Washington D.C., Jun 21, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A leaked e-mail shows that the Democratic-leaning organization Faith in Public Life is running a behind-the-scenes media effort to undercut the U.S. bishops and the “Fortnight for Freedom” events intended to rally opposition to the HHS mandate.
Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, released the e-mail detailing the campaign on June 18. He said a copy of the e-mail had been leaked to him.
Donohue said “fair minded persons” may disagree with the religious freedom effort “but there is something unseemly going on when those who work for a George Soros-funded group are quietly providing talking points to the media.”
The June 7 e-mail from John Gehring, Faith in Public Life’s Catholic Program Director, is addressed to reporters, editors and columnists. It describes itself as a “backgrounder” and contains talking points, adversarial questions for Catholic bishops and recommendations of experts to interview.
It appears aimed at shaping a narrative skeptical towards Catholic objections to a Department of Health and Human Services mandate that requires employers, including many Catholic institutions, to provide insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including some abortion-causing drugs.
“Are you willing to sacrifice Catholic charities, colleges and hospitals if you don’t get your way on the contraceptive mandate?” reads one proposed question for a bishop.
“Are you willing to drop all health insurance for your employees?” reads another.
The e-mail encouraged journalists to “ask critical questions” about the bishops’ “sweeping claims” in light of a “charged political backdrop” ahead of the 2012 election. It noted that both the June 8 “Stand Up for Religious Freedom” rallies and the June 21-July 4 “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign include Catholic dioceses.
CNA sought comment multiple times from Gehring and Faith in Public Life but did not receive a response.
On its website, Faith in Public Life describes itself as “a strategy center for the faith community advancing faith in the public square as a powerful force for justice, compassion and the common good.” It runs strategic communications and “narrative-setting” campaigns. The organization says it can identify “moments of opportunity when a targeted event or campaign can effectively broaden or shift the values debate.”
It works to insert its perspective into political debates and to highlight “progressive and moderate people of faith at key moments.”
Gehring’s June 7 e-mail focused only on contraception and “birth control.” It did not mention coverage of sterilization or contraceptive drugs that may cause abortion.
He wrote that several Catholic bishops have used “inflammatory and irresponsible rhetoric” that conflates “working through complex policy issues with a fundamental attack on the Catholic Church.”
The leaked e-mail also suggested that reporters should reject as “fiction” any claim that there is a “war on religion” and a “war on the Catholic Church.”
It classified as “fiction” U.S. bishops’ conference president Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s statement that the administration is “strangling” the Catholic Church. Gehring also suggested news media ask whether bishops should be concerned about the religious freedom campaign “becoming politicized in an election year.”
Over 40 Catholic institutions have filed lawsuits challenging the mandate, while Catholics and other faith leaders have organized religious freedom rallies around the country, including the upcoming “Fortnight for Freedom.”
Gehring encouraged reporters, columnists and journalists to ask who is funding the religious freedom effort.
“Reporters should consider asking about the Knights of Columbus, an organization with deep pockets,” the e-mail advised. Gehring tried to paint Supreme Knight of Columbus Carl Anderson as a political partisan, noting his work in the Reagan administration and his time as a legislative assistant to Republican Sen. Jesse Helms in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Faith in Public Life’s recommended sources for interviews, as listed in Gehring’s e-mail, are John Gehring, Duquesne University law professor Nicholas Cafardi, Fordham University theology department chair Terrence W. Tilley, Boston College theology professor Lisa Sowle Cahill, Note Dame Law School professor M. Cathleen Kaveny, Fairfield University religious studies professor Paul Lakeland, and Fr. Thomas Reese, S.J. of the Woodstock Theological Center.
The Catholic League’s Bill Donohue was critical of the media effort, saying Gehring’s e-mail encouraged the media to “victimize the victim” and target those who refuse to compromise their principles.
Silver Spring, Md., Jun 21, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Officers of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious said that their June 12 meeting with Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith officials was “difficult” because of “differing perspectives” but they were able to express their concerns “with openness and honesty.”
The conference president Sr. Pat Farrell and executive director Sr. Janet Mock briefed conference board members about the Vatican meeting in a special session on June 15 in Silver Spring, Md.
The conference said in a June 18 statement that its officers and the congregation officials hold “differing perspectives” on the assessment from the Vatican’s doctrinal department.
