Washington D.C., Jan 10, 2013 (CNA) - A Maryland university employee has been reinstated after spending three months on administrative leave for signing a petition to allow locals to vote on same-sex “marriage” in the state.
“The work of the University’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion is vital and must continue in an active and vibrant way,” said T. Alan Hurwitz, president of Gallaudet University, which serves the deaf and hard of hearing.
According to the Associated Press, Hurwitz explained in a brief Jan. 7 statement to the campus community that Dr. Angela McCaskill was being returned to the position of Chief Diversity Officer.
“I personally look forward to working with Dr. McCaskill on the work of that office,” he said.
McCaskill, the first deaf African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. from Gallaudet, has been on paid leave since October, when it was discovered that she had signed a petition asking that Maryland voters be allowed to decide whether “gay marriage” should be implemented in the state.
A law to redefine marriage in the state of Maryland passed in March 2012. However, it was delayed from taking effect until January 2013, allowing time for the measure to before the people in a referendum.
McCaskill was one of more than 200,000 Maryland residents who signed a petition allow voters in the state to approve or reject the law.
She was consequently placed on administrative leave, with Hurwitz stating in an email that “Dr. McCaskill has participated in a legislative initiative that some feel is inappropriate for an individual serving as Chief Diversity Officer.”
The move came amid increasing concerns of censorship of those who support traditional marriage. A number of organizations criticized the decision to place McCaskill on leave.
Shortly after her suspension from the university, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said in a statement that the decision “reflects the troubling trend of intimidation and bullying tactics against those who uphold marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”
In August, a security guard was shot at the Family Research Council headquarters in Washington, D.C. after the organization was labeled a “hate group” for its views on marriage.
Perkins warned that a redefinition of marriage will lead to “more of these discriminatory actions taken against anyone who espouses marriage as it has always been defined.”
The Family Research Council launched a petition to reinstate McCaskill, which drew more than 22,000 signatures.
In an Oct. 16 press conference, McCaskill said that she was “dismayed” at the “intolerance” and “intimidation” she had experienced after more than 20 years of service to the university.
McCaskill has said that she is not anti-gay, and has refused to take a public stance either for or against the law. She explained that she believes in the political process and thinks that the decision should be made by the people rather than the legislature.
The referendum to uphold the “gay marriage” law in Maryland passed narrowly in November, allowing same-sex couples to receive marriage licenses on Jan. 1, 2013.
Washington D.C., Jan 10, 2013 (CNA) - Defending the sexual complementarity between men and women in marriage is an essential first step in building up a healthy “culture of marriage” as a whole, say the authors of a new book.
“I really do believe that this is a reasonable debate among reasonable people of good will,” said Prof. Robert George of Princeton University.
George spoke Dec. 19 at the Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C. Joining him at the promotional event for their book, “What is Marriage,” were co-authors Sherif Girgis and Ryan Anderson.
The speakers explained that while attempts to redefine marriage are based on an understanding of the union as primarily emotional, this is neither the historical nor contemporary definition of the marital union.
Girgis, who is both a second-year Ph.D. student at Princeton and a first-year law student at Yale, observed that marriage, historically and philosophically understood, is a conjugal, comprehensive union on multiple levels.
In marriage, there is a “union of heart and mind but also of the body,” he said, explaining that the physical realities of husband and wife are integral to the conjugal nature of marriage.
It is this bodily union that makes procreation possible and distinguishes marriage from friendships and other human relationships, Girgis explained.
Changing marriage from this definition would be harmful to society, and should therefore be avoided, warned Anderson, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
He stressed that “being for marriage does not mean anti-gay” and said that marriage defenders “should be at the forefront” of efforts to oppose bullying and discrimination against those who are same-sex attracted.
However, he continued, supporters of marriage should not allow their position to be called “bigotry,” and they must explain that their position is not unjustly discriminatory.
Instead, he maintained, supporters of traditional marriage should affirm that there is “(n)othing more important for the future of the nation” than a “healthy marriage culture,” particularly for the benefit of children.
