New York City, N.Y., Oct 3, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Church leaders in New York called for continued efforts by both government and private charities to address high levels of poverty while respecting the human dignity of the poor.
“As the Church celebrates the feast of St. Vincent DePaul, we affirm that the poor must receive our special attention to ensure that they have basic necessities of life,” said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York and Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio of Brooklyn.
In a joint statement issued Sept. 27, the bishops pointed to the example of St. Vincent de Paul, the 17th century saint known for his concern for the poor and the society in his name that continues the work of bringing charitable aid to those in need.
Such charitable effort, along with government aid, are important in relieving those suffering from the greatest poverty, they said.
Through soup kitchens, homeless shelters and other family and youth services, Catholics Charities in New York serves “literally hundreds of thousands of people each year – the neglected child, the homeless family, the hungry senior, the new immigrant to our shores,” they noted.
In addition to this important work, government “must continue to play its part as well,” they said.
The prelates pointed to recent statistics indicating that “a shocking number” of Americans are currently in poverty, and “recovery is nowhere in sight.”
With income declining and poverty on the rise, they observed, the current statistics “are overwhelming.”
“The basics human needs of good jobs, food, and housing continue to challenge tens of millions throughout this country,” they said.
The combination of a “persistent sluggish economic and slow pace of recovery” fails to provide the jobs for those in poverty to support themselves and offers fewer resources “for government to do its part for Americans in need,” they added.
“This is creating a situation that is devastating to struggling families throughout the country,” they warned.
But despite these ongoing struggles for people across the country, Cardinal Dolan and Bishop DiMarzio said, “we are fortunate that as a society we do try to provide for those struggling.”
“Government programs provide enormous support to poor Americans,” they noted. “In addition generous Americans contribute billions to charities each year.”
However, despite this generosity, “much more needs to be done” by both private charities and the government, they said.
“Throughout the history of the Church there has always been a preferential option for the poor,” the prelates explained.
They noted that “the commitment of the Church to the poor comes directly from Jesus and was first formally recognized by the appointment of deacons to cares for the Greek speaking widows.”
“This commitment and dedication continues and grows today throughout Catholic hospitals, charities and educational institutions,” they said. “All of these in their own way make service to the poor the hallmark of their work in building the common good.”
In addition, Cardinal Dolan and Bishop DiMarzio warned of rhetoric that “portrays poor people in a very negative way.”
“There is too much finger pointing and not enough joining hands,” they said. “Solidarity is critical to ensure the dignity of all.”
Sacramento, Calif., Oct 3, 2012 (CNA) - Pro-family and parental rights groups are saying a new California law banning therapy for minors who struggle with same-sex attraction is disrespectful of both personal choice and parents' rights.
“Parents have the best interests of their children in mind, and if they determine that particular types of therapies or interventions are needed, that's certainly their right, and this law doesn't respect that,” Ned Dolejsi, director of the California Catholic Conference told CNA Oct. 2.
“The attack on parental rights is exactly the whole point of the bill, because we don't want to let parents harm their children,” the bill's sponsor Ted Lieu has said.
He compared reparative therapy to minors' use of tobacco and alcohol, and stated, “reparative therapy hurts children, so this bill allows us to stop parents from hurting their children.”
But Dolejsi asserted that “for the legislature to step in and assume that they need to protect children from their parents and or therapists is in my opinion arrogant and presumptuous.”
The bill was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on Sept. 29. It will come into effect on Jan. 1, 2013.
The law is broadly worded, and prohibits any therapy “to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex” among minors.
Passage of the law means California minors who have unwished-for homosexual behavior or attraction will be unable to pursue medical avenues to address those issues. The therapies prohibited are much broader than solely “conversion” to heterosexuality, barring even therapy to change homosexual behavior among minors.
The bill was supported by both gay rights activists and mental health groups, who claim that reparative therapy may increase the risk of depression and suicide.
However, Bill May, president of Catholics for the Common Good, is concerned about the law's effect on youths' well-being.
"This bill not only violates parental rights but the rights of the child to know the truth about true love, true friendship, marriage, and healthy use of human sexuality,” May said.
The law also raises concerns about religious freedom.
