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Archive of August 17, 2012

Oregon priest charged with sexual abuse of minor

Portland, Ore., Aug 17, 2012 (CNA) - A priest in the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., has been arrested and is facing accusations of sexually abusing a young boy, stunning the local community.

“This is a very tragic and sad situation for all involved,” said Bud Bunce, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Portland.

Bunce told CNA on Aug. 16 that the archdiocese is asking for prayers for everyone affected by the incident and for all parishioners during this difficult time.

Fr. Angel Perez, the 46-year-old pastor of St. Luke Catholic Church in Woodburn, Ore. was arrested on Aug.13 following a complaint to police about alleged inappropriate contact early that morning.

Court documents indicated that the alleged victim, a 12-year-old boy whose identity has not been made public, said that he had been spending the night at the priest’s home when the incident occurred.

According to reports, the boy told his family members that Fr. Perez gave him beer and touched him inappropriately. He also said that the priest touched himself inappropriately and possibly took pictures with a cell phone camera.

The pastor is now faced with charges of sexual abuse, using a child in a display of sexually explicit conduct and providing alcohol to a minor.

Bunce said that many parishioners were stunned by the news, and some are continuing to show support for Fr. Perez.

The assistant parochial vicar will take over celebrating Mass and other sacraments at the parish, and an additional priest will be sent to help with the weekend schedule until future arrangements can be made, he added.

Born in Jalisco, Mexico, Fr. Perez was ordained in 2002 as the first priest of Mexican descent in the Archdiocese of Portland. He has served since 2008 as the pastor of St. Luke Parish, where he regularly draws large crowds at the weekly Spanish-language Mass.

Some 50 supporters filled the courtroom on August 15 as the pastor briefly appeared.

In interviews with the local media, parishioners described Fr. Perez as a “strict” and “respectful” priest who was very attentive to the people’s needs, always willing to do hospital visits and celebrate the sacraments.

They said that he had not shown signs of inappropriate behavior, but had united the Spanish and English-speaking populations within the community and helped the parish flourish.

Monsignor Richard Paperini, who was president of Mount Angel Seminary during Fr. Perez's final year there, told the Oregonian that he was “in absolute shock” over the news.

He explained that throughout a careful screening process, Fr. Perez had never displayed “any tendency toward children in an inappropriate way.”

The Oregonian said that such cases against priests in the state are rare and cited a 1983 incident as “the first and only time a Catholic priest has faced criminal charges in Oregon.”

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Lay missionaries to the poor open new Denver headquarters

Denver, Colo., Aug 17, 2012 (CNA) - Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver blessed and inaugurated the new Denver headquarters for Christ in the City, a missionary organization for college-aged young people who serve the poor and homeless.

“You are serving the poor. You are being like Christ.” Archbishop Aquila told the lay missionaries, urging them to remember that their sacrifices “must be rooted in love.”

Christ in the City brings together 16 new missionaries, ages 19 to 28, who have made a one semester or one year service commitment. Alongside their work serving the community, they receive spiritual formation and educational training.

The program began in 2009 under the leadership of former Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput and Catholic Charities. It is now run by the Christian Life Movement at Seton House, a historic building on the former campus of Cathedral High School.

Archbishop Aquila told CNA that Christ in the City is a “tremendous witness” for living the Gospel and bringing it to Denver.

“What I love about the young people is their willingness to sacrifice. They come from all over. And all of them have, in their hearts, a love for Christ and a love for the Church,” he said.

Logan Crotty of Maplewood, Minn. is one of the new missionaries.

Crotty, a recent graduate of the University of St. Thomas, said that she applied to Christ in the City after she considered becoming a teacher in the Teach for America program.

“I was struggling to find satisfaction with some of the philosophies of the organization,” she said. “I was wanting to feed souls, rather than just minds.”

She found what she wanted in Christ and the City during her week-long visit this summer.

Crotty, who speaks Spanish, will work in Hispanic ministries at Denver’s Holy Name Parish and at the Father Ed Judy House, which serves women with children who are homeless or are victims of domestic violence.

Several community and business leaders attended the blessing of the Seton House, a landmark three-story building built in the style of the Spanish Renaissance Revival.

From 1990 to 2009, the location served as a home for Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. The sisters provided housing and community for up to a dozen AIDS patients at a time, mostly homeless men, before becoming a shelter for homeless women.

Archbishop Aquila and the missionaries are hopeful about the location’s potential.

“I’m so excited about the community here,” Logan said. “Having this space is such a blessing. We’ve already felt how it’s bringing us together not only in recreation and fellowship but in prayer.”

Mark Bauman, Chairman of the Board of Directors for Christ in the City,  believes that Seton House is ideal for the organization’s mission.