Government has a vested interest in protecting and promoting marriage, Anderson said, because of the social benefits offered by a healthy marriage culture.
Outlining the political consequences of redefining marriage, he pointed towards the creation of no-fault divorce and how it has changed society's view of marriage by removing the concept of permanence.
Accepting “gay marriage” would further weaken marriage by removing the understanding that it is a fundamentally conjugal union, he said.
Anderson also noted that if it is “judgmental” to state that children need both a mother and a father, it will become increasingly difficult to promote active fatherhood and could lead to increased fatherlessness across the country.
Concluding the discussion, George asserted that ultimately, the marriage question is one of rationality.
In a culture that lacks an understanding of the importance of conjugal union, marriage seems to be a mere issue of equality, he explained.
However, the implications of redefining marriage are drastic, he continued, because without the element of sexual complementarity, there is no rational basis for rejecting polyamory.
As a result, redefining marriage could lead to a collapse of the term altogether, he said, noting that many people “can’t explain why marriage requires exclusivity and sexual fidelity,” as well as permanence.
Promoting the conjugal aspect of marriage is an important step in rebuilding the definition of the institution that has existed in every culture throughout recorded history, George said.
He explained that the strengthening of marriage will require additional efforts, with aid from law, philosophy, culture and religious institutions.
“The struggle to preserve the conjugal understanding of marriage in our law,” George stated, is “only a first step...of the steps we need to take...to rebuild a strong and healthy and vibrant marriage culture.”
Vina, Calif., Jan 10, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A California abbey has been home to Cistercian monks since 1955, and now houses a new chapel built of stones taken from a medieval Cistercian monastery in Spain.
“These stones have come home...we had a donor event last year because the scaffolding finally came down, and you can see the glory of this vaulted stone chapter house,” abbot Father Paul Mark Schwan told CNA Jan. 7.
“We sang our Cistercian 'Salve' at the conclusion of this event. That was the first time since 1835 that these stones had heard the chanting of, as it were, 'their' Cistercian monks,” he added.
“It was a very touching moment not just for our monks but for the guests who were present for that.”
The new chapel for the Abbey of New Clairvaux – located in Vina, Calif. – is made from stones which had been a chapter house created in the late 12th century for Spain's Santa Maria de Ovila monastery.
The monastery was seized by the Spanish government in 1835, and from then on the buildings were long used as barns for local farmers. The property was later purchased by William Randolph Hearst, who had the monastery's chapter house disassembled and transported to the United States.
The stones ended up languishing San Francisco's Golden Gate Park for over 60 years, but when New Clairvaux was founded, they caught the eye of one of the new monks.
In 1955, Father Thomas Davis was taken to see the stones, and according to Fr. Paul Mark, he “thought to himself that these stones need to return to Cistercian property...they're our heritage.”
Fr. Davis became abbot of New Clairvaux and had “a vision in his own heart” about bringing the stones to the monastery. After the monastery's main building suffered a fire in 1970, he secured about 20 of the stones from Golden Gate Park for the monastery, but they were not enough to be of use.
The abbot again tried to obtain all of the stones in the early 90s, and in 1994 they were finally awarded to the monastery. The medieval chapter house has now been rebuilt, and will serve as the monastery's chapel when it is completed.
The medieval chapter house is a classic example of Cistercian architecture, showing the transition from Romanesque to Gothic styles, Fr. Paul Mark said.
It has taken around $7 million to complete the building process, and the monastery needs another $2 million to complete the church.
The monks are looking forward to a permanent chapel, as the monastery's current chapel was built in 1960 and was only expected to last some ten years. They also hope to raise an additional $5 million so as to build a much-needed infirmary, as well as an administration and formation center for their novices.
Their fund raising has been assisted by Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, located in nearby Chico, which in 2010 began brewing a series of Belgian-style ales called “Ovila Abbey” beers.
