Archive of April 25, 2012

Judge orders SNAP to turn over abuse records

Kansas City, Mo., Apr 25, 2012 (CNA) - A Missouri judge has ordered a group that works with victims of sexual abuse by clergy to turn over decades of records to an accused Catholic priest’s lawyers who want to determine whether the group has been coaching alleged victims and plaintiffs to say they repressed memories of abuse.

Attorneys representing priests in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph sought the records from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP.

Although the group strongly denied that it coaches victims, Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Ann Mesle said she will order the material to be turned over to the priest’s lawyers and the diocese’s lawyers.

“I believe they are entitled to have information on repressed memory,” she said April 20.

The SNAP material also would be available for use in four other cases pending against Tierney, and possibly for lawyers defending other priests in the Kansas City area and in Clinton County, Mo., Mesle said, according to the Associated Press.

Missouri law has a five-year statute of limitations on civil sexual abuse allegations unless the victim can prove that he or she had repressed memory of the abuse. If defense lawyers can prove that plaintiffs did not suppress memories of sexual abuse, judges would have to throw out a lawsuit against Fr. Michael Tierney and the Catholic diocese.

Fr. Tierney is accused of abusing a 13-year-old boy in the 1970s but has denied any wrongdoing.

The names of third parties who contacted SNAP with information about possible abuse may be removed from the documents, some of which are over 20 years old. Lawyers representing accused priests and the diocese have agreed to allow the removal.

Fr. Tierney’s lawyer Brian Madden rejected claims that the lawyers and the diocese are “trying to ‘out’ the alleged victims.”

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he told the Associated Press.

Rebecca Randles, the alleged abuse victim’s attorney, said her client never had contact with SNAP and has legitimately repressed memories of abuse.

Judge Mesle noted that she expects her order to be appealed.

Last January, SNAP said that it would refuse to submit to a judge's request for information about allegations against Fr. Tierney.

In a Jan, 2 deposition, SNAP director David Clohessy answered questions concerning accusations that an attorney violated a court gag order by revealing information about an abuse lawsuit to the organization.

Judge Mesle previously said that Clohessy “almost certainly” has knowledge relevant to the Fr. Tierney case.

According to the Kansas City Star, she said on April 20 that she planned to order another deposition for Clohessy.

SNAP's stated goals include abuse prevention and the healing of those wounded by abuse. Its critics, however, say focuses more on attacking the Catholic Church than assisting victims.

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NY Times writer defends Church teachings in online series

Washington D.C., Apr 25, 2012 (CNA) - New York Times writer Ross Douthat has defended Catholic theological and moral teachings, in a series of articles explaining how the Church is not “fundamentalist” but simply “orthodox.”

“What I describe as 'Christian orthodoxy' is not identical to everything that calls itself conservative Christianity in the United States, and it’s certainly not identical to Christian fundamentalism,” wrote Douthat, a Catholic convert known for his conservative social and political outlook, in an April 16-19 online exchange with Slate magazine author William Saletan.

In his new book “Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics” (Free Press, $26.00) Douthat advocates a return to authentic Christian traditions and doctrines. He argues that distorted forms of religion, focused on self-gratification and worldly aims, threaten the country's common good.

In his exchange with Saletan, Douthat defended Catholic teachings on subjects like sexuality and marriage, while urging secularists and skeptics to rethink their identification of traditional Christianity with “fundamentalism.”

The Catholic columnist pointed out that Biblical “fundamentalism” is actually a modern phenomenon, originating in the 19th and 20th centuries. By contrast, Christian orthodoxy “is an ancient thing, dating back to the early centuries A.D., when Christian doctrine was first codified.”

While Christian orthodoxy accepts Scripture as inspired by God, it does not employ it for inappropriate purposes – such as predicting the end of the world, ruling out scientific discoveries, or interpreting natural disasters as forms of divine retribution.

After distinguishing authentic Christian faith from “fundamentalism,” Douthat went on to defend Catholics teachings on subjects like contraception and homosexuality – which were also prohibited by most other Christian groups until the 20th century.

The New York Times columnist observed that the Church's view of sexuality does not come from a select few verses of the Bible, but “is rooted in the entirety of the biblical narrative, from the creation story in Genesis down through Jesus’ words in the New Testament.”

