Denver, Colo., Jul 10, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Critics who accuse the U.S. bishops of “partisanship” have misunderstood their motives by viewing religious questions in secular terms, supporters of the Catholic hierarchy say.
“The media has no quibble at all when the bishops issue a statement questioning some aspects of Paul Ryan's budget, or when they express their support of recent decisions on the part of the Obama administration relating to immigration,” Church historian Dr. Matthew Bunson told CNA.
“It's only when the bishops decide to exercise their authority in areas the media disagrees with” – such as marriage, sexuality, or theological orthodoxy – “that the bishops are suddenly 'reactionary.'”
The charge of partisanship has surfaced during 2012 in the fight over the federal “preventive services” mandate. Created under the federal health care reform law, it is opposed by the bishops for requiring religious employers to provide contraception, sterilization and abortion-causing drugs.
Bunson, editor of the Encyclopedia of the American Catholic Church, said the bishops' critics seemed obsessed with judging their actions by secular standards of “left” and “right,” rather than viewing their words and deeds in light of the Church's non-partisan social teaching.
There is an element of “selective memory,” he said, in portraying the bishops as servants of a right-wing agenda. In the service of this narrative, critics must ignore important aspects of the hierarchy's public policy work and the Church's teaching.
In their coverage of the U.S. bishops' religious liberty initiative, the June 21-July 4 “Fortnight for Freedom,” outlets like USA Today and National Public Radio suggested that the Church's religious liberty effort could be a veiled campaign against President Obama.
“Feeling Under Siege, Catholic Leadership Shifts Right” was the title of NPR's July 4 story on the fortnight. While acknowledging the Church's concern for religious freedom, the story highlighted the “many Catholics” who “view the controversial campaign as an anti-Obama move in an election year.”
On NPR's website, the story was accompanied by a large photograph of protesters holding signs with slogans such as: “Bishops! You don't speak for me!” and “I love the Church, I hate the politics.”
Meanwhile, USA Today's religion writer Cathy Lynn Grossman was criticized for inaccurate coverage of the fortnight's closing Mass at Washington, D.C.'s National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
In her July 4 “Faith and Reason” blog post, the reporter wrote that Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput delivered “a bell-ringing homily on the Affordable Care Act as an enemy of freedom under God” at the national shrine. The sermon, however, made no mention of the health care law.
“We've heard from dozens of people – some delighted, some enraged – commenting on the archbishop's giving a 'political' or 'partisan' homily, based on your article. That is precisely and deliberately what the archbishop didn't do,” archdiocesan adviser Francis Maier told Grossman in an e-mail.
In fact, Archbishop Chaput's homily offered a reflection on the higher form of “true freedom” which is found by “living according to God’s plan.”
Maier noted that the archbishop's religious freedom advocacy predates the Obama presidency by several years. But the “bottom line,” he told Grossman, was that Archbishop Chaput “said nothing at all about the Affordable Care Act or the HHS mandate in his homily, and saying that he did is factually wrong.”
A July 3 New York Daily News editorial, by Catholic Voices USA representative Melissa Moschella, also took issue with the notion that the bishops were putting politics before faith.
Moschella pointed out that the bishops showed themselves willing to criticize the Obama administration's contraception mandate, and to support the administration's position against Arizona's immigration law, on the same principled grounds derived from the Church's social teaching.
She also noted that the bishops had been “strong supporters of health care reform from the beginning,” pushing for corrective changes to the Affordable Care Act rather than a wholesale repeal.
While “skeptics” may view the bishops' religious freedom advocacy as “election-year political opportunism,” a full account of their actions shows they are “in nobody's pocket,” Moschella argued.
By Bunson’s assessment, the critics and the media – rather than the U.S. bishops – were at fault in politicizing religion.
“The bishops represent rightful authority in the Church. By wearing that down, in the public mind, they're able to reduce the effectiveness of the bishops to deal with those issues that are most pressing to the 'progressive' agenda,” the historian observed.
The end goal, he suggested, was a “reduction of the voice of Church in the public square,” particularly in areas where its teaching challenges the prevailing secular orthodoxy.
