Archive of June 7, 2012

Archbishop Wenski exhorts new Florida bishop to give hope

Tallahassee, Fla., Jun 7, 2012 (CNA) - As Bishop Gregory L. Parkes was ordained a bishop and installed as head of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee on June 5, he was encouraged to give hope to those who lack it.

Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami was the principal consecrator at the ordination Mass, which was held in Pensacola’s St. Paul Catholic Church. He proposed to Bishop Parkes a “road map” for his ministry.

“You are asked to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ; to go ahead of and lead God's people; you are asked to teach the sacred heritage of our past; to defend and promote the doctrinal unity of the faithful; to show mercy and charity to the needy and the poor; you are asked to pray without ceasing,” Archbishop Wenski said in his homily.

Bishop Parkes, 48, is originally from Long Island in New York State. He moved to Florida to attend college at Florida State University in Tallahassee. In 1999 he was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Orlando, where one of his two brothers is a priest.

At 6 feet 8 inches tall, Bishop Parkes is believed to be the tallest bishop in the U.S.

During Tuesday's ordination, Bishop Felipe J. Estévez of Saint Augustine, Bishop John Noonan of Orlando, and the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee’s Bishop emeritus John H. Ricard served as Bishop Parkes’ co-consecrators.

Also among the co-consecrators was Diocese native Bishop Martin D. Holley, who is now an auxiliary bishop of Washington, D.C.

Archbishop Wenski exhorted the new bishop to “shepherd the flock entrusted to your care so that they and you will readily give to the world the reasons for your hope.” Citing Bl. John Paul II, the archbishop said a bishop is called in a particular way to be “a prophet, witness, and servant of hope.”

The archbishop’s homily lamented a “loss of hope” seen in “some people’s “seemingly insatiable appetite for illegal drugs, fleeting pleasures or elusive riches.”

“Without hope, people do not make any enduring or lasting commitments to the future – by responding to the call of a religious or priestly vocation or to the call of a project called marriage and a family,” Archbishop Wenski said.

A society that reduces religion to the private realm “expels hope from its midst,” he reflected.

Bishop Parkes visited Rome last month, and his remarks to CNA foreshadowed Archbishop Wenski’s focus on hope.

“I want to assure the Holy Father that I will be faithful to him and to the teaching of our Church and to let him know that there is great hope in the United States,” he said May 11.

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Catholic schools will follow Ontario's gay-straight club requirement

Toronto, Canada, Jun 7, 2012 (CNA) - Catholic schools in the province of Ontario will abide by a law requiring them to allow “Gay-Straight Alliance” clubs, despite concerns about the loss of religious freedom.

“The Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario has expressed serious concerns regarding certain aspects of this legislation, as have numerous other individual citizens and groups,” said Cardinal Thomas C. Collins of Toronto, after the Ontario Legislature passed the measure known as Bill 13.

“Recognizing that the 'Accepting Schools Act' is now the law, Catholic partners will seek, as we have always done, in a way that is in accord with our faith, to foster safe and welcoming school communities,” Cardinal Collins said in a June 5 statement.

The cardinal reaffirmed that bullying “in any form, is unacceptable.” He also stressed the Church's commitment “to welcome every person with love and respect.”

Bishop Frederick J. Colli of Thunder Bay told CBC News that Catholic schools would follow the law by allowing “gay-straight alliance” clubs if students request them. He also said the groups would have adult oversight to protect schools' Catholic identity.

“We will remind the students about the teachings of the Catholic church and about what the Catholic faith expects of them and also about what our Catholic values are because that’s the basis of our schools,” Bishop Colli told the CBC.

He stressed that the Catholic faith affirms the fundamental dignity of all people, but noted that the Church cannot support the “homosexual lifestyle.”

Proposed as an effort to stop bullying, the Accepting Schools Act was eventually amended to force Catholic schools to allow “gay-straight alliance” groups.

“Right from the beginning, when this bill was introduced, we were working together with the government, to try and come up with solutions that would be best for all students in Ontario,” recalled Marino Gazzola, president of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association.

“The amendment came unexpectedly,” Gazzola told CNA on June 6.

