Archive of May 2, 2012

Study finds cohabitation leading to delayed marriages in US

Washington D.C., May 2, 2012 (CNA) -

A federal report on national family growth found that many young adults in the U.S. are postponing marriage and instead choosing “to cohabit with a partner,” despite the fact that doing so increases the likelihood of a later divorce.

“People are marrying for the first time at older ages, and many adults cohabit with a partner before ever marrying,” said a March 2012 National Health Statistics report.

Using data based on the 2006–2010 National Survey of Family Growth, the report analyzed current trends in marriage.

It discovered that in recent years, “women and men married for the first time at older ages than in previous years.”

From 2006 to 2010, the median age for a first marriage was 25.8 for women and 28.3 for men, the report found.

In 1995, women had a 59 percent chance of being married by age 25. In 2006-2010, that probability had dropped to 44 percent.

While the delay in marriage may be partly due to a struggling economy, the report found that premarital cohabitation – or living together in a sexual relationship without being married – has also contributed to the phenomenon. 

The percentage of currently cohabiting women rose from 3 percent in 1982 to 11 percent in 2006-2010, said the report.

It found that many couples are now entering into cohabiting relationships at about the same point as couples entered into marriages in the past.

“Among women, 68% of unions formed in 1997–2001 began as a cohabitation rather than as a marriage,” it added.

This is true despite the fact that studies show cohabitation to be a significant risk factor for divorce.

“It has been well documented that women and men who cohabit with their future spouse before first marriage are more likely to divorce than those who do not cohabit,” the report explained.

It pointed to statistics showing that women who cohabit with their first husband – regardless of whether they were already engaged when they moved in together – have a lower chance of having their marriage last 20 years than women who did not cohabit first.

In general, first marriages in 2006-2010 had a slightly more than 50 percent chance of surviving for 20 years, the report said.

“These levels are virtually identical to estimates based on vital statistics from the early 1970s,” it observed.

The National Center for Health Statistics also found that couples are increasingly likely to have children while they are cohabiting instead of waiting until they are married.

While the average age at first birth has not changed since 2002, first births to cohabiting women increased by 83 percent from 2002 to 2006-2010, it said.  

Acknowledging that marriage has “changed dramatically” in recent decades, the report expressed hope that its findings will lead to studies that “yield new insights into marriage and cohabitation and their effect on adults and children in the United States.”

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Calif. marriage bill called 'Trojan horse' for redefinition effort

Sacramento, Calif., May 2, 2012 (CNA) -

Homosexual advocacy groups have lent their support to a supposed “religious freedom” bill, criticized by Catholics in California as a deceptive effort to redefine the meaning of marriage.

“We call it a 'Trojan horse.' It appears to be a gift, but really it's undermining marriage,” Catholics for the Common Good President William B. May told CNA on May 1, as he prepared to testify against Senate Bill 1140 in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

On Monday afternoon, the committee approved the bill by a 4-1 vote, making it likely to go before the full Senate for a vote in the near future.

Introduced by Democratic State Senator Mark Leno of San Francisco, the bill is being promoted as “legislation that clarifies the religious freedom of clergy members in California,” by stating that “no member of clergy will be required to perform a marriage that is contrary to his or her faith.”

SB 1140 would also define marriage, in California's Family Code, as “a personal relation arising out of a civil, and not a religious, contract.”

The proposal is supported by groups that support redefining marriage to include same-sex couples, including Equality California and California Council of Churches IMPACT.

In an April 27 statement released by Catholics for the Common Good, May said the bill was “a deception,” using the language of religious freedom in an effort “to redefine marriage … and eventually remove from the law any public institution that unites kids with their moms and dads.”

The Catholic activist said the bill's religious protections are unnecessary and already exist under the U.S. Constitution. The state, he said, already has “no authority to tell religions who is qualified or not for marriage according to their faith.”

“Rather,” May said, “the true intent of the bill is to spread further confusion about what marriage is by differentiating between different types – civil and religious.”