While this vision of human life does not reduce sexuality to biology, it does mark out the purposes of sex within God's plan for creation – including “the reunification of the two equal-but-different halves of humanity … and the begetting of children within a context that’s intended be a kind of microcosm of humanity as a whole.”

“This narrative of one-flesh complementarity,” Douthat told Saletan, “explains why Christians have traditionally rejected both the sexual authoritarianism inherent in polygamy and the sexual individualism that’s become such a powerful force in our society today – and why they’ve refused to bless homosexual relationships as well.”

Douthat also urged Saletan, and others who dismiss the Church's teachings on sexuality, to take an honest look at the consequences of contraception.

“The world that contraception has made is a world that de-emphasizes the moral weight of the sexual act, while insisting on the centrality of a perpetually-fulfilled libido to human contentment,” he observed.

Contraception, he said, has created a world “characterized by steadily declining marriage rates, steadily rising numbers of children born out of wedlock, birthrates that have fallen well below replacement levels across the developed West … and millions upon millions upon millions of abortions.”

“In general, the sexual culture that contraception has created is a culture that treats the stuff of human life and even life itself as a commodity to be bought, sold, mass produced, experimented upon and kept on ice when necessary.”

In his final installment, Douthat thanked the religiously-skeptical Saletan for his respectful tone. But he critiqued the Slate author's liberal viewpoint, for its unconscious reliance on principles drawn from the faith it rejects.

“When I look at your secular liberalism, I see a system of thought that looks rather like a Christian heresy, and not necessarily a particularly coherent one at that,” Douthat remarked.

He suggested that modern liberalism had drawn its most coherent ideas, such as its narrative of historical progress and its concept of universal human rights, from a “Christian intellectual inheritance.” But liberalism cast off other aspects of the Christian vision that would have kept these goals in balance and perspective.

Today, Douthat said, secular liberalism goes forth with “moral fervor,” while denying “the revelation that once justified that fervor in the first place.”

“It insists that it is a purely secular and scientific enterprise even as it grounds its politics in metaphysical claims,” he pointed out, noting that a reader “will not find the principle of absolute human equality in evolutionary theory, or universal human rights anywhere in physics.”

Douthat posed a question to secular critics who believe “that Christian teachings on homosexuality do violence to gay people’s equal dignity.”

“If the world is just matter in motion, whence comes this dignity? What justifies and sustains it? Why should I grant it such intense, almost supernatural respect?”

In his first reply to Saletan, Douthat described “Bad Religion” as a book inviting nonbelievers “to put an ear to the church door, you might say, even if they don’t actually step inside.”

At the series' close, the Catholic columnist reaffirmed his desire to help skeptics take a sympathetic look at Christian orthodoxy.

“I’d invite you to glance back over your shoulder at the worldview that so many liberals have left behind,” he told Saletan, “and to consider the possibility that … it might still provide a better home for humankind than whatever destination our civilization is headed for.”

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Proposed Kansas rule may force churches to host same-sex ceremonies

Topeka, Kan., Apr 25, 2012 (CNA) - A proposed ordinance in Hutchinson, Kansas could force individuals and institutions – including Catholic churches – to host and participate in events that violate Church teachings on sexuality.

“As far as individuals go, there doesn't seem to be any likelihood that there will be a protection or an exemption for them,” said Kansas Catholic Conference Executive Director Michael Schuttloffel, addressing a proposal to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation in the city of Hutchinson.

“As far as religious institutions, that will depend entirely on what sort of exemption – if any – is put in place (by the city council) … If there is none, then you could conceivably have a Catholic church that is forced to host a ceremony that violates Catholic beliefs.”

Schuttloffel spoke to CNA on April 24, as members of Hutchinson's Human Relations Commission prepared for a meeting the following day to finalize their “Proposed Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Protections.”

The proposal will be submitted to the Hutchinson City Council, which will make a decision on May 15 about adding the categories to the list of “protected classes” – along with categories like race, sex, and disability – in the city code.

Human Relations Commission spokesperson Meryl Dye told Fox News that parts of the proposed rule would apply to churches, which she said “would not be able to discriminate against gay and lesbian or transgender individuals.”

Dye confirmed that the “type of protection” proposed for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals “parallels to what you find in race discrimination. If a church provides lodging or rents a facility they could not discriminate based on race. It’s along that kind of thinking.”

In his remarks to CNA, Schuttloffel noted that the proposal is still “early in the process” of rule-making, and its outcome is not yet clear.

