Archive of September 26, 2012

Philadelphia parish closing because of low attendance, safety issues

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 26, 2012 (CNA) - Archbishop Charles J. Chaput has approved the closure of a Philadelphia parish due to low Mass attendance and a church building whose physical condition creates “safety issues.”

The archbishop announced the closure of Ascension of Our Lord Parish, located in the Harrowgate section of northeast Philadelphia, on Sept. 25. The closure is effective Oct. 1.

“Due to serious issues with the physical condition of the Ascension of Our Lord church building, it had not been utilized for quite some time,” the Philadelphia archdiocese said. “Masses were being celebrated in the parish rectory and the former school building due to safety issues with the church building and low Mass attendance.”

The necessary physical improvements have an estimated cost of $3 million.

Parishioners were informed of the closure through announcements at weekend Masses.

The parish school closed in 2011.

Former parishioners can attend the church of Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish, which is less than one mile away, or the church of Holy Innocents Parish, which is about 1.7 miles away. The parishes will divide responsibility for the former parish’s assets, debts, buildings and sacramental records.

Archbishop Chaput closed the parish at the recommendation of the Archdiocesan Strategic Planning Committee, which is examining all 257 parishes of the archdiocese to evaluate their viability.

The closure of Ascension of Our Lord parish is part of ongoing restructuring that began in 2011. The archdiocese said the restructuring will “ultimately strengthen parish communities” and position them for “future growth and sustainability.”

The archdiocese hopes that the restructuring will result in “revitalized parishes” that can better meet the spiritual and pastoral needs of the future.

More planning committee announcements will be made in spring 2013 and 2014.

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Evangelization synod participants preview their roles

Denver, Colo., Sep 26, 2012 (CNA) - U.S. appointees to the upcoming bishops’ synod on the New Evangelization say the event will help advance evangelization in the world despite contemporary challenges.

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles said the synod is especially important because “each of us is called by our baptism to tell the world about Jesus and about the joy of believing in him.”

“Jesus is the answer to every question in every human heart, yet communicating this simple but profound truth in today’s world can often be a challenging task,” said Archbishop Gomez, the only U.S. bishop appointed to the synod’s Thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly.

The synod’s general assembly will gather together about 200 bishops at the Vatican Oct. 7-28 to consult with the Pope. The synod’s working document stresses the need for “new tools and new forms of expression to make the Word of God more understandable in the life of modern man.”

Archbishop Gomez said Sept. 20 he was “grateful and humbled” that Pope Benedict XVI selected him to attend the general assembly. He said his appointment signaled the significance of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in promoting the New Evangelization.

With Pope Benedict’s approval, synod secretary general Archbishop Nikola Eterovic has appointed several U.S. experts and auditors to serve as consultants and observers during the event, whose theme is “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.”

The auditors include Curtis Martin, founder and president of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students.

“We need to know Christ, we need to be in a relationship with him and talking with him,” he told CNA Sept. 24. “It’s when people are in an intimate relationship with God that they will take on the role of evangelizing and renewing the culture.”

He said it is a “tremendous honor” and a “real thrill” to be so close to Pope Benedict and “some of the best leaders in the Church.”

Martin said he hopes his contribution to the synod will be to emphasize “the centrality of the evangelization of the individual person” as the foundation for evangelizing cultures.

Edward Peters, a canon law professor at the Sacred Heart Major Seminary of Detroit, said he is “delighted” and “more than a little bit humbled” to be named an expert to the synod.

He said several of the appointed experts are “clergy and laity of great wisdom and experience.”

“I have no doubt that I will learn much more than I teach in such an assembly,” he said.

Peters said he thinks he brings a “good awareness” of canon law’s potential for service in the Church, and also awareness of its limitations.

“The New Evangelization will rely in part on sound ecclesial institutions for its implementation,” he said, explaining that he will advise the synod’s bishops on what canonical structures “best serve the needs of the Church today.”

Synod experts can launch an intervention, which is a short statement of their position on the topic up for discussion at the synod’s meetings. Under Pope Benedict, auditors are sometimes given an opportunity to weigh-in as well.

Other synod experts from the U.S. include Sr. Sara Butler, M.S.B.T., professor at St. Mary of the Lake University in Mundelein and a member of the International Theological Commission; Fr. Jeremy Driscoll, O.S.B., professor at Rome’s St. Anselm Pontifical Athenaeum and liturgy professor at the Mount Angel Seminary in St. Benedict, Oregon; Ralph Martin, director of graduate theological programs in the new evangelization at Detroit’s Sacred Heart Seminary; and Sr. Paula Jean Miller, F.S.E., theology professor at the University of St. Thomas in Houston.

