Washington D.C., May 11, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Ahead of Mother’s Day, the U.S. bishops’ conference has published a prayer to bless an unborn child, the child’s pregnant mother, the child’s father and the child’s family.
“God, author of all life, bless, we pray, this unborn child,” the prayer begins. “Give constant protection and grant a healthy birth.”
The blessing, titled “Rite of Blessing for a Child in the Womb,” is posted online at the U.S. bishops’ conference website. It is also published as a booklet addendum to the “Book of Blessings,” in which it will be included in future editions.
The prayer says that God has brought to the pregnant woman “the wondrous joy of motherhood.”
“Grant her comfort in all anxiety and make her determined to lead her child along the ways of salvation,” it adds.
The portion of the prayer for the child’s father says that God has “singled out this man to know the grace and pride of fatherhood.” It asks God to grant him courage and to make him “an example of justice and truth” for the child.
Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship, explained the intentions behind the prayer.
“We hope the use of this blessing will provide not only support and God’s blessing for expectant parents and their child in the womb, but also another effective witness to the sanctity of human life from the first moment of conception,” he said May 8.
Then-Bishop Joseph Kurtz of Knoxville, Tenn., who is now the Archbishop of Louisville, had asked the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities for the prayer. The committee prepared a text for the Divine Worship committee in March 2008.
The Vatican approved the prayer on March 25, 2012, the Feast of the Annunciation.
In March, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston, who chairs the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said he was impressed by the “beauty” of the blessing.
The blessing can be downloaded at http://www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/prayers/pro-life-blessings.cfm.
Vatican City, May 11, 2012 (CNA) -
The president of the Pontifical Academy for Life has expressed his full commitment to the “Gospel of Life,” and apologized for communications that were seen as dismissing members' ethical concerns.
On May 8, Bishop Ignacio Carrasco de Paula acknowledged that an April 2012 letter, criticizing “some pro-life activists” who objected to aspects of a planned Vatican conference on stem cells, “contained unfortunate phrasing which, if misunderstood, could have offended the sensibilities of some persons.”
In Tuesday's letter to academy members, the bishop and academy president assured them that the offending words were not meant “to show any disrespect, and certainly not to those with whom we have been collaborating closely and gratefully for years in favor of human life and of its defense.”
“The fulcrum of our academy has always been and is, now more than ever, the Gospel of Life,” Bishop Carrasco de Paula told members.
His message came four days after a letter addressed to the bishop was made public, in which academy member Professor Josef Seifert sharply criticized the organization's recent decisions about holding conferences. According to Seifert, some members were calling for resignations among the academy's leadership.
The controversy began with a February 2012 conference on infertility at the Vatican, in which the pontifical academy played a non-organizing role. The event drew criticism within the academy, for hosting speakers who appeared to endorse techniques and methods condemned by the Church.
In April, the academy announced it was canceling a conference on adult stem cells, which would have featured experts who also specialize in embryonic research. In two sets of letters, officials gave different reasons for the cancellation, and disparaged the objections of “some pro-life activists.”
On May 10, two days after Bishop Carrasco de Paula's letter, a senior member of the Pontifical Academy for Life offered CNA his thoughts on recent events at the academy as well as its present needs and future direction.
The senior member confirmed that neither the February conference on infertility, nor the canceled gathering on adult stem cells, was organized by the Pontifical Academy for Life. It remains unclear who did organize February's conference, though there are suggestions that it was the work of a Catholic medical school.
“Dismay” over the infertility conference was “expressed by all members of the Governing Council” of the pontifical academy, the member said.
He recalled that after the “dreadful infertility conference,” and another “unfortunate” conference held several months earlier, “attention came to be focused on the upcoming stem cell conference with sensitivities and sensibilities heightened.”
In the view of this senior member, the April 2012 adult stem cell conference “might have worked – even with speakers who did not agree with the Church – if the entire program were placed within the anthropological and moral vision of the Church from the beginning, at the end, and with interventions from representatives of the Church's position if a speaker proposed or advocated anything immoral.”
Nonetheless, other speakers “could have been invited with a high level of expertise who were not involved in embryo destruction.”