“It would prohibit Catholic, licensed counselors – including some priests, nuns and counselors in Catholic schools – from treating the whole person according to Catholic teaching. In counseling they can only affirm same-sex attraction or gender confusion, or put their licenses in jeopardy,” he said.
Governor Brown claimed that conversion therapy has “no basis in science or medicine” and “will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery,” in a statement after signing the law.
Dolejsi added that the California Catholic Conference doesn't “have a position reparative therapy” but emphasized that “the legislature has banned this for minors to the exclusion of their parents’ desires and wishes.”
Legislatures “don't have the competence to make a decision about which therapies are appropriate,” and that decision should be left to psychiatric professionals, he stated.
A 2009 American Psychiatric Association task force recommended that the appropriate response to those with same-sex attraction involves “therapist acceptance, support, and understanding of clients … without imposing a specific sexual orientation identity outcome,” and that efforts to change orientation “involve some risk of harm.”
The American Psychiatric Association considered homosexuality to be a mental disease until 1973. A former president of the APA said in a 2012 video interview that within the organization, political stances “override any scientific results.”
Both the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality and the Pacific Justice Institute intend to legally challenge the California law on First Amendment grounds.
Vatican City, Oct 3, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has reminded Catholics that the liturgy belongs to Jesus Christ and his Church, and should not be changed according to individual whims.
“It is not the individual – priest or layman – or the group that celebrates the liturgy, but it is primarily God’s action through the Church, which has its own history, its rich tradition and creativity,” the Pope said during his Oct. 3 general audience in Rome.
“This universality and fundamental openness, which is characteristic of the entire liturgy is one of the reasons why it cannot be created or amended by the individual community or by experts, but must be faithful to the forms of the universal Church,” he stated.
With over 20,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope explained how the Church is made most visible in the liturgy where “God enters into our reality and we can meet him, we can touch him.” The liturgy is where “he comes to us, and we are enlightened by him.”
The primary importance of Jesus Christ within the liturgy has been a constant theme of Pope Benedict’s teaching during his seven-year pontificate. He has often expressed concern that bad teaching can lead some Catholics to view the liturgy “horizontally” as the creation of a parish or group in which the community celebrates itself. “The liturgy is not a kind of ‘self-manifestation’ of a community,” he told pilgrims.
Pope Benedict noted that when priests or parishioners reflect on how to make the liturgy “attractive, interesting and beautiful,” they can “risk forgetting the essential: That is the liturgy is celebrated for God and not for ourselves.”
To help counter such erroneous concepts, Pope Benedict XVI’s papal liturgies are always celebrated with a prominent crucifix placed centrally upon the altar.
The liturgy is God’s work and he is the subject, the Pope said, adding that this means when it comes to the liturgy we must “open ourselves to him and be guided by him and his body which is the Church.”
“If the centrality of Christ does not emerge in the celebration, then it is not a Christian liturgy, totally dependent on the Lord and sustained by his creative presence,” he said.
“God acts through Christ, and we can only act through him and in him.”
This conviction must grow in the hearts and minds of Catholics each day because “the liturgy is not our, my, ‘action,’ but the action of God in us and with us.”
“Let us ask the Lord to learn every day to live the sacred liturgy, especially the Eucharistic celebration, praying in the ‘we’ of the Church, that directs its gaze not in on itself, but to God, and feeling part of the living Church of all places and of all time,” Pope Benedict said in conclusion.
Santiago, Chile, Oct 3, 2012 (CNA) -
In a statement Oct. 2, the Apostolic Nunciature in Chile revealed that local Bishop Marco Antonio Ordenes of Iquique is under investigation for sexual abuse.
According to the Chilean daily La Tercera, Bishop Ordenes, 47, has said he is innocent. Since the accusations were made, his poor health caused by genetic kidney condition has worsened.
The Diocese of Iquique confirmed that his health is deteriorating and that he is currently in Peru resting on doctor's orders. He is expected to return to Chile soon to continue his recovery. Because the accused is a bishop, the investigation is being carried out by the Vatican.
The nunciature added that is has “offered psychological support and assistance to those involved and has been in contact with Bishop Ordenes.”
“In response to this painful situation, the nunciature invites all to pray to the Lord that he help everyone proceed with justice and charity.”