Auditors include Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus; Marylee J. Meehan, president of the International Catholic Committee of Nurses and Medico-Social Assistants; Peter Murphy, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Evangelization and Catechesis; and Sr. Mary Lou Wirtz, F.C.J.M, president of the International Union of Superiors General.

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The liturgy raises hearts to God like no other prayer, Pope says

Vatican City, Sep 26, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict says that the public prayer of the Church, known as the liturgy, is a wonderful school of prayer which raises the human heart to God like no other form of worship. 

“It is in the liturgy that we ‘lift up our hearts,’ opening ourselves to the word of God as we gather with our brethren in a prayer which rises within us, and which is directed to the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit,” the Pope said at his Sept. 26 general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

“As the Second Vatican Council teaches, it is by means of the liturgy that Christ our Redeemer and High Priest continues the work of our redemption in, with, and through his Church. This is the great marvel of the liturgy: God acts, while we are caught up in his action,” the Pope said.

He offered his reflections as part of an ongoing weekly exploration of the role of prayer in the story of salvation.

Pope Benedict explained to the estimated 10,000 pilgrims present that the “liturgy” comes from the Greek meaning “work done by the people and for the people.”

The people in question are the “new People of God, brought into being by Christ” through his passion, death and resurrection. This means it is a people “which does not exist by itself and which is not bound by blood, territory or country, but is brought into being through the Paschal Mystery,” the Pope noted.

It was almost a “chance occurrence,” he said, that the first document approved by the Second Vatican Council was the constitution on the sacred liturgy, “Sacrosanctum Concilium.”

“Among the many projects, the text on the sacred liturgy seemed to be the least controversial, and, for this reason, is seen as an exercise in the methodology of conciliar work,” he recalled. As a young priest and academic, Pope Benedict attended the Second Vatican Council as the chief theological advisor or “peritus” to Cardinal Joseph Frings of Cologne.

“But without a doubt,” the Pope stated, “what at first glance seemed a chance occurrence, proved to be the right choice, starting from the hierarchy of themes and most important tasks of the Church.”

“Where God’s gaze is not decisive,” he said, “everything else loses its direction.” The basic criterion for the liturgy, therefore, “is its orientation to God, so that we can share in his work.”

The requirement for a good liturgical celebration, he suggested, is both “prayer and conversation with God, first listening and then answering.”

In that sense, the liturgy is the opposite of how we normally communicate, where internal thoughts usually precede the formulation of external speech.

But in the liturgy “it is the inverse, the words come first,” Pope Benedict said. “God gave us the Word and the Sacred Liturgy gives us the words, and we must enter into their meaning, welcome them within us, be in harmony with them. Thus we become children of God, similar to God.”

He explained that this means there should be a “correlation between what we say with our lips and what we carry in our hearts.” It is this relationship which is “essential, fundamental, to our dialogue with God in the liturgy.”

When we experience the liturgy with this attitude, the Pope said, “it is as if our heart is freed from the force of gravity, which drags it down, and from within rises upwards, towards truth and love, towards God.”

“Dear friends,” the Pope said as he drew to a close, “we celebrate and live the liturgy well only if we remain in an attitude of prayer, united to the Mystery of Christ and his dialogue as the Son with the Father.”

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Bishops say family should reflect love of the Trinity

Caracas, Venezuela, Sep 26, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - At the conclusion of a nationwide meeting for families in Venezuela, the country's bishops said that the relationship between mothers, fathers and children should mirror the love between the Holy Trinity.

“This reality of divine love is lived out in the family as a community of persons who experience the richness of love in their conjugal, parental, filial and sibling relationships,” they said.

The bishops made their remarks on Sept. 24 at the end at the First Meeting for Family Ministry in the Bolivarian Countries, convened by the Bishops' Conference of Venezuela.

In their statement, they criticized the modern tendency to reduce the meaning of family, “characterized by phenomenon such as individualism, utilitarianism, consumerism and relativism.”

They also censured the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO) for changing the definition of the family and making it “a universally modifiable consensus.”  

“The family will become whatever conforms to the interests of those in power,” they warned.

In contrast, the bishops added, the Christian anthropological vision sees the family “as a community of life and love, when the experience of sincere and total donation is shared and experienced and the family institution becomes fruitful, unifying and missionary.”

During the event, participants committed to incorporate the action plans developed during the meeting in their local communities, echoing the message of Pope Benedict XVI during the VII World Meeting of Families, which took place in Milan this year.

On that occasion, the Holy Father told families, “Your vocation is not easy to live, especially today, but love is a wonderful reality, the only force that can truly transform the cosmos and the world.”