The senior member said it was “madness to invite speakers who had openly and publicly opposed the Church and her leaders.” While “in principle, there was absolutely nothing wrong with such a conference,” the “big issue was the risk of scandal.”
“As I understand it, the conference on morally licit adult stem cell research was also being organized by someone else, and the Pontifical Academy for Life was providing the patronage for it without actually putting it together,” he explained. “I hope some hard lessons have been learned there!”
In the future, he said, the academy staff “has to be more directly involved in planning conferences. It simply cannot turn the planning of events over to outside groups … If an outside group is involved in planning there has to be vigilant oversight.”
“Better management,” he said, could do much to prevent incidents like February's infertility conference.
The senior member also highlighted the example of past leaders' efforts to safeguard the academy's moral vision.
“When Cardinal (Elio) Sgreccia was President of the Academy, he would call all the speakers to Rome four months before the conference. Each speaker would have to present his or her complete finished paper, as it was going to be delivered. That way there were no surprises.”
“Cardinal (Fiorenzo) Angelini, who preceded Sgreccia, would actually intervene if a speaker said anything contrary to moral truth and point out forcefully to the speaker and the audience that what was just said was contrary to Catholic teaching or morality.”
“As Catholics we have to be engaged with the broader society,” the senior academy member stated.
Simultaneously, he said, “we must always call those who are involved in scientific research, or manufacturing, or government to do everything in accord with the moral vision of the human person articulated and clearly taught by the Church.”
Denver, Colo., May 11, 2012 (CNA) - The Colorado Catholic Conference and the Catholic bishops of Colorado are urging voters to oppose Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s call for a special legislative session to vote on civil unions legislation.
“The Catholic bishops of Colorado encourage all Catholics and all people of good will to join in prayer and action,” the conference said May 10.
“This special session is a rash reaction to political and financial pressure from special interest groups who do not represent the majority of Coloradans,” said the conference, which works on behalf of the Catholic Church on legislative issues.
“The civil union debate is finally about securing legitimacy for social arrangements and personal behaviors that most societies and religious traditions have found problematic from long experience, not out of disrespect for homosexual persons, but because of the implications that creating a pseudo-marital institution would have for society at large.”
The 2012 session of the Colorado House of Representatives ended May 9 amid great controversy.
With the support of one Republican, a civil unions bill unexpectedly passed through a House committee and advanced to the Republican-controlled House floor.
Republicans filibustered the bill and House Speaker Frank McNulty announced an impasse May 8. The civil unions bill, along with more than 30 other bills, died without a vote.
The bill would grant the legal benefits, protections and responsibilities of spouses to any two unrelated people who contract a union. Though the bill is being advocated as a gay rights measure, opposite-sex couples can also contract a union.
Civil unions backers believe they have enough Republican support to pass the bill.
On May 9 Gov. Hickenlooper, a Democrat, called for a special session. He described civil unions as a “civil rights issue,” the Denver NBC affiliate 9 News reports.
The Colorado Catholic Conference objected to supporters’ use of civil rights language.
“To equate the absence of civil unions with the struggles of the civil rights movements of the past is a distortion: it diminishes true injustices that were overcome and those which are yet to be overcome,” the conference said.
Protecting marriage is a “fundamental governmental responsibility” and redefining it is “beyond the ability of any human government.”
The conference said that Christians believe in the dignity of all human life, but added that civil unions are not about ensuring homosexual persons’ basic rights.
“Those rights are already guaranteed under law,” it said.
Gov. Hickenlooper said Wednesday that his office had received over 500 calls and e-mails about a special session, with the “overwhelming majority” in favor.
Colorado’s Catholic conference urged civil unions opponents to contact the governor to disapprove of the special session and to contact their state representatives and senators to ask them to vote “no” on civil unions.
The conference pointed to the results of Colorado’s 2006 election, when voters defeated a same-sex civil unions ballot measure by 52 to 47 percent.
“On this issue, the people have spoken,” the conference said.
Though Colorado was once a center for the Evangelical Christian “family values” movement, state politics in recent years has become dominated by wealthy backers of homosexual political causes.
