Denver, Colo., Dec 13, 2012 (CNA) - In 1968 Joe Mahoney was serving with the Marines in South Vietnam, where he met Father Paul Nguyen Thanh Hoan, whom he always thought was killed when the North overran the region in 1975.
Many priests were imprisoned and killed when the South was overtaken, and so Mahoney was “quite confident he was dead” and never looked up Fr. Paul.
But earlier this year, he finally discovered that God had preserved Fr. Nguyen, made him Bishop Nguyen, and helped him found a religious community.
“He's an amazing guy spiritually, very prayerful. I think he just has so much trust in God that nothing surprises him at all,” Mahoney said of Bishop Paul Hoan in a Dec. 11 interview with CNA.
Fr. Nguyen was ordained a priest in 1965, and when he met Mahoney in 1968 they were both serving in Dong Ha, which was 10 miles from the border between North and South Vietnam.
The pastor of the parish was soon killed by the communists, and so Fr. Nguyen became the pastor. His new role meant that he had to travel to surrounding villages to bring the sacraments.
“Fr. Paul really had the peace of the Lord,” said Mahoney. “He just did his job, and didn't seem phased by it when they shelled the church … he just did his job, period.”
“He would just say, 'Well then you fix it, keep using it. We need a church, we have Mass there, we're going to continue to have Mass there, let's fix it up and keep going.'”
Mahoney was a civil affairs officer in Dong Ha, coordinating between the Marines and the local community. One day the priest asked Mahoney to build an orphanage, because so many children had lost both their parents in the fighting.
Mahoney acquired some unused buildings from the military base and that year Fr. Nguyen opened White Dove Orphanage.
“He always worked a lot with the poor, in addition to the regular priestly duties he had,” remembered Mahoney.
In 1972 Fr. Nguyen moved with thousands of families and orphans to the vicinity of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) as the communists invaded.
In 1994 while visiting northern Vietnam, he encountered numerous men and women who wanted to pursue religious life but had no venue for it. So Fr. Nguyen brought them back to the south, founding the Community of Charity and Social Services.
The community now has 180 sisters, 50 brothers, and in January will gain three transitional deacons, who will be ordained priests in the summer.
“Bishop Paul has a passion for the poor. You can see that every time we talk about helping the poor, his eyes twinkle,” Sister Cecilia Nguyen told CNA Dec. 11.
She said the community takes the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, but “our first vow is to serve the poor in charity … Bishop Paul's vision has the poor at its heart.”
In 2001, Fr. Nguyen was ordained coadjutor bishop of Phan Thiet, which is 120 miles east of Ho Chi Minh City. He took over as head of the diocese in 2005 and resigned due to age in 2009. He now lives with his community and directs it.
Most of the community is in the Phan Thiet diocese, but it also has houses in Paris, Ho Chi Minh City, and in Biloxi, Miss. They operate medical centers, raise hogs, and purify water for the poorest of Vietnam.
Earlier this year, Mahoney traveled to Vietnam to visit Bishop Nguyen and the Community of Charity and Social Services, and the experience was “at once exhilarating and tremendously humbling.”
In all these years, Bishop Nguyen has been spared prison or martyrdom. “It's amazing, how he survived the communists,” Mahoney said.
The bishop's thought is simple, related Mahoney: “God didn't want me in prison.”
“The communists are a delay,” says the bishop, “but it doesn't change the outcome … God's love is just an unstoppable force.”
Mahoney said that relations with the government even improve at times.
One official who had blocked Bishop Nguyen's efforts to start a particular medical center later called him and asked him to come to a mining village to say Mass.
“He said, 'This is a mining area out here and there have been a lot of deaths, but none among the Catholics. So come say a Mass and the Catholics can participate and everyone else can watch.'”
“So now,” Mahoney related, “the bishop and this communist are kind of getting along.”
Mahoney is now assisting the Community of Charity and Social Services and his friend Bishop Nguyen by helping them to raise funds to build housing for the brothers of the order and other needs.
In last year alone, the community treated 142,000 people with medical care, and provided potable water to 56,000 impoverished Vietnamese.
“God was using someone who didn't know he was being used, and who certainly was totally lacking in trust. When you ask an infantry officer to get you a building … I wish I could tell you my reaction was 'God will provide,' but it wasn't.