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Uruguay congress legalizes abortion by one vote

Montevideo, Uruguay, Sep 26, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - By a vote of 50-49, the Uruguayan congress passed a law during a late-night session on Sept. 25 legalizing abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy.  

The legislation now goes to the senate for approval and must be signed by President Jose Mujica, who has already voiced his support for the measure.

It passed after more than 13 hours of debate and one day after thousands of pro-life advocates marched in the capital city of Montevideo, urging lawmakers to vote against the bill.

The law holds that a woman who wishes to obtain an abortion must appear before a commission of doctors and social workers who are to provide her with information about her choice. After a five-day waiting period, she will be free to decide whether to proceed with the abortion.

The bill also includes a conscience protection clause for doctors and nurses who want to opt out of abortions. They will be required to notify their administrators and their decision will be honored at all health care facilities where they practice.

Catholic hospitals and other institutions that object to abortion will not required to perform them, but are mandated to send women who want to undergo the procedure to other medical facilities that provide the service.

The debate on the measure in congress began at 10 a.m. local time on Monday, while outside the congressional building abortion rights supporters and pro-life groups held dual protests.

Representative Daniel Radio called the bill – which was sponsored by fellow Independent Party member Representative Ivan Posada – “a step backwards in terms of civilization.”  

To call it “a voluntary interruption of pregnancy is a euphemism for the deliberate cessation of life,” he said.

The congressional vote came after 20 pro-life organizations denounced what they called serious flaws in its approval process.

The Catholic bishops of Uruguay have also voiced their rejection of the legalization of abortion on numerous occasions, saying that was needed instead is an “alternative measure that respects and protects women, maternity, the family and the life of the unborn.”

In 2008, the Uruguayan Congress also passed a law legalization abortion up to the 12th week by a vote of 49-48. Then-president Tabare Vazquez vetoed the measure.

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Doctor says push for teen IUD use brings health risks

Washington D.C., Sep 26, 2012 (CNA) - A major OB/GYN group's promotion of intrauterine devices (IUDs) and hormonal implants in teenage girls has drawn criticism over the risks posed to patients' health and well-being.

Dr. Bill Toffler, professor of family medicine at Oregon Health and Science University, said the recommendation was “sadly misguided.”

“There are a lot of problems with IUDs,” he told CNA, questioning the wisdom of promoting “risk-laden devices” that 50 percent of women want to remove within a year.

While those promoting the change were likely “well-intentioned,” their ideas “miss many important factors,” he said.

On Sept. 20, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists updated its guidelines for teenagers to say that IUDs and hormonal implants should be “first-line contraceptive options” that are discussed at each doctor’s visit.

The doctors group noted that the vast majority of teenage pregnancies are unintended, despite the widespread use of contraceptives, such as condoms and the birth control pill.  

It recommended that doctors suggest the longer term alternatives which are inserted inside a woman’s body and can be left in place for several years.

Toffler noted that IUDs are typically expensive, costing hundreds of dollars, although under the Affordable Care Act, minors will have access to IUDs and other contraceptives at no cost, and in some states will be able to receive them without parental consent.

The devices also release powerful hormones within the body and can lead to a significant risk of infection, especially during the early stages, he said.

“Essentially, you’re putting a foreign body into a normally sterile cavity,” he explained.

In addition, one in every 1000 women who use an IUD will have their uterus perforated, potentially putting their future fertility at risk, he said.

Toffler warned that the promoters of the new guidelines “have thrown these concerns under the bus” in their zeal to reduce teenage pregnancy rates.

However, their attempts to do so may actually contribute to teenagers having “less inhibition” about sex and engaging in increasing levels of risky behavior, he said.

“People may be falsely reassured,” he explained, noting that with the average teenage relationship lasting only three months, many young people are already involved in numerous “fleeting” sexual relationships.

In addition, Toffler said, the promotions of IUDs are misleading, and women are not properly informed about how they function.

He explained that it is an undisputed fact that “one of the ways they work is to interfere with implantation,” thus ending the life of an already-created human embryo.

Some women who think they are simply using a preventive form of contraception may not realize that the device is also an abortion-inducing agent, he observed.

Toffler also said that he has had personal experience with women who became pregnant while using IUDs, posing a risk in removing the device. Such situations are also associated with higher proportions of ectopic pregnancies, which occur outside the womb and can be life-threatening for the mother.

Women need better information that respects them and their best interests, Toffler stressed. He noted that IUDs do not prevent sexually transmitted diseases and other “risks of people having multiple sexual partners.”

At the same time, he said, “there are many successful abstinence-based programs.”

Unfortunately, he said, these programs receive little attention, and the “paradigm” of contraception is promoted as if there were no medical, physical, emotional and psychological consequences of multiple sexual partners during the teenage years.

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