“Being close to the people we serve makes it that much easier to access them and give them the love and support they need,” he said.

Christ in the City missionaries were previously housed at different locations, but Seton House brings them together in one place.

“Here we’ll be under one roof. We’ll be praying together, meeting together, eating together,” Bauman said. “That sense of community is very important. You need that sense of community to strengthen you to go out and give to others.”

Missionaries from the previous year are helping form and train the newest members.

Archbishop Aquila said the missionaries’ presence at Seton House is “a tremendous sign of hope.” He stressed the importance of beginning outreach to those in need with “the love of God.”

“We must be first rooted in the love of God and the love of Jesus Christ,” he said. “Whether it is a poor man, a poor woman, a poor child, it is Christ that we are serving.”

He said Christ in the City missionaries “continue the witness that Bl. Teresa of Calcutta began here.”

In the prayer blessing the buildings, he asked the missionaries to “remember the intercession of all those who have gone before us.”

He said Seton House will be “a house where the love of Christ will bring together those who in charity will serve the poor of our city, relying on the goodness of God.”

The website for Christ in the City is http://christinthecitymissionaries.com.

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Atlanta archdiocese receives 'Gone with the Wind' bequest

Atlanta, Ga., Aug 17, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The estate of a nephew of Margaret Mitchell has donated half of the trademark and literary rights to her famous Civil War novel “Gone with the Wind” to the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

Joseph Mitchell, the son of Margaret’s brother Stephens, died in October 2011 at the age of 76. The novel rights are part of a multi-million dollar bequest to the archdiocese.

“The Archdiocese of Atlanta has been blessed with a generous gift through the kindness of Joe Mitchell,” Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta said Aug. 16. “This gift is a reservoir of the funds earned through the genius of Margaret Mitchell and her depiction of the harsh struggles of Southern life during and after the Civil War.

“The Mitchell family has a proud Catholic legacy, and this gift will allow that legacy and that pride to be shared with many others in the archdiocese.”

“Gone With the Wind,” published in 1936, sold two million copies by 1939 and continues to sell thousands of copies a year in the U.S. The movie rights were sold in 1939.

Joseph Mitchell was the last living close relative of Margaret. He and his brother Eugene inherited a trust that gave each man a half share in the rights to their aunt’s famous novel.

Joseph was a member of the Cathedral of Christ the King Parish, the archdiocese said. He asked that part of his donation help the cathedral.

Archbishop Gregory has designated $7.5 million of the bequest be given to the cathedral’s building fund. He has assigned $1.5 million to Catholic Charities Atlanta for immediate use. Another $2 million will create an endowment fund for the long-term needs of the agency.

Joseph Krygiel, the CEO of Catholic Charities, said the agency is “extremely grateful” for the gift. He said the donation will allow Catholic Charities to expand services to new communities throughout North Georgia.

Funds will also help modernize the agency’s database system, and replace its aging trucks and vans for its refugee program.

“We’ll be in a position to purchase some equipment we desperately need for the last few years,” Krygiel said.

Over $1 million of the Mitchell bequest will go to an endowment fund to provide $10,000 gifts to each parish, mission and Catholic school of the archdiocese through the Catholic Foundation of North Georgia.

Another $150,000 will supply the archdiocese’s Deacons’ Assistance Fund. Of this, $100,000 will be used for a challenge grant to match any fund donations made by May 31, 2013.

The bequest’s other donations to the archdiocese include a collection of autographed “Gone with the Wind” first editions published in various languages and an unpublished history of the Mitchell family handwritten by Margaret’s father Eugene Muse Mitchell.

The estate also gave Joseph Mitchell’s home on Atlanta’s Habersham Road to the archdiocese.

Deacon Steve Swope is managing the transition of the bequest on behalf of Archbishop Gregory.

“It is a magnificent gift,” he said.

He said the archdiocese wants to continue to make the book available to “the widest possible audience” in a way that is “respectful and dignified.”

Archbishop Gregory said each parish and school of the archdiocese will share the benefits of the gift.

“We should all give thanks for Joe’s kindness and remember all of the Mitchell family in our prayers,” he said.

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Obama's Catholic supporters drop pro-life argument in 2012 appeal

Washington D.C., Aug 17, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholics for Obama has launched its 2012 initiative with a focus on economic issues, in an apparent shift from its 2008 presentation of the presidential candidate as “pro-life.”

“We endorse the President because of his tireless focus on economic security for middle-class families,” the national co-chairs of Catholics for Obama wrote in an Aug. 13 letter, kicking off their effort to target a key voting bloc in the closely contested election.