The communications department of the Diocese of Iquique also called on the community to “intensify its prayer, to strengthen the bonds of unity and to pray to the Lord for a speedy clarification of these facts.”
Vatican City, Oct 3, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The judges presiding over the trial of the Pope's former butler heard today that his apartment contained piles of documents and newspaper cuttings about Masonic lodges, the occult and previous scandals involving the Church and state in Italy.
The evidence was presented during the third day of the criminal trial against Paolo Gabriele. The 46-year-old Italian stands accused of the “aggravated theft” of documents, including private papal correspondence. He denies the charge, while saying that he feels guilty of betraying Pope Benedict’s trust.
Four police officers who carried out the May 23 search of Gabriele's apartment testified Oct. 3 before a three-judge panel in the Vatican City State’s courtroom. Gabriele was arrested shortly after the search was conducted.
The officers described how they had found large piles of papers in wardrobes, cabinets and on shelving at the Gabriele apartment. These documents, they stated, included personal correspondence between Pope Benedict and various cardinals, along with encrypted communications from papal ambassadors around the world.
One of the police officers, Stefano De Santis, told the court how some of the papers were marked in German “to be destroyed,” written in the Pope’s handwriting. He also asserted that deciphering even one of the encrypted documents could “threaten the operations” of the Holy See's diplomatic corps.
Paolo Gabriele worked in the Papal Household under both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. He was one of very few individuals who had daily access to the Pope. Within the close-knit family atmosphere of the Papal Apartment, Gabriele was affectionately nicknamed “Paoletto” or “little Paul”.
“This was a total violation of the privacy of the papal family,” said De Santis, speaking of the “unease” the discoveries caused the Vatican's police officers.
He explained that once the search team discovered documents they believed matched those leaked to Italian journalists, they decided “to take away everything.”
In total, 82 crates of documents and other material were removed from Gabriele’s apartment and the Pope’s summer residence at Castel Gandolfo during the police investigation.
Another officer, Silvano Carli, told the court that in the end only around 1,000 pages of material were deemed relevant to the criminal case.
Paolo Gabriele was present in the courtroom throughout the 75-minute evidence session. It was revealed that he chose to stay in his private apartment during the police search in May, along with his wife and three children.
His defense lawyer, Cristiana Arru, questioned the search methods employed, including why none of the police officers wore gloves while handling the potentially sensitive documents. The officers said this conformed to standard practice.
The trial was adjourned until Saturday when both sides will give their final speeches. It is also thought that a verdict could be delivered on the same day. If Gabriele is found guilty, a prison sentence of up to four years in an Italian jail awaits him.
Washington D.C., Oct 3, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A Christian Bible publisher has become the latest of nearly 100 plaintiffs to file a lawsuit challenging the federal contraception mandate over religious liberty violations.
“This action arises because the federal government has deemed devout publishers of the Bible to be insufficiently 'religious' to enjoy religious freedom in America,” said a federal lawsuit that was filed on Oct. 2.
The suit was filed on behalf of Tyndale House Publishers, a Christian publisher of Bibles and other Christian materials whose owners object to offering insurance coverage of early abortion drugs, which is required under the federal contraception mandate.
While the mandate includes a religious exemption, it applies only to non-profit organizations that exist primarily to inculcate religious values and employ and serve mainly members of their own faith.
For-profit businesses such as Tyndale are categorically deemed non-religious and fail to qualify for the religious exemption, even if they are created and run according to religious principles.
The lawsuit argued that the government’s “refusal to accommodate the conscience of Tyndale is highly selective.”
Leaders of the administration “cannot possibly claim they have a compelling interest to violate Tyndale's beliefs when they have voluntarily chosen to omit nearly two-thirds of the nation” for secular reasons, it said.
It explained how the company, which has 260 full-time employees, was started in 1962 by a Christian couple committed to running a business according to biblical principles.
These Christian beliefs are reflected in the company’s statement of purpose, core values and corporate goals, the lawsuit said, observing that “(e)very book Tyndale publishes has to have ministry value, otherwise it will not publish it.”