Washington D.C., Jul 10, 2012 (CNA) -
As congressional debate over the U.S. budget continues, Catholic Relief Services has stressed the need to preserve foreign aid funding, especially for those affected by HIV/AIDS in South Africa and Asia.
Kathleen Kahlau, a Washington D.C.-based adviser for the agency, encouraged Catholics to contact their state lawmakers and “give them the message: 'preserve this funding, preserve human life.'”
Kahlau was among a several speakers during a June 20 webcast hosted by Catholic Relief Services and the U.S. bishops' conference aimed at helping prevent cuts to foreign aid funding within the federal budget.
In 2003, former President George W. Bush proposed the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) which would allow faith based organizations to receive funding to provide health care in ways that are morally acceptable. In 2008 The State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill was reauthorized for another 5 years.
The legislation is expected to be up for a renewal vote before Congress breaks for elections, after they return, or could even carry over to the new congress.
“However, right now we don't see the Final Appropriations Bill FY-13 in the House or Senate coming to the floor anytime soon,” Kahlau warned.
“We would like all members of congress getting messages that foreign aid is not up for grabs and these important life-saving programs need to be supported.”
Michelle Broemmelsiek of Catholic Relief Services reported that HIV/AIDS afflicts 34 million people worldwide and continues to spread with 2.7 million newly infected every year. Over 2 million people die annually from the disease. In Zambia alone, there are nearly 10,000 deaths a month which averages out to 329 deaths a day.
Jenny Farris, a foreign service officer and former south Africa resident, also weighed in during the webcast, outlining currently available treatments.
She called anti-retro viral therapy a widely effective method in combating the condition, noting that it “slows the course of the disease in order to allow people to live relatively normal lives.”
Farris also explained that despite the popular belief that an abundance of U.S. funds are spent on foreign assistance, it in fact only comprises 1 percent of the entire federal budget.
“The programs we are focusing on is about only .5 percent of that 1 percent. Though a large amount of that does go to foreign assistance only 25-34 percent goes to the poorest of countries.”
Kahlau confirmed, however, that even this small amount of money is effective and well spent.
During her remarks, she recounted the story of a young couple in Zambia named Dannie and Christine who are both HIV positive and have lost family members to the disease.
When they married, the couple decided they wanted to have children but didn't want to pass the disease on to the child. Through proper treatments and medicine during the pregnancy, Christine successfully gave birth to a child who tested negative for HIV.
“It is possible to end the transmission of mother to child transmission to HIV through treatment, however currently today only 53 percent of the women who need treatment during their pregnancy are receiving it,” Kahlau underscored.
“We want to end the transmission from mother to child. But to do this we would need to expand that work, and that requires funding.”
Kahlau noted that a common argument among lawmakers against funding is studies which show that the number of people living with HIV/AIDS is increasing even with the funding CRS has received already.
However, what people fail to realize, she added, is that there are more people living with HIV/AIDS because less are dying from the disease.
Kahlau said that while researchers cannot cure the disease some treatments have proven affective in stopping both mother-to-child transmission and partner transmission.
“There are thousands of child-headed households and through this we can decrease the number by saving at least one parent.”
Chicago, Ill., Jul 10, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago has joined two Catholic dioceses and their charitable affiliates in a lawsuit over the federal contraception mandate, a move that one observer says demonstrates the potential societal impact of the rule.
The charitable ministry “will lose its identity as Catholic unless the HHS mandate now in force as the recent law of the land is changed,” Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago said in a July 9 statement supporting the charity's entry into a lawsuit against the federal government.
Chicago's Catholic Charities joins the Dioceses of Joliet and Springfield, and their respective Catholic Charities organizations, in challenging the Obama administration's mandate.
Formulated under the federal health care reform law, the rule requires religious employers to provide contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing drugs in employee health plans.
Catholic Charities cannot obtain an exemption from the rule because it serves Catholics and non-Catholics equally. The mandate exempts only those organizations that primarily employ and serve members of the same faith for the purpose of instilling “religious values.”
Chicago's Catholic Charities employs 2,700 staff. During 2011, their efforts provided approximately 2.5 million meals to the needy, over 450,000 nights of shelter to the homeless and displaced, and nearly 900,000 hours of service to the elderly.