He said the proposed legislation sought to “frame the definition of marriage as merely a religious issue,” and thereby “lay the ground work for redefining marriage” in state law.

“At a time when marriage is in crisis,” he said in his April 27 statement, “when 41 percent of children are born outside of marriage, when 44 percent of young adults believe that marriage is obsolete, we need to be promoting the positive reality of marriage, not redefining it out of existence.”

Catholics for the Common Good is known for defending authentic marriage from a non-religious standpoint, as the institution that unites a man and a woman with each other and their children.

The group's “Stand With Children” campaign argues for the public purpose of marriage as the foundation of family integrity. This family-oriented definition of marriage contrasts with the more reductive notion of a mere contract between two adults, which fundamentally differs from marriage.

May also argues that the civil and religious aspects of marriage are not separate realities – as they would be defined under SB 1140 – but complementary aspects of the same institution.

“Marriage that unites a man and a woman with each other and any children born from their union is the same reality that has been recognized by every society, culture and religion,” he explained on Friday. “The state and religions recognized that reality differently according to their different competencies.”

“The state recognizes it because there is a distinct public interest that coincides with the right of a child to be born into a united family. In addition, the Catholic Church recognizes it as a sacrament.”

In his remarks to CNA before Monday's hearing, May also criticized the concept of religious freedom put forth by proponents of SB 1140.

The bill “creates a perception that churches are insulated from the consequences of redefining marriage – which is not true,” he said.

While clergy would not be forced to perform homosexual ceremonies, May warned that religious institutions and individuals would have no protection from more likely threats – like being forced to rent facilities for these ceremonies, or offer services like wedding photography and catering.

The protection of clergy, May said on Monday, is “in there to use in a campaign slogan down the road – (to say) that the law 'protects churches.'” In this way, the bill “creates a false perception that can be used politically, to mislead the voters on the consequences of redefining marriage.”

In a press release promoting his introduction of SB 1140, Senator Mark Leno predicted the judicial overturning of the traditional-marriage law known as Proposition 8, saying it was “only a matter of time before same-sex couples in California will again have the freedom to marry.”

But if this occurs, May warned, children will lose out – bearing the consequences of a political move that shortchanges their rights in favor of adults' personal desires.

“What is happening,” he explained, “is a redefinition of what marriage is, turning it into nothing more than the public recognition of a committed relationship between adults. It removes from the law any connection between marriage, children, mothers, and fathers.”

“Marriage is the only institution that unites kids with their moms and dads,” May observed. “If marriage is redefined to accommodate same-sex couples, there will be no institution in the law that does that.”

Updated on May 2, 2012 at 11:34 MST. Adds information on the outcome of the Senate committee vote in paragraph three.

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Criticism mounts against Dan Savage address to teens

Washington D.C., May 2, 2012 (CNA) -

Gay activist and anti-bullying advocate Dan Savage continues to draw criticism despite backtracking from his insults launched against Christian students at a youth event.

“The first mistake was inviting a man who has a long history of making the most vile, disgusting and bigoted remarks. What did these people think he would do? Act civilly?” Catholic League President Bill Donohue asked May 1.

The National Scholastic Press Association and Journalism Education Association, who sponsored the “Journalism on the Edge” conference in Seattle, had invited Savage to talk to students about the power of social media as well the problem of bullying against gay young people.

Savage was one of two plenary keynote speakers at the April 13 national high school journalism conference.

“We can learn to ignore the bulls--t in the Bible about gay people – the same way we have learned to ignore the bulls--t in the Bible about shellfish, about slavery, about dinner, about farming, about menstruation, about virginity, about masturbation,” Savage told students.

More than 100 teens walked out of the auditorium as he continued to mock the Bible. Savage then taunted those who left, calling them “pansy-a--ed.”

In response, Donohue issued a statement Monday saying the incident reflects poorly on Savage and on the conference organizers.

