Archive of September 27, 2012

Book busts myths about Church teaching on hot topics

Denver, Colo., Sep 27, 2012 (CNA) - Dr. Christopher Kaczor's new book addresses some of the most widely-held myths about the Catholic Church and its teachings, tackling sensitive topics like homosexuality and the abuse scandal.

“I really hope that people who are struggling with these issues and have difficulties, are able to be really aided … to find their way to happiness,” Kaczor told CNA Sept. 26.

His new work is titled “The Seven Big Myths about the Catholic Church,” and is published by Ignatius Press. It will become available Oct. 8 and sells for $17.95.

Kaczor is a philosophy professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, and received his Ph.D. in 1996 from the University of Notre Dame. He specializes in ethics, Thomas Aquinas, and the interplay between faith and reason.

The inspiration for this book comes from a work he read by Michael Medved, “The 10 Big Lies about America.”

“I read this book, and thought, 'This is a great book. It's taught me a lot. Someone needs to do a book like this about the Catholic Church,'” he explained.

A further inspiration for the book is the “Summa Contra Gentiles” of St. Thomas Aquinas. In that work, St. Thomas explained the Catholic faith using reason.

Kaczor said he tries to “make use of reason in a way that shows the compatibility of reason and faith in a way similar to Aquinas,” addressing topics that are relevant to the present-day.

“I thought about the objections and questions my students have and my friends who are inactive Catholics have, and these are the seven biggest issues they have and talk about.”

Kaczor busts the myths that the Church is opposed to science and to happiness, the idea that it is against women, and that it is homophobic. He also delves into the link between love and procreation, the nature of marriage, and the causes of the priest sex abuse scandal.

He hopes the book will be used by active Catholics to help them communicate the truth behind the myths to “their brother, their sister, their neighbor, the person in their office, who no longer practices their faith.” Ultimately, he hopes to reach out to secular people and inactive or former Catholics.

Kaczor believes there's “a huge need for clarification on these issues … and they cause people to needlessly reject the Catholic Church.”

The issues addressed come in large part from the years he has spent teaching university students. The chapter on contraception is rooted in a course he teaches on happiness, love and marriage.

“I want my students who take the course to really understand what marriage is and have good marriages.”

“I really hope people can be equipped to have good relationships and have a better life … I think this is an issue we can really help people with, to see the beauty and the reality of what marriage can be.”

The book is meant to do the same thing, but for a much wider audience than he is able to appeal to in the classroom.

“I can only teach so many students at a time. But with a book, you can teach hundreds, even thousands of people.”

Kaczor is optimistic about the appeal of the book and its reliance on reason to address emotionally charged issues, such as supposed homophobia in the Church.

“Even though our culture emphasizes emotion a lot, I think people do want to be fair.”

They don't want to be “unfair to others and unreasonable and ignorant to what they're saying. So I think there is still a desire to seek out the truth,” Kaczor stated.

“I think sometimes when the truth is shared in a friendship, in a charitable way, even people who are overwhelmed by emotion can see, 'Oh, that really does make sense, it’s a reasonable thing you're saying, there.'”

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Bishop Paprocki warns of 'intrinsic evils' in Democratic platform

Springfield, Ill., Sep 27, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Drawing particular attention to the Democratic Party platform’s support for “intrinsic evils” like abortion and “same-sex marriage,” Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Ill. has said Catholics need to “think and pray very carefully” about their votes in the upcoming election.

“My job is not to tell you for whom you should vote. But I do have a duty to speak out on moral issues,” Bishop Paprocki said in his Sept. 23 column for the Catholic Times diocesan paper. “I would be abdicating this duty if I remained silent out of fear of sounding ‘political’ and didn't say anything about the morality of these issues.”

He said that voting for a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are “intrinsically evil and gravely sinful” makes a voter “morally complicit” and places the eternal salvation of his or her soul in “serious jeopardy.”

There are “many positive and beneficial planks” in the Democratic Party platform, the bishop said, but some promote “serious sins.”

In 2008, he noted, the platform dropped its call for abortion to be “safe, legal and rare” in favor of the language “safe and legal.” It now supports abortion “regardless of the ability to pay.” He said this means either taxpayer funding for abortion, mandatory insurance coverage, or coercion of hospitals to perform the procedures for free.

