, it largely ignores issues of life, marriage and sexuality, which have played a prominent role in recent public debates over abortion, euthanasia and “gay marriage.”
The Vatican appointed Archbishop Sartain to work for up to five years to lead efforts to reform the conference.
Chosen as the secretary-elect of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops last November, Archbishop Sartain has championed Church teaching on both a local and national level.
In January, he testified before a Washington state senate committee against a bill to recognize “gay marriage” in the state. When the legislation passed, he encouraged parishes in the archdiocese to collect signatures in favor of a referendum to repeal it.
He also served as the homilist at the 2011 Red Mass for public officials in Washington D.C., where he spoke about Christian service.
Archbishop Sartain will now be responsible for working with LCWR leadership to revise the conference’s statutes and create new formation programs for its members.
He will also be in charge of approving the group’s programs and presentations, as well as the ways in which it applies liturgical norms and texts, ensuring that proper priority is placed on the Eucharist.
In addition, he will review the conference’s connections with affiliated groups, such as Network and the Resources Center for Religious Life.
In working to implement these reform efforts, the archbishop will be aided by an advisory group of clergy, experts and women religious, as well as Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield and Bishop Leonard P. Blair of Toledo, Ohio, who was responsible for conducting the assessment of the LCWR.
Both a canon lawyer and a civil lawyer, Bishop Paprocki is the former chairman and a current member of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance.
A staunch defender of Church teaching on life and marriage, the bishop has spoken out against Illinois’ Catholic governor Pat Quinn for his decision to support same-sex civil unions, which ultimately forced the diocese to shut down its adoption and foster care programs.
He also criticized Quinn for presenting a “Pro-Choice Leadership Award” to an abortion advocacy group in Nov. 2011.
Bishop Blair, a member of the bishops’ Committee on Doctrine, has also worked to defend the Church’s teaching on marriage.
In 2009, he banned a workshop offered by gay advocacy group New Ways Ministry because the organization failed to present authentic Church teaching on homosexuality.
Archbishop Sartain expressed a deep respect for the work of religious women in America, whose ministry is “paramount to the mission of the Church.”
“Just as the LCWR can be a vital resource in many ways for its members,” he said, “I hope to be of service to them and to the Holy See as we face areas of concern to all.”