In addition, the executive team and board of directors pray together regularly and have done so for decades. The company holds a voluntary weekly chapel service, which is attended by more than half of employees, and donates 10 percent of its pre-tax profits to charity each year. It also holds monthly “build days” with Habitat for Humanity and sponsors annual mission projects for employees.
Furthermore, the lawsuit said, Tyndale “pays its employees well above minimum wage and provides them with excellent benefits,” including a strong health plan, bonus program and profit sharing plan.
The company is self-insured and has never covered abortions or abortion-inducing products, in keeping with its owners’ religious beliefs. It is exempt from the Illinois state requirement to cover early abortion drugs.
But when the company’s next insurance plan year begins in October 2012, it is required to cover the objectionable items or face crippling fines.
“The Mandate adopts a particular theological view of what is acceptable moral behavior with respect to provision of abortifacient coverage and imposes that view upon all adherents of religion who must either conform their consciences or suffer penalty,” the lawsuit argued.
The company is now asking for an injunction to block the enforcement of the mandate against it, arguing that its constitutionally protected right to free exercise of religion is being violated.
“Bible publishers should be free to do business according to the book that they publish,” said Matt Bowman, senior legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing Tyndale.
“To say that a Bible publisher is not religious is patently absurd,” said Bowman in a statement announcing the lawsuit. He argued that the case “is a prime example of how ridiculous and arbitrary the Obama administration’s mandate is.”
Under the mandate, religious employers must “choose between two poison pills: either desert your faith by complying, or resist and be punished,” he explained.
“Americans today clearly agree with America’s founders: the federal government’s bureaucrats are not qualified to decide what faith is, who the faithful are, and where and how that faith may be lived out,” he said.
Washington D.C., Oct 3, 2012 (CNA) -
President Barack Obama's re-election campaign has drawn criticism amid allegations that its members have been making bigoted election calls to Catholics attacking the Mormon faith.
Deal Hudson, political activist and president of the Pennsylvania Catholics Network, warned that members of the Obama campaign have been making phone calls asking voters, “How can you support a Mormon who does not believe in Jesus Christ?”
On Sept. 26 and Oct. 2, Hudson reported that a campaign group known as “Catholics for Obama” was making calls directed at raising doubts about Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith.
In articles posted on Catholic Online, he said that Joy Allen, co-chair of the pro-life committee at Sts. John and Paul Catholic parish in Franklin Park, Pa., received two phone calls asking for her college-age children.
In both cases, the callers identified themselves as being from the Obama campaign and said that they were practicing Catholics and Obama supporters before asking Allen how she could possibly support a Mormon, he said.
Reading from the same script, he added, the callers also tried to assert that neither President Obama nor Planned Parenthood promotes abortion and to discuss the pro-Obama “Nuns on the Bus” campaign.
When questioned about the reports, an Obama campaign official told CNA that the campaign considers a candidate’s religion to be off-limits but did not respond to questions about the alleged calls.
Hudson and Deacon Keith Fournier, editor in chief at Catholic Online, argued that the campaign is guilty of “playing the Mormon card,” which is “insulting to Catholics with the accompanying presumption that such prejudice appeals to them.”
In an Oct. 3 article, Hudson and Fournier criticized the “eruption of bigotry on the phone lines” and called for an apology from the Obama campaign as “an extremely civilized and appropriate gesture.”
Princeton University law professor Robert P. George called on all Catholics to condemn “the anti-Mormon bigotry of these calls.”
“I don’t know who is behind these calls, but the Obama campaign should, in all decency, immediately try to figure it out and shut them down,” he said in an Oct. 2 post on “First Thoughts,” a blog sponsored by the ecumenical journal, “First Things.”
George described the allegations as “the most egregious of many nauseating examples of the anti-Mormon bigotry that has crawled out of the swamp in relation to Governor Romney’s nomination as the Republican candidate for president.”
While other examples may be more subtle and sophisticated, they are “no less appalling,” he said.
The “extraordinary decency, generosity, and patriotism” of the overwhelming majority of Mormons, and their “contributions to the common good of our society” make this defamation “particularly grotesque,” George argued.
“Whether or not we happen to support Governor Romney in this campaign, we Catholics should be united in our friendship with, and high regard for, the Latter-Day Saints,” he said.