U.S. bishops associated with the assessment and Vatican officials have said that the report is directed only at the leadership conference and does not reflect on all U.S. sisters.
However, the board said in its June 18 response that the congregation’s actions are “keenly felt” by “the vast majority” of Catholic sisters who have elected their leaders and “therefore feel a close identity” with them.
The four-year doctrinal assessment, released on April 18, concluded that there is a “crisis” of belief throughout the ranks of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. It recommended greater emphasis on the conference’s relationship with the U.S. bishops and on the need for “a sound doctrinal foundation in the faith of the Church.”
The leadership conference said its members will continue “careful, prayerful discernment” throughout June and July and at the conference’s annual assembly in August.
The conference’s choice for keynote speaker at its annual assembly, Barbara Marx Hubbard, has raised concern in some quarters. Hubbard is a non-Catholic, New Age author who advocates a worldview called “conscious evolution.”
Assembly registration materials say Hubbard will help religious communities become “open to the new levels of consciousness, even as that revelation exceeds the boundaries of present day understanding of one’s faith.”
The conference represents the leaders of 80 percent of the 57,000 Catholic religious sisters in the U.S.
Rome, Italy, Jun 21, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
One of Syria's most senior Catholic bishops believes his country can still regain the path to peace and reform despite the armed revolt against President Bashar al-Assad now entering its 16th month.
“For me there are two solutions,” Chaldean Catholic Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo told CNA in Rome June 19.
“We can go in the direction of a civil war in all Syria and it will be very perilous for everybody or we can go in the direction of reform with rationality, with sincerity, with determination but I think it will take some time.”
Bishop Audo is visiting the Vatican to participate in ROACO, an annual summit of Catholic aid agencies involved in supporting eastern churches. He briefed the gathering June 20 on the latest situation in Syria.
His assessment drew a distinction between the majority of the country and the area in and around the city of Homs which is at the heart of the uprising. In cities such as the capital Damascus and Aleppo “life looks like normal,” he said.
President Bashar al-Assad has promised to implement democratic reform since the beginning of the rebellion against him in early 2011. His Ba’ath Party has ruled Syria since 1963 with his father, Hafez al-Assad, also holding the post of president for nearly 30 years before his death in 2000.
As members of the minority Alawite religion, a branch of Shia Islam, Bishop Audo believes the years of Assad rule have been stable ones for the 10 percent of the Syrian population who are Christian.
“The Christians were protected by the regime because they are a minority like him, so we can say that they were protected,” he explained.
The confessional fault line between the majority Sunni Muslim population and the minority Alawites, who have occupied most of the senior positions in Syrian society for decades, is “the heart of problems in Syria,” suggests Bishop Audo.
He now fears that if the Assad regime falls that “Christians will be the first to pay” as has happened in other countries caught up in the so-called “Arab Spring.”
“We look to Iraq, we look to Tunisia, we look to Libya, we look to Egypt and we don’t want to become a situation of anarchy or extremism,” he said.
In the meantime, he is urging Catholics around the world to continue to support the Church in Syria through prayer, staying informed and financial aid if possible.
Indianapolis, Ind., Jun 21, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - While defending their freedom in public life, Catholics must also renew the Church spiritually, starting in their own lives, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said in a June 20 address to journalists.
“Politics and the courts are important. But our religious freedom ultimately depends on the vividness of our own Christian faith – in other words, how deeply we believe it, and how honestly we live it,” the archbishop told attendees of the 2012 Catholic Media Conference in downtown Indianapolis.
In his remarks to reporters and other Catholic media professionals, the Philadelphia Church leader observed that religious freedom “is an empty shell if the spiritual core of a people is weak.”
“The worst enemies of religious freedom aren’t 'out there' among the legion of critics who hate Christ or the Gospel or the Church, or all three. The worst enemies are in here, with us – all of us, clergy, religious and lay – when we live our faith with tepidness, routine and hypocrisy.”
Archbishop Chaput delivered his address on the eve of the U.S. bishops' “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign of prayer and advocacy, inspired by the HHS contraception mandate and other threats to the free exercise of religion.
His remarks touched on the mandate, along with related areas of concern – including efforts to drive the Church out of adoption and foster care, and the government's attempt to control a religious school's self-governance in the Hosanna-Tabor Supreme Court case.
Such threats, he warned, could push the U.S. in the direction of Canada and Britain, where the Church's freedom of speech and action is already compromised.