“The only ones who acted admirably were the students who walked out in protest,” he said. “They showed a lot more ‘thoughtfulness’ than the adults who ran the conference.”

“Ironically, Savage’s bullying of Christian students was done in the name of protesting the bullying of homosexuals,” Donohue added. “When it comes to bullying, Savage has no peer.”

The conference sponsors initially gave no apology after complaints on Savage’s statements. They said they appreciate “the level of thoughtfulness and deliberation” on his remarks, claiming that those who objected to his talk “had simply reached their tolerance level for what they were willing to hear.”

The sponsors conceded, however, that Savage’s comments were “so strongly worded that they shook some of our audience members,” adding that they wished he had “stayed more on target” for teen journalists.

Savage initially apologized for hurting “anyone’s feelings” but claimed the right to “defend” himself and “point out the hypocrisy of people who justify anti-gay bigotry by pointing to the Bible,” Fox News reported.

But as media furor continues to grow over the incident, conference sponsors made a stronger apology on April 30, saying they consider Savage’s “harsh language and profanity” to be “inappropriate and offensive to many in attendance.”

“This is not what our organizations expected. In his attempt to denounce bullying, Mr. Savage belittled the faith of others – an action that we do not support. Ridicule of others’ faith has no place in our programs, any more than ridicule of the LGBT community would.”

The sponsors said Savage’s speech fell short of the standards of civil discourse. They also claimed that Savage had apologized for his “inappropriate language.”

On April 29, Savage said his use of the word “pansy-a--sed” was “name-calling” and “wrong,” but he also charged it was insulting to homosexuals for religious conservatives to say “love the sinner, hate the sin.”

He also reaffirmed his description of some biblical passages as “bulls--t” and his rejection of religious views against homosexuality.

Rick Tuttle, a teacher at Sutter Union High School in Southern California, told CNN that Savage’s speech “took a real dark, hostile turn.”

“It became very hostile toward Christianity, to the point that many students did walk out,” he said.

A father of one 17-year-old girl who walked out of the speech, himself a public school teacher, said that teachers have to guard their speech because students are captive audiences.

“If Dan Savage was a teacher, they’d suspend him without pay for this behavior,” he told the family advocacy organization CitizenLink.

“How many of the kids who didn’t walk out felt backed into a corner? To me, that’s bullying behavior. It has all the symptoms, as far as I’m concerned.”

Savage is the founder of the “It Gets Better” project which aims to help homosexual and transgendered youth against bullying. He has blamed Christian morality for causing teen suicide.

Many members of the Obama administration, including President Obama himself, made videos for Savage’s project.

Savage is also the author of a graphic sex advice column and led a “Google bomb” campaign to link former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum’s last name to an obscene phrase.

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Pope names two new auxiliary bishops for Brooklyn

Brooklyn, N.Y., May 2, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has named two new auxiliary bishops for the Diocese of Brooklyn, the apostolic nuncio to the U.S. announced May 2.

The bishops-designate are Msgr. Raymond Chappetto, 66, and Msgr. Paul Sanchez, 65.

“These two men are among the most respected priests in the Diocese of Brooklyn.” Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn said. “Fundamentally, they are parish priests at heart.  Each is very attentive to the diverse needs of the people they serve.”

“I am also grateful for their assistance in my ministry as bishop.” The two future bishops also “consistently offer wise counsel and advice that has been indispensable in the administration of the diocese,” Bishop DiMarzio said.

Bishop-designate Chappetto, who serves as the diocese’s vicar for clergy and consecrated life, said he is “honored and humbled” that Pope Benedict has entrusted him with “such an important ministry in the life of the Church.”

“The work of visiting the sick, as well as teaching in our parochial school and celebrating the Sacraments has kept me grounded for the 41 years of my priesthood,” he said. “Despite the greater responsibilities of my new office, I intend to be faithful to those ministries which have been so nourishing to me these many years.”

Bishop-designate Sanchez said in his 40 years as a priest he has been “privileged to see how Almighty God has used me, despite my many failings and weaknesses, to build up the kingdom of Heaven.”