“But it's now passed. We want to focus on ensuring that all our students are safe, are protected, and get the support that they require. And if these groups are formed, the legislation says they're allowed to be called 'Gay-Straight Alliances.'”

“We're encouraging our boards, our schools, and our administrators to comply with the law,” the president said.

Despite the religious freedom concerns that accompanied its consideration and passage, Gazzola said civil disobedience of the law “was never considered.” He also confirmed that the Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association is currently “not considering a legal challenge” to the statute.

Instead, he said, schools will follow the guidelines of the association's “Respecting Differences” document – which states that “the activities and organization of all groups or organizations formed within Catholic schools must be respectful of and consistent with Catholic teaching.”

On May 14, the Canadian bishops' conference released a major pastoral letter on the subject of conscience and religion. The letter stressed the right of conscientious objection, and the duty to resist laws that are "contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel."

But Gazzola said it would be “very premature” to speculate about the future of religious freedom in his country on the basis of the Accepting Schools Act.

“I don't think anybody can predict the future,” he said, stressing instead the need to “deal with what we have” and act in students' best interest.

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Democrats leave party over marriage, religious freedom concerns

Washington D.C., Jun 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A wave of local and state Democrats throughout the U.S. are leaving the party due to controversy over its leaders’ support for “gay marriage,” as well as concerns about religious freedom and the defense of the unborn.

“There comes a time when you have to stand on what you believe in,” said Greg Waggoner, sheriff of Leake County, Miss. “And I can no longer have any connection with the Democratic Party if that’s the route they’re going to take.”

Waggoner was one of seven local Mississippi Democrats who formally switched his party affiliation to Republican on May 30.

He said that the Democratic Party took an “extreme left turn” when its national leaders “endorsed same-sex marriage” in recent weeks, presenting a direct conflict with his faith and allegiance to Christ.

Firmly committed to the belief that marriage is a union “between a man and a woman,” he realized that his views were better reflected in the Republican Party.

According to the Mississippi Republican Party, more than 50 Democrats in the state have switched their affiliation since “Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama have taken over the national Democrat party.”

Other states – particularly those in the South – have had a similar experience, as Democrats are exiting the party at a significant rate. The shift is being attributed to increasingly liberal stances by leaders of the Democratic Party.

On May 9, U.S. President Barack Obama voiced his official endorsement of “gay marriage,” becoming the first president in the country’s history to do so.

His announcement came just days after Vice President Joe Biden said that he was “absolutely comfortable” with “gay marriage.”

The move immediately sparked controversy, with critics arguing that it does not reflect the will of the people. In every state where the issue has been put to a vote of the citizens, marriage has been upheld as the union of a man and a woman.

In recent weeks, several prominent Democrats have called for support of “gay marriage” to be added to the party platform at the convention in North Carolina this September.

The suggestion has been controversial both within and beyond the party, especially in light of North Carolina’s recent adoption of a constitutional amendment to protect marriage.

This support for “same-sex marriage” was a concern for Rick Murphrey, mayor of Kings Mountain, N.C., and prominent Pennsylvania committeewoman Jo Ann Nardelli, both of whom were lifelong Democrats before they recently switched their party affiliation to Republican.

Nardelli, a Catholic, told the National Catholic Register that she had watched the party drift away from her values and her faith. She pointed specifically to statements by Biden and Obama endorsing “gay marriage” as motivating her decision to leave.

Several former Democrats also criticized the party’s continuing support for abortion, as well as religious freedom concerns sparked by a mandate issued recently by the Obama administration.

The Health and Human Services mandate will require employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences.

Texas state representative J.M. Lozano switched parties in March, citing his “pro-life” values as one reason for doing so.

Former Alabama Congressman Artur Davis, a Democrat who had previously supported Obama, revealed in a May 29 blog post that if he were to run for office again in the future, “it would be as a Republican.”

Davis explained that the party’s agenda has changed, particularly since Obama took office, and said that he no longer feels aligned with its positions.

Among the reasons he cited for cutting ties with the Democratic Party was the contraception mandate, which contradicted his belief that “faith institutions should not be compelled to violate their teachings because faith is a freedom, too.”

