Washington D.C., Dec 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. bishops have announced a five-part pastoral strategy that is aimed at creating a movement dedicated to penance and prayer for a renewed culture of life, marriage and religious freedom.
“It's not meant to be another program but rather part of a movement for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty, which engages the New Evangelization and can be incorporated into the Year of Faith,” said Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.
In a Dec. 6 statement, he explained that the pastoral strategy is “meant to be simple” and is essentially a call “to prayer and sacrifice.”
Approved by the bishops at their November meeting, the prayer campaign includes Rosaries, holy hours of Eucharistic adoration, fasting and a second Fortnight for Freedom event next summer.
According to a statement by the bishops’ conference, the campaign was “prompted by the rapid social movements and policy changes currently underway.”
Among these policies is the federal mandate, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, that requires employers to offer health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and drugs that can cause early abortions.
Dozens of lawsuits have been filed against the mandate by religious and secular employers who argue that it violates their right to religious freedom by forcing them to facilitate products and procedures that they find to be morally wrong.
Growing concerns have also been voiced in recent months about an escalating push at both the federal and state level to redefine marriage.
As part of the new pastoral strategy, the bishops are calling on families and individuals to pray a daily Rosary, particularly for the protection of life, marriage and religious freedom in the United States.
In addition, recognizing “the importance of spiritual and bodily sacrifice in the life of the Church,” the bishops are encouraging Catholics to fast and abstain from meat on Fridays for the intention of preserving life, marriage and religious liberty.
Cathedrals and parishes throughout the U.S. are urged to hold a Eucharistic Holy Hour for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty on or near the last Sunday of every month from the Feast of the Holy Family on Dec. 30 through the feast of Christ the King in November 2013.
The bishops also recommend that the Prayers of the Faithful at daily and Sunday Masses “include specific intentions for respect for all human life from conception to natural death, the strengthening of marriage and family life, and the preservation of religious liberty at all levels of government, both at home and abroad.”
Finally, the bishops announced that a second Fortnight for Freedom is being planned for the end of June and beginning of July 2013.
The first Fortnight for Freedom, held June 21-July 4 this year, included Masses, prayer rallies and other events aimed at prayer, education and action to promote and defend religious freedom.
The second fortnight will “emphasize faith and marriage in a particular way in the face of the potential Supreme Court rulings during this time,” the bishops’ conference said.
It will also “emphasize the need for conscience protection” with the approach of the Aug. 1, 2013 deadline for religious organizations to comply with the federal contraception mandate, as well as other threats to religious liberty in the realms of immigration, adoption and humanitarian aid.
A webpage created by the bishops’ conference to offer resources for the pastoral strategy described the fortnight as “a visible, vibrant reminder of the God-given nature of religious liberty” as well as the right to live out one’s faith in the public square and the professional world.
Modern threats to the Church “call for increased awareness and formation, as well as spiritual stamina and fortitude among the faithful, so that we may all be effective and joyful witnesses of faith, hope and charity,” it explained.
Archbishop Cordileone said the bishops hope the effort will encourage solidarity among “all people who are standing for the precious gifts of life, marriage, and religious liberty.”
Manila, Philippines, Dec 7, 2012 (CNA) - Catholic relief agencies are working to help the victims of Typhoon Bopha, the strongest storm to hit the Philippines this year.
Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu said the Philippines bishops’ conference has mobilized social action centers in the 86 dioceses in the country, according to CBCP News.
“Our hearts bleed for the victims of the typhoon,” he said Dec. 6. “Our charity should reach out to those who are in need.”
Five teams from the U.S.-based Catholic Relief Services have visited village and towns to survey the damage and determine residents’ immediate needs, the agency said Dec. 5. The typhoon affected the southern island of Mindanao, causing considerable damage in the provinces of Compostela and Davao Oriental. Many lack electricity and communications are poor.
Catholic Relief Services intends to provide hygiene and sanitation kids, sleeping mats, blankets and tarps.
Before Typhoon Bopha hit the country, the government evacuated more than 160,000 people. The storm, known locally as Typhoon Pablo, struck regions that normally do not receive such strong weather.
Over 350 have died and nearly 400 are missing. The storm caused millions of dollars in damage and many are in need of basic necessities like food, water and clothing.