He expressed deep gratitude to the Pope for choosing him.

“As I have walked on this great pilgrimage as a priest, the depths of God’s love have been made very clearly manifest,” he added.

Bishop-Designate Chappetto was born Aug. 20, 1945 in the Astoria neighborhood in Queens. He studied at Our Lady of Angels Seminary in Albany and at St. John’s University.

Bishop Francis Mugavero of Brooklyn ordained him to the priesthood in May 1971. He has served at several parishes.

He has a master’s degree in divinity and a master’s degree in religious education, as well as certification in pastoral counseling. He speaks English and Italian.

Bishop-designate Chappetto is currently the pastor of Our Lady of the Snows at Floral Park.

Bishop-designate Sanchez was born Nov. 26, 1946 in Brooklyn. Then-Bishop James Hickey, who later became Archbishop of Washington and a cardinal, ordained him to the priesthood at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome in December 1971.

He has served at several parishes and he has been a member of the diocesan Liturgical Commission, the Presbyteral Council, and a subcommittee of the International Committee on English in the Liturgy.

He received a bachelor’s degree from St. Bonaventure’s University, a master’s degree from the University of Notre Dame, and a Licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He speaks English and Spanish.

The bishop-designate reflected on the parishes he has served.

“I have loved my ministry as a parish priest in my first three wonderful parishes and then as pastor of the people of St. Agatha in Sunset Park and Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Astoria. Even when the people had limited financial resources, they were rich in faith and an inspiration to my life of faith.”

His time as Territorial Vicar of Queens allowed him to work closely with the pastors, priests and staff of the diocese’s parishes, he said.

The Diocese of Brooklyn has 1.4 million Catholics across the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens.

The diocese already has two auxiliary bishops: diocese Vicar General Bishop Frank Caggiano and Bishop Octavio Cisneros, the Vicar for Hispanic Concerns and pastor of Holy Child Jesus Parish in Richmond Hill.

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St. Stephen’s death shows importance of Scripture, Pope says

Vatican City, May 2, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - As he reflected on the life and death of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, Pope Benedict said that reading Sacred Scripture helps develop a prayerful relationship with God.
“Our prayer must be nourished by listening to the Word of God, in communion with Jesus and his Church,” said the Pope May 2, noting how St. Stephen’s courage before those who condemned him to death was “clearly grounded in a prayerful re-reading of the Christ event in the light of God’s word.”
The Pope was addressing over 20,000 pilgrims who gathered under sunny skies in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly general audience.

Pope Benedict’s comments on the discourse of St. Stephen before the Sanhedrin continued a series of reflections on the topic of prayer.

“Stephen’s discourse before the court, the longest in the Acts of the Apostles, develops from this prophecy of Jesus, who is the new temple, who inaugurates the new cult and replaces the ancient sacrifices with the offering of himself on Cross,” he said.
St. Stephen was accused of declaring that Jesus would destroy the Temple in Jerusalem and of changing the customs of Moses. The Pope explained that St. Stephen appealed to the Jewish scriptures to prove how the laws of Moses were not subverted by Jesus but, instead, were being fulfilled.

“In his speech Stephen begins with the call of Abraham, a pilgrim to the land indicated by God and which was only a promise,” the Pope said, charting how St. Stephen explained the roles of biblical figures like Joseph and Moses in the story of salvation.
“In these events narrated in Sacred Scripture, which Stephen religiously listens to, God, who never tires of encountering man despite often finding stubborn opposition, always emerges,” the Pope said.

“In all this he sees a foreshadowing of the story of Jesus, the Son of God made flesh, who – like the ancient Fathers – encounters obstacles, rejection, death.”

Therefore, the Pope recalled, Stephen depicts Jesus as “the Righteous One announced by the prophets,” and as God himself, “present in such a unique and definitive way: Jesus is the true place of worship.”