According to Wall Street Journal columnist Bill McGurn, these figures show the real-life impact of the mandate. “In terms of religious liberty, the new lawsuit breaks no new legal ground. What it does is offer a window into how much the decency of daily American life depends on churches using their free-exercise rights,” McGurn wrote in a July 9 column.
At stake in the lawsuits, Cardinal George said, is the freedom of the Catholic Church and other religious groups to serve the public without violating their principles.
“This is the issue now before a court. It is also the issue before a nation that portrays itself as the 'land of the free,'” Chicago's cardinal archbishop observed.
“I am sorry that the intransigence of the Department of Health and Human Services has made it necessary to defend in court what every American could take for granted until this year,” he said.
In a July 9 announcement about the lawsuit, Chicago Catholic Charities President and CEO Monsignor Michael Boland said the loss of religious freedom is “the sole matter at hand” in the challenge to the contraception mandate.
The priest took issue with the narrow exemption and its criteria, saying the Department of Health and Human Services “fails to understand that there is no distinction between our Catholic faith and our commitment to serve the needs of all people regardless of their religion.”
“We support health care reform and efforts to expand access to health care to all Americans. But we oppose any policy that compels us to compromise our Catholic faith,” Msgr. Boland said.
He noted that the mandate's intrusion on religious groups “affects all religions and anyone of faith.”
“We must take a stand, not only on behalf of Catholic Charities, but for all faith-based organizations,” the monsignor declared. “We must protect our right to serve all the poor, not just those HHS defines for us.”
More than 50 plaintiffs, including several Catholic dioceses and their Catholic Charities affiliates, are now involved in 23 lawsuits against the contraception mandate.
Cork, Ireland, Jul 10, 2012 (CNA) - Cardinal Raymond L. Burke believes that the “excessive” use of concelebration – the practice of priests saying Mass collectively – can result in their unique role in the sacred liturgy being obscured.
“I don’t think there should be an excessive encouragement of concelebration because the norm is for the individual priest to offer the holy sacrifice of the Mass,” the head of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura told CNA July 9.
“If it is repeated too frequently, it can develop within him a sense of being another one of the participants instead of actually being the priest who is offering the Mass.”
One of the Catholic Church’s most senior American prelates spoke to CNA moments after addressing an international liturgical conference in the Irish city of Cork. The three-day event, organized by the St. Colman’s Society for Catholic Liturgy, explored the issue of “Celebrating the Eucharist: Sacrifice and Communion.”
The former Archbishop of St. Louis worried that, whereas the priest’s action is distinct, he “can seem to be participating in the Mass in the same manner as the congregation” if he concelebrates too often. “That’s the danger I see in excessive concelebration,” he said.
The cardinal’s words of caution echo comments made recently by the head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares. He told a gathering at Rome’s University of the Holy Cross on March 5 that that the “widening of the faculty to concelebrate needs to be moderated, as we can see when we read the (Second Vatican) Council texts.”
Cardinal Cañizares explained that concelebration “is an extraordinary, solemn and public rite, normally presided over by the bishop or his delegate,” surrounded by his priests and the entire community. But “the daily concelebrations of priests only, which are practiced ‘privately’…do not form part of the Latin liturgical tradition,” he said.
In a wide-ranging interview, Cardinal Burke also outlined the reasons why a priest should not ad-lib his own words or prayers during Mass, since he “is the servant of the rite” and “not the protagonist – Christ is.”
“So it is absolutely wrong for the priest to think, ‘how can I make this more interesting?’ or ‘how can I make this better?’” he said.
He also noted with approval how the 1917 Code of Canon Law – since superseded by a new code promulgated in 1983 – explicitly stated that a priest should “accurately and devoutly observe the rubrics of his liturgical books to beware lest he add other ceremonies or prayers according to his own judgment.”
“What kind of thinking is it on our part for me to think that I can improve on the liturgy that has been handed on in the Church down the centuries? This is absurd,” Cardinal Burke stated.
