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Archive of May 17, 2012

Cardinal Dolan's arrival on Twitter draws thousands

New York City, N.Y., May 17, 2012 (CNA) -

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York debuted on Twitter last week, adapting his engaging, humorous style to the popular microblogging site and quickly becoming the third most followed cardinal.

“Hey everybody. It's Timothy Cardinal Tebow. I mean Dolan,” the cardinal’s first tweet said May 8, alluding to the new New York Jets quarterback and football star Tim Tebow.

The cardinal uses Twitter to talk about his daily actions, his appearances on SiriusXM Radio’s The Catholic Channel, and events like Mother’s Day.

Although limited to 140 characters per tweet, he has also touched on spiritual matters.

“St Therese of Lisieux reminds us that doing the ordinary things of life extraordinarily well, for the glory of God, is the path to sanctity,” he said May 10.

“Every person or institution will eventually let us down. Our ultimate trust must be in God and we will never be disappointed,” he said the day before.

Cardinal Dolan also uses Twitter to send his readers to the full texts of his speeches and statements. He published a link to his full commencement speech for the Catholic University of America and sent out a link to his May 9 statement which called President Obama’s support for same-sex marriage “deeply saddening.”

As of Wednesday, more than 7,500 people were following the cardinal, who heads the U.S. bishops’ conference. By comparison, the bishops’ conference itself has attracted about 18,700 followers on Twitter since its January 2009 debut.

The cardinal added over 2,500 followers on each of his first two days on Twitter, according to the website TwitterCounter.com.

At least six other cardinals have taken to Twitter. Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council of Culture, has 18,600 followers, Cardinal Odilo Scherer of Sao Paolo has 13,700 and Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan has 7,200.

After Cardinal Dolan come Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, who has 3,800 followers, Cardinal Norberto Rivera of Mexico City with 2,800, and Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier of Durban, South Africa, who has 1,300 followers.

Cardinal Dolan’s Twitter page is at twitter.com/CardinalDolan.

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Archdiocese of Washington slams Georgetown's Sebelius invite

Washington D.C., May 17, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -

The Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. has condemned Georgetown University's invitation to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to speak during commencement weekend.

In light of Sebelius' attempts to drastically redefine religious ministry in a way that threatens Catholic institutions, Georgetown should do more to “speak up for freedom of religion,” the archdiocese said.

In a May 15 statement, it explained that Catholics are understandably shocked by Georgetown’s decision to honor Sebelius, the architect of a contraception mandate that poses a serious threat to religious freedom in America.

It added that it is “also understandable that Catholics would view this as a challenge to the bishops.”

The Archdiocese of Washington said that it had previously “reserved public comment” in order to allow Georgetown University and the Jesuits to have “the opportunity to address the controversy.”

Georgetown announced on May 4 that Sebelius had been invited as a featured speaker at the university's Public Policy Institute awards ceremony during commencement weekend on May 18.

The move has been heavily criticized, largely due to the fact that Sebelius recently issued a federal mandate that will require employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their religious beliefs.

Catholic bishops from every diocese in the U.S. have spoken out against the mandate, warning that it poses a grave threat to religious freedom and could force Catholic hospitals, schools and charitable agencies across the nation to shut down.

More than 35,000 people have signed a petition objecting to Georgetown’s invitation to Sebelius.

A May 10 editorial in The Catholic Standard, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of Washington, called the invitation “disappointing, but not surprising.”

The editorial said that Georgetown has become secularized, largely because “the vision guiding university choices does not clearly reflect the light of the Gospel and authentic Catholic teaching.”

On May 14, Georgetown president John J. DeGioia responded to the controversy in a public statement. He defended the university’s decision, arguing that the invite is not an endorsement of Sebelius’ views or a challenge to the U.S. bishops.

“As a Catholic and Jesuit University, Georgetown disassociates itself from any positions that are in conflict with traditional church teachings,” he stated.

DeGioia said that Sebelius had been suggested by students last fall as “a leading policy maker” in America, due to her role in forming the Affordable Care Act. He also praised her “long and distinguished record of public service,” including two terms as governor of Kansas before working for the Obama administration.

During her time as governor of Kansas, Sebelius' staunch and long-standing support for abortion led Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City to ask her to refrain from receiving Communion until she had made a worthy confession and publicly changed her stance.

DeGioia said that Sebelius had been invited in early January, before the final rule on contraception coverage was issued.

While he acknowledged the bishops’ opposition to the mandate, he also said that Georgetown is “committed to the free exchange of ideas.”

The university community “draws inspiration from a religious tradition” that offers a moral, intellectual and spiritual foundation, he said, adding that “engaging these values” is necessary to becoming “the University we are meant to be.”

