Archive of March 6, 2013

Catholics speak out against Colo. civil unions bill

Denver, Colo., Mar 6, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Those who testified against a Colorado civil unions bill last week included a Catholic man with same-sex attraction and a Colorado attorney general who was adopted through Catholic Charities.

State attorney general John Suthers told the Colorado House Judiciary Committee Feb. 28 that if the bill passes in its current form, “Catholic Charities and some other religiously affiliated social service agencies will no longer be in the adoption business in Colorado.”

Suthers, a Catholic and a Republican who testified against the bill in his capacity as a private citizen, was adopted through Catholic Charities as an infant.

The bill S.B. 11 would create civil unions for two people of any sex that would be legally equivalent to marriage under state law. Unlike previous versions of the bill, the present version has dropped a religious freedom provision ensuring that child placement agencies were not required to place children with same-sex or unmarried couples.

The legislation passed the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 8-3. It now heads to the House Finance Committee before a final vote on the House floor.

Catholic Charities of Denver said it was grateful for Suthers' testimony and called for a religious freedom exemption so that the bill “does not threaten the vital work of many child placement agencies in Colorado.”

“Religious liberty is a civil rights issue,” the agency said March 1.

Catholic News Agency columnist Patrick Einheber, who writes on living as a chaste Catholic with same-sex attraction, read to the House committee a condensed version his Jan. 28 column “Same-sex attraction and the specter of inequality.”

“I felt it was important to testify about the major thing that separates marriage from same-sex relationships: the ability to create new members of society through a committed sexual relationship,” Einheber told CNA March 5.

He said he generally felt civil unions proponents’ testimony was “mostly emotional appeal and centered on what they wanted from society.”

“It ignored the fullness of what marriage provides back to society,” he said, explaining that the debate should focus on “why the government cares about marriage to begin with.”

Einheber said there is an “essential difference between equality of persons and the attempt to legislate equality of behaviors.”

Mark Rohlena, president of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado, called for a “broad conscience protection” in his testimony before the committee.

“Sadly in places like Illinois, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., we have seen Catholic Charity organizations forced out of their adoption and foster care programs where they are trusted partners with the state when conscience objections are not protected,” he said.

Rep. Polly Lawrence, a Republican from Littleton, Colo., proposed to amend the bill to provide protections to religious child placement agencies. However, three other Republicans on the committee were not in the room and no other legislator seconded the proposal, the Colorado Springs Gazette reports.

Some religious individuals have backed the bill, including Rev. Mike Morran of the First Unitarian Society of Denver, who said the proposed law allows religious institutions to refuse ceremonies or access to facilities for same-sex couples, but it has no concessions for child placement agencies.

“They can discriminate, or they can accept public money, but they can’t do both,” he said, according to the Colorado Gazette reports.

However, the law applies to all institutions regardless of whether they take public money. In January Rohlena told CNA that Catholic Charities of Central Colorado does not receive state funds in “any significant degree.”

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Denver, a separate Colorado agency, has provided adoption and foster care services since 1927. It also does not accept state funding for adoption services, but it can contract with county governments to place children with the agency’s certified foster families.

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Art historian says Benedict's 'way of beauty' will continue to flower

Rome, Italy, Mar 6, 2013 (CNA) - Pope Emeritus Benedict's emphasis on beauty as a means to encounter truth and grow in faith is one of the “greatest seeds” planted during his pontificate, says art historian Elizabeth Lev.

“In his way of beauty, he says the true way of humanity is this beauty we have in the image and likeness of God,” Lev, a faculty member at the University of St. Thomas' Rome Program, told CNA in February.

“Over the course of his pontificate, and even as cardinal, he has implemented these seeds, these stepping stones for us to follow, to understand the nature of beauty.”

Lev, who studied renaissance art at the University of Chicago and who did her graduate work in baroque art at the University of Bologna, writes for Inside the Vatican, First Things, and Zenit.

She said that Benedict has taught that though beauty can at first be “frightening” or overwhelming, it ultimately “leads us out of ourselves to something great.”

Lev reflected that over the course of his life, Benedict has “seen real ugliness,” yet “recognizes this is not the full truth of humanity. During his childhood he experienced the ugliness of the Nazi regime and the second world war in his homeland, and as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he had to deal with clergy abuse files.

In addition to teaching, Lev is a tour guide in Rome. She has seen that in encountering “real authentic beauty,” people are opened to the truth. Observing this, she said that “Pope Benedict's words have become clearer to me.”

In his 2005 work “On the Way to Jesus Christ,” Benedict wrote that “beauty wounds, but that is precisely how it awakens man to his ultimate destiny” and that “beauty is knowledge...because it strikes man with the truth in all its greatness.”

Lev said that she has seen people struck by the beauty of St. Peter's Basilica or St. Mary Major, and that this encounter with beauty helps them see the changes they need to make in how they live their life.

This is what Benedict meant, when in the same work, he wrote that “pastoral ministry...must arrange for people to encounter the beauty of the faith.”

Lev has seen those who come to Rome and while not Catholic or even Christian, “are receptive to beauty and are in that world willing and happy to listen to the truth behind it, and see it as a goodness.”

“Then there are those who are not interested in beauty and convinced they couldn't care less, but they find themselves slowly seduced by beauty. That's a real joy.”