The U.S. Constitution would prove to be nothing more than “an elegant piece of paper,” if Catholics and other citizens were not willing to stand up for their rights, he said.
But the Church's most serious challenges, the Philadelphia archbishop observed, are internal and spiritual in nature. He urged the faithful to “look honestly at the arc of Catholic history” in the U.S., as a guide to the deeper problems facing the Church at present.
“American Catholics began as an unwelcome minority,” he recalled. “The Church built her credibility by defending and serving her people. She developed her influence with the resources her people entrusted to her. A vast amount of good was done in the process.”
“But two other things also happened. The Church in the United States became powerful and secure. And Catholics became less and less invested in the Church that their own parents and grandparents helped to build.”
Success and stability allowed many clergy to fall “out of touch with reality,” while some lay Catholics grew eager “to lose themselves in America’s culture of consumerism and success.”
“These problems kill a Christian love of poverty and zeal. They choke off a real life of faith. They create the shadows that hide institutional and personal sins. And they encourage a paralysis that can burrow itself into every heart and every layer of the Church,” the archbishop reflected.
It is partly due to these problems, he suggested, that his own Archdiocese of Philadelphia “is now really mission territory – again, for the second time.” And so, too, is “much of the Church in the rest of our country.”
The way forward, meanwhile, lies in the rediscovery of Jesus' true person and message – as the basis for a faith that can stand against assaults, both from outside, and from within.
“We live in a world of illusions when we lose sight of who Jesus Christ really is, and what he asks from each of us as disciples,” the archbishop said, pointing out that the “real Jesus” continues to call the faithful to a “life of honesty, heroism and sacrifice.”
Only by obeying this call, will Catholics “become people worthy of” the religious freedom they are called to defend.
“We work best for religious freedom by first opening our hearts to God’s will instead of our own; and loving our country and our Church; and renewing the witness of the Church with the zeal and purity and obedience of our own lives,” Archbishop Chaput said.
“That freedom, that joy, no one can ever take from us.”
Archbishop Chaput's full text can be found at: http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2012/06/launching-the-fortnight-for-freedom
Stanford, Calif., Jun 21, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A study by a group of psychologists from the Universities of Riverside, Stanford and British Colombia shows that parents experience greater levels of happiness than adults who do not have children.
“This series of studies suggest that parents are not nearly the 'miserable creatures' we might expect from recent studies and popular representations,” said co-author Elizabeth Dunn, an associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia.
According to the research, the parents who participated in the study are happier and have a greater desire to live than their child-less peers. It also showed that parents experience more positive feelings when taking care of children than during their other daily activities, challenging the notion that children are associated with reduced well-being.
The researchers said the study also contradicts those who think children are a source of problems. The analysis found that children do not endanger the personal development of parents or limit their social relationships.
“If you went to a large dinner party, the parents in the room would be just as happy or happier than the guests without children,” Dunn noted.
Vatican City, Jun 21, 2012 (CNA) - Many of the Vatican’s events for the forthcoming Year of Faith were announced today as organizers unveiled the official logo in Rome.
Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, told CNA June 21 that the “significance of the logo is very simple.”
“The boat is the sign of the Church, and you can see this is a moment of movement,” he explained, “we also have the cross, and the cross is the sign of love, it’s the sign of our faith. And together with the cross there is the sign of the Eucharist, and the Eucharist for us is at the center of our lives, it is the center of the life of faith.”
The Year of Faith was announced last fall by Pope Benedict as a means to give momentum to a new evangelization. It will run from Oct. 11, 2012 to Nov. 24, 2013.
The logo was unveiled by Archbishop Fisichella at a June 21 Vatican press conference.
He also announced the creation of a new website www.annusfidei.va, which will soon be available in six languages, including English. It outlines the key religious and cultural events that will mark the year in Rome and will be attended by Pope Benedict XVI.
The opening liturgy will take place in St. Peter’s Square on Oct. 11, the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council.
“There will be a solemn Eucharistic celebration concelebrated by the Synod Fathers, the presidents of the world’s episcopal conferences and by Council Fathers who are still alive,” Archbishop Fisichella said. So far 35 bishops who took part in the council have been invited.
The archbishop also announced that Vatican officials recently approved a special “Mass for New Evangelization” as a sign that during the Year of Faith “priority will be given to prayer, and especially to the Eucharist as source and summit of all Christian life.”