“But God did provide. If God can use me as an infantry officer with nothing in 1968, he can probably use me now,” Mahoney concluded.
Those interested in helping the community can contact Our Lady of Tapao Convent in Biloxi via www.bacaixahoi.org.
Washington D.C., Dec 13, 2012 (CNA) -
Religious liberty advocates are hailing the end of a seven-year legal battle over the required provision of abortion drugs in Illinois pharmacies as a major triumph for conscience rights.
“This decision is a great victory for religious freedom,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has represented the pharmacists in the case for several years.
“The government shouldn’t kick business owners out of the market just because it dislikes their religious beliefs,” he said in a statement.
“Over seven years of litigation, there was never a shred of proof that a religious objection at a pharmacy harmed anyone,” Rienzi explained. “These pharmacists do a wonderful job serving their communities, and the state’s decision not to appeal lets them get back to that important work.”
On Dec. 10, the Illinois Attorney General announced that it would not appeal a court decision upholding the conscience rights of pharmacists against a state mandate requiring the dispensation of abortion-inducing drugs.
After seven years in court, the decision secures a victory for two Illinois pharmacists and the pharmacies they run.
The case stems from a 2005 executive rule issued by then-Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich to require all pharmacists and pharmacies in the state to dispense Plan B, also known as the “morning after pill.”
While it is commonly called “emergency contraception,” the drug can cause an early abortion by ending the life of a newly created human embryo.
Pharmacists who did not comply with the rule were threatened with fines and the loss of professional licenses.
The governor did not allow a religious exemption to the rule, saying that pharmacists who were morally opposed to the drug should find a different profession.
Several pharmacists and pharmacies that morally object to cooperating in the destruction of human life filed a lawsuit challenging the rule.
The suit argued that the rule violated state religious liberty laws, health care conscience protections and the religious freedom guarantees in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
It charged that the rule unfairly discriminated against health care professionals seeking to contribute to society according to their principles by forcing them to choose between their constitutionally protected rights and their livelihood.
In April 2011, an Illinois trial court granted a permanent injunction blocking the rule from applying to the pharmacists. The court found no evidence that anyone had been harmed by a pharmacist’s religious objections to providing the drugs. It also noted that the law allowed pharmacies to refuse to sell drugs for many other business reasons, but not religious ones.
A state appellate court affirmed the injunction in September 2012, finding that the rule amounted to “discrimination in licensing” against those with religious objections to early abortion drugs.
Dr. Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, hailed the decision as “a tremendous victory.”
Americans United for Life, which filed the original lawsuit in the case, noted that many individuals throughout the country face similar dilemmas due the Obama administration’s recent federal mandate requiring employers to offer health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and early abortion drugs.
Yoest said that the victory in Illinois “has dramatic implications for all people of faith who object to being forced to throw aside their convictions to support an anti-life agenda.”
Washington D.C., Dec 13, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Missouri business executive Charles Drury, who helped found the hotel chain that bears his name, attributes his success to a firm reliance on God and a willingness to value family over material possessions.
“We don’t believe that we are smart enough to be successful on our own,” Drury told CNA on Dec. 11.
At age 85, Drury has enjoyed a successful career with Drury Hotels Company, LLC, which has more than 130 hotels in 20 states. However, life was not always easy for him and his family.
Drury came from humble beginnings, raised on a farm is southeast Missouri during the Depression era.
“Everybody that was in that area was very, very poor,” he recalled, noting that no one in town had electric lights and that he was the first child in the area who was able to go to high school.
The second of nine children, Drury learned on the farm “how to do things by instinct.” Working with hogs, chicken and cattle taught him valuable lessons that helped him later in business.
While the family was not wealthy, they were sustained by their strong Catholic faith, Drury explained.
He recalled his mother listening to Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen when he was young and how he was taught by Catholic nuns in school.
“We worked every holiday – Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving Day – but we never did work a Holy Day,” he said.
“We would go to confession every Saturday night to prepare for Sunday morning Mass,” he added.
Drury also discussed the importance of family meals. He remembered how all 11 members of the family would come together to eat and how they would pray before and after every meal.
