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Archive of June 27, 2012

Fortnight resource combines religious liberty, outreach to disabled

Washington D.C., Jun 27, 2012 (CNA) - Two national Catholic groups have released a list of suggested activities to defend religious liberty and reach out charitably to those with disabilities.

“We hope you take advantage of these resources and share them with others,” said the National Catholic Bioethics Center in a June 18 statement announcing the initiative.

The bioethics center has joined with the National Catholic Partnership on Disability – a group that works to help those with disabilities participate fully in the Church and in society – to create a list of 14 actions aimed at supporting religious freedom and reaching out to the disabled.

The list of daily activities is available on printable fliers and business cards online. It contains several religious activities, including fasting, attending a holy hour and praying a rosary for religious liberty.

It also includes advocacy efforts, such as voicing concerns over religious liberty to one’s Congressional representatives.

In addition, it incorporates outreach to disabled individuals in its religious liberty efforts.

“Make a donation to support disabled veterans who have defended our liberty,” the list suggests.

It also recommends encouraging “people with disabilities and their family members to attend local events,” adding that one should also “offer assistance to event planners to provide needed accommodations.”

The list of activities is part of the currently-underway Fortnight for Freedom, a 14-day period of prayer, education and advocacy in support of religious liberty.

The initiative, which runs from June 21 to July 4, was announced by the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty in response to growing threats to religious freedom both at home and abroad.

Chief among these threats is a 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.

While the mandate includes a religious exemption, it applies only to nonprofit groups that exist primarily to inculcate religious values and that employ and serve primarily members of their own faith. Therefore, most religious organizations – including schools, hospitals and charitable agencies – would not qualify for the exemption.

Despite widespread protest and lawsuits filed by more than 50 plaintiffs across the country, the Obama administration has refused to broaden the exemption.

On June 18, the National Catholic Bioethics Center submitted a comment to the Department of Health and Human Services criticizing the mandate and arguing that it “constitutes a violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

The bioethics center called for the regulation to be completely rescinded but said that at the very least, “the legal obligation of government to protect religious freedom requires that there be a robust, nondiscretionary exemption” for any individual or group that objects to participating in the mandate’s requirements.
 
The National Catholic Partnership on Disability also criticized the mandate in a statement considering the regulation’s effect on the neediest members of society, including those who are disabled.

The group observed that “if the Church is no longer allowed to exercise Her ministries because the attacks on religious liberty do not allow it, millions of persons of regardless of their religious affiliation will be negatively impacted.”

It pointed to the nearly 3 million students who are served by Catholic schools from the elementary to the college level, including nearly 60,000 students “educated in schools for persons with disabilities,” many of whom are not Catholic.

In addition, it noted that tens of millions of Americans receive treatment from Catholic hospitals and care from Catholic Charities each year, regardless of their religious beliefs.

“Who will serve these millions of persons if the Church is no longer allowed to exercise Her ministries?” the organization asked.

The National Catholic Bioethics Center also encouraged participation in the activities being planned at the parish and diocesan levels in order to “demonstrate solidarity” with the national Fortnight for Freedom initiative.

“The threat to religious freedom is real, and our voices, actions, and prayers are urgently needed,” the group explained.

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American bishop appointed as key player in SSPX negotiations

Vatican City, Jun 27, 2012 (CNA) - Pope Benedict has appointed a Rome-based American archbishop to be a key player in the negotiations between the Vatican and the breakaway traditionalist group, the Society of St. Pius X.

“The Holy Father has appointed as Vice President of the Pontifical Commission ‘Ecclesia Dei’ His Excellency Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia, titular archbishop of Oregon City, now Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments,” read a statement issued by the Vatican Press Office June 26.

Archbishop “Gus” Di Noia, 68, is a native of New York but of Italian parentage. He was ordained a Dominican priest in 1970. He was appointed Under-Secretary at the Congregation of the Faith in 2002 which, at that time, was headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. He has held his current post at the Congregation for Divine Worship since 2009.