In its response, the archdiocese said that DeGioia’s statement “does not address the real issue for concern.”

It explained that the real problem in choosing Sebelius as a featured speaker is that her “actions as a public official present the most direct challenge to religious liberty in recent history.”

In allowing the invitation to stand, it said, the university has displayed an “apparent lack of unity with and disregard for the bishops” and all those who are fighting to defend religious liberty.

The fundamental issue underlying the mandate is not contraception but religious freedom, the archdiocese said, explaining that the mandate’s narrow definition of religious ministry excludes Catholic schools, hospitals and social service agencies.

It noted that even Georgetown would fail to qualify as a religious institution under the mandate because of its willingness to welcome both Catholic and non-Catholic students.

The archdiocese also pointed out that although it was only finalized in January, the mandate was first published in a problematic form last August, well before Georgetown extended the invitation to Sebelius.

It called on the university to “do more to challenge the mandate” and speak up in defense of religious liberty.

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Austrian chancellor’s son tells how faith helped him survive Nazis

Washington D.C., May 17, 2012 (CNA) - Kurt von Schuschnigg Jr., son of the former chancellor of Austria, says that his Catholic faith helped him get through difficult times during World War II and now guides the way that he looks back at past events.

“Faith is always a big thing when you are in trouble,” he observed. “Unfortunately today, not too many people hold on to faith anymore.”

Von Schuschnigg was a first-hand witness of many of the atrocities committed during the Second World War. His father, who has the same name, was chancellor of Austria when Germany invaded the country in 1938.

On May 9, Kurt von Schuschnigg Jr. and his wife, Janet, spoke with CNA about their new book, “When Hitler Took Austria” (Ignatius, $24.95).

The book tells the story of the German takeover of Austria, as experienced by young von Schuschnigg.

He explained that his father opposed the takeover when German troops entered the country but also realized that they were not equipped to fight.

To avoid a massacre of the Austrian people, he resigned from his position as chancellor and was later sent with his wife to Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

Von Schuschnigg Jr. was able to complete his education and was then stationed on a naval vessel before deserting the German military and fleeing from the Gestapo, making a harrowing escape to safety.

He and his wife – both of whom are Catholic – worked together on the new book. Janet, who grew up in Atlanta, Ga., said that over their years of marriage, her husband told her stories about his life in Austria.

She realized that the story of Austria’s takeover by the Nazis was not being taught in schools, and she decided to record the events that her husband had recounted.

The book is not a plea for anything, she explained, but is simply trying to explain how life was for people in Austria during that difficult time.

“America should know it,” she said. “The rest of the world should know it.”

Kurt von Schuschnigg believes that God’s providence was helping him during that difficult time, sometimes manifest through the kind and daring gestures of other people.

He recalled an instance in 1945 when a German doctor in Munich saved his life. Due to the family responsibility laws, he should have been turned over to the Gestapo and would have been taken to a concentration camp or executed. But the doctor – whose name he does not even know – allowed him to escape.

He also remembered how his Austrian governess had courageously taken him in when his father was arrested, risking her own safety in doing so.

“She could never get a job again,” he reflected.

Janet von Schuschnigg describes her husband’s family as “centered on God.” Even after all they’ve been through, she said, they are still good Catholics.

“You don’t find so many good Catholics in Austria anymore,” she continued, explaining that the Church has undergone heavy persecution.

Her husband added that while there are many good people leading “a happy life” in Austria, they have largely been forced to “forget their past” in order to do so.

For him, however, faith has played a significant role in both good and bad times.

He recalled a hand-written papal blessing that was given to his family that gave him confidence and helped him trust in God during difficult circumstances.

One time, he recounted, he was able to smuggle the Eucharist to his father in the concentration camp.

This was only possible, he explained, because the guards had been there for four years, and they had become friends.

The guards were “kind” and “decent” people, he reflected, although they would have shot his parents without hesitation if ordered to do so.

When von Schuschnigg attempted to tell some family friends about the things he had witnessed in the concentration camp, they brushed him off, refusing to believe his stories and defending the Nazis.

Kurt von Schuschnigg does not consider his actions particularly heroic, especially since at the time no one thought of themselves a a heroe.

“We were survivors,” he said.

After World War II, von Schuschnigg’s family was liberated and moved to America, where they became citizens.

While he has not forgotten the atrocities he witnessed and experienced, von Schuschnigg has forgiven those responsible for causing his family pain – an ability that his wife says “impressed me incredibly.”

Kurt von Schuschnigg explained that he does not blame those who hurt him because he knows that “they did it out of fear.”