At the conclusion of his trial, St. Stephen is given a vision of Jesus as “the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.”
“Our prayer, then,” said the Pope, “must be the contemplation of Jesus at the right hand of God, of Jesus as Lord of our, of my daily, existence.”
In Jesus and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, “we too can turn to God with the trust and abandonment of children who turn to a Father who loves them infinitely,” the Pope taught.

St. Stephen’s reward for his testimony was death by stoning, he noted, but “his very martyrdom is the fulfillment of his life and his message: he becomes one with Christ” even to the point of asking God “not to hold this sin” against those killing him.
Pope Benedict finished by saying that St. Stephen’s intercession and example should teach people to “learn daily to unite prayer, contemplation of Christ and reflection on God’s word.”

“In this way we will appreciate more deeply God’s saving plan, and make Christ truly the Lord of our lives.”

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Concerns remain despite promises of safety for Chinese activist

Beijing, China, May 2, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -

A blind pro-life advocate who has spoken out against China’s brutal one-child policy has been offered promises of safety from Chinese government officials, but new reports suggest that he is now asking to leave the country.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a May 2 statement that she was “pleased” that the U.S. had been able to facilitate Chen Guangcheng’s situation “in a way that reflected his choices and our values.”

She stated that Chen “has a number of understandings with the Chinese government about his future” and said that the U.S. government is “committed to remaining engaged with Mr. Chen and his family” in the coming months. 

According to American officials, Chen left the American Embassy in Beijing on May 2. He is receiving medical treatment at a local hospital and has been reunited with his family. Chinese officials have promised that he will be treated humanely and allowed to move with his family to a safe place in the country, where he can pursue higher education. 

However, the Associated Press said that it spoke to Chen from his hospital room hours after he arrived. It reported that he now fears for his own safety and that of his family and that he wants to leave the country.

The Associated Press said that the 40-year-old pro-life activist was worried because he had been told that American embassy officials would remain with him during his time in the hospital, but when he arrived in his room, there were none there.

Chen’s close friend, Zeng Jinyan, also said Chen had told her that he wanted to leave the country but was forced into agreeing to a deal to remain due to threats that his wife would be killed if he left.

A senior U.S. State Department official said on May 2 that Chen “did not request safe passage to the United States to seek political asylum” but had instead maintained that he wished to stay in China.

Blinded by a serious illness when he was young, Chen is a human rights lawyer who has spoken out adamantly against China’s one-child policy, which is often implemented through forced abortion and sterilization.

He had arrived at the U.S. Embassy on April 26, after escaping from house arrest, where he had been held since Sept. 2010 without formal charges.

The escape took place shortly before Clinton and other diplomatic officials arrived in the country for previously scheduled meetings. 

Chen, who also spent more than four years in prison, said that he and his family had been violently assaulted and refused medical treatment during his time in house arrest.

Concerns are now being raised over whether China will keep its promise of treating Chen and his family humanely.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin has been quoted as telling China's official Xinhua news agency that the United States “has interfered in the domestic affairs of China, and the Chinese side will never accept it.”

A U.S. State Department official declined to say whether the United States would issue an apology to China, but did say, “I think our actions were lawful.”

The official said that the United States “will look to confirm at regular intervals that the commitments he has received are carried out.”

However, some human rights defenders are not satisfied with the guarantees.

Bob Fu, president of the Texas-based human rights group ChinaAid, said that he has received reliable reports that Chen had reluctantly left the U.S. embassy because the Chinese government had seriously threatened his immediate family.

Fu, who has been carefully monitoring Chen’s situation, is concerned that the U.S. has left the pro-life activist in a dangerous situation.

“The government sees him as a trouble-maker and a threat to their legitimacy,” he warned.

“He has the admiration of the world right now and that will perhaps help keep him safe in the short-term, but I am fearful what could happen if the world loses interest.”