“I think family life is one thing that we’re eliminating today,” he said, lamenting that family meals are today too often replaced with eating alone in front of a television.
“Our culture has changed so much,” he said.
After graduating from high school, Drury served for two years in the Air Force and then returned home to work with his family.
With his father and brothers, he began plastering, laying ceramic tile and setting marble and structural steel. Eventually, they started working as subcontractors, although his father refused to work for anyone who required a contract, teaching his sons that they must always follow through on their word.
After working at many hotels, “we decided we ought to build one of our own,” Drury said.
His family initially bought one Holiday Inn franchise and five Ramada Inn franchises. The company moved forward, learning from their mistakes, and they eventually decided to start their own hotel.
As the company grew, Drury remembered his roots. Since no one in the family business had attended college, most of their instincts came from working with animals on the farm, he recalled.
In addition, a strong faith continued to influence the Drurys’ business decisions. Whenever there was a dispute that could not be resolved – sometimes thousands of dollars – they would settle it by offering to give the disputed sum to the Church and allow the other party to take the deduction for it, a practice that he continues today.
When the company bought interstate sites that they later realized they did not need for their hotels, they donated them to the Church, he added.
Drury hotels have never had pornographic television channels in any of their rooms, he said, adding that he has received numerous letters of gratitude from parents who appreciate the ability to bring their children to hotels without worrying about exposing them to inappropriate sexual content.
In his personal life, Drury continues his Church-related philanthropy, a practice that his family maintained even when they were living on the farm with very few material possessions.
He and his wife Shirley participate in local fundraisers and community initiatives, as well as international efforts to help those in need around the world through organizations such as the Papal Foundation.
Currently, Drury is dealing with the federal contraception mandate. Issued in Jan. 2012 by the Department of Health and Human Services, the mandate requires employers to offer health insurance that covers contraception, sterilization and drugs that have the potential to cause abortions.
Although he is pro-life and objects to the mandate, his company is subject to it because it is considered “secular” by the government, despite the fact that it is a private family company.
Drury said that he has sent out notices that the company – which is self-insured – will not comply with the mandate and is in the process of pursuing a legal challenge to it.
“We will not participate in payments of any kind” that oppose Church teaching, he said.
Montevideo, Uruguay, Dec 13, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Uruguayan House of Representatives has voted to pass a law legalizing same-sex “marriage” in the country.
According to the Efe news agency, sponsors brought the bill up for a vote after midnight on Dec. 12 and lawmakers voted 81- 6 to pass it.
The law defines marriage as “the permanent union between two people of the same or opposite sex,” and will move to the country's senate where it is expected to pass.
Julio Bango of President Jose Mujica’s Frente Amplio Party, said the law achieves “true equality before the law for all citizens. And it affirms that equality, since we are all diverse and we are all equal before it.”
The bishops of Uruguay, however, denounced the measure, saying marriage can only consist of “the stable union of man and woman.”
Bishop Alberto Sanquinetti said that the success of such legislation is due to lawmakers “mixing up words and changing their meaning to cause confusion.”
“It is impossible for there to be a marriage between two men or two women,” he said. “If they want to create some other kind of union or contract between people of the same sex, they should find another name, because it will never be marriage.”
“No union between two men or two women, no matter how stable, can be equal, because they cannot perform the conjugal act that takes place between two people of distinct corporality – man and woman – and the sexual attraction they have is not capable of procreation,” the bishop said.
Rome, Italy, Dec 13, 2012 (CNA) -
Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops, said the Catholics of America should be “on the front lines in the battle” for justice, peace and “authentic human rights.”
However, he qualified, this commitment can only be effective “with the testimony of holiness.”
Cardinal Ouellet made his remarks during a solemn Mass for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrated at the Church of St. Mary in Traspontina, outside the Vatican.
The Dec. 12 Mass, concelebrated by cardinals, bishops and priests of the Roman Curia, was the closing event for the international congress Ecclesia in America, organized by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and the Knights of Columbus.
The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrates the apparition of the Virgin Mary in 1531 to St. Juan Diego near present-day Mexico City. She told Juan Diego to ask the local bishop to build a church on the site. Later when he asked for a sign, she said his ailing uncle would be cured. She also asked him to gather in his tilma roses and other flowers which had miraculously bloomed.