It was in the same year that the Vatican charged “Ecclesia Dei” with leading conciliatory talks with the Society of St. Pius X. The traditionalist group broke with Rome in 1988 after its founder, Frenchman Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, ordained four bishops against the wishes of Pope John Paul II.

“The appointment of a high-ranking prelate to this position is a sign of the Holy Father’s pastoral solicitude for traditionalist Catholics in communion with the Holy See and his strong desire for the reconciliation of those traditionalist communities not in union with the See of Peter,” said Cardinal William J. Levada, the Commission’s President and Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in a statement June 26.

Archbishop Di Noia’s appointment comes as negotiations between the Vatican and the Society of St. Pius X hang in the balance. The traditionalist group is currently considering a Vatican offer that would bring them back into the Church as a Personal Prelature, essentially a jurisdiction without geographical boundaries. In return the Society will have to agree to certain doctrinal belief stipulated by Rome including full adherence to the Second Vatican Council.  

“As a respected Dominican theologian, Archbishop Di Noia has devoted much attention to these doctrinal issues, as well as to the priority of the hermeneutic of continuity and reform in the right interpretation of Vatican Council II - a critically important area in the dialogue between the Holy See and the Priestly Fraternity,” said Cardinal Levada.

As well as brokering reconciliation with the Society of St. Pius X, “Ecclesia Dei” is also charged with “the pastoral care of the faithful attached to the ancient Latin liturgical tradition of the Catholic Church.”

Cardinal Levada also hoped that Archbishop Di Noia’s experience and continued association with the Congregation for Divine Worship “will facilitate the development of certain desired liturgical provisions in the celebration of the 1962 'Missale Romanum.'”

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New fund will help fight forced abortions in China

Washington D.C., Jun 27, 2012 (CNA) - An international human rights group has announced the creation of a new fund to help fight the forced abortions that are often used to enforce the Chinese state’s one-child policy.

Bob Fu, president of the nonprofit organization China Aid Association, explained on June 19 that “the clock has started ticking on China's forced abortion policy.”

China Aid, a group that monitors and aids victims of human rights violations in China, has launched a Chinese Children Defense Fund. Money from the fund will help hire lawyers to defend families facing forced abortions, as well as to pay fines to avoid such abortions and to collect more information about coerced abortions and sterilizations in the country.

“In the long run, this evil system needs to end and it will end when the Chinese people stand up and demand it,” Fu said. “We stand by ready to help anyone who is victimized in this way.”
        
He pointed to the tragic recent case of Feng Jianmei, a seven-month pregnant Chinese woman who was taken to a hospital and forced to undergo an abortion because she and her husband could not afford the state-imposed fine for having a second child.

Because the couple already has one daughter, the state would not grant them permission to have a second child. Reports indicate that when they were unable to pay the 40,000 yuan fine, equivalent to about $6,300, family planning officials surrounded the house and forcibly took Feng to the hospital.

Feng's husband, Deng Liyuan, wrote on a prominent Chinese microblogging website that authorities had injected his wife with poison to cause the abortion against her will.

Family members said that Feng – who is 23 years old – was struggling both physically and psychologically after the abortion.

The case drew international attention and anger when graphic photos of Feng lying in a hospital bed next to her aborted fetus began to spread online.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Chinese authorities say that have apologized to Feng and her husband. The officials involved in the incident have been suspended, they say, and an investigation is currently underway to bring about a proper legal and disciplinary response.

However, critics of China’s one-child policy argue that forced abortions are common in the country, despite technically being illegal, and that authorities only apologize when caught in international media attention.

"A life was lost unnecessarily on June 3," said Fu. “Unfortunately, millions of lives are lost each year in similar circumstances.”

“Local officials have admitted that this forced abortion was illegal, we will demand that someone is held responsible,” he added.