He described the “terror” that pervaded the atmosphere of a country in which one could never trust the people around him.

You have to be able to forgive, he said. “You cannot carry things with you.”

He compared the situation to a fight with a good friend. After a while, you let go and forgive, and you return to being friends, he said. 

Kurt and Janet von Schuschnigg hope that “When Hitler Took Austria” will inspire people to reevaluate their lives.

Janet explained that the book is an example of discipline and faith, virtues that are sorely needed today, as many people seek immediate gratification but find that they are not truly happy.

“The world’s a mess right now,” she said. “It’s frightening.”

She lamented that so many people today have lost a sense of balance in life, forgetting the importance of virtues like discipline and duty.

“People don’t go to Church anymore,” she added.

Her husband agreed. He said that many of the values that were strong in his childhood have been lost by society.

Restoring these values is critical, and it must begin in the home, Kurt von Schuschnigg said.

“It cannot all be done by the schools,” he explained. “It comes from the family.”

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Lima archdiocese issues clarification on priest stripped of faculties

Lima, Peru, May 17, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Archdiocese of Lima issued a statement clarifying the decision by Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani to strip local priest Father Gaston Garatea of his ministerial faculties.

On May 16, the archdiocese condemned what it called a “campaign of misinformation and discredit” launched against the cardinal by some in the media, stating that the priest is still able to exercise priestly ministry outside the cardinal's jurisdiction.

Father Garatea – a member of the religious order titled the Congregation of the Sacred Heart – was privately sanctioned in recent days by Cardinal Cipriani over his public support for homosexual activists and criticism of priestly celibacy.

The priest has also maintained a tense relationship with Church officials in Lima over his promotion of liberation theology.

Adding to the controversy, the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru named Fr. Garatea an honorary professor on May 14, saying his new role would be as an advisor to the school on “social responsibility” due to “his commitment to the defense of human rights, equality and tolerance.”

The archdiocese clarified that the cardinal's handling of the case and the decision to strip the priest of his faculties “has been conducted with utmost prudence regarding the Church’s norms, and in a climate of charity.”

Below is the full statement from the archdiocese:

“In response to the obvious campaign of misinformation and discredit that has been launched over the decision not to renew the ministerial faculties of Father Jorge Gaston Garatea Yori, SS.CC., in the Archdiocese of Lima, out of respect for the truth and for his own good, we feel obliged to state the following:

According to the proper norms of the Catholic Church, religious priests who belong to a religious Institution of consecrated life report to their Superior General, with regard to the internal regimen of the religious community in question.

However, in order to carry out pastoral work in a specific jurisdiction, they require that the local ordinary, the bishop, grant them the corresponding ministerial faculties (cf. Canon 265).  In this sense, the local bishop, for sufficient reasons made known ahead of time to the Superior General of religious community in question, may determine that a religious priest can no longer work in his ecclesiastic jurisdiction. This action, as in the case of Father Jorge Gaston Garatea Yori, SS. CC., does not suspend the religious priest or prohibit him from exercising his priestly ministry in other places.

The universal praxis of the Church is fully recognized by Canon Law and is a very important expression that reinforces the unity of priests with their own pastor and local ordinary (cf. Canons 273 and 275).

We disapprove that some persons, whose aims are totally unrelated to this situation that has been handed with utmost prudence regarding the Church’s norms, and in a climate of charity, now seek to victimize a priest for the sole purpose of sowing confusion, damaging his priestly identity and at the same time in order to publicize the ideological reasons that motivate them and distance them from fidelity to the Church, with statements and manifestations that reflect their rejection, or at least, their lack of respect, for the Magisterium of the Church and her pastors.”

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Vatican laicizes Canadian bishop convicted for child pornography

Ottawa, Canada, May 17, 2012 (CNA) -

The Vatican has dismissed from the clerical state a Canadian bishop who pleaded guilty to the possession of child pornography.

“Raymond Lahey has accepted the Decree of Dismissal, which also requires him to pray the Liturgy of the Hours in reparation for the harm and the scandal he has caused, and for the sanctification of clergy,” the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said May 16.

Bishop Raymond Lahey of Antigonish, Nova Scotia was arrested in 2009 after Ottawa airport workers found hundreds of images of child pornography in his possession on his return from a trip abroad.

In May 2011 he pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography and was immediately jailed.

After the disgraced bishop was jailed, the Vatican responded to the case with a condemnation of “sexual exploitation in all its forms, especially when perpetrated against minors.” It also voiced pastoral concern for those who experienced “great pain” as a result of the scandal.

The latest Vatican decree is the response to the bishop’s crime under Church law.

