Archive of June 4, 2012

Vatican rules sister’s sexual ethics book is not Catholic

Vatican City, Jun 4, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -

The Vatican has declared that a book on sexual morality written by a controversial American sister runs so contrary to Church teaching that it cannot be considered Catholic.

“The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith expresses profound regret that a member of an Institute of Consecrated Life, Sr. Margaret A. Farley, R.S.M., affirms positions that are in direct contradiction with Catholic teaching in the field of sexual morality,” says the notification, issued in Rome on June 4.

The decision follows a two-year audit of Sr. Farley’s book “Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics,” which argues against the Church’s teaching on masturbation, homosexual acts, homosexual unions and marriage. The Sister of Mercy and emeritus professor of Christian Ethics at Yale Divinity School published her book in 2006.
The audit found that “Just Love” did not present “a correct understanding of the role of the Church’s Magisterium as the teaching authority of the Bishops united with the Successor of Peter” but, instead, presented it as just “one opinion among others.”
It further concluded that Sr. Farley’s work rejected “the objective nature of the natural moral law,” choosing instead to argue “on the basis of conclusions selected from certain philosophical currents” or “from her own understanding of ‘contemporary experience.’”

The issuing of a notification from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is both significant and infrequent.

Highlighting some specific areas of concern, the congregation noted that Sr. Farley argued in her book that masturbation “usually does not raise any moral questions at all.”
She also suggested that homosexual acts “can be justified according to the same sexual ethic as heterosexual relationships,” while homosexual civil unions “can also be important in transforming the hatred, rejection, and stigmatization of gays and lesbians” that is reinforced by “teachings of ‘unnatural’ sex, disordered desire, and dangerous love.”

On marriage, Sr. Farley’s book proposed that re-marriage should not be prohibited “any more than the ongoing union between spouses after one of them has died prohibits a second marriage.”
Despite discussions that lasted three years, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith concluded that Sr. Farley “did not adequately clarify the grave problems contained in her book,” which would have prevented the publication of today’s notification.

In response, Sr. Farley said June 4 that she “appreciated the efforts made by the Congregation and its consultants” and did “not dispute the judgment that some of the positions contained within it are not in accord with current official Catholic teaching.”
She also stated that her book “was not intended to be an expression of current official Catholic teaching” but as a way of offering “contemporary interpretations of traditional meanings for the human body, gender and sexuality.”

Her religious congregation, the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, also expressed its “profound regret” at the decision against the work of “a highly respected and valued member.”

“While being faithful to her own faith tradition and commitments, her sensitivity to the varied circumstances, realities and needs of her students is the context she consistently honors,” said the order’s president, Sr. Patricia McDermott, in a June 4 statement.

Today’s ruling means that the book “cannot be used as a valid expression of Catholic teaching, either in counseling and formation,” as the dissemination of such ideas “risks grave harm to the faithful.” The book also cannot be used in ecumenical and inter-religious dialogues.

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Cardinal says social conflicts can only be solved with truth, order

Lima, Peru, Jun 4, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani of Lima has reiterated the Church’s call to peace and said social conflicts can only be resolved when there is order and adherence to the truth.

Speaking to reporters on May 31, Cardinal Cipriani referred to recent anti-mining protests that took place in the province of Espinar which left two people dead and forced the government to declare a state of emergency.

“People cannot use rocks and lies to achieve development,” he said. “Dialogue is not possible when there is no desire for truth, peace and justice.”

“Peace, St. Augustine says, is tranquility in order. I think there is a lack of order and there has to be respect for the law and for authority for there to be order,” the cardinal added. “We cannot get used to throwing stones and killing in order to demand dialogue.”

He noted that most Peruvians do not agree with the tactics used by the protestors. All Peruvians “want progress, development and social inclusion,” but “not through violence.”

“Peru is a peaceful nation that wants justice and wants the truth. For this reason, let’s not abuse the word ‘dialogue’ when we see so much violence and abuse,” he said.

Peace “is the task not only of those in authority but of all Peruvians,” Cardinal Cipriani underscored.