China Aid has played a critical role in drawing attention to forced abortions and other human rights abuses under China’s brutal one-child policy.

Fu recently helped draw attention to the plight of blind Chinese pro-life activist Chen Guangcheng, who spent several years in both prison and house arrest after exposing forced abortions and sterilizations that take place routinely within the country.

Chen escaped from house arrest and spent several days at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing before agreeing to be transported to a local hospital to treat the injuries he sustained in escaping.

After leaving the embassy, however, he became fearful for the safety of himself and his family and asked to leave the country.

Fu spoke to Chen at the hospital and testified before members of Congress regarding his situation. Amid international pressure, Chen was ultimately permitted to come with his immediate family to the United States in order to rest and take classes at New York University.

In addition to raising money to help save Chinese women from immediate threats, Fu believes there is an underlying need to put pressure on the Chinese state to show respect for basic human rights.

“The international community should also ask the Chinese government to end a practice that makes modern China look barbaric and backward,” he said. “Forced abortions are not a choice but violence against women and their unborn children.”

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Cardinal celebrates Spanish shrine's elevation to minor basilica

Avila, Spain, Jun 27, 2012 (CNA) - A Vatican official celebrated a Mass of thanksgiving on June 25 after the Shrine of St. John of Avila in Spain was elevated by Pope Benedict to the status of a Minor Basilica.

Cardinal Antonio Canizares, who serves as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, said the move has strengthened the bond between the shrine and the Pope.

“This temple shall be especially linked to Pope Benedict XVI and his successors,” the cardinal said during the Mass, which was also attended by Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Cordoba and Archbishop Juan Jose Asenjo of Sevilla.

Cardinal Canizares also praised locals for preserving the shrine, where the remains of St. John of Avila are interred. He called the saint “a holy man who loved the Church so much.”

“We find ourselves before the urgency of a New Evangelization that can’t be delayed any longer,” the cardinal stated, adding that the patron saint of diocesan clergy “has a lot to say to us” in this regard.

“The world needs the Gospel, otherwise it has no future,” he continued. “What St. John of Avila did in the 16th century is what needs to be done today in the world.”

For his part, Bishop Fernandez said the elevation of the shrine to a Minor Basilica is “an exceptional event for the Diocese of Cordoba.”

He voiced hope that the designation would inspire many of the faithful to travel to Rome for the declaration of St. John of Avila as Doctor of the Church on October 17 and to participate with greater devotion in the Jubilee Year which will begin on October 12.

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True greatness found in humble service, Pope says

Vatican City, Jun 27, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI says that the path to real greatness in life is not found in self-promotion but in sacrificial love towards God and other people.  

“Human logic,” the Pope said June 27, “often seeks self-realization in power, dominion, in powerful means.”

But the “incarnation and the cross,” he added, “remind us that full realization is found in conforming our human will to the Father, in the emptying of one’s selfishness, to be filled with love, God’s charity and thus truly become able to love others.”

Pope Benedict made his remarks during the weekly General Audience before a packed Paul VI Hall at the Vatican. Continuing his exploration of prayer in the story of salvation, he turned his attention to St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians.

He explained to over 7,000 pilgrims that the letter is often viewed as St. Paul’s “spiritual testament” as it was written while he was in prison, perhaps in Rome.

The Apostle “feels close to death, because he says that his life will be poured out as a libation,” and yet, noted the Pope, throughout the text he “expresses the joy of being a disciple of Christ.”

“But how can one rejoice in the face of an imminent death sentence?” Pope Benedict asked.
The answer, he said, is found at the heart of St. Paul’s letter where he pens his great “Christological hymn.” This hymn is centered on “Christ’s sentiment” which he lists as love, generosity, humility, obedience to God and the gift of oneself.

Therefore following Christ is not just a subscription to a moral code but involves “all of our existence in our way of thinking and acting.”

This is achieved through prayer which should “lead to an ever deeper knowledge and union of love with the Lord” so we are able “to think, act and love like him, in him and for him,” the Pope said.  