In explaining his decision to leave the party, Sherriff Waggoner said that ultimately, he believes his choice was in the best interest of the nation.

“We have to make a return to the morals, to the traditional values that this country was founded on,” he said. “If we’re going to preserve our country, we’re going to have to preserve our families. And we’re not going to preserve our families going the route that they want to go.”

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Bangladeshi author decries female 'gendercide' in the East

Washington D.C., Jun 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A new novel by a businesswoman and author from Bangladesh is highlighting the ongoing tragedy of female “gendercide” in many Eastern cultures.

Female infanticide and sex-selection abortion constitute “discrimination against women in its cruelest form,” Rukhsana Hasib told CNA on June 6.

In her latest book, “Shadows in the Sun,” Hasib deals with the serious problem of male preference, which is prominent in many parts of the world.

A first-generation American who works to promote human rights for women in the East, Hasib said she was shocked when she realized that female infanticide and sex-selection abortion are still happening regularly in Eastern cultures.

And the girls being killed are not just from poor and uneducated families, she noted, but they also come from people who have schooling and economic means.

Reports estimate that about 50,000 girls are aborted in India each month, and approximately one million girls in the country “disappear” every year.

Driven to take a stand, Hasib decided to write a novel based on the “truth of female infanticide.”

She hopes to help readers realize that “such atrocities against women – who are the nucleus of the family – still exist” and that women are “willing participants” in acts of violence against their own gender.

Originally from Bangladesh, Hasib graduated from Holy Cross College before moving to America, where she earned her MBA and has spent her adult life.

Hasib pointed out that in many Eastern cultures “women are not valued.” They often face violence and discrimination, and are treated as inferior in a male-dominated culture.

“Shadows in the Sun” tells the fictitious story of “one poor mother’s stand” to give her daughter a chance at a better life, she explained.

The book begins in Bangladesh and then ties into India and the United States, highlighting the universal nature of the gendercide problem.

While male-preference practices are prominent in China as a result of the country’s one-child-policy, they are also common in other areas that have no legal restrictions on childbearing.

Hasib observed that sex-selection abortion is not legally encouraged in India. In fact, it is illegal, she said. However, the laws are not always enforced and can easily be circumvented through bribery.

The fundamental problem is not the legal system, but the cultural fact that girls are not valued, Hasib stated.

In these cultures “the birth of a son is celebrated” because boys will help provide a living and carry on the family’s future.  But the birth of a daughter, she explained, is “considered a burden,” because the family must protect her virtue, find a husband for her and provide a dowry.

“Girls are a burden,” Hasib said. “That is the beginning of this horrific crime.”

So if any real change is to take root, the author believes that it must be cultural as well as legal.

“Our attitude needs to change,” she said, arguing that girls must be seen not as a “misfortune” but as being “as valuable as the sun itself.” People must recognize the dignity of women and the value of their nurturing and life-giving role, as well as their many contributions to society, she added.

Hasib stressed that if the movement to value women is to gain momentum, then “the world needs to get involved,” and if the world is watching, change will take place more quickly.

In particular, she believes that the United States, as the “most powerful country” in the world, needs to do more to fight the injustice of female gendercide.  Once the U.S. speaks up, the “collective conscience” of the world is raised, she said.

Hasib applauded recent efforts to raise awareness of the issue within the United States. She praised a bill introduced in the House of Representatives which attempted to prohibit sex-selection abortion in the U.S.

The bill came to a vote amid the release of several undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood clinics around the country cooperating in sex-selection abortions.

Although the legislation did not succeed, Hasib called it “fantastic” that people are “taking notice” and word of gendercide is beginning to spread.

As a woman from an Eastern culture, the Bangladeshi author feels that she has a responsibility to speak up for the many women and girls who cannot.

“I am one of the fortunate ones,” she said. “I have a voice.”

She hopes that her book will help draw greater attention to the horror of gendercide in all of its manifestations throughout the world.

“We have to be aware of this,” she insisted.

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Baja California legislature fails to protect religious liberty, bishops state

Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 7, 2012 (CNA) - The bishops of the Mexican state of Baja California say they are disappointed that the state legislature failed to ratify a constitutional amendment that would have better protected religious liberty.