Proclaiming their commitment “to our faith and our country,” the 21 signers devoted much of their letter to jobs and the economy, along with a variety of foreign policy items which have been seldom-mentioned in the presidential campaign.

A brief mention was made of the president's health care law, which has created a major controversy with the nation's Catholic bishops after it led to the formulation of a rule requiring insurance coverage of contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing drugs.

The letter cited the Catholic teaching “that every human being is made in the image of God,” as a warning against Republican policies that the signers said “would shred our nation’s compassionate safety net” by “gutting” social assistance programs.

A nuclear arms reduction treaty signed by the president was described as a “a priority for Catholic bishops around the world,” said to be “moving us closer to a world with no nuclear weapons.”

President Obama was also praised for concluding the Iraq war, and “working to bring our troops home from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.”

The focus on economic issues and foreign policy items contrasts with Catholics for Obama's 2008 effort, during which time its website declared: “Is Barack Obama Really Pro-Life? The answer is 'yes.'”

During that campaign, Catholics for Obama reached out to Church members with the slogan: “The most positive pro-life stance we can take may be pro-Obama.” The campaign material argued that Obama would reduce abortions though“anti-poverty programs,” “day care” and “job training.”

In contrast, Monday's letter from the national co-chairs did not directly mention abortion, though the president's “support for pregnant women and the Adoption Tax Credit” were briefly cited alongside his “pursuit of immigration reform.”

Although his administration's contraception mandate has been criticized as a threat to religious charities, the co-chairs of Catholics for Obama asserted that the president “understands Catholics and our values, because he understands the importance of an active faith in pursuit of the common good.”

Catholic voters, they suggested, should regard the election as “a make-or-break moment for the middle-class” and for the country.

According to the co-chairs, the president's “record, his character, and his values make the choice in this election clear.”

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Two young Cuban converts ordained as priests

Havana, Cuba, Aug 17, 2012 (CNA) - The Diocese of Santa Clara, Cuba now has two new priests who both converted to Catholicism as teens, despite anti-Christian efforts launched by the country's communist regime in the 1950s.

Fathers Neldo Jose Hernandez Alonso and Maykel Aguila Moya – both 33-years-old – were raised in families where the faith was not practiced due to social pressure and the risk involved with being a Catholic in Cuba.

“I was born into a family with excellent human values but not those based on the Christian faith and values, which are really the most important ones,” said Father Maykel Aguila Moya.

“Religious practice in my family was unfortunately forgotten because of the lack of practice, because of social pressure or fear.”

The Bishops' Conference of Cuba reported that Bishop Marcelo Gonzalez Amador of Santa Clara presided at the Aug. 11 ordination. He thanked God for the new priests and their families and the Christian communities for accompanying them in their vocations.

He also reminded the new priests that the priesthood is a great gift that demands vocation and fidelity to Christ, to the bishop and to the community they serve.

In a story published in 2009 by the blog Creerencuba.org, then-seminarian Maykel said that unlike his brother, he was not baptized as an infant because “expressing certain religious beliefs could endanger us in society.”

“As a child my mother went to church and received the sacraments of Christian initiation, but when things began to change, she slowly began to forget about her faith.  

As a child I always wondered why the kids who went to church were considered different at school; and yet, to me they were the best students and the most educated.”

However, when he was 13-years-old, his father died and he began to ask questions  “about human existence and about life after death.”

“Some friends invited me to go to church and...after that my life changed, I began to know who Jesus of Nazareth was,” Maykel said.

“I was just like any other young person, with my dreams and hopes. I have had jobs and have done without like every other Cuban, but with the difference that I know that I have a God who I can trust, and with Him I should not fear nothing or nobody, as He is always with me,” he said.

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Spanish swimmer dedicates Olympic medals to Virgin Mary

Barcelona, Spain, Aug 17, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Spanish swimmer Mireia Belmonte offered her two silver medals from the London 2012 Olympic Games to Our Lady of Monserrat in Barcelona.

The 21-year-old – who won silver in the 800 meter free-style and the 200 meter butterfly – posed for a picture before the image of Our Lady of Monserrat and posted the photo on her Twitter account, which has grown from 7,000 followers to 56,000.

In an Aug. 4 press conference, Belmonte, the only Spanish swimmer to win two medals in London, said both were of “equal value” to her.  

“One cost a little bit more effort than the other because it was a longer race,” she recalled. “But all of my rivals were very tough and before it starts you don’t know what is going to happen because everyone is very strong.”

Belmonte trains almost nine hours a day and said she plans to work hard to prepare for the world championships next year.

“I have never participated in such an important international competition here at home, and plus my family will be able to be there, since this time they couldn’t make it,” she added.