Pope Benedict XVI sent a Dec. 6 message to Archbishop Palma, who heads the Philippines bishops’ conference. The Pope conveyed his “heartfelt condolences to the families of all who mourn.” He said he was “deeply saddened” to learn of the loss of life the typhoon caused.
Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who relayed the Pope’s message, said the pontiff is praying for the dead and for rescue workers.
Caritas Manila is preparing food parcels and other basic needs for those displaced by the typhoon. The Archdiocese of Manila has already sent initial cash assistance to the dioceses most severely affected by the storm.
The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, the official Catholic aid agency for England and Wales, has said it will also help storm victims.
About 20 typhoons strike the Philippines each year. In December 2011, Typhoon Washi hit northern Mindanao and killed 1,500 people.
Catholic Relief Services built more than 1,800 transitional shelters earlier this year. Eight of these were damaged by Typhoon Bopha.
Kansas City, Mo., Dec 7, 2012 (CNA) - Calls for the resignation of Bishop Robert W. Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph that have gained media attention are exaggerated and do not depict the real situation in the diocese, according to local Catholics.
Jack Smith, interim director of communications for the diocese, told CNA that a Dec. 2 article by the New York Times was “inaccurate” in suggesting a widespread lack of support for the bishop.
The New York Times said that it had obtained 32 responses from a survey of priests conducted by a consulting firm hired by the diocese and that “half of them seriously doubted whether the bishop should continue as their leader, and several suggested that he resign.”
Smith explained that for some time, the diocese had been planning a capital campaign to build a new high school. However, after the bishop’s trial, they decided to have a consultant, Church Development, conduct a confidential survey to see if the campaign should be delayed.
Thirty-eight of the diocese’s 80 pastors were surveyed, Smith said. The majority suggested that the campaign be delayed. However, this negativity about the campaign does not reflect negativity about the bishop, he stressed.
“The questionnaire was not a referendum on Bishop Finn,” he said. “The questions were about the timing of the capital campaign.”
Only seven pastors – a clear minority – indicated on the survey that the bishop should resign, Smith said.
In Sept. 2012, Bishop Finn was found guilty of failure to report suspected child abuse and sentenced to two years of probation for his handling of a case involving diocesan priest Father Shawn Ratigan.
In December 2010, lewd pictures were discovered on Fr. Ratigan’s laptop, including numerous photographs of clothed young girl’s crotches and one picture of “a nude young girl from the waist down.”
An independent investigation later determined that the diocesan vicar general had conducted a “limited” investigation and had received opinions from both diocesan legal counsel and the Kansas City Police Department Captain that the picture did not technically constitute pornography.
Bishop Finn had Fr. Ratigan undergo a psychiatric evaluation and was told that the priest “was not a pedophile.” Fr. Ratigan was restricted from interacting with children, and the diocese reported him to the police in May, after he violated those regulations.
The independent investigation determined that “Bishop Finn was unaware of some important facts” but also found that the diocese failed to follow proper policy in a timely manner and that “the Bishop erred in trusting Fr. Ratigan to abide by restrictions the Bishop had placed on his interaction with children.”
Bishop Finn has apologized for failing to launch a full police investigation more quickly.
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, told CNA that there has been a “concerted effort” to “unseat” Bishop Finn by those who dissent from Church teaching and are unhappy with some of the changes that he has made.
The bishop was not involved in an intentional cover-up, but was instead given inaccurate information, which delayed the diocese in its eventual decision to contact the police, Donohue said.
He also argued that the “faux protest” is the result of angry individuals with “a political agenda” trying to get people in the diocese to “mutiny against their bishop.”
He said that he has visited the diocese and talked to the people, but has “seen no evidence that there is some massive rising-up of the people in anger.”
Diocesan priest Father Angelo Bartulica views Bishop Finn as “a sincere and humble man” who has been misunderstood.
“I feel that through this entire process, there has been a whole lot of misinformation disseminated through the media,” he said.
While the bishop has been portrayed as “somebody who had full knowledge of everything” and tried to cover it up, Fr. Bartulica thinks the chain of events has been “misrepresented.”
In Fr. Bartulica’s perception, the current complaints are part of a much bigger battle by those who did not like Bishop Finn to begin with and are using this as “an avenue to try to get him ousted.”
He also pointed to the significant good work that the bishop has done in the diocese, such as creating initiatives to catechize the laity.