“The Catholic Church is deeply saddened that our lawmakers have not adopted this reform which guaranteed this fundamental right,” they said in a statement sent to CNA June 5.

The amendment to Article 24 of the Mexican Constitution would have removed the current rule which requires government authorization to hold worship services outside of places of worship. An amendment to Article 40 also added the word “secular” to clarify the country's form of government.

On March 28, the Mexican Senate adopted both amendments and sent them to the state legislatures for ratification.  A majority of states need to ratify the changes in order for them to take effect.

Baja California is one of 32 Mexican states that must vote on the amendments, and the process of voting is currently ongoing.

Both reforms would have ensured that the “fundamental issues of religious freedom and the secular state” would be “fully guaranteed in our country,” the bishops said in their statement.

Opponents to Amendment 24 said it would have given special privileges to religion by allowing worship outside of sacred spaces.

“This Constitutional reform did not entail privileges of any sort, nor discrimination in favor of or against any religious group or association. It was simply the recognition of a fundamental right of all Mexicans,” the bishops stated.

The bishops said that “failing to adopt the amendment to Article 24 contradicts the democratic spirit of the state, which has the task of ensuring the freedom of its citizens, without restrictions.”
They expressed support for those “who have rejected this negative vote of the State Congress,” because it constitutes “a step backwards in matters related to our freedoms.”

“True religious freedom is that which allows people to express their religious and ethical convictions in all areas of social life. Without the recognition of religious freedom and freedom of conscience, all other freedoms lack their true foundation and run the risk of being dehumanized,” the bishops said.

These right of freedom of conscience is based on the dignity of the human person, the bishops noted.

“The State only recognizes, guarantees and protects” those rights, they said, adding, “Our representatives do not know this, or if they did, they have forgotten it.”

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Pope says Vatican II did not reject Eucharistic adoration or processions

Rome, Italy, Jun 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI says the Second Vatican Council did not reject Eucharistic adoration outside of Mass, including the Corpus Christi procession that he led this evening in Rome.

“One unilateral interpretation of the Second Vatican Council has penalized this dimension, restricting in practice the Eucharist to the moment of celebration,” the Pope said during his homily for the Feast of Corpus Christi on June 7.

“In this case, the accentuation placed on the celebration of the Eucharist acted to the detriment of adoration as an act of faith and prayer addressed to the Lord Jesus, truly present in the Sacrament of the Altar,” he stated.

Pope Benedict offered an open-air Mass in the piazza outside his cathedral, the Basilica of St. John Lateran. The Feast of Corpus Christi commemorates the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist and has been celebrated universally since 1264.

The Pope told the large outdoor congregation that the way Eucharistic adoration was de-emphasized in the Church was “influenced by a certain secularizing mentality of the 1960s and ‘70s” and this had “repercussions for the spiritual life of the faithful.”

He proposed that limiting one’s relationship with the “Eucharistic Jesus” solely to the moment of the Mass risked “emptying his presence in the rest of existential time and space,” including in our daily lives.

The Pope explained that there is no contradiction or conflict between Christ worshiped in the Mass and Christ adored outside the sacred liturgy, since “communion and contemplation cannot be separated, they go together.”

“In order to truly communicate with another person, I have to know him, I need to know how to remain in silence near him, to listen to him, to look upon him with love,” he said.

“True love and true friendship,” he continued, “lives always in this reciprocity of gazes, of intense eloquent silences, full of respect and of veneration, so that the encounter is lived profoundly, in a personal and not superficial way.”

Indeed, he proposed that Eucharistic adoration prepares the hearts of both priests and lay people for a more fruitful encounter with Christ in the Holy Mass.

“In the moment of adoration, we are all on the same level, on bended knee before the Sacrament of Love,” he said.

Following tradition, the papal liturgy was followed by a Corpus Christi procession, led by the Pope towards the nearby basilica of St. Mary Major.

With the sun setting, tens of thousands of pilgrims carried candles and lanterns as they sang Eucharistic hymns and filed in procession behind the Eucharist in the monstrance, carried aloft on the decorated papal float.

The evening concluded with Benediction outside the basilica, which Pope Benedict led.

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