But the essence of the proposal, he said, is a radical breach of religious freedom, comparable to the federal contraception mandate.

“Religious freedom is very much under attack in this country, at various levels of government,” he observed. “Obviously, there's the contraceptive mandate at the federal level – but also there's stuff like this at the local level, that's popping up more and more.”

The Kansas Catholic Conference director believes the Hutchinson ordinance is “very much part of a strategy.” Believers, he said, “are vulnerable to these things at the local level, because there aren't the same defense systems in place that there are at the state or federal level.”

Local threats “are dangerous, but they don't get the same level of media attention. I don't think most people are even aware that it's going on at all.”

“They're being packaged as 'anti-discrimination ordinances,' when in fact their entire purpose is to discriminate against people of faith,” he warned. “When a city passes an ordinance like this, they take the position that our views are 'bigoted.'”

An exemption for churches would not make the situation any more acceptable in principle, he explained.

“Even then, an 'exemption' still suggests that in the normal order of affairs, Catholic teaching on this issue is bigoted. We reject that entire premise, that the city should be taking sides against people of faith on these issues.”

Schuttloffel called attention to the case of a New Mexico wedding photographer who was fined for refusing to photograph a lesbian ceremony, and the more dramatic cautionary example of Britain where “equality” laws put an end to Catholic adoption agencies.

“This is a very serious business,” he stated, warning the nation to pay close attention to what is about to happen in Hutchinson.

“These ordinances are being drafted to force people, to coerce people, into participating in conduct that violates their religious beliefs. It's a form of government coercion against individual people – and, if there's no exemption for churches, against religious institutions.”

“That of course runs completely counter to the 200-year tradition of religious freedom that we have in this country. If we can't protect that right after 200 years, and if a city council can overturn the first protection of the First Amendment, it raises the question of whether this is even America anymore.”

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Dominicans reflect on 50-year legacy of St. Martin de Porres' sainthood

Lima, Peru, Apr 25, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Fifty years after St. Martin de Porres was canonized, two Peruvian priests from the Convent of St. Dominic in Lima where the 16th century saint lived, praised his many contributions to the Church.

“His example of intimacy with God and holiness that he left us shines clearly in his  virtues, such as his great humility and charity with those most in need,” Father Javier Abanto Silva, director of Radio Santa Rosa, told CNA April 20.

“For us Dominicans, for us Peruvians and for all those who are devoted to this saint, he is an example for our spiritual and Christian life and for our family life as well,” he said.

Father Juan Anguerri, director of the St. Martin de Porres Home for the Poor, called the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the saint’s canonization an opportunity to reflect on his example of Christian life, inspired by his intense love for the Virgin Mary and the Eucharist.

He noted that St. Martin’s Dominican brothers “would often find him levitating in intense prayer and embracing the crucified Cross that presided over the convent Chapter Hall.” 

“'I cure them, but God heals them,' Martin would say when curing the sick, and he always preached that 'fullness of health comes from God.'”

Fr. Anguerri noted that St. Martin de Porres was known for the various assignments he carried out and which earned him the title of patron saint of barbers, the sick and street cleaners.

“These are often thankless tasks, but yet through his humble service, St. Martin sent a message to revitalize these jobs,” Father Anguerri said.

He also emphasized that St. Martin symbolizes reconciliation among different ethnicities.

“As an illegitimate son, he represents reconciliation because with joy and peace he embraced his mixed black and white heritage, and he held no grudge over his abandonment. He displayed his father’s religious inclination, and for this reason Pope Pius XII proclaimed him Patron Saint of Social Justice.”

Fr. Abanto added that families should follow the example of St. Martin by “embracing humility, by learning to love and to bring together the dog, the mouse and the cat, that is, to solve family problems through dialogue and not through anger or lack of affection.”

The saint “simply gave of himself, because he was interested in serving and not in showing off to others.”

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Christians must harmonize work and prayer, Pope teaches

Vatican City, Apr 25, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - On April 25, Pope Benedict XVI told over 20,000 pilgrims that they must commit themselves to works of charity, without neglecting prayer as a source of spiritual life.

“Without daily prayer,” Pope Benedict said in his Wednesday morning general audience in St. Peter's Square, “our action is empty” and “loses its deep soul, resulting in a simple activism that eventually leaves (us) unsatisfied.”