Above all, this will take us towards the humility of Christ which led him to death on the cross. This was the “highest degree of humiliation” in the Roman world where “crucifixion was the punishment reserved for slaves,” a fact testified to by ancient writers such as Cicero.

The great writers of early Christianity, the “Church Fathers”, often saw Christ’s obedience as “restoring to human nature, through his humanity” in comparison to “what had been lost through the disobedience of Adam.”

The lesson for all people, suggested the Pope, is that “man will not find himself by remaining closed in on himself” but only by “coming out of himself.”

Therefore, while Adam wanted to imitate God which “in itself it was not a bad thing”, said the Pope, unfortunately he “had the wrong idea of God.”  

“God does not want only greatness, God is love that gives, already in the Trinity and then in creation” such that “imitating God means coming out of ourselves and gifting ourselves in love.”

Finally, the Pope drew the attention of pilgrims to the fact that St. Paul recommends prayer that involves both invocation and prostration with the “bending of every knee” to Jesus Christ.

This is why, said Pope Benedict, “genuflecting before the Blessed Sacrament or kneeling in prayer expresses an attitude of adoration before God, even with the body.”

It is important, therefore, not to make the gesture “out of habit and not in a hurry, but with deep awareness.”

“When we kneel before the Lord, we confess our faith in him, we recognize that he is the only Lord of our lives,” said the Pontiff.  

Today was the Pope’s last General Audience of the summer at the Vatican. Later this week he will head to his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, 15 miles south-east of Rome.

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SSPX letter indicates refusal of Vatican reconciliation effort

Washington D.C., Jun 27, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A recent letter leaked online suggests that leaders of the Society of St. Pius X, a breakaway traditionalist group, have rejected a proposed Vatican document to aid in reconciliation efforts.

The June 25 letter, written by the society’s general secretary, Fr. Christian Thouvenot, informs leaders within the society that the groups’ superior general, Bishop Bernard Fellay, found the Vatican’s offer “clearly unacceptable” at a meeting earlier this month.

After years of negotiations, the society – which broke with Rome in 1988 – had been considering a Vatican offer that would have brought it back into the Church as a Personal Prelature, which functions as a jurisdiction without geographical boundaries.

The society was being asked to agree to certain doctrinal teachings specified by the Vatican, including full acceptance of the Second Vatican Council.

Pope Benedict XVI’s efforts to reach out to the Society of St. Pius X have been ongoing.

On June 26, the pope appointed Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia, titular archbishop of Oregon City, as vice president of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei,” which has been responsible for leading conciliatory talks with the group.

Three years of negotiations had yielded a “Doctrinal Preamble” from the Vatican last fall, intended to pave a way to overcome disagreements over doctrine between Rome and the society.

Fr. Thouvenot’s letter said that Bishop Fellay had replied with a different version of the preamble in April that had “seemed to satisfy the Supreme Pontiff,” according to “several” sources.  

According to the letter, however, Cardinal William J. Levada, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, presented the bishop’s proposal on June 13, but “amended” in such a way that the bishop “immediately informed him that he could not sign this new document.”

The Society of St. Pius X will discuss the matter at its next general meeting, said Fr. Thouvenot.

He added that Bishop Richard Williamson - a controversial society prelate who caused an uproar several years ago when he denied the atrocities of the Holocaust - is being prohibited from attending that meeting “due to his stand calling to rebellion and for continually repeated disobedience.”

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Catholic Charities mobilizes against growing Colorado fires

Colorado Springs, Colo., Jun 27, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Both evacuees and residents of the Colorado Springs area are in “utter shock and disbelief” at the major fire threatening the outskirts of the city, a local Catholic Charities official says.

Rochelle Schlortt, communications director for Catholic Charities of Central Colorado, said the situation is “just scary.”
 
“You look up and you see the smoke or you see the flames. It’s like the entire mountainside is on fire,” she told CNA June 27.