The swimmer was born in Badalona, Spain, in 1990. She began swimming at the age of four at the recommendation of doctors to help correct her sclerosis.

In 2007 she became the world champion in 400 meter free-style and the 400 meter medley, and she also won both races in the European Juniors Championship.

Belmonte told Europa Press she was not surprised by U.S. swimmer Katie Ledecky’s gold medal victory in the 800-meter free-style, as American swimmers are more accustomed to competing before large crowds and under greater pressure.

Fifteen-year-old Ledecky also witnessed to her faith at the Olympics, saying she prays the Hail Mary before each race.

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Pope sends heartfelt condolences for Ethiopian patriarch's passing

Vatican City, Aug 17, 2012 (CNA) - The death of the head of the Ethiopian Church has garnered sympathy and sadness from Pope Benedict XVI, who praised the patriarch's ecumenical efforts.

His Holiness Abuna Paulos, who served as the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church for two decades, died at the age of 76 after battling a long illness.

In an Aug. 17 telegram, Pope Benedict addressed the clergy, religious and faithful of the Ethiopian Church, saying that he learned of their leader's passing “with great sadness.”

Pope Benedict recalled the patriarch's trips to the Vatican “with satisfaction,” especially his 2009 visit when he delivered an address to the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops.

“I am also grateful for his firm commitment to promoting greater unity through dialogue and cooperation between the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church,” Pope Benedict said.

In 1974, under Ethiopia’s Derg regime, Patriarch Paulos was arrested before he sought refuge in the U.S., where he remained until 1992.

In 2000, the United Nations refugee agency awarded him a Nansen Medal for his work in conflict resolution and humanitarian aid during the Ethiopia-Eritrea border war which ended that same year.

Approximately two-thirds of Ethiopia’s 83 million person population belongs to the Ethiopian Church.

It is widely held that in the second century, St. Frumentius, a Roman citizen from what is now modern day Lebanon, was the first Christian to evangelize Ethiopia.

As a result, the man who would become Emperor Ezana converted and introduced Christianity as the state religion during his reign.

During its early years, the church was deeply committed to the understanding of Christ's full humanity and divinity and took its name “Tawahedo” from the word meaning “unified.”

The Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church is one of the six ancient churches that make up the Oriental Orthodox churches.

 

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Paul Ryan urges Catholics to act before religious freedoms erode

Washington D.C., Aug 17, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Presumptive Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan says Catholics must act now to protect their right to religious freedom from being diminished in American society.

“This is a time where people of all faiths – especially Catholics – have to stand up and speak for our rights,” he said. “And if we do, we will rekindle civil society.”

In an Aug. 17 conference call organized by the online fundraising group Catholics2012.org, Rep. Ryan (R-Wis.) said that he tries to apply the teachings of his Catholic faith to his work. 

“I’m proud to acknowledge that it’s why I do what I do,” he said.

The vice presidential candidate also discussed religious liberty concerns that have taken center stage in the Catholic community over the last several months.

The concerns center around a federal mandate that requires most employers to offer health insurance plans that offer contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences.

The mandate has drawn criticism from groups representing a wide variety of religious and political backgrounds. It is currently the subject of numerous lawsuits throughout the country.

Critics of the mandate have said that it infringes upon religious freedom and could force Catholic hospitals, schools and charitable institutions to shut down rather than violate their sincerely-held religious convictions.

Ryan warned that this “assault on our religious liberties” constitutes “a serious threat to all peoples of faith.”

“It is a violation of the First Amendment of our bill of rights,” he said.

The vice presidential contender cautioned that the philosophy behind such actions “seeks to displace civil society” and “crowd out our social mediating institutions,” such as churches, charities and hospitals.

These are “groups that connect the person to the community,” he explained, and they play a role in implementing the principles of subsidiarity, solidarity and the preferential option for the poor that should be practiced in civil society.

Ryan said that he “shudder(s) to think what the world could look like” if President Obama is re-elected and his administration is able to continue eroding religious liberty.

There is a need for practicing Catholics to “get the word out” on these important issues, he said.

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), who is also Catholic, warned that the mandate presents “an unprecedented form of government coercion.”

“It is a different worldview that is operative,” he stated.

Following the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Fortenberry introduced the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act in the House of Representatives to preserve the conscience rights of employers and health care providers across the country.

He explained that the bill simply restates “a principle that has been operative in our health care system” for many years.

However, despite initially gaining momentum, including the support of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and more than half of the U.S. House, the legislation has stalled in Congress. 

Fortenberry emphasized the importance of fighting the mandate in order to protect America’s fundamental freedoms.

“No American should be forced to choose between their faith and their job,” he said. “No one should be forced to choose between their conscience and their livelihood.”

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