“People need to be provided improvement, investment, water, power, roads and infrastructure, but not by throwing (stones), not through deception.”

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Gay activist allegedly sues Colombian bishop for defending marriage

Bogotá, Colombia, Jun 4, 2012 (CNA) - Bishop Juan Vicente Cordoba, secretary for the Colombian bishops' conference, has allegedly been sued by columnist and gay activist Felipe Zuleta over his support of marriage as between one man and one woman.

“For now this is all media hype, and very few media outlets have reported on this,” said Father Elver Rojas, spokesman for the bishops' conference, telling CNA that they have yet to receive any official notice of a lawsuit.

Colombian radio reported on May 29 that Zuleta said he is suing Bishop Cordoba for violating the country’s anti-discrimination laws. He argues the bishop’s statements were criminal in nature and punishable by up to twelve years in prison.

He also said local soccer coach Alvaro Gonzalez has also been sued for supposed discrimination against homosexuals. 

“We want to see one of these two go to prison so that the country understands that intolerant speech is not acceptable,” he said.

The lawsuit comes one month after Bishop Cordoba called on Colombia’s Constitutional Court to respect the constitution and the concept of the traditional family which it enshrines. 

He also said the court should not grant custody of a woman’s daughter conceived through artificial insemination to her lesbian partner.

In a pastoral letter issued on April 28, Bishop Cordoba said the Church “does not have anything against homosexuals or against the recognition of their authentic and legitimate rights.” As with every human person, they have “the same fundamental dignity, the same value before God and the State.”

However, he noted, “Out of respect for this dignity,” the Church expresses her “active opposition” to issues such as the legalization of abortion, same-sex unions and adoption by same-sex couples.

In his letter, Bishop Cordoba urged Colombians to be “vigilant and attentive, willing to defend life and the authentic nature of the family.”

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Legal expert counters claim that mandate is not religious persecution

Washington D.C., Jun 4, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -

In response to assertions by Professor Stephen Schneck that the federal contraception mandate is not a form of religious persecution, lawyer Hannah Smith is warning that it shows a dangerous disregard for the First Amendment’s protections of religious freedom.

“The HHS mandate is a serious infringement of religious freedom in this country, not just for Catholics but for people of all faith,” said Hannah Smith, senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

Smith responded to arguments by political science professor Stephen F. Schneck, who recently argued that the ongoing concerns of the U.S. bishops and Catholic institutions over the federal contraception mandate do not amount to these groups “encountering religious persecution.”

Schneck, who is the director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., told CNA on May 30 that such language is “overblown.”

But the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ religious freedom committee sees things differently and has warned that “religious liberty is under attack” from threats including the mandate.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the bishops’ conference, has referred to the mandate and its narrow exemption as “strangling.”

However, in a May 22 blog post, Schneck dismissed such arguments, saying it is “ridiculously obvious” that there “is no persecution of Catholics in the United States.”

“Catholic institutions are not denied religious liberty by the Affordable Care Act and not morally compromised by its contraception mandate,” he wrote. “A pretty good wall of conscience protection surrounds the health care law, insulating religious institutions from complicity in providing drugs opposed by the Church.”

He argued that using the language of religious persecution and war is “dangerous” and “an unacceptable escalation of America’s highly partisan culture war.”

Schneck’s comments focused on the controversial 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 consciences.

The mandate includes a religious exemption that has been criticized for its narrow scope because it will not apply to religious schools, hospitals or charitable institutions.

Schneck said that he is in favor of broadening the exemption, but does not believe that the mandate in its current form amounts to “religious persecution.”

However, Smith responded that “the mandate has the hallmarks of executive action made in complete disregard for the religious freedom rights guaranteed by our Constitution and federal law.”

She observed in a June 4 interview with CNA that thousands of comments were submitted to the Obama administration during the mandate’s consideration period.

But despite the constitutional and moral concerns raised by these comments, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius acknowledged in April 26 testimony before a House subcommittee that she proceeded with the mandate without asking the Justice Department for a legal opinion on the regulation.