When he unraveled his tilma before the bishop, it bore a miraculous image of the Virgin Mary in an indigenous style of art. The image helped convert many natives to Christianity.
Recalling the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Cardinal Ouellet said, “Thanks to three miracles of Holy Mary, grace prevailed over episcopal prudence and marked the launching of the evangelization of the new world.”
“But now she is urging the baptized of all of America to set out on the journey of the new evangelization,” he said.
“We have come to Rome, to this meeting, guided by the star, like the ‘wise men from the east,’ the star that is Our Lady of Guadalupe,” he told the more than 150 cardinals, bishops, priests and laity from across America and the Caribbean.
“Let us now bear witness to the Gospel that unites us beyond our borders and races in one continent, as children of the one Church: the entire world, especially the poor and those suffering most, await this testimony.”
“We baptized should stand up and proclaim our faith with pride, certainly with respect for all but with the urgency of knowing that we must pass the torch of this faith on to the new generations of the digital culture,” Cardinal Ouellet said.
He also spoke movingly about the testimony of holiness of the first saint of America, St. Rose of Lima, and that of the newest saint, St. Kateri Tekakwitha.
“Both saints must be joining hands together in Heaven now, not only to watch over all of America, but also to urge us on in the new evangelization,” he said.
“For this reason,” the Canadian cardinal said, “the only guarantee that we have fulfilled our mission is holiness: the existence today of holy men and women.”
“There is no obstacle to be saints today, a mustard seed of faith is enough,” he said.
Vatican City, Dec 13, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - As young people become more concerned with quick professional success and rely on social networks as a replacement for community, Pope Benedict said that families and governments must work for the authentic education of students.
In a Dec. 13 address in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall to new ambassadors from Guinea, Niger, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Zambia, the Pope turned the diplomats’ attention to the “unprecedented” rifts in society that need to be addressed.
“Family and school no longer seem to be the first and natural fertile ground where younger generations can receive the lifeblood of their existence,” Benedict XVI said.
The Pope asserted that the “natural areas of society and communications” have been replaced by the “novelty” of social networking.
At the same time, he observed that many young people seem to be increasingly concerned with speedy economic success without paying attention to the “required skills, training and experience” needed to achieve such goals.
Modern technology has contributed to this dilemma, the Pope noted, saying that it makes the temptation to achieve success while “making the minimal effort” even greater than before.
Pope Benedict urged parents, educators and governments to respond to this situation by striving for a more balanced education of students, one that encourages “effort and perseverance through difficulties.”
He called the “education in correct values” a “right” that should “never be forgotten or denied” due to politics.
The Pope also asked the ambassadors to urge their leaders to courageously “work on the consolidation of moral authority” that is “necessary for a true and healthy upbringing of the younger generation.”
Such formation requires “the promotion of a sound anthropology, which is an indispensable basis for any genuine education, and consistent with the common natural heritage.”
The pontiff noted that today many people ask the same question that Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?”
“Nowadays telling the truth makes you suspect, wanting to live the truth seems outdated, and promotion of the truth futile,” the Pope remarked.
Nonetheless, “the future of humanity” rests in “the relationship of children and young people with truth,” he said.
Richmond, Va., Dec 13, 2012 (CNA) - Bishop emeritus Walter F. Sullivan of Richmond, Va., a prominent advocate of social issues, passed away on Dec. 11at his Virginia home after recently being diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer.
The Diocese of Richmond remembered Bishop Sullivan as a “man of the Gospel” and “a priest who stood for justice, compassion and peace.”
“We commend him to Our Lord Jesus and ask your prayers for the repose of his soul and for the consolation of his beloved family and dear friends,” the diocese said in a statement.
Bishop Sullivan led the Diocese of Richmond for three decades as its 11th bishop. Known for his work in justice and peace efforts, he also stirred controversy with some of his initiatives.
He created a Commission on Sexual Minorities and instituted an annual Mass for gays and lesbians. He also helped found a joint Catholic and Episcopal parish in Virginia Beach that held shared liturgies with dual altars.
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell remembered the bishop as “a man of tremendous faith with a true servant's heart.”
