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Archive of August 20, 2012

Denver archbishop: claims Paul Ryan's budget counters Catholicism are 'unfounded'

Denver, Colo., Aug 20, 2012 (CNA) - Amid criticism of Paul Ryan’s policy proposals, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver has written a column calling for more constructive discussion.

“I cannot, nor would I, endorse him or any other candidate,” Archbishop Aquila wrote in a column published Aug. 20 on CNA. “But claims that Paul Ryan’s plan run deeply counter to Catholic social teaching are unfounded and unreasonable.”

In order to protect future generations from even greater amounts of debt than they already face, voters and politicians should approach the topic of fiscal policy with stewardship or “a Christian sense of responsibility,” the archbishop said.

“Christian stewardship cares for the poor by prudently planning-responsibly spending what is in the realm of the possible, while recognizing the limitations of our resources,” he wrote.

Therefore, everyone should consider the topic of public policy with an emphasis on how current decisions will impact the future of America, he said.

“We should have a serious debate about whether Paul Ryan’s plans- and those of his political opponents- serve our national purpose. We should discuss seriously whether they utilize just means. But we should also discuss whether his plans, and those of his opponents, prudently steward the resources we have.”

To read the full column, visit www.catholicnewsagency.com/column.php?n=2268.

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St. Augustine premieres on the big screen

Denver, Colo., Aug 20, 2012 (CNA) - “Restless Heart,” a feature film about the famous theologian St. Augustine of Hippo, is now available for sponsored theatrical screenings across the U.S.

Ignatius Press, the film’s American distributor, is encouraging individuals, parishes, church groups or other organizations to bring the film to their towns.

Interested groups and individuals should work with local theaters and other venues to book a screen. Ignatius Press said it will provide a copy of the film and a complete promotional kit for “an affordable fee.”

“We are thrilled to bring ‘Restless Heart’ to the big screen,” said Mark Brumley, president of the film’s U.S. distributor Ignatius Press.

He said St. Augustine’s story is “inspiring and compelling,” and his writings are “among the most respected in the world even today.”

The $20-million movie was directed by Christian Duguay. It stars Alessandro Preziosi as Augustine.

St. Augustine was the author of many excellent homilies and books, including his “Confessions,” a famous account of his childhood and his life as a scholar and bishop in the fourth century Roman Empire. His soul-searching descriptions of his lamented sins and his conversion to Christianity have inspired others throughout the centuries.

Brumley said the movie is “the most moving story of conversion and reconciliation ever brought to the big screen.”

The Catholic marketing firm The Maximus Group is arranging the screenings, and those interested in sponsoring screenings should contact them.

Kevin Wandra, a media relations specialist at The Maximus Group, told CNA that the movie will not have a theatrical release. However, the sponsorship program will allow the movie to be shown in theaters from Aug. 28 until early November.

For more information, visit: http://www.restlessheartfilm.com/movie-events.php

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Argentinean bishop condemns euthanasia for patient in coma

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishop Virginio Bressanelli of Neuquen, Argentina has called for the life of 45-year-old Marcelo Diez, who has been in a coma since a 1994 traffic accident, to be spared.

“We are dealing with the mystery of the life of a brother over which no third party can claim ownership or absolute authority,” the bishop said in an Aug. 15 statement.  

“From a human point of view, it is a life that we must respect, care for and sustain until his condition is reversed, as his parents were hoping, or until his journey comes to a natural end.”

Bishop Bressanelli made his statement in response to efforts by local attorney José Gerez, on behalf of Diez's sisters, to have the patient's hydration and nutrition removed.

He noted that although Diez is in a persistent coma, he is in stable physical health.  

“He is not connected to anything. He is not terminally ill. He is not receiving any kind of therapy, and therefore he is not receiving extraordinary treatment that is artificially prolonging his life. He does not show signs of experiencing any physical, psychological or spiritual suffering either.”

“The reactions can be seen on his face, which lights up when he hears music or appears tired when something fatigues him,” he added.

For this reason, “To withdraw the care is receiving today would be to condemn him to an atrocious death. It would constitute euthanasia by omission and the crime of abandonment,” the bishop said.

“As men and women who love life and believe in the God of life, we should recognize that this is a mystery that transcends us. Sometimes there are situations we cannot control or address with solutions or significant improvements,” he noted.  

In such cases, the appropriate response is to “renew our capacity to love, humbly give up our desire for omnipotence and do whatever we can for the one who is in need, trusting in the providence of God our Father, who in these cases, is carrying out a plan of love for the good of many,” Bishop Bressanelli said.

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Spanish Catholic justice fends off calls to recuse himself in abortion case

Madrid, Spain, Aug 20, 2012 (CNA) - Justice Andres Ollero of Spain's Constitutional Court, who will write the ruling on a case challenging the country's 2010 abortion law, has warded off calls to recuse himself because he is Catholic.