Bishop Paprocki added that the Democrats’ national platform supports “same-sex marriage,” deems gay rights to be “human rights” and calls for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act which defines marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman in federal law.

The bishop noted the existence of Republicans who support legalized abortion and others who support “same-sex marriage.” He said they are “equally as wrong as their Democratic counterparts” but their positions do not have official party support.

Bishop Paprocki also examined the Republican Party platform and found that it has “nothing in it that supports or promotes an intrinsic evil or a serious sin.”

The platform’s support for allowing courts the option of imposing the death penalty in capital murder cases is not inherently opposed to Church teaching. He cited the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s teaching that the death penalty is permissible if it is the only possible way to defend human life.

Bishop Paprocki said that party differences about the needs of the poor and the challenges of immigration are “prudential judgments about the most effective means of achieving morally desirable ends, not intrinsic evils.”

He concluded his column with a prayer that God give Catholic voters the “wisdom and guidance to make the morally right choices.”



The full text of Bishop Paprocki's column can be found in our Bishop's Corner column for this week.

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Pope to Catholic politicians: seek the common good

Vatican City, Sep 27, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - At the end of his general audience on Sept. 26, Pope Benedict called on Catholic politicians to work for the common good in accordance with Church teaching.

During his remarks to attendees in St. Peter's square, the Pope reminded Catholic lawmakers “of the need to generously seek the common good of all citizens, in a way that is consistent with the convictions proper to the sons and daughters of the Church.”

Pope Benedict's words were aimed in particular at the president of the Chilean House of Representatives, Nicolas Monckeberg Diaz, and a group of fellow congressmen visiting Rome.

He devoted his catechesis that morning to explaining the importance of praying in the Church’s liturgy. The pontiff encouraged Catholics to celebrate and live it “in an attitude of prayer, united to the Mystery of Christ and his dialogue as the Son with the Father.”

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US bishops urge Catholic participation in Respect Life Month

Washington D.C., Sep 27, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. bishops' chairman on pro-life issues invited Catholics to commemorate the forty-first annual Respect Life Month through prayer, education and advocacy.

Respect Life Month, along with the upcoming Year of Faith announced by Pope Benedict XVI, provides a “vitally important” opportunity for Catholics to “spark a renewal of love and commitment to the true good of others,” said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston.

He stressed that a change in the culture can only take place through the unwavering commitment and witness of the faithful, and their compassionate service to those in need.

The cardinal, who heads the pro-life committee for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, released a Sept. 25 statement on the 2012 Respect for Life Month, which will be observed by the Catholic Church this October, beginning with Respect Life Sunday on Oct. 7.

Cardinal DiNardo explained that the theme for the 2012 Respect Life Program is “Faith opens our eyes to human life in all its grandeur and beauty,” an idea expressed regularly by Pope Benedict XVI.

During his recent trip to Lebanon, the pontiff emphasized this concept by stating, “The effectiveness of our commitment to peace depends on our understanding of human life,” which inspires us “to reject not only war and terrorism, but every assault on innocent human life.”

America's founders also understood the necessity of faith in building the morality and respect for human dignity that is necessary for a peaceful and just society, Cardinal DiNardo said.  

“How can people coexist, much less flourish, in a society lacking the shared belief that we are called to care for those unable to care for themselves, not to neglect, abuse or kill them?” he asked.

The cardinal observed a gradual erosion in the foundational principle of respect for human life throughout American society.

This trend began with the medical neglect of those with disabilities and fatal diseases, and eventually progressed to active measures to end the lives of the most vulnerable, who were viewed as a burden on society, he said.

These practices of aborting those with fetal abnormalities and aiding in the death of the sick and elderly have become not only approved but also receive state funding in some places, he observed, and forty years of legalized abortion has left a “staggering” death toll and families stricken with pain and grief.

In addition, he said, innocent lives are routinely taken when fertility procedures result in multiple successful implanted embryos, prompting the “selective reduction” of some of the “excess” children through induced heart attacks.

The cardinal also noted that the federal government continues to fund stem cell research that destroys human embryos, despite the failure of such research to yield results and the “remarkable” success of other types of stem cell research that do not take a human life.