Long-time priest Monsignor William Blacet also weighed-in on the case by saying that he backs the bishop “wholeheartedly.”
Approaching 91 years of age, Msgr. Blacet has been a priest for 66 years. He has worked under seven different bishops and said that he considers himself “very fortunate” to have Bishop Finn, whom he considers an “outstanding” bishop and a “holy” man.
He said that has gotten to know the bishop “fairly well” since his appointment, and sees him as a kind and compassionate man. Similarly to Fr. Bartulica, the monsignor noted that Bishop Finn has apologized for his mistaken judgment in handling the case.
Msgr. Blacet explained that some members of the diocese were upset when the bishop was first appointed and made it clear that he was committed to Rome and the “authentic” Catholic faith.
These individuals were upset and never accepted Bishop Finn because they disagreed with him, he said. Now, they are doing harm to the Church by driving a wedge between the hierarchy and the people, while the bishop is seeking unity.
Although Msgr. Blacet believes the attacks against Bishop Finn are unwarranted, he is not discouraged, but rather sees an analogy to the sufferings and accusations that Christ bore during his passion.
“The bishop is strong,” he said. “God will protect him. The Resurrection will come.”
Vatican City, Dec 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI named his private secretary as the new head of the papal household, an important post because it carries the responsibility of coordinating the pontiff’s schedule and deciding who is able to meet with him.
Monsignor Georg Gänswein was appointed as the new leader of the papal household on Dec. 7, after the American Cardinal James M. Harvey had served in the position for nearly 15 years.
As part of the appointment, Pope Benedict raised Msgr. Gänswein to the level of archbishop and made him the titular archbishop of Urbisaglia, the largest archaeological park in the Italian region of Marche.
In his new role as prefect of the papal household, Archbishop Gänswein will serve as the gatekeeper for meetings with the Pope as well as direct the papal household.
Pope Benedict appointed the 56-year-old German exactly two weeks after he honored the previous prefect by making him a cardinal in a ceremony where he created six non-European cardinals.
Cardinal Harvey was also then named archpriest of St. Paul Outside the Walls, one of the four major basilicas in Rome.
Critics say Cardinal Harvey's removal from the papal household could be related to his support of Paolo Gabriele, the Pope's former butler currently in prison. However, the fact that Pope Benedict elevated Harvey to the level of cardinal and gave him an important position seems to lessen the weight of that argument.
The papal household, where Archbishop Gänswein will now work, is made up of two bodies, the papal chapel and the papal family.
The papal chapel is comprised of religious who help the Pope in his spiritual functions as head of the Church.
The papal family includes both religious and lay people, who help the pontiff in his day to day life, including making his meals.
Archbishop Gänswein was born in the Black Forest town of Reidern am Wald in 1956 and, like the Pope, grew up in a solid rural Catholic environment.
His father was a blacksmith, who became the owner of an agricultural machinery business in the Black Forest.
He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Freiburg im Breisgau at the age of 28 and studied canon law at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich.
In 1995 he began working for the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and then went on to work for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.
Archbishop Gänswein became the personal secretary of the doctrine department’s leader at the time, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, and he continued to serve him as his secretary even after he became Pope.
Italians know the new papal household head, whose hobbies include tennis, skiing and flying airplanes, as "Padre Georg" or "Bel Giorgio," which means beautiful George.
He speaks six languages, including German, English, Spanish, French, Latin and Italian.
Montevideo, Uruguay, Dec 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The two symbols of World Youth Day, the pilgrim cross and the icon of the Virgin Mary, will tour the country of Uruguay Dec. 8-13 as part of preparations for the event in Rio de Janeiro next summer.
The tour with the two symbols will begin in the capital city of Montevideo and continue in the city of Minas, and then Mercedes, San Jose and finally in Salto, where the cross and the icon will be handed over to Argentina's young people.
Expected to draw hundreds of thousands, the global youth event scheduled for July 23-28, 2013 in which Pope Benedict XVI is slated to attend.
The 12-foot cross was built in 1984, the Year of Redemption, and placed near the main altar of St. Peter’s Basilica. At the end of the year, Blessed John Paul II gave the cross to young people as a symbol of Christ’s love for humanity.