Similarly, the cardinal commended the 1917 Code for its clear stipulation that a priest in the state of mortal sin should refrain from celebrating Mass “without first availing himself of sacramental confession” or as soon as possible “in the absence of a confessor,” when the Mass is “a case of necessity” and he has “made an act of perfect contrition.”
“Well, simply that canon that was in the 1917 code was eliminated and I think it should be reintroduced, because the idea of worthiness pertains in a preeminent way to the priest who is offering the sacrifice,” he said.
The 64-year-old from Wisconsin now resides in Rome, where he is a close collaborator of Pope Benedict XVI. Like the present pontiff, Cardinal Burke also believes that any reform of the sacred liturgy “has to be rooted in the teaching of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council” and “properly connected to the tradition” of the Church.
That means avoiding or removing various innovations, including the regular use of “communion services” led by a layperson or religious whenever a parish is without a priest to offer Sunday Mass.
“It is not good for people to participate repeatedly in these kinds of services on a Sunday because they lose the sense that the Blessed Sacrament, Holy Communion comes from the sacrifice,” he explained.
He recalled his early years as a bishop when he insisted that parishes re-instate weekly Mass and he was told by some parishioners that they preferred “the deacon’s Mass” or “Sister’s Mass.”
The over-use of such services, he suggested, can also discourage priestly vocations, as the separation of the Eucharist “from the vocation and mission of the priest which is primarily to offer the holy Sacrifice of the Mass” means that a young man who is called to the priesthood “no longer sees before his eyes the identity of the vocation to which he is being called.” In response, vocation numbers “plummet.”
The Church’s chief justice also believes that there is a direct correlation between “the hesitation” in applying canonical penalties in recent decades and “the abuses and the violation of Church law” that have occurred in liturgical areas.
Such penalties, he explained, are “firstly medicinal,” aimed at “getting a person’s attention to the gravity of what he is doing and to call him back.”
“The penalties are needed,” he said.
“If in 20 centuries of the life of the Church there was always the need for sanctions, why in our century should we suddenly think they are not necessary? This is also absurd.”
Rome, Italy, Jul 10, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A former head of the Vatican's congregation on saints' causes says Pope Benedict XVI could beatify his predecessors Pope John Paul I and Pope Paul VI during the upcoming Year of Faith.
Although the process of beatification is “generally very complex, in this case, the phases have been moving ahead,” Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, told Italian newspaper Corriere delle Alpi June 25.
After the beatification of John Paul II in May of 2011, Pope Benedict's possible beatifications of John Paul I and Paul VI would be the first time in history that a Pope has beatified three of his predecessors.
Pope Benedict's Year of Faith is slated to begin on Oct. 11 and will serve to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council.
On July 6, Msgr. Enrico Dal Covolo – the postulator of the cause for Servant of God John Paul I's beatification – said documents for the late pontiff have been completed and will be delivered to the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato.
Monsignor Dal Covolo, who is also rector of the Lateran Pontifical University in Rome, said the document, or “positio” is divided into two volumes. The first focuses on the heroic virtues of the pontiff, and the second is an account of his life.
Although it is not yet official, the miracle that could lead to John Paul I’s beatification is the healing of Giuseppe Denora, an Italian man who was cured of a severe gastric tumor after praying to the late Pope.
The miracle attributed to the Servant of God Paul VI – who made Joseph Ratzinger a cardinal – is the healing of a baby inside its mother's womb.
Lima, Peru, Jul 10, 2012 (CNA) -
Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani of Lima has called for both sides involved in conflict over the construction of Peru’s largest mine to cease protest and reach an agreement through dialogue.
Protests against the Conga Mine in the region of Cajamarca began on June 26 and resulted in violent clashes between protestors and police, leaving five people dead and nearly twenty wounded.
Former Catholic priest Marco Arana, along with the governor of Cajamarca, Gregorio Santos, have led the demonstrations.
During his radio program Dialogue of Faith, Cardinal Cipriani praised Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos of Trujillo for his work “to seek out the truth and the dignity of the human person. I hope we can see some light after these very difficult days,” he said.
Archbishop Cabrejos has been named a mediator in the efforts to establish talks between both sides in the conflict.