As he continued his series of talks on prayer, the Pope reflected on the institution of the ministry of deacons in the book of Acts. While the decision was taken to allow the Apostles to focus on prayer and the Eucharist, the Pope said it also showed the spiritual value of the charitable services to which the first deacons were called.

For the Church, Pope Benedict said, “charity and justice are not only social actions,” but also “spiritual actions” done “in light of the Holy Spirit.”

The Apostles' choice of seven deacons, including the first Christian martyr Saint Stephen, came in response to a crisis between Jewish and Gentile believers in the early Church. Tensions arose between widows from both groups, who relied on the Church for their daily provisions.

To resolve the dilemma without neglecting their ministry of preaching and liturgical worship, the Apostles ordained deacons – choosing men who could attend to the work of charity in its practical and spiritual dimensions.

“This decision, made after prayer and discernment, provided for the needs of the poor while freeing the Apostles to devote themselves primarily to the word of God,” the Pope observed.

He pointed out that the Apostles “acknowledge the importance of both prayer and works of charity, yet clearly give priority to prayer and the proclamation of the Gospel.”

But the priority of evangelization, he said, does not diminish the need for charity – since the Church “must not only proclaim the Word, but also realize that the word is love and truth.”

Meanwhile, the Apostles' choice of deacons offers a broader lesson about the Church's harmony of preaching, prayer, and service. The Apostles knew that their deacons could “not just be organizers who know what they are doing, but they must do so in the spirit of faith, with the light of God.”

For both clergy and laypersons, Pope Benedict indicated that prayer and work should have a harmonious relationship, in which “activity for another” is “penetrated by the spirit of contemplation.”

“We must not lose ourselves in pure activism, but always allow ourselves and our activities to be penetrated by the Word of God and thus learn true charity, true service to others.”

Before he concluded with the singing of the Our Father and his apostolic blessing, Pope Benedict cautioned pilgrims to give priority to prayer amid their lives of work.

Without prayer as “the breath of the soul and of life,” he said, the faithful “risk suffocating in the midst of a thousand everyday things.”

“In our own daily lives and decisions,” Pope Benedict urged his listeners, “may we always draw fresh spiritual breath from the two lungs of prayer and the word of God; in this way, we will respond to every challenge and situation with wisdom, understanding and fidelity to God’s will.” 

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Cuban dissident says no disrespect meant by Church outburst

Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, Apr 25, 2012 (CNA) - Cuban dissident Andres Carrion said he did not intend to offend the Catholic Church when he shouted “freedom” during the papal Mass in the country on March 26.

“It was not my intention to tarnish the Mass, and I have said so to various priests I have spoken with and they have understood me,” he said. “I am a Catholic and I didn’t have any intention to harm the Church or the image of the Pope.”

Minutes before Pope Benedict XVI began Mass at Antonio Maceo Revolutionary Square in Santiago during his recent visit, Carrion shouted, “Down with Communism! Down with the dictatorship! Freedom for the people of Cuba!”

He was quickly subdued by state-security agents and beaten by a supposed member of the Red Cross.

In an April 24 interview published by the newspaper El Pais, Carrion said he has sent a letter to the Archbishop of Santiago explaining the reasons for his protest “and to apologize to the Pope and to the entire Catholic community.”

“But they and everyone else should understand that we Cubans have no freedom of expression,” he said. “Because of this, we look for an opportunity to be heard, and I thought that that was an opportunity that could not be passed up.” 

Carrrion said he does not belong to any political party and that he was motivated only by a sense of civic duty and principle. 

“We Cuban needed to do something so the world could know about the violations and the huge problems that we face here with freedom of expression and human rights,” he explained. “I carried all of that around inside of me for a long time and that was the time to say it.”

Carrion said he spent 20 days in prison after the incident, and although he was not physically mistreated during his detainment, he was kept in a dark cell and only allowed to have the lights on ten minutes during the morning and ten minutes at night.

He was eventually released and forced to sign agreement with further restrictions.  

“I have to check in at the police station each week, I cannot leave my town without asking permission, I cannot meet with members of the opposition or give interviews, I cannot participate in protests.”

But “I have not followed hardly any of that,” he added. “They are not going to silence me in this way.”

Carion said that before heading to Antonio Maceo Square on March 26, he said goodbye “to my mother, my sister, my wife…I told her that morning before going to Mass, 'I love you very much.'” 

“I thought I would not return, I thought that was going to be the last day of my life.”

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