Colorado technology entrepreneur and multi-millionaire Tim Gill has pursued a strategy of targeting opponents of gay political causes at the local level, including state legislative races, to eliminate future leaders opposed to his goals.
In April 2011, Gill’s lawyer Ted Trimpa told Denver’s Fox 31 News that Gill could spend as much as $2 million in 2012 state political contests to shift the state House to Democrat control.
Trimpa’s statement was later removed from the Fox 31 News report.
A group of Republicans called Coloradans for Freedom has also joined the push for civil unions.
Rome, Italy, May 11, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The former head of the Pontifical Council for Health Care, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, said Pope Benedict is very concerned about the violence in Mexico caused by the drug trade.
In an interview with CNA, Cardinal Lozano Barragan said the pontiff “is calling on all Mexicans, especially those involved in drug trafficking, to understand and realize that life does not end here, but that another life that never ends comes after this one, and that it will depend on what we do in this world.”
The cardinal lamented that it “is often believed that the end to which our entire existence must be directed is the possession of power and money, in order to have limitless pleasure, even if one dies immediately or lives a short life.”
Mexican officials estimate that over 34,000 have been killed in the country due to drug-related violence since 2006.
Cardinal Lozano Barragan joined the Pope in voicing dire concern over the current situation in Mexico, stressing that perpetrators are “going to be judged for eternal life according to how we live now.”
“Those who kill others are guilty of death and will be judged by God, and afterwards will come what is called eternal death,” he said.
Cardinal Lozano Barragan noted that God is merciful and that no sin is beyond his forgiveness “in this life.” But after death, he said, comes justice.
The cardinal said Pope Benedict XVI’s March 23-25 visit to Mexico fulfilled its objectives, as the Pope “united all Mexicans in order to strengthen our Catholic Church.”
“One can sense in Mexico an enthusiasm, a dedication and a total commitment to the Holy Father,” he said. The Pope has fond memories of his stay in the country, “and he is very happy because everything happened just as he hoped.”
Valencia, Spain, May 11, 2012 (CNA) - The World Congress of Families condemned a “heartless” group which they believe is taking advantage of Spain's economic crisis in creating an “academy of prostitution” in Valencia.
The so-called “Academy of Pleasure,” founded by Brandon Morales, teaches its students how to be prostitutes and promises a job to those who graduate. The course costs $129 and last ten days.
Local officials in Valencia have called for the operation to be shut down and for its promotional ads to be discarded.
In a statement sent to CNA on May 10, the World Congress of Families called prostitution “an activity that denigrates and enslaves the human person and has negative consequences for society, from the social exclusion in which it takes place, to the health and psychological problems that it entails.”
“Undoubtedly prostitution, and in general everything related to sexual experiences that do not correspond to human nature, are a modern form of slavery that is not in accord with human nature and poses a threat to the traditional family,” the statement said.
The organizers of the World Congress of Families, which will take place May 25-27 in Madrid, said the event this year would include “politically incorrect round-table discussions and seminars on sex.”
Among the topics to be discussed include “The social cost of pornography,” “Promiscuity and infidelity: collateral damage,” “Solutions to homosexual behavior,” “Purity and abstinence,” and “Love, intimacy and sexuality in marriage.”
The list of invited speakers features Bishop Juan Antonio Reig Pla of Alcala de Henares, psychotherapist Richard Cohen, Venezuelan model Vivian Sleiman, author of the bestseller “Virgin at 30,” and Christine de Vollmer, president of the Latin American Alliance for the Family.
More information on the congress can be found at: http://congresomundial.es/
Damascus, Syria, May 11, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Syrian rebels and officials were urged to heed Pope Benedict XVI's call for peace and dialogue, after two suicide bombings killed 55 people in Damascus on May 10.
“The appeal made by the Holy Father on Easter Day is now more pressing than ever,” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi announced in a May 11 statement. “It is necessary without delay to make an immediate commitment to the path of respect, dialogue and reconciliation.”
“We cannot but express our strong condemnation and the heartfelt closeness of the Holy Father and the Catholic community to the families of the victims,” said the priest and director of the Holy See Press Office, reacting to the explosions that “brought carnage to the streets of Damascus.”