“My dear young people, at the conclusion of this Holy Year, I entrust to you the sign of this Jubilee Year: the Cross of Christ!” the late Pope said.
“Carry it throughout the world as a sign, as a symbol of the love of Christ for humanity, and announce to all that only in the death and resurrection of Christ can we find salvation and redemption.”
Madrid, Spain, Dec 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The president of the People's Party in Madrid, Esperanza Aguirre, called on Spaniards to commit to the democratization of Cuba and “take on” the dictatorship of the Castro brothers.
“I want to say very loudly and clearly that for the citizens of the western countries, for all the citizens of the democratic countries that share the same cultural roots and the same moral and political values, the existence of the Communist dictatorship in Cuba is a reason for embarrassment and a call to our sense of freedom and responsibility,” Aguirre said.
The Spanish politician made her comments during a ceremony on Dec. 4 at headquarters of the Association of Foreign Press Correspondents honoring the founder of the Christian Liberation Movement in Cuba, Oswaldo Paya, and dissident Harold Cepero.
Both dissidents were killed in an alleged car accident on July 22 in Cuba. Paya's family has rejected the Cuban government's version of how the opposition leader died and continues to maintain that his death may have been intentional.
During her remarks, Aguirre announced she has joined a petition calling for an international investigation into the deaths.
The political leader also stressed that the “commitment against the Castro dictatorship needs be greater in Spaniards.”
“Because it was the last republic to gain independence, Cuba is the American nation with the closest ties to Spain, and they are very strong,” she explained. “Family ties, sentimental ties and emotional ties.”
These bonds mean Spaniards have “more responsibility than anyone else when it comes to taking on the dictatorship, and when it comes to collaborating with the dissidence in order to achieve, once and for all, a return to a free Cuba,” Aguirre said.
“So that once and for all, Cuba ceases to be a sinister anomaly among the nations of the West to which it belongs.”
Washington D.C., Dec 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In a move that could have wide-reaching consequences, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will hear two cases involving the redefinition of marriage next year.
The court announced on Dec. 7 that it will hear cases challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8.
The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which received overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton, defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman for all federal policies.
Last year, President Obama instructed the Department of Justice to stop defending the law in court.
While the majority of U.S. states continue to acknowledge marriage as the union of a man and a woman, the nation has seen an increasing push to redefine the institution in recent months.
In May, President Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to voice support for a redefinition of marriage. Citizens in Maryland, Maine and Washington state voted to redefine marriage in November, bringing the total number of states to legalize “gay marriage” to nine, plus the District of Columbia.
The court will now decide the fate of the Defense of Marriage Act, which had been struck down by appeals courts arguing that it violated the Constitution's equal protection clause.
In addition, the Supreme Court will hear a challenge to Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment adopted by California voters in 2008 to recognize marriage solely as the union of one man and one woman.
The measure was approved by the people after the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of redefining marriage and the state began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.
In February, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the amendment on narrow legal grounds, arguing that because same-sex couples had already been given a “right” to marry in the state, this right could not later be removed without a legitimate reason.
The issue will now come before the nation’s highest court and could have nationwide implications for the definition of marriage in the United States.
Decisions in both cases are expected in late June.
Washington D.C., Dec 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Supporters of marriage and family welcomed the Supreme Court’s announcement that it will review both state and federal cases about the definition of marriage in the coming months.
“The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to hear these cases is a significant moment for our nation,” said Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, who leads the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.
“Marriage is the foundation of a just society, as it protects the most vulnerable among us, children,” he said in a Dec. 7 statement. “It is the only institution that unites children with their mothers and fathers together.”
The archbishop said that he is praying that the court will be “guided by truth and justice” in order to affirm the true meaning and purpose of marriage, written in human nature as the union of one man and one woman.
On Dec. 7, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will hear two cases regarding the definition of marriage in the next year.
A federal case, Windsor v. United States, involves a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law passed with overwhelming bilateral support in Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton. The case challenges a section of the law that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman for federal policies.
A second case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, concerns Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment adopted by California voters in 2008 to protect the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman after the state Supreme Court ruled that gay unions must be recognized as marriages.
Critics of the laws argue that they amount to unjust discrimination against gay couples and an unconstitutional violation of the equal protection clause. Proponents contend that the government has a legitimate interest in recognizing the union of man and woman because it is the fundamental building block of society and plays a critical role in bringing up the next generation.