And soon, he said, even Catholic institutions will be forced to participate in “procedures they believe to be gravely wrong” due to a federal mandate requiring coverage contraception, sterilization and early abortion drugs in employee health care plans.

But despite the ongoing challenges and new threats, there are also “positive signs” that offer a “reason for hope,” Cardinal DiNardo said.

He pointed to polls revealing that Americans increasingly identify as pro-life, along with numerous pro-life laws passed at the state level and a “steady decline in the number of abortions.”

Furthermore, he said, young adults in the Church are “actively involved in promoting life through social media and services to those in need,” while adult Catholics are discovering the “wisdom and rightness” of Church teaching when they have the chance to see it authentically and not merely through “the media's caricatures.”

Throughout Respect Life Month and the Year of Faith, Cardinal DiNardo invited Catholics to grow in their understanding of their faith, in order to “live out these teachings more faithfully, witness them more radiantly in our actions, and propose them to others in fresh and engaging ways.”
It is only through a love that serves those in need regardless of personal cost that the culture of death can be overcome and a foundation laid for “a civilization worthy of human beings made in God's image,” he explained.

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Ivory smuggling charge against priest reveals abuse investigation

Cebu, Philippines, Sep 27, 2012 (CNA) - A National Geographic story on ivory smuggling has renewed focus on a prominent Philippines priest accused of sexual abuse in Los Angeles in the 1980s.

Monsignor Cristobal Garcia, an ivory collector, told a National Geographic correspondent he could smuggle ivory into the U.S. by wrapping it in “old, stinky underwear” and pouring ketchup on it.

The smuggling remarks, published in the October 2012 issue of National Geographic, caused a controversy which revealed that Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu suspended the priest in June because of the Vatican’s ongoing investigation of the child abuse case against him.

In a Sept. 26 statement from the Cebu archdiocese, Archbishop Palma explained that the abuse investigation began “long before the (ivory trade) controversy erupted.”

Prior to his recent suspension, Msgr. Garcia served as chair of the Archdiocese of Cebu’s Commission on Worship and as the business manager for the archdiocese’s main publication.

The priest was removed from ministry in Los Angeles and expelled from the Dominican order in 1985 after a nun told police that an altar boy had been found in his rectory bed, the Dallas Morning News said in 2005.

After the priest returned to the Philippines, the Archdiocese of Cebu under then-Archbishop Julio Cardinal Rosales may have ignored warnings from the Dominicans. It placed him in ministry and allowed him to work with children.

Msgr. Garcia acknowledged having sexual relations with two young teen altar boys in Los Angeles. He contended that one of them “not only seduced me, he also raped me.” The priest said his alleged victims obtained sex, drugs and money from him by threatening to accuse him of abuse.

The priest’s accusers rejected his claims.

Archdiocese of Los Angeles spokesman Tod Tamberg told CNA Sep. 26 that the archdiocese has “continually expressed concern” about Msgr. Garcia’s remaining in ministry to both the Cebu archdiocese and the Vatican.

The Los Angeles archdiocese “encouraged the Vatican to proceed with the investigation, in which we have fully cooperated,” Tamberg said.
Due to Msgr. Garcia’s suspension, he cannot say Mass in public or hear confessions. He has also been stripped of his positions in the archdiocese. The priest is now in Manila and reported to appear very sick.

Archbishop Palma said that he has followed the Holy See’s instructions about submitting documents and performing actions related to the case.

He said the Catholic Church has stated regret for the failure to address sex abuse “in a more decisive and effective way.”

The archbishop added that the Catholic Church supports the ban on the ivory trade.

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Video shows Cuban government harassing women dissidents

Havana, Cuba, Sep 27, 2012 (CNA) - Cuban dissident group Women in White has denounced state police for harassing them as they were trying to leave their offices on Sept. 24 to attend Mass in honor of Our Lady of Mercies.

The incident was caught on video by a group member, sent to the local Hablemos Press, and posted on YouTube.

It shows agents attempting to assault the leader of the dissident group, Berta Soler, who was rescued by her companions.

Soler said the women had planned “to walk from the office to the Church of Our Lady of Mercies to attend Mass and pray for political prisoners, as we do each year.”

Laura Labrada, daughter of the late foundress of the group, Laura Pollan, told international reporters that last weekend “more than 60 women were detained, deported (to their provinces) and sent to their homes” by Communist state police.