“These attacks should encourage all sides to boost and strengthen their commitment to implementing the Annan Peace Plan, which has been accepted by all sides in the conflict,” Fr. Lombardi stated.
He said the attacks “also show that the situation in Syria requires a firm and joint commitment on the part of the entire international community to implement that plan and, as soon as possible, to send further observers.”
More than 370 people were wounded by the two suicide car bombs, which went off near a military intelligence building on Thursday morning. The first vehicle was detonated on a highway during the capital's morning rush hour, drawing a crowd that was soon struck by the second and larger bomb.
Response within the country followed a now-predictable pattern, with officials of the Assad government blaming the terrorist groups it says are behind the Syrian uprising. Meanwhile, some opposition figures put blame on the regime, saying it engineered the attacks to discredit them.
U.N. Special Envoy Kofi Annan, tasked with implementing a peace plan for the country, said none of the parties in Syria's year-long conflict would accomplish their goals by terrorizing the other side.
“Any action that serves to escalate tensions and raise the level of violence can only be counter-productive to the interests of all parties,” Annan said in statement released on the day of the bombings.
“These abhorrent acts are unacceptable and the violence in Syria must stop,” Annan declared, saying the Syrian people “have already suffered too much.”
Chicago, Ill., May 11, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Francis George of Chicago has named Catholic communicator and evangelist Father Robert L. Barron as the rector and president of the University of St. Mary of the Lake and Mundelein Seminary.
“As a priest of Jesus Christ I accept this responsibility with joy,” Fr. Barron said May 10. “The appointment brings together many of the elements that have long been of great importance to me, namely, the priesthood, theological scholarship, pastoral care and evangelization.”
Fr. Barron is founding director of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, a nonprofit media organization to support Catholic evangelism through the lives of the saints and through the Catholic traditions of art, architecture, poetry, philosophy and theology.
In 2011 Fr. Barron created the television series “Catholicism” to explain the history and the self-understanding of the Catholic faith. The series, which was well-received, aired on public television and on EWTN.
The priest was ordained in 1986. He received a masters of arts in philosophy from the Catholic University of America before attending the University of St. Mary and Mundelein Seminary. He has a master’s degree in divinity and a licentiate in sacred theology from the university. He received a doctorate in sacred theology at the Institute Catholique de Paris.
He is a Chicago native with family at St. John of the Cross Parish in the suburb of Western Springs. After his ordination, he served as associate pastor at St. Paul of the Cross Parish in the Park Ridge suburb.
He has been a full-time faculty member of Mundelein Seminary since 1992. Fr. Barron has served as a visiting professor at the Unviersity of Notre Dame and the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas. He has been scholar in residence at the Pontifical North American College at the Vatican twice.
Fr. Barron said that he will continue to “set the ethos” for Word on Fire and will provide new media content to “enhance the Church’s outreach to the culture.”
“The mission of evangelization will continue to be a priority for me, and Word on Fire is essential to this mission,” he said.
Mundelein is the major seminary of the Archdiocese of Chicago, with national and international reach. It has an enrollment of 250 students, 165 of whom are seminarians preparing to become diocesan priests in 25 dioceses.
Its institutes of diaconal studies and lay formation help prepare over 400 men and women for service to the Church. Its ongoing formation program held courses for 1,200 participants in the last year.
Fr. Barron’s appointment will take effect July 1. He will succeed Msgr. Dennis J. Lyle, who has served as rector for six years.
Vatican City, May 11, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI will continue the expansion of the new Catholic Church structure created for former Anglicans by launching an ordinariate for Australia on June 15.
“I am confident that those former Anglicans who have made a journey in faith that has led them to the Catholic Church will find a ready welcome,” said Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, who serves as president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.
Australia’s Anglican ordinariate will be called the Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, under the patronage of St. Augustine of Canterbury. It will have the status of a diocese.
The ordinariate is intended for Anglicans and former Anglicans who wish to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while retaining some of their customs and liturgical traditions.