Sierra Nevada agreed to donate a portion of the proceeds from the series to the monastery's building projects. The monastery also produces its own wines, and its winery is known as New Clairvaux Vineyard.
The community numbers 23, and is “doing very well for vocations,” Fr. Mark said. New Clairvaux has one postulant and one novice, and received three solemn professions last year.
The community is part of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, also called Trappists. They observe the Rule of St. Benedict, and spend much of their time chanting the Liturgy of the Hours.
While the efforts to rebuild the medieval chapter house and transform it into a chapel have put the usually obscure monks “in the limelight,” Fr. Mark said that “it helps us to treasure all the more our vocation, and move more inward in our hearts and protect that inner silence and solitude which is so characteristic of our way of life.”
Fr. Mark noted that the community is very pleased that the stones which had been long-neglected in Golden Gate Park can again be home to the monks for whom they were first hewn.
“That's why we feel so strongly about these stones. They're not just stones, they're stones that held Cistercian life, held Christian monastic life for over 600 years...there's an element of justice in it.”
Vatican City, Jan 10, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict reflected on the mystery of the Incarnation during his general audience Jan. 9, calling it the “original gift of Christmas.”
“On that holy night, God becoming flesh, wanting to become a gift for man, gave himself for us; God has made his only-begotten Son a gift for us, taking our humanity to give us his divinity,” the Pope said at the Vatican's Paul VI Hall.
“Here we find the model of our giving, because our relationships, especially the most important ones, are driven by the free gift of love.”
Pope Benedict opened his remarks by dwelling on the term “Incarnation,” which developed through reflection on the words of John's Gospel, “the Word became flesh.” He said the incarnation is “central to the Christian faith.”
The word “flesh”, he said, in the Hebrew context, “indicates the person as a whole, the whole man.” Thus there is significance in the particular time and place in which Christ became man: he cares for the particular circumstances of everyone's life.
“This is to say that the salvation wrought by God made flesh in Jesus of Nazareth touches man in his concrete reality and in whatever situation you are.”
“God took the human condition,” he continued, “to heal us from all that separates us from him, so that we can call him, in his only-begotten Son, by the name 'Abba, Father,' and be truly children of God.”
The pontiff said there is a danger that we have become so accustomed to the fact that “the Word became flesh” that we have forgotten its profound significance.
“It is important then to recover the amazement before this mystery...God, the true God, Creator of all, has come as a man in our streets, entering the time of man, to communicate his own life.”
Pope Benedict continued, saying the Incarnation “shows us the unprecedented realism of divine love.”
“The action of God, in fact, is not limited to words, indeed we might say he is not content only to speak, but is immersed in our history and takes on the fatigue and weight of human life.”
The fact that God chose to join the human experience, growing up in a family and having friends, “is a powerful stimulus to question the realism of our faith,” he said.
Faith “should not be limited to the sphere of feelings and emotions, but must enter into the reality of our existence, that is to touch our life every day and direct it in a practical way.”
The Pope emphasized that faith has a “fundamental aspect” with affects “not only the mind and the heart, but the entirety of our lives.”
Pope Benedict concluded by examining the link between the Old and New Testaments. He said the opening of John's Gospel “clearly alludes” to the creation story from the beginning of Genesis.
John the Evangelist, he said, read Genesis “in the light of Christ.” So too we must always read the Old and New Testaments together.
Jesus is the New Adam, and “in this child, the Son of God contemplated in Christmas, we can recognize the true face, not only of God, but the true face of humanity.”
“Only by opening ourselves to the action of his grace and trying each day to follow him, do we realize the plan of God for us, for each one of us,” concluded Pope Benedict.
Las Cruces, N.M., Jan 10, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Vatican has announced that Bishop Oscar Cantú will serve as the second leader of the Diocese of Las Cruces, N.M., following the retirement of Bishop Ricardo Ramírez.
Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of the diocese’s first leader who announced his retirement upon reaching the age limit in 2011, apostolic nuncio to the U.S. Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò announced Jan. 10.