The bishop’s dismissal from the clerical state means that he loses the rights and duties of the priestly state, except for his obligation of celibacy. He is prohibited from exercising any priestly ministry, except in case of emergency.

In January the former bishop was sentenced to 15 months in jail and two years of probation. However, he was given double credit for his time in custody before sentence and was released upon probation at the close of his trial, CTV News reports.

Bishop Lahey’s successor, Bishop Brian J. Dunn, in January announced a diocesan gathering scheduled for October 2013 to address questions and concerns about the direction of the Church and to give a clear focus for pastoral care.

Bishop Dunn said the gathering will give “a new impetus and new direction as we live out our faith.”

“The recent events that have touched every person in our diocese have led to a great deal of reflection upon the Church’s need to bring justice, compassion, healing, hope and new life to the people of God,” he said Jan. 6.

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Spain would save $72 million by axing abortion funding

Madrid, Spain, May 17, 2012 (CNA) - The spokesman for the organization Right to Life in Spain, Gador Joya, said eliminating abortion funding from the federal budget would save Spain nearly $72 million.

According to Europa Press, Joya suggested the funds be used for a comprehensive maternity program, with special emphasis on women with “unexpected pregnancies.”

She criticized the government for continuing to provide funding for abortion, while at the same time arguing that the health care system is too poor to pay for treatments such as hip replacements.

“At times we have the sensation that the government does not want to confront the harsh reality.  Abortion is the cruel and violent death of a human being. It does not cure or prevent an illness, and therefore it cannot be recognized as a health care benefit,” she added.

Joya said the Spanish government needs to take action quickly “because each day 300 children are dying, and since the new government has taken office, more than 40,000 lives have been lost. 

Right to Life, together with the Forum on the Family, have issued an “urgent” appeal to the government to cut funding for abortion, after the country’s Health Minister, Ana Mato, said Spain’s national health care system would continue to cover the procedure.

The president of the Forum on the Family, Benigno Blanco, underscored that many Spaniards find it “totally unacceptable” that their tax dollars are being used to pay for abortions, and he said the laws that force public hospitals to cover abortions should be struck down “as soon as possible.”

Blanco said it was particularly incongruous that the law itself has separated abortion for any issue related to health and has turned it into a right that can be exercised by a woman without any medical reason whatsoever.

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Legion leaders regret not acting sooner in Fr. Williams case

Rome, Italy, May 17, 2012 (CNA) - Leaders of the Legionaries of Christ have apologized for not acting more quickly in the case of Father Thomas Williams, who acknowledged on May 15 that he fathered a child several years ago.

In a statement published on its website, the Legionaries said the priest's superiors “suggested to Fr. Thomas to act in an appropriate way and to withdraw himself from public appearances … Nevertheless, it would have been better to act faster and more forcefully.”

“The General Director and his council are deeply sorry for not having acted earlier and more firmly, and they assume the responsibility and ask pardon for not having done everything possible to limit the scandal,” the order said.

It was out of concern for “the legitimate interests of all concerned, especially the privacy of the mother and child,” that the facts were not made public earlier, according to the statement.

Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, the papal delegate appointed to oversee the order's reform efforts in 2010, told Reuters he “only heard about it this year,” when he was informed several months ago.

In its statement, the Legionaries said the papal delegate had helped them to “sort out difficult issues like this.” They also stated that future cases of a similar kind will be handled “with canonical firmness.”

In the case of Fr. Williams, the order says it knows of “no other inappropriate relationships.”

Known for his numerous books and frequent television appearances, Fr. Williams apologized on Tuesday for the events that took place “a number of years ago.” He has withdrawn from public ministry for a year “to reflect on the wrong I have done and my commitments as a priest.”

Citing “respect for the privacy of the mother and child,” his order said it had no further details to provide regarding the time frame of Fr. Williams' relationship with the woman, nor about the age of their child, or how long the priest's superiors knew of the situation before taking action.

Fr. Williams, who was ordained in 1994, is also a professor at the Legionaries' Regina Apostolorum University. In Tuesday's clarification notice, the order said the woman was not one of his students. Their relationship, according to the Legion, involved no “abuse of authority.”

“Despite the moral seriousness of this transgression against the priestly vows, it is not a case of abuse or a criminal action,” the order stated, explaining that the case had been reported to a representative of the Pope but not to civil authorities.

The child, meanwhile, “is being cared for, as required by natural law.” No further details were disclosed.

Canon law does not provide a single set procedure for cases in which a priest fathers a child with an adult woman. Priests may be released from their vows in some cases, though they may also choose to continue serving as clergy after appropriate repentance and other steps to address the situation.

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