“It makes no sense to think that the justices come to the (court) with preconceived prescriptions,” Justice Ollero said in an Aug. 16 article published by the ABC newspaper.

Justice Ollero underscored that as a judge, he has taken an oath to carry out his office “respecting a strict constitutional-juridical methodology, which differs from that of moral controversies or political debates.”

He said it would be an “insult” to claim that justices who are believers are incapable of finding rational arguments to establish the unconstitutionality of a law.

Because of its defense of basic human values, Catholicism is “a very reasonable religion,” he added.  To discredit those who have a different opinion by claiming they have “pre-constitutional ideas” is “political irrationality.”

Ollero said the justice who writes the upcoming ruling on abortion only has one vote and is speaking for the majority on the court.  

“If his arguments do not convince the majority, he should chose to either make the corrections that do reflect the opinion of the majority, or not write the opinion, which would then be passed on to another justice without any problem.”

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Pope explores man's connection to the Infinite

Rimini, Italy, Aug 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict welcomed the 33rd Rimini Meeting, an annual gathering organized by the lay Catholic movement Communion and Liberation, by examining mankind's relation to the infinite.

“To discuss the subject of man and his yearning for the infinite means first and foremost recognizing his constitutive relationship with the Creator. Man is a creature of God,” the Pope said in a letter for the start of the Aug. 19-25 gathering.

“Today,” he said, “this word – creature– seems to be out of fashion: it would be more likely to think of man as a self-fulfilled being and master of his own destiny.”

But this worldview still means that man “attempts to grasp the Infinite.” He does so by choosing “incorrect methods” such as “drugs, disordered sexuality, technologies that devour man, success at any price and with misleading forms of religiosity,” Pope Benedict observed.

Communion and Liberation grew out of the teaching methods of its Italian founder Father Luigi Giussani. As a high school teacher in 1950s Milan, he wanted to help young people live out their Catholic faith in everyday life. The group that emerged around him became known as “Communion and Liberation.”

Since 1980 the movement has held an annual “Meeting for the Friendship among Peoples” in the Italian seaside resort of Rimini. The gathering is described as “an encounter among persons of different faiths and cultures” where “peace, socialization, and a friendship among peoples may be established.”

This year’s event will bring over 800,000 visitors from more than 20 nations to the Rimini Fiera conference center to enjoy seminars, guest speakers, exhibitions, cinema, theatre, music and sporting events.

Pope Benedict told the conference that despite the “original sin” of our first parents, which ruptured the human race’s relationship with God, every person still has “an aching desire to reconcile this relationship, resembling the signature sealed with fire in man’s soul and his flesh by the Creator himself.”

This instinct is summed up, he suggested, in Psalm 63 where the author pleads, “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.”

“Not only my soul but every fiber of my flesh is made to encounter its peace and its fulfillment in God,” said the Pope, reflecting upon the Old Testament text.

“This tension is impossible to eliminate from the heart of man: even when one rejects or denies God, the thirst for the infinite that inhabits man does not melt away,” he said.

It is this hard-wired instinct, the Pope explained, that can lead some to mistakenly pursue “an arduous and sterile search for ‘false infinites’” that only satisfy the soul for “an instant” because they attempt to “replace the real thirst for the true Infinite.”

Pope Benedict told participants that truly recognizing we are “made for the Infinite” means pursuing “a journey of purification in order to leave the ‘false infinities’ behind.” This requires a “conversion of the heart and the mind” to uproot all those promises of the infinite “that are false and seduce man, rendering him a slave.”

Once a person undergoes this conversion, he wrote in his letter, then they are able to recognize they are “a creature, dependent on God,” which is accompanied by the “joyful discovery” that they are “children of God” and have “the possibility of a completely free and fulfilled life.”

How, though, can people bridge the gap between the finite and infinite? The Pope said that this question leads us “straight to the core of Christianity” – the incarnation of Jesus Christ.

“Ever since the Incarnation, from the moment when the Word became flesh, the overwhelming gap between finiteness and infiniteness vanished; the eternal and infinite God left His Heaven and entered time.”

It is then, said the Pope, that each person can discover “the truest dimension of human existence” as continually taught by the Father Giussani – “life as vocation.”

 

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Scottish cardinal ends dialogue with government over 'gay marriage'

Edinburgh, Scotland, Aug 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Keith P. O’Brien has broken-off direct talks with the Scottish government in protest over their decision to back “same-sex marriage.”

“The Cardinal wants to maintain a dialogue with the Scottish government but that can be difficult when you feel that everything you have had to say, to date at least, has been completely ignored,” Peter Kearney, spokesman for Cardinal O’Brien, told CNA Aug. 20.