In a statement Thursday, Bishop Ramirez called the appointment an “historic moment” for the diocese and recalled his more than three decades of service as “a labor of love.”
He expressed confidence in his succesor’s “impeccable” credentials and said it was his “privilege and joy” to formally present Bishop Cantú as Las Cruces’ new bishop.
Bishop Cantú, 46, was ordained to the priesthood May 21, 1994.When he was just 41, he was ordained as a bishop in 2008 as auxiliary of San Antonio.
Although he will “deeply” miss his friends and mentors from San Antonio, Bishop Cantú said he looks forward “to forming new friends and working together to build up the Kingdom.”
“I come to Las Cruces with no particular agenda other than to humbly and joyfully proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said Jan. 10.
He currently serves on the committees on Catholic Education, International Justice and Peace, and Protection of Children and Young People, and as the Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs in the U.S. bishops’ conference.
As a seminarian, Bishop Cantú, who is fluent in English, Spanish, Italian and French, worked on a committee with then-Bishop James Tamayo of Laredo to promote Hispanic ministry.
He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Dallas and went on to earn his Masters in Divinity and Masters in Theological Studies from the University of St. Thomas in Houston before earning his Licentiate in Sacred Theology and Doctorate of Sacred Theology in Dogmatic Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
Before being ordained a bishop, he was pastor of his childhood parish, Holy Name, in Houston. He has served as parochial vicar at St. Christopher Parish in Houston and has taught at the University of St. Thomas and St. Mary’s Seminary.
Born Dec. 5, 1966, Bishop Cantú is the fifth of eight children to Ramiro and Maria de Jesus Cantú, who are natives of small towns near Monterey, Mexico.
Houston Catholic schools were vital in forming Bishop Cantú and six of his siblings who attended them for their primary education.
Although Bishop Cantú’s father only received schooling up to 6th grade, he taught the value of education to his children, four of whom graduated college and three of whom have earned master’s degrees.
The Diocese of Las Cruces, which was established in 1982, is home to 132,646 Catholics, 81 priests, 38 permanent deacons and 82 religious in the southern region of New Mexico.
New York City, N.Y., Jan 10, 2013 (CNA) -
An organizer for the New York Encounter, a three-day cultural festival held in January, says this year's theme of “Experiencing Freedom” is an idea both cherished and deeply divisive in American culture.
“What is it that defines this mysterious thing which we call freedom, which for us as believers is the ultimate reflection of the experience of God himself that's been given to us as creatures?” Maurizio Maniscalco, the event's chairman, reflected.
“Freedom is the territory where not even God intervenes in our life,” which makes its experience a “pretty compelling thing,” he told CNA in a Jan. 9 interview.
The New York Encounter will be held Jan. 18-20 in midtown Manhattan, and is the third annual installment of the event. It is free and requires no registration.
The Encounter is organized by the Catholic ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation and by Crossroads Cultural Center. The center aims to explore the relationship between religion and culture, and was founded by members of the Communion and Liberation movement.
This year's Encounter will feature reflections from an array of speakers, as well as musical and artistic performances, and exhibits on author G. K. Chesterton and the Cristero martyrs of Mexico. Mass will be said Jan. 20 by Cardinal Egan, archbishop emeritus of New York.
Among the speakers is Paul Bhatti, who is Pakistan's Minister of National Harmony and Minority Affairs. He will talk about the life of his brother Shahbaz, who was martyred in 2011 for his support of Pakistani Christians and his opposition to the country's blasphemy laws, which are primarily used to persecute non-Muslims.
Maniscalco said the organizers desire to share their experience of God with those who attend the Encounter, and that it is for Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
“Our ultimate desire is that what happened to us, may happen to others. And since it happened to us through human encounters, our hope is that through the human encounter that the New York Encounter is, somebody could discover that God is not just an unknown mystery, but is a life, that the church is not an obsolete organization, but is a life.”
“And for those who already believe, we desire that God willing they may return home with more hope, more faith, more charity; more passion, more love for what they are called to do, what they are called to live.”