“I think dialogue is needed to establish order and we need to pray to God to enlighten both sides. Let’s not make an experiment out of this that dialogue is the last word. No, the last word is truth, justice, the common good and bringing wellbeing to many people who are poverty,” Cardinal Cipriani said.
He noted that the Church teaches that democracy must be based upon values and norms that are beyond the reach of any discussions or authority.
“The rule of law, the dignity of persons and the respect for public order are above everything else. They are rights and duties that are not up for debate in any talks because they are inherent to the person,” he said.
“It is impossible to achieve peace without the truth. Personally, I see the conflict as very difficult and complex and I don’t think it’s a question of saying, ‘I hope they are lucky’; but rather it’s about saying, ‘I hope the rule of law and the respect for the law take root in our country’,” the cardinal added.
He said local officials in Cajamarca have been unjust and disrespectful of others in their approach to the conflict.
“This method that the people of Cajamarca are using is one of violence and destruction that is very familiar in our country. We need to wake up to reality and to the truth; we need to open the way to dialogue but without blackmail.”
The claim that the State does not want to listen to them “is a well planned lie,” the cardinal continued. “There are interests here not just between the two sides. I think there are many NGOs from overseas that are harming the country, and this has yet to be clarified. I think there are a number of companies that don’t what the company that is there now to the one to exploit these resources,” he said.
Cardinal Cipriani said he agreed with Peruvian President Ollanta Humala’s criticism and indignation towards those who are using the deaths of protestors and police officers to make political statements.
“I would say first, prayer; second, the truth; third, use a little bit more wisdom and common sense. But let’s not play with the country, let’s not play with poverty, let’s not play with the dead,” he added.
“The State has the duty to establish order. All dialogue is welcome, but dialogue is not an end, it is a means. We need to reach an end, which is the truth, peace and the development of the country,” the cardinal said.
Vatican City, Jul 10, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Vatican has praised the approved ordination of a Chinese bishop, who is now missing after announcing his split from the state-controlled Catholic association during his ordination.
“The ordination of the Reverend Thaddeus Ma Daqin as Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Shanghai on Saturday 7 July 2012 is encouraging and is to be welcomed,” said a July 10 Vatican communique.
During the ordination ceremony, Bishop Ma revealed that he was quitting his posts within the government-run Catholic Patriotic Association which refuses to acknowledge the authority of the Pope.
“After today’s ordination, I would devote every effort to episcopal ministry. It is inconvenient for me to serve the CPA post anymore,” he said, according to the Catholic UCANews agency which reports on the Church in Asia.
The announcement by the 44-year-old native of Shanghai was made in front of several state officials and was seen by many as a rebuke to China’s communist regime. The 1,000-strong congregation in the city’s St. Ignatius Cathedral responded with rapturous applause.
Bishop Ma, however, has not been seen in public since. Various media outlets suggest he was whisked away by state-officials following the ceremony.
UCANews reports that priests and nuns in Shanghai have since received a text message from Bishop Ma’s cellphone claiming to be sent by him.
It states that he was “mentally and physically exhausted” and needed “a break” to make “a personal retreat.” It also claims he is residing in the Sheshan seminary near Shanghai.
The mystery surrounding Bishop Ma comes on the day the Vatican formally announced the excommunication of 48-year-old Fr. Joseph Yue Fusheng following his illicit ordination as bishop of Harbin in north-east China on July 6.
“Consequently, the Holy See does not recognize him as Bishop of the Apostolic Administration of Harbin, and he lacks the authority to govern the priests and the Catholic community in the Province of Heilongjiang,” the July 10 communique reads.
The note also stipulates that those licitly ordained Catholic bishops who took part in the ordination have “exposed themselves to the sanctions laid down by the law of the Church” and must now “give an account to the Holy See of their participation in that religious ceremony.”
It commends all Chinese Catholics who “prayed and fasted for a change of heart in the Reverend Yue Fusheng” and urges them to continue to “defend and safeguard that which pertains to the doctrine and tradition of the Church.”
“Even amid the present difficulties, they look to the future with faith, comforted by the certainty that the Church is founded on the rock of Peter and his Successors.”
China has an estimated eight to twelve million Catholics, with about half of those worshiping within the Catholic Patriotic Association.