“That certainly suggests a serious disregard for the freedoms of religious institutions in this country,” Smith said.

More than 50 organizations and individuals have filed lawsuits against the mandate, including Schneck’s employer, The Catholic University of America.

While he has stated that he doesn’t believe the mandate is religious persecution,Schneck said he generally shares the continued concerns of critics of the mandate and supports the efforts of the university in challenging it in court.

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Catholic leaders see hopeful future for Haiti

Washington D.C., Jun 4, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Despite numerous obstacles in rebuilding in Haiti after 2010's devastating earthquake, speakers at a recent conference voiced confidence in the nation’s future and encouraged continued generosity.

“We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be frustrated,” said Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, who has worked for years with Haitians in Florida and traveled to the country many times.

“The Church in Haiti is a vibrant Church,” he said, adding that the people are “full of faith” and “refuse to give up.”

Archbishop Wenski spoke on June 3 at the Haiti: One Table, Many Partners solidarity conference in Washington, D.C.

The conference, which was sponsored by Catholic Relief Services and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, united more than 350 attendees, including several priests and bishops from Haiti, to discuss future efforts to offer spiritual and material aid to the country.

On January 12, 2010, a catastrophic earthquake hit southern Haiti, leaving some 3000 dead and destroying infrastructure and property worth billions of dollars.

After two and a half years of supporting rebuilding efforts, “we can be tempted to be impatient,” acknowledged Archbishop Wenski.

But recovering from a natural disaster is a slow process, even in the United States, where resources are abundant, he explained. And the earthquake “was more than just a natural disaster” because it hit an area already suffering from “grinding poverty.”

Therefore, it is not enough to “simply rebuild Port-au-Prince the way it was,” he said. The capital city was over-urbanized and “inherently unsustainable,” and these problems must be addressed as the rebuilding process occurs.

The archbishop acknowledged that there will be “great challenges” ahead, as efforts continue to bring stability and sustainability to the country, ensuring access to water, sanitation and electricity in the provinces beyond Port-au-Prince.

But while the process is slow and filled with obstacles, we are beginning to see the fruits of our work, he observed.

 “We have to remember why good construction takes a long time,” he said, stressing that “we have to rebuild intelligently and safely” in case another earthquake hits the country.

Archbishop Wenski explained that in working to rebuild and ease poverty in the country, we must remember that solidarity requires a basic understanding of the people, Church, background and customs of both Haiti and the U.S.

We must also beware of population programs that incorrectly treat people as a problem, he said. The Church opposes attempts at “eliminating poverty by eliminating people.”

Despite challenges, there are reasons for hope, he stressed, because the greatest resource for Haiti is the Haitian people themselves.

Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo, president of Catholic Relief Services, also spoke at the conference, voicing confidence and hope for the future of the nation.

She said that on a recent trip to the country, she had witnessed numerous signs of encouragement, including families with a strong faith, determined young people and individuals recovering from the trauma of the earthquake.

Catholic Relief Services has been in Haiti for more than 50 years, Woo said. The organization currently has a staff of about 700 people, 95 percent of whom are Haitians, including many young people.

Operating out of seven offices and working with 350 local partners, the organization is involved in about 50 projects, she explained.

Now, the group is seeking to build secure and sustainable structures that can withstand future challenges, support local leaders and institutions and connect the work of Haiti with the larger Church, she said.

Of the numerous projects that Catholic Relief Services is currently engaged in, community recovery is among the most critical, Woo said. Families are receiving the help they need to return to their neighborhoods, finding not only shelter, but sanitation, water and safety.

In addition, the organization is working with the Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince to create a “teaching hospital” that offers “premier care” for the people, she noted. Efforts are also being made to join with local education groups in order to assess the current status of Catholic education in the country and develop a vision for the future.

Furthermore, Catholic Relief Services is helping farmers add value to their crops, while improving their environmental practices, she explained, adding that all of these endeavors are being undertaken with strong local partnerships.

Woo acknowledged that the path ahead “will be difficult.” However, she said, we can be confident in our reliance on grace and the Holy Spirit, realizing that “not everything depends on us.”

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