He said that freedom is experienced not as an achievement, but as a belonging-in-community.
“We know that the truth will make us free. And the truth has become man, dwelling among us. That is our certainty.”
“And we hope that by spending some time there, listening to witnesses, maybe even seeing the 200 volunteers we have who make this happen, one begins to perceive, to see a glimpse of this possible fulfillment which is fruit of a belonging.”
New York Encounter is “as Catholic event as it can be,” Maniscalco said, “in a true sense.”
“Those who make it happen do it with the one and only desire, to bring their humble testimony in the public square, in the heart of New York City.”
He said the Encounter is in the spirit of St. Paul's admonition to test all things, and “hold fast to what which is good.”
“We invite people, we present things...we try to embrace them and retain what is good.”
While being a “Catholic” event, the New York Encounter is not one in which “we sit there to pray the Rosary,” Maniscalco reflected.
“God willing we do that, but during the Encounter, it's a sign, an event of openness.” The New York Encounter is the fruit of a “desire to bring our testimony in the heart of the world,” said Maniscalco.
New York Encounter “aims to discover, affirm, and offer to everyone truly human expressions of the desire for truth, beauty, and justice,” its website says. It is “a meeting point for people of different beliefs, traditions, and cultures striving for reciprocal understanding, mutual building, and true friendship.”
The organizers of the event are all members of Communion and Liberation, which was founded in 1954 by Monsignor Luigi Giusanni. Maniscalco said the movement's gift to the Church is “a friendship in the name of Christ,” and that the New York Encounter “is a little example” of this friendship.
Andrew Whaley will be attending the New York Encounter, and is traveling from Colorado to do so.
“I'm fairly new to Communion and Liberation, but am really intrigued so far, both by the thought of Fr. Luigi Giussani, but also by the way it is lived out so immediately in community,” he told CNA Jan. 10.
“He was always saying 'Christ is an event that is happening to me 'now.' I find it a challenge to do that from moment to moment – to experience my life and my self as a question, in the moment, whose answer is Christ,” Whaley added.
“I am looking forward to being surrounded by an entire community attempting to live that for a few days.”
Limerick, Ireland, Jan 10, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The priest named as the next Bishop of Limerick called for a “new start” three years after the diocese’s previous bishop resigned in the face of severe criticism of his handling of sex abuse cases.
Pope Benedict XVI named Father Brendan Leahy, a 52-year-old theology professor at St. Patrick’s College Maynooth, as the Diocese of Limerick’s new bishop Thursday.
“Being appointed Bishop of Limerick is certainly not something I foresaw as part of my life’s journey, but I am very grateful to Pope Benedict for opening up for me a new stage in life among the people and places of the historical and renowned diocese of Limerick,” Bishop-designate Leahy said Jan. 10 at a gathering at Limerick’s St. John’s Cathedral.
“Confidence comes certainly not from me. I am only too conscious of the contrast between who I am and the task ahead of me. But I recognize that the Church is first and foremost based on a promise that does not deceive: Jesus’ promise: 'remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age,'” he said.
Bishop-designate Leahy was born in Dublin in 1960 and ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Dublin in 1986. He is a member of the Focolare movement.
He has published several books on topics like the Mass, the Stations of the Cross and Pope John Paul II. He is an expert in the theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar and helped organize a well-received three-day theological symposium ahead of the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in 2012.
Those in attendance at the announcement of the bishop-designate’s appointment included apostolic nuncio to Ireland Archbishop Charles Brown, diocesan administrator Fr. Tony Mullins and former Bishop of Limerick Donal Murray, the Diocese of Limerick said.
Fr. Mullins welcomed the bishop-to-be.
“Fr. Brendan Leahy’s appointment as our bishop and shepherd comes at a time of great challenge. But every challenge presents us with a new opportunity to proclaim the good news of the gospel,” he said.