Schlortt said the city's residents now “live in a fog of smoke,” which creates difficulties for anyone with respiratory problems, while others feel a “constant burning” in their eyes and throats.

“Smoke has literally descended and engulfed not only the Colorado Springs city but the entire El Paso county.”

Over 30,000 people have evacuated neighborhoods north and west of Colorado Springs, including parts of the Air Force Academy, to escape the Waldo Canyon Fire which began June 23. The fire has burned over 15,000 acres and was only five percent contained as of Wednesday morning, the Denver Post reports.

Colorado has suffered several major fires already this year.

Schlott explained that he first responders to the Colorado Springs fire are the Red Cross, which is setting up shelters, and the Salvation Army, which is providing evacuees with meals. At the request of the Salvation Army, the Colorado Springs Catholic Charities affiliate is helping to prepare and deliver several hundred meals per day.

The Catholic agency is supplying food to three shelters in Colorado Springs and one near the town of Divide. Road closures mean Divide is now a 2.5-hour drive from the city.

Schlortt said June 27 that the situation is “very fluid.”

“This fire is progressing and putting people out of their neighborhoods on an hourly basis.”

Joe Mahoney, executive director of Catholic Charities of Southern Colorado, said his Pueblo-based agency is collecting money to support the Colorado Springs affiliate’s operations.

Mahoney, a former disaster response officer for Catholic Charities USA, told CNA he is heading to Colorado Springs to provide assistance in person.

Schlortt said that every relief agency in Colorado Springs is responding. Many people are donating funds, volunteering and taking others into their homes.

“The entire community is just opening their hearts,” she said.

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Denver has offered financial and staff assistance to its Colorado Springs counterpart to respond to the fires.

The Waldo Canyon Fire forced the cancellation of Sunday Mass at two parishes, the Colorado Catholic Herald reports. The novitiate for the Order of the Holy Cross in Cascade was evacuated, as was Mount St. Francis Nursing Home. Activities at St. Francis of Assisi Parish have been cancelled on orders of the fire department.

Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs offered prayers for those affected by the fire.

“We also pray for the firefighters and volunteers who are working hard to contain the wildfire and serve the needs of those affected,” he said June 26. “We are grateful for your courage, generosity and sacrifice, and we are heartened to see communities rallying together during this trying time.”

The bishop will lead a Holy Hour of prayer for fire victims and first responders on June 28 at 7 p.m. at downtown Colorado Springs’ St. Mary Cathedral.

Bishop James D. Conley, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Denver, has called for prayer and charitable assistance to the victims of the multiple fires in Colorado.

Schlortt also asked for prayers, saying “We need all the prayers we can get.”

Victims of other Colorado fires remain in need.

Catholic Charities of Denver is continuing to help evacuees of the High Park Fire in Larimer County in the mountains of northern Colorado. That fire, the second-largest in state history, began in a June 9 lightning strike. It burned over 87,000 acres and over 250 homes and is still only 65 percent contained. A 62-year-old woman died in the blaze, the Denver Post reports.
 
Last week, the Denver charity received emergency assistance grants totaling $20,000 from Catholic Charities USA and from United Way of Larimer County. It has also contributed $10,000 of its own funds to provide food, clothing, hotel accommodations and other personal items to the victims.

It is distributing aid in cooperation with the Red Cross and United Way. It is continuing to monitor the new fire in Boulder County, which is burning 230 acres and has prompted pre-evacuation warnings to over 2,000 phone numbers.

“Should the need arise for more extensive relief assistance, Catholic Charities is prepared to respond quickly and effectively to those needs,” the Denver agency said June 27.

Donations to support victims of the Colorado Springs fires may be made through the Catholic Charities of Central Colorado website http://ccharitiescc.org.

Additional donations to support victims of the High Park and Boulder fires may be made through the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Denver website at http://www.ccdenver.org.
 

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