Another key moment for 2012 will be the canonization of seven martyrs on Sunday, October 21 , as well as two American saints, Blesseds Kateri Tekakwitha and Marianne Cope.
Moving into 2013, Catholic movements, old and new, will gather in Rome on May 18.
On the Feast of Corpus Christi, June 2, the Blessed Sacrament will be adored at the same time all over the world.
Seminarians and novices from across the world will arrive in Rome as they end a pilgrimage to St. Peter’s Basilica on July 7.
September 29 will be dedicated to catechists, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church marks its 20th anniversary. To assist with catechesis, a multilingual pastoral guide entitled “Living the Year of Faith” will be published in September 2013.
Finally, the closing celebration of the Year of Faith will take place on November 24.
Archbishop Fisichella said the Church and society are at “a peculiar moment” in history which is “a moment of crisis, a big crisis, and also faith is in a traumatic situation.”
He wants the Year of Faith to reach out to all baptized Catholics, including lapsed believers and those who “have the desire of God but cannot find sign of faith.”
He is also eager for dioceses and Catholic bodies around the world follow Rome’s lead in drawing up a calendar of events.
Los Angeles, Calif., Jun 21, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - With the nationwide Fortnight for Freedom event beginning today, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles said that any compromise that means Catholic institutions provide birth control insurance to employees is “capitulation” and “the temptation to serve the government instead of God.”
The Catholic Church “doesn’t serve the poor to please the government,” he said.
Rather, Catholics serve the poor “because we are compelled by the love of Christ.” This love also compels Catholics to testify to the sacredness of life, marriage and family and to testify that “preventing children from being born is immoral.”
The archbishop’s comments come in his June 21 essay “Fortnight for Freedom: Why Now?” published on the website of First Things magazine. The Fortnight for Freedom is a period of prayer, education and religious freedom advocacy organized by the U.S. bishops from June 21-July 4.
Religious freedom was brought to the fore this year on Jan. 20 when the federal Department of Health and Human Services finalized a mandate requiring employers, including many Catholic institutions, to provide insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including some abortion-causing drugs.
Outcry over the mandate prompted the Obama administration to propose an accommodation on Feb. 10, which Catholic leaders said failed to address their inability to provide the objectionable coverage in good conscience.
Archbishop Gomez acknowledged in his essay that Americans enjoy great religious freedoms compared to other countries around the world.
However, he said that religious freedom in the U.S. is still in jeopardy due to an “eroding” American consensus on religious liberty, conscience protection and the role of religion in public life.
He blamed religious indifferentism and also “constant agitation from de-Christianizing and secularizing elements in American society.”
Archbishop Gomez said that while secularization has happened for some time, the government has taken on a new role. Instead of observing its duty to protect religious liberty, the government has “taken sides against the liberty of the nation’s largest religious community.”
He accused the U.S. government of “using the full weight of its powers to try to dictate the terms under which the Catholic Church and individual Catholics will be permitted to participate in our society.”
The Los Angeles archbishop also noted that there are increasing portrayals of Christian faith as “a form of bigotry.” There are “relentless efforts” to force Church agencies to comply with “secular agendas,” such as attempts to force Catholic hospitals to perform abortions and sterilizations or to force Catholic adoption agencies to place children with homosexual couples.
“It’s hard to escape the conclusion that our present conflict is part of a larger cultural struggle to redefine America as a purely secular society—a society in which religious institutions have no legitimate public role unless they are serving the government’s purposes,” he said.
In response to these trends, the archbishop called on Christians to love their enemies and “resist their evil with good.”
“We live our faith with the freedom of the children of God, in season and out of season, with a love that serves and heals and inspires,” he said.
Rome, Italy, Jun 21, 2012 (CNA) -
Hundreds of Italians gathered at the Church of St. Francisca Romana in Rome on June 16 for the funeral Mass of Chiara Corbella, a young Catholic woman who died after postponing her cancer treatments in order to protect her unborn child.
At 28 years of age, Chiara was happily married to Enrico Petrillo. They had already suffered the loss of two children in recent years who died from birth defects. The couple became popular speakers at pro-life events, in which they shared their testimony about the few minutes they were able to spend with their children, David and Maria, before they died.
In 2010, Chiara became pregnant for the third time, and according to doctors the child was developing normally. However, Chiara was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and was advised to begin receiving treatment that would have posed a risk to her pregnancy.