Bishop Murray, 72, resigned from the diocese in December 2009 after an Irish government report found he had acted “inexcusably” by not investigating serial sex abuser Fr. Tom Naughton when he was an auxiliary bishop of Dublin in the 1980s. The findings came amid continued reaction and controversy over the Catholic bishops’ response to the sexual abuse of minors.
Bishop-designate Leahy said Catholics in Ireland have been through “a very dark moment” but he affirmed that God is “not absent” and invites people to “look at things with new eyes.”
“That the Church is going through a period of great transition is not new news and yet it is good news,” he said.
“God is indeed at work in our lives. In response to God’s action, we must do all we can to make sure that Church settings are always good places to be, where genuine mutual love is experienced,” the bishop-designate continued. He noted the “robust measures” the diocese has in place to protect children.
Bishop-designate Leahy has studied at many institutions including the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He has served as a corresponding member of the Pontifical Academy of Theology and is a visiting lecturer at the Sophia University Institute in Florence.
He is the chairman of the Archdiocese of Dublin’s Diocesan Ecumenical Committee and secretary of the Irish bishops’ Advisory Committee on Ecumenism .
Bishop-designate Leahy prayed for those who contribute to Limerick’s community and he thanked the “very committed” laity of his diocese, the vowed religious, clergy, and Christians of other denominations.
“In particular I greet people who feel they are hanging on in the Church by their finger tips and all who are struggling with their faith,” he said. “I invite you not to give up. This is a Year of Faith. It can be a new start for us all.”
He entrusted himself to the Virgin Mary and asked Catholics for their prayers.
The Diocese of Limerick has 171,000 Catholics in a population of 178,000. The diocese has 167 priests, with 89 active in ministry in 94 churches. There are 411 vowed religious in the diocese.
Washington D.C., Jan 10, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A report by the U.S. bishops finds a positive relationship between Catholic universities in America and the Church, while encouraging continued cooperation and growth.
“Bishops reported that they believe our institutions of Catholic higher education have made definite progress in advancing Catholic identity,” the document stated.
“The relationship between bishops and presidents on the local level can be characterized as positive and engaged, demonstrating progress on courtesy and cooperation in the last ten years,” it explained.
Released Jan. 10, the report marks the 10-year anniversary of the application of “Ex Corde Ecclesiae,” an apostolic constitution written by Pope John Paul II in 1990 to offer reflections and norms for the identity and mission of Catholic colleges.
“It is in the context of the impartial search for truth,” the Pope says in the document, “that the relationship between faith and reason is brought to light and meaning…The renewal requested of Catholic Universities will make them better able to respond to the task of bringing the message of Christ to man, to society, to the various cultures.”
The Holy Father continues in the document to describe of aims of the Catholic university in pastoral ministry, evangelization, and catechesis. He also outlines the responsibilities of the bishops and dioceses in supporting the mission of Catholic universities.
The U.S. bishops approved the application of “Ex Corde Ecclesiae” in 1999, and it went into effect in 2001, with directives to perform reviews of its success every five years.
In November 2011, the bishops met in regional meetings to discuss the state of Catholic higher education in their area.
According to the report, written by Bishop Joseph P. McFadden of Harrisburg, who chairs the bishops’ Committee on Catholic Education, “the prevailing tone was positive and the news was good.”
“Clarity about Catholic identity among college and university leadership has fostered substantive dialogues and cultivated greater mission driven practices across the university,” he wrote.
The report also offered suggestions for improvement. It said that the Committee on Catholic Education will form a working group of bishops and college presidents to further study avenues for cooperation between the Church and Catholic universities around the nation.
Areas to be addressed in the future include hiring for mission; forming faculty, staff and trustees in Catholic identity; continuing cooperative dialogue between bishops and presidents to promote the Church’s mission; and curricular and pastoral means to offer accurate theological and catechetical knowledge.
In exploring these subjects, the working group will “continue the dialogue about strategic subjects on a national level,” the report said.
“As they consider topics, they will gather information regarding best practices, offer suggestions for conversation at the local level, and as needed, develop resources,” it explained.