The cardinal’s actions follow the Scottish government’s move last month to legislate for “same-sex marriage,” despite nearly two-thirds of those who responded to their official consultation being against the initiative. In total, 64 percent of the 77,508 who replied said they did not want marriage redefined.

Meanwhile, Cardinal O’Brien’s subsequent call for a referendum on the issue was also quickly dismissed by the Edinburgh administration. He has now told the Scottish government that any future discussions on the matter should take place between officials.

“While this is an honest disagreement over policy, on a personal level relations between the First Minister and the Cardinal are extremely good,” said a spokesman for Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond. The spokesman also confirmed that the two men spoke over the phone this past weekend and added that “Mr. Salmond holds the Cardinal in the highest regard and will always do so.”

In June, leading Scottish lawyer Aidan O’Neill warned that “same-sex marriage” legislation will radically undermine religious liberty in Scotland.

He predicted that a change in the law could see employees sacked for opposing “same-sex marriage,” ministers and priests sued for refusing to allow “wedding” ceremonies in their churches, school children forced to attend homosexual history lessons and couples rejected as foster parents if they oppose the new legislation.

The Scottish government’s decision comes as the United Kingdom’s government, led by Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, has just concluded its consultation on the same issue. It has already promised to legislate for “same-sex marriage” in England and Wales by 2015.

 

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Survey reveals increasing hostility in US towards religion

Washington D.C., Aug 20, 2012 (CNA) - A report examining court cases from recent years has found that hostility towards religion has grown to unprecedented levels in the United States.

The newly-updated Survey of Religious Hostility in America serves as “a testament to the radical shift in our culture’s worldview” on religion, said Kelly Shackelford, president of Liberty Institute, and Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council.

On Aug. 20, Shackelford and Perkins announced the release of the updated analysis, describing “more than 600 recent examples of religious hostility” in the U.S., most occurring in the last decade.

The survey arose out of Shackelford’s 2004 testimony before the U.S. Senate on the rise in religious hostility in the U.S. Some members of the Senate claimed that the examples given were “simply isolated incidents.” In response, the report was developed, documenting the “very real problem” that the issue poses.

The updated survey reveals that eight years later, “hostility against religious liberty has reached an all-time high,” said Perkins and Shackelford.

The report observed a “new front” of attacks against churches and religious ministries in recent years.

Five years ago, it said, it would have been “unthinkable” for the federal government to claim that it could “tell churches and synagogues which pastors and rabbis it can hire and fire.”

Yet this was the argument made by the U.S. Department of Justice in the recent Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC case, in which the federal government fought against the “ministerial exception” that allows churches to select their leaders without government interference, it said.

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled against the Justice Department and defended ministerial exception in January.

The survey also documented an “explosion” within the last decade of “cases involving local governments discriminating against churches, particularly in the local governments’ use of zoning laws and granting of permits.”

In one case, a Texas law required all seminaries to receive “state approval of their curriculum, board members, and professors.”

Furthermore, the report documented increasing attacks on religious freedom in the public sphere, pushing “the boundaries of religious hostility” to new limits.   

In one instance, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs banned funerals at national cemeteries from including religious content, even if the grieving family wanted the ceremony to include references to God.

In addition, multiple challenges have been brought against veterans’ memorials containing crosses and displays of the Ten Commandments at state courthouses and capitols.  

The survey observed the shift in attitude towards these monuments, pointing out that even a decade ago, veterans’ memorials in the shape of a cross “were widely accepted as fitting symbols of the sacrifices made by so many for this country.”

It also noted several cases challenging prayer to open legislative assemblies, despite the fact that Congress has opened with prayer since the nation’s beginning.

One case showed how senior citizens at an elderly center in Balch Springs, Texas, were told that they could not pray over their meals because “religion is banned in public buildings.” City officials told the senior citizens that praying over government-funded food violated the “separation of church and state” and might result in the meals being taken away from them.

The report also noted the “alarming frequency” of attacks on religious liberty within schools. These cases, which often involve school officials preventing parents, teachers or students from speaking about their faith, are frequently the result of “misinformation” and threats of lawsuits from “secularist organizations,” it said.  

In one case, a federal judge threatened a high school valedictorian with “incarceration” if she did not remove references to Jesus from her graduation speech. In another, a student was asked “what Easter meant to her” and told that she could not say “Jesus.”

Another instance documented a public school district in Greenville, Texas, which told a woman that she could only have an assistant principal position if she took her children out of a private Christian school.

The survey also found multiple instances of schools banning Christmas cards and gifts with religious content.

Although these cases indicate a significant increase in religious hostility in the U.S., the report’s authors said, those who stand up for religious freedom “are winning” in court.

“As dark as this survey is, there is much light,” they noted.

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