Chiara decided to protect the baby – named Francisco – and opted to forgo treatment until after his birth, which took place on May 30, 2011.
Her cancer quickly progressed and eventually she lost sight in one eye. After a year-long battle Chiara died on June 13, surrounded by her loved ones and convinced that she would be reunited with her two children in heaven.
“I am going to heaven to take care of Maria and David, you stay here with Dad. I will pray for you,” Chiara said in a letter for Francisco that she wrote one week before her death.
The funeral Mass was celebrated by the Vicar General of Rome, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, who recalled Chiara as “the second Gianna Beretta,” the 20th century saint who sacrificed her life in similar circumstances to save her unborn baby.
Chiara’s spiritual director, Father Vito, delivered the homily and remembered Chiara as a young woman who chose to risk her own life in order to be an example to other pregnant women, “a testimony that could save so many people,” he said.
Chiara’s husband, Enrico, said he experienced “a story of love on the cross.” Speaking to Vatican Radio, he said that they learned from their three children that there is no difference in a life that lasts 30 minutes or 100 years.
“It was wonderful to discover this love that grew more and more in the face of so many problems,” he said.
“We grew more and more in love with each other and Jesus. We were never disappointed by this love, and for this reason, we never lost time, even though those around us said, 'Wait, don’t be in a hurry to have another child,'” Enrico said.
The world today encourages people to make wrong choices about the unborn, the sick and the elderly, he noted, “but the Lord responds with stories like ours.”
“We are the ones who like to philosophize about life, about who created it, and therefore, in the end, we confuse ourselves in wanting to become the owners of life and to escape from the cross the Lord gives us,” he continued.
“The truth is that this cross – if you embrace it with Christ – ceases to be as ugly as it looks. If you trust in him, you discover that this fire, this cross, does not burn, and that peace can be found in suffering and joy in death,” Enrico explained.
“I spent a lot of time this year reflecting on this phrase from the Gospel that says the Lord gives a cross that is sweet and a burden that is light. When I would look at Chiara when she was about to die, I obviously became very upset. But I mustered the courage and a few hours before – it was about eight in the morning, Chiara died at noon – I asked her.
I said: 'But Chiara, my love, is this cross really sweet, like the Lord says? She looked at me and she smiled, and in a soft voice she said, 'Yes, Enrico, it is very sweet.' In this sense, the entire family didn’t see Chiara die peacefully, but happily, which is totally different,” Ernico said.
When his son grows up, he added, he will tell him “how beautiful it is to let oneself be loved by God, because if you feel loved you can do anything,” and this is “the most important thing in life: to let yourself be loved in order to love and die happy.”
“I will tell him that this is what his mother, Chiara, did. She allowed herself to be loved, and in a certain sense, I think she loved everyone in this way. I feel her more alive than ever. To be able to see her die happy was to me a challenge to death.”
Vatican City, Jun 21, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI is praying that Syria ends its internal conflict, which he believes could have very serious consequences for the entire Middle East.
“May God give wisdom of heart to those in positions of responsibility, that all violence and bloodshed may cease,” he said at the Vatican on June 21.
He also called on the international community to “spare no effort to help Syria emerge from its current situation of violence and crisis, which has already gone on a long time and risks becoming a generalized conflict which would have highly negative consequences for the country and the entire region.”
Pope Benedict made his remarks to those participating in ROACO, an annual Vatican summit of Catholic aid agencies involved in supporting eastern churches. Among the delegates was the papal nuncio to Syria, Monsignor Mario Zenari, and the President of Caritas in Syria, Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo.
The Pope told them that the gathering was an occasion for him “to reaffirm my closeness to the great suffering of our brothers and sisters in Syria, in particular the young innocents and those most defenseless.”
The armed revolt against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011. It has since claimed over 10,000 lives, according to the latest U.N. estimates.
Most of the fighting has centered on the city of Homs, where continued shelling on June 21 prevented the Red Cross from evacuating civilians.
Pope Benedict hoped that the “concrete fraternity in Christ” that comes with prayers and commitment would help the people of Syria “not to lose the light of hope at this moment of darkness.”
He also made an “urgent and heartfelt appeal that in the face of the dire need” the “necessary humanitarian assistance be guaranteed” to the Syrian people who most require it.
Human life “is a precious gift which must always be protected,” he stated.