The Women in White is a group of wives and relatives of Cuban political prisoners. They carry out their peaceful protests for the release of their spouses and family members dressed in white.  

The video of the incident can be seen at:

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Pope's former butler could face four years in prison

Vatican City, Sep 27, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The trial of Pope Benedict's former butler, Paolo Gabriele, will begin Sept. 29 as he faces up to four years in prison for stealing confidential documents.

According to the Vatican’s appeals court prosecutor, Giovanni Giacobbe, the trial will be public and the first hearing will take place before a three-judge panel.  

Paolo faces a minimum sentence for “aggravated theft” of three years and a maximum of four. His IT tech accomplice, Claudio Sciarpelletti, faces a maximum sentence of 12 months.

According to the Vatican accords with Italy, the sentences would be served in an Italian facility, as the Vatican does not operate any prisons. As the head of the Vatican City State, Pope Benedict could grant a pardon to his ex-butler at any time during the trial. However, once it has begun – because of the differences between Canon Law and the laws of the Vatican City State – the Pope will most likely wait until the end of the trial before making any interventions.

A limited number of persons will be able to attend the public trial, including some journalists.  Recording is strictly prohibited and any video or photos of the trial will be made public at the opening of the hearing.

Giacobbe said the trial does not have a specific time frame, and the accused are free to not be present in person and instead be represented by their lawyers.

The accused will not be under oath during the trial, but witnesses will have to be sworn in. Giacobbe also said the court will not be allowed to ask for assistance from the Commission of Cardinals established by the Pope to carry out in internal investigation of the leaks.  

However, if the commission led by Cardinal Julian Herranz Casado wishes to intervene, the court is free to allow it.

Last May, the Pope’s former butler was arrested for leaking confidential Vatican documents and was detained for two months by Vatican authorities.

He was later kept under house arrest in his apartment in Vatican City, where he lives with his wife and three children. He is currently on conditional release. Giacobbe said Paolo is allowed to travel to his trial without escort by Vatican security officials.

After formal dispositions are taken, the first hearing in the trial will take place at the Vatican City State Court Room this Saturday at 9:30 a.m. local time.

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Canon lawyer: German Church tax dispute needs more reflection

Vatican City, Sep 27, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A leading canon lawyer has called for further reflection on the German Church’s decision to refuse the sacraments and Christian burial to Catholics who do not pay the country’s Church tax.

Dr. Edward Peters, a canon lawyer and the first layman to serve as a consultant to the Church’s highest court, explained that excommunication is invoked today “only against the gravest ecclesiastical offenses, things like abortion, desecration of the Eucharist, or certain illegal conferrals of Holy Orders.”

“To invoke the consequences of excommunication, even if that term is not used, against those who object to paying a civil Church tax, raises some very serious questions about justice toward the faithful,” Peters said.

At present, all Germans who officially register themselves as Catholic pay a religious tax of 8 to 9 percent of their annual income tax bill. Therefore, if a German Catholic has a tax bill of 10,000 euros per year, they will also incur an extra 800-900 euros in Church tax. The money is used to by the Catholic Church to help run its network of parishes, schools, hospitals and welfare projects.

In recent years, however, some Catholics have stopped paying the tax, saying they’re disillusioned with the Church over issues such as clerical abuse. Meanwhile, the German bishops have become increasingly concerned at the number of Catholic immigrants to Germany, including many Polish workers, who also do not pay the tax.

“At issue …is the credibility of the church’s sacramental nature. One cannot be half a member or only partly a member. Either one belongs and commits – or one renounces this,” Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, President of the Germans Bishops’ Conference, said Sept. 24.

Dr. Peters says the issue is “very complex” and “needs to be thought through by both sides very carefully,” since “the obligation of Catholics to contribute to the support of the Church is itself a serious one.”

Peters, who was recently appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as a canon law expert for the forthcoming synod on the New Evangelization, suggests that all sides should continue further discussion while avoiding hasty decisions or actions. 

“Long-standing civil-canonical mechanisms for rendering that support – even if those mechanisms are in need of reform – should not be challenged piecemeal, lest greater confusion about the duties of the faithful and the proper role of the state in regard to religion be spread thereby,” he said.

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