In a statement responding to the prelate’s death, McDonnell described Bishop Sullivan as “touching many lives and always finding ways to bridge differences in his community and around the nation.”
“Having visited with him many times I admired his love of life and passion to protect it, and his enthusiastic ministry to and advocacy for the poor,” he said.
Born June 10, 1928, in Washington, D.C., Bishop Sullivan attended St. Charles College and St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore.
He was ordained a priest in Richmond in 1953 and served as an associate pastor at several parishes in the diocese. In the years that followed, he received a canon law degree from The Catholic University of America and served as secretary of the diocesan tribunal, chancellor of the diocese and rector of the cathedral.
In 1970, he was ordained auxiliary bishop, and in 1974, he was installed as bishop of the Diocese of Richmond.
He served in this position until his retirement in September 2003, when he moved to St. Paul’s parish and remained active in diocesan initiatives.
As his episcopal motto, Bishop Sullivan chose “To Unite All in Christ,” from the prayer of Christ at the Last Supper, “that all may be one.”
A strong advocate for the poor and homeless, he also spoke out openly against war and the death penalty.
At the administrative level, he was the Bishop-President of Pax Christi USA and served on the administrative board for the national bishops’ conference. He was also part of a committee that created a 1993 statement by the U.S. bishops entitled “The Harvest of Justice is Sown in Peace,” the statement marked the 10th anniversary of the bishops’ pastoral letter on peace.
A funeral Mass for Bishop Sullivan will be held on Dec. 19 at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Richmond.
Paris, France, Dec 13, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A French cabinet member announced that the government will monitor certain groups for "religious pathology," including a traditionalist Catholic organization, and will shut them down if it is discovered.
“The objective is to identify when it's suitable to intervene to treat what has become a religious pathology,” Interior Minister Manuel Valls told a conference on the official policy of secularism, according to Reuters.
“The aim is not to combat opinions by force, but to detect and understand when an opinion turns into a potentially violent and criminal excess,” he said at the Dec. 11 conference.
Valls' remarks come in the wake of President Francois Hollande's announcement Dec. 9 that he would create the “National Observatory of Secularism” to promote France’s policy and to “formulate propositions for the transmission of 'public morality,' giving it a dignified place in schools.”
Hollande's announcement of the observatory was made on the anniversary of the adoption of a law in 1905 that established secularism as state policy in France. It was accompanied by the decision to honor the sociologist Emile Poulat, who helped to “promote secularism as an essential value of our living-together.”
Secularism (laïcité in French) has received a boost from Hollande's Socialist government, which believes it was weakened under former President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Valls said that the government would be monitoring violence among religious radicals, including Salafist Muslims and Civitas, an organization of lay Catholics which is associated with the Society of Saint Pius X.
He said that Civitas is observed because its political protests flirt with “the limits of legality … All excesses are being minutely registered in case we have to consider dissolving it and defending this before a judge.”
Civitas is “a political movement inspired by natural law and the social doctrine of the Church … engaged in the establishment of the social Kingship of Christ” throughout the world, and in France in particular. It demonstrates against secularism and policies which denigrate Christianity.
According to Reuters, Valls offered radicals Islamists, traditionalist Catholics, and ultra-orthodox Jews “who want to live separately from the modern world” as examples of religious extremists.
Under the secularist policy, the government will identify “sects” and disband faith-based groups it deems to suffer from “religious pathology.”
On Oct. 31 of this year, the Tunisian imam Muhammad Hammami was expelled from France because he defended violence against women and made anti-Semitic speeches at his Parisian mosque.
“We decided to be uncompromising against all those who utter hate speech against the Republic and our values,” Valls said at the time.
In March 2012, an al-Qaeda supporter murdered three soldiers and four Jews in Toulouse, which Valls said at the conference “showed how quickly religiously radicalized people could turn to force.”
Secularism in France discourages the display of religion in the public square. In 2004, Muslim women were barred from wearing hijabs in public schools.
Education minister Vincent Peillon told the Dec. 11 conference that the classes on secular morality would emphasize the French secularist values of equality and fraternity.
In an interview with Le Journal du Dimanche, he said that secular morality is to “understand what is right and to distinguish good from evil.”
“Secularism is not about simple tolerance … it is a set of values that we have to share.”