The Australian bishops have put in place procedures to help Anglican clergy and laity join the Catholic Church through the ordinariate, the bishops said May 11.
The ordinariate for England and Wales launched in 2011, while the U.S. ordinariate launched on January 1, 2012.
In England and Wales there are at least 40 ordinariate groups with 60 priests, the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham magazine The Portal reports. Several of its members are former Anglican bishops.
As of January, 1,400 individuals from 22 communities have expressed interest in joining, the U.S. ordinariate. About 60 current or former Anglican priests are preparing to be ordained Catholic priests for it, according to the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.
The U.S. ordinariate will open its first parish in Scranton, Pa. this August.
Washington D.C., May 11, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, Girl Scouts of the USA is continuing to fall under scrutiny for its alleged connections to groups that promote abortion, contraception and homosexuality.
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, said that the bishops are looking into concerns about the Girl Scouts organization.
In March, Bishop Rhoades penned a letter to his fellow bishops explaining that the committee recently met and discussed “a variety of the concerns” that have been voiced about Girl Scouts of the USA over several years, including “possible problematic relationships with other organizations” and “problematic programmatic materials and resources.”
In recent years, the Girl Scouts have met with increased allegations of acting against traditional values.
In 2010, two teenage girls who had spent eight years in Girl Scouts left the organization and created Speak Now: Girl Scouts, a website dedicated to raising awareness about the problems they discovered within the organization.
The two young teens – Tess and Sydney – said that it had become “increasingly apparent” that the Girl Scouts organization had values that were incompatible with their own.
“Leaving Girl Scouts was not a casual, easy, or convenient decision,” they said. However, in the end, they decided that they needed to “stand for our beliefs, for the dignity of life, the sanctity of marriage, modesty, purity.”
Concerns over ties to Planned Parenthood also led 10-year-old Grace Swanke to leave her Girl Scout troop and start selling her own cookies, which she calls “Cookies for Life.” She donates the proceeds from her sales to pro-life groups.
Two years ago, concerns were raised over reports that a sexually explicit Planned Parenthood brochure had been distributed at an international Girl Scouts meeting.
In January 2012, a Colorado troop attracted criticism for allowing a 7-year-old transgender child to join, despite the fact that he was not a girl.
Objections have also been voiced to the Girl Scouts’ relationships with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, an organization that promotes abortion, contraception and homosexuality around the globe.
Representatives of the Girl Scouts denied having knowledge of the Planned Parenthood brochures at the conference and have said that the organization does not take a stand on abortion or birth control.
However, controversy over the organization continues and has drawn the attention of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Voicing gratitude for the work that Catholic Girl Scout troops have done to serve girls and the wider community for many years, Bishop Rhoades also recognized in his recent letter that some important questions remain unanswered on both the local and national levels.
He reiterated his intent “to keep the bishops apprised of the Committee’s ongoing consideration of this matter.”
Bishop Rhoades said that the committee hopes to offer resources for “local level use” by bishops, priests, youth ministers and educational leaders.
These resources “may include considerations related to the identity of Catholic troops and considerations that may be helpful for parents,” he explained.
Furthermore, he said, the committee has recommended having staff from the bishops’ conference work with the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry to identify and address and remaining questions or concerns that remain at the local level.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops declined to comment on the matter with the Girl Scouts because it is ongoing.
However, the controversy has led some families to pull their daughters out of Girl Scouts and turn instead to other organizations that offer some of the same activities for young girls, but with a Christian approach.
American Heritage Girls, a Judeo-Christian focused girls organization, was founded in 1995 in Ohio by a group of parents seeking “a wholesome program for their daughters” to contrast the secular options available.
The organization has grown to more than 19,000 members in 45 states.
Recent years have also brought significant growth for the Little Flowers Girls' Club, a Catholic program for girls aimed at promoting virtue by exploring saints, Scripture and the Catechism.
Started in 1993 by a Catholic mom of 11, Little Flowers now has some 50 registered groups throughout the U.S. and Canada, although registration is optional, as the groups are run at the local level.
The group says that it “strives to bring the Catholic faith alive and inspire the girls to become authentic Catholic women.”