While lower courts have struck down both laws, marriage advocates say they see hope in a Supreme Court ruling.
John Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, said that it is “significant that the Supreme Court has taken the Prop. 8 case.”
Noting that the court could have declined to hear the case if it agreed with the lower court’s ruling against the amendment, Eastman said that he views the decision as “a strong signal that the Court will reverse the lower courts and uphold Proposition 8.”
He observed that Judge Stephen Reinhart, who had struck down the amendment in a federal appeals court, “is the most overruled judge in America.”
Eastman also welcomed the court’s decision to review the Defense of Marriage Act case.
“It’s not the job of federal judges to substitute their views for the policy judgments of the people’s duly elected representatives,” he said. “We believe the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn this exercise in judicial activism and stop federal judges from legislating from the bench on the definition of marriage.”
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, which has filed amicus briefs in several marriage protection cases, said that he was “pleased” by the court’s announcement.
“Virtually nothing is more important to the future of our country than marriage and the family,” he stated.
Perkins argued that it was “completely appropriate” for Congress to “create uniformity in federal law” by explicitly confirming the definition of marriage as it had always been understood in the Defense of Marriage Act.
The natural definition of marriage is maintained in 41 states, he observed, and enshrined in the constitutions of 30 of these states.
“Voters in these states will not accept an activist court redefining our most fundamental social institution,” he said.
Perkins is confident that the Supreme Court will acknowledge that the Defense of Marriage Act “is supported by numerous legitimate legislative purposes – all of which are consistent with our principles of federalism.”
Rulings are likely in both cases in late June. While the exact impact of the ruling in either case is not certain, Chris Gacek, senior fellow of regulatory affairs at Family Research Council, said that the justices will likely take up the fundamental question of whether there is a constitutional “right” to gay marriage.
It is possible that the court could simply dismiss both cases on standing or issue narrow rulings that apply only in their limited circumstances, he acknowledged.
However, he told CNA Dec. 7 that he believes the court will address the underlying question of whether governments can protect the definition of marriage that has always existed or whether they must be forced to recognize gay unions as marriage.
“I think they’re going to have to decide the big issue here,” he said.
Fort Wayne, Ind., Dec 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades is optimistic about the newly-established GLBTQ student organization at the University of Notre Dame, but he is also underscoring the importance of it being faithful to Catholic teaching on sexuality.
“It is vitally important that the Foundations of the Pastoral Plan, which express Notre Dame’s fidelity to Catholic teaching, inform and guide the implementation of the Plan, including the vision, programs and activities of the new student organization that is being formed,” the bishop wrote in a statement Dec. 7.
“I also hope that the Pastoral Plan will be of support to all students at Notre Dame in living a chaste and holy life according to the teachings of Jesus and His Church,” Bishop Rhoades said.
Notre Dame president Father John Jenkins on Dec. 5 accepted the Office of Student Affairs’ recommendation to “expand and enhance the support and services for students who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and questioning (GLBTQ).”
The recommendation includes the creation of a university-recognized student organization, which will be guided by a pastoral plan aimed at offering “support and holistic development of GLBTQ and heterosexual students” at the university.
Bishop Rhoades wrote that with the plan, Notre Dame “clearly affirms its fidelity to Catholic Church teaching on human sexuality” and affirms “the teachings of the Church on the commandment and vocation of love, the virtue of chastity and its expression in friendship, the importance of self-mastery, and the call to holiness.”
The foundations section of the plan cites the need to pursue “human solidarity and the common good” and says that “all must learn to govern their passions in disciplined ways on the road to lasting freedom.”
The documents also says that in all programs and initiatives associated with the pastoral plan, “due consideration is to be exercised so as to avoid any political or social activities that might compromise Notre Dame’s Roman Catholic allegiance and commitments.”
Bishop Rhoades reflected that the plan “affirms Catholic teaching that men and women who have homosexual tendencies 'must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.'”
“It is my hope and prayer,” he wrote, “that the rich Catholic teaching on sexuality, teaching that serves the true good and happiness of the human person, will be embraced by the students and all involved in the implementation of the Pastoral Plan.”
“I hope that the organization will be helpful in providing support for the students, thus preventing the experience of isolation and alienation which are 'risk factors for an unhealthy life, including unchaste behaviors.'”