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Benedict XVI: Be faithful to God like Bl. John Paul II

Vatican City, May 2, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -

On Wednesday, Pope Benedict XVI recalled the first anniversary of Blessed John Paul II’s beatification in St. Peter’s Square on May 1, 2011.
At the conclusion of the May 2 general audience, Pope Benedict XVI spoke in Polish to the more than 20,000 faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square, many of whom had come on pilgrimage from the late pontiff’s native land of Poland.

He told them: “I am grateful to see so many of you in Rome for the first anniversary of the beatification of John Paul II.”
Pope John Paul’s “testimony, teaching and love for country continue to belong to your particular heritage,” he said.
“Strengthened by his intercession, may you be faithful to God, to the Cross and to the Holy Gospel. I bless you with all my heart. Praised be Jesus Christ,” the Pope stated.
On May 1, 2011, more than one million people, including thousands from Poland, filled St. Peter’s Square and the surrounding avenues to take part in the beatification of John Paul II by Pope Benedict XVI.
The miraculous cure of Sister Marie Simon Pierre, a French nun suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, paved the way for the late pontiff’s beatification. She was present at the beatification and joined in the presentation of the relic of John Paul II.

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Vatican strengthens Caritas statutes over Catholic identity concerns

Vatican City, May 2, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Caritas Internationalis, the Catholic Church’s confederation of charitable and development agencies, will become more accountable to the Vatican under new guidelines published May 2.

Monsignor Osvaldo Neves de Almeida, an official with the Vatican Secretariat of State, said in the official explanatory note for the rules that the Holy See will follow Caritas’ activity and exercise vigilance over it so that “both its humanitarian and charitable action and the content of the documents that it disseminates may be in harmony with the Apostolic See and with the Church’s Magisterium.”
The new statutes and rules, set out in today’s “General Decree,” will enable the Vatican to increase its oversight of the operations, finances and staffing of Caritas. Senior officials in the organization will also have to promise loyalty to the teachings of the Church.

The overhaul was prompted by fears that the charitable body was losing its Catholic identity, a concern repeatedly expressed at the confederation’s General Assembly in Rome last May by several high-ranking Vatican figures, including Pope Benedict XVI.

“On that occasion, the Holy Father recalled that Caritas Internationalis cannot be assimilated into the major Non-Governmental Organizations, even though it carries out with exemplary professionalism and competence, roles that they too fulfill,” said Msgr. Neves.

The Vatican also did not approve a second term for then-Secretary General Lesley-Anne Knight. She was replaced by the Frenchman, Michel Roy, at the 2011 General Assembly.
Up until now, Caritas has been governed by norms set out in Pope John Paul II’s 2004 document “Durante l’Ultima Cena” (At the Last Supper).

Today’s new statutes are seen as clarifying the legal framework under which the confederation operates.

The Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which oversees the work of Caritas, will now be responsible for approving texts issued by the charity that have “doctrinal or moral content.” Cor Unum will also have a say in any agreements struck between Caritas and other non-governmental organizations.
The new guidelines also change the selection process for Caritas’ executive board. Three of those board members will now be directly appointed by the Pope “in order to underline the close bond between the organization in question and the Successor of Peter.” The majority of the board members, however, will continue to be nominated by national Caritas agencies.

Until the charity’s next general assembly, Pope Benedict has appointed Bishop Bernard Hebda of Gaylord, Texas; Archbishop Paul Yembuardo Ouédrago of Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso; and the Maronite Archbishop Youssef Antoine Soueif of Cyprus as members of the executive board.
Cor Unum will also have the ability to appoint an “ecclesiastical assistant” to Caritas whose job it will be to “promote its Catholic identity.”

Meanwhile, the Holy See will be able to veto candidates for the post of Caritas Treasurer “given that this office has a fundamental role in preserving the rights of the Member Organizations and, up to some extent, also of the Holy See.” At present, the Holy See veto only applies to the posts of President and Secretary-General.

Finally, a “Support Commission” composed of three experts will be convened to make sure that the new statutes are being implemented by Caritas.

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