Lev also discussed Benedict's Nov. 21, 2009 address to artists at the Sistine Chapel. At that time he expressed a desire to “renew the Church's friendship with the world of art.” Lev believes this friendship will “continue to flower” through coming pontificates.

She said Benedict's teaching about “authentic truth and beauty” was an effort to “develop a discernment” about what is beautiful and what is not.

In his address to artists, Benedict distinguished between an “illusory and deceitful” counterfeit of beauty which deprives the onlooker of “hope and joy,” and authentic beauty, which brings him “out of himself” and draws the viewer to “to towards the Other, to reach for the Beyond.”

“Beauty, whether that of the natural universe or that expressed in art, precisely because it opens up and broadens the horizons of human awareness, pointing us beyond ourselves, bringing us face to face with the abyss of Infinity, can become a path towards the transcendent, towards the ultimate Mystery, towards God,” Benedict said.

Reflecting on Benedict's words, Lev concluded that “we will see a growth...of friendship between art and the Church.”

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Catholic charities back lower tuition for immigrants

Denver, Colo., Mar 6, 2013 (CNA) - Colorado's three Catholic Charities agencies have stated their support for a bill which would allow some undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at the state's universities.

“These brothers and sisters are human beings worthy of treatment in keeping with their inherent human dignity,” the directors of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Denver, of Central Colorado, and of the Diocese of Pueblo, wrote Feb. 26.

“Obtaining a college degree will not only empower these aspiring students, but will also help to form and improve the lives of countless future generations.”

Senate Bill 33, known as “ASSET,” would allow undocumented students at Colorado's institutions of higher education who either graduated from a Colorado high school after three years of attendance or who received a General Equivalency Diploma in Colorado to pay the in-state tuition rate.

The bill passed the Colorado Senate Feb. 25. It was voted for by three Republicans, the first time such a bill has had bi-partisan support in the state. Democrats currently control both chambers of the Colorado legislature. The bill is now passing through House committees, and will become law when signed by Democratic governor John Hickenlooper.

“There’s some pretty great kids out there who can benefit from the passage of a bill like this,” said Greg Brophy, one of the Republican state senators who voted in favor of the bill.

Catholic Charities noted that there is a tie between wealth and education and that the bill is an opportunity to help break the “crippling bonds” of “cycles of poverty.”

Not only would the bill help those individuals who avail themselves of in-state tuition, they would in turn be “encouraged to become more productive, well-educated professionals” who “provide their families and our state with lasting benefits for years to come,” Catholic Charities said.

While acknowledging that the undocumented students entered the U.S. illegally, Catholic Charities noted that this was not their act, but generally an act of their parents done while they were “at a very young age.”

Moreover, Catholic Charities said, culturally, the students are “strongly American,” having “little to no attachment” to their native countries. They are already provided with a public school education by the state.

“They long to contribute in meaningful ways – including working and paying taxes – to the economic prosperity of the only nation they have really known.”

Angela Giron, a co-sponsor of the bill, said that “We are now going to be able to reward young people who have played by the rules. They are now going to be able to give back.”

Kevin Lundberg, one of the legislators who voted against the bill in the Senate, denied that his opposition was borne of a “xenophobic, irrational fear” and suggested that the bill is a “step of amnesty.”

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of the Denver archdiocese responded to such suggestions by saying that “the beneficiaries of ASSET are young people, most of whom did not choose to come to Colorado.”

“I commend the bill’s sponsors...for promoting a bill that respects the dignity of young, hard-working Coloradans, who, through no fault of their own, live in Colorado illegally,” he wrote in a Jan. 30 column in the Denver Catholic Register.

“ASSET ensures that Coloradans are equipped to contribute meaningfully to their families, to their communities, and to the civic life of our state,” he concluded.

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Cardinals contemplate insider, outsider papal candidates

Rome, Italy, Mar 6, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - “We are not ready to enter the conclave,” Cardinal Francis George of Chicago plainly told the Italian newspaper La Stampa today, adding, “I never felt that we would begin the conclave on March 11th.”

The American cardinals are first in line among those who do not want to hurry the conclave, and they are not alone.

In the general congregations, the schedule of meetings and all other matters are decided by a majority vote, and the dean of the cardinals is just a “primus inter pares,” i.e. the first among equals.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the man who fulfills that role, initially sketched out a tight schedule for the cardinals pre-conclave meetings. On Monday, two pre-conclave meetings were scheduled in the New Synod Hall: one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

But that schedule was not kept for the following days, since the majority of the cardinals asked to hold only morning meetings, leaving the afternoon free for informal meetings and chats.

It is a subtle battle, as all Vatican battles are.

Gianfranco Svidercoschi, one of the most prominent Vatican observers, asserted in a March 4 discussion that there is “a certain risk that the conclave will be split between two contenders.”

He thinks that an Italian would then emerge as a compromise candidate.

“It is the same situation that occurred in the 1978 conclave, where two candidates struck the conclave and Wojtyla’s star rose. At this time, the candidates are foreigners and the new star would be Italian.”

In the October 1978 conclave, the two main contenders for the papacy were Cardinal Giuseppe Siri and Cardinal Giovanni Benelli. The first was supported by those who thought the Second Vatican Council was being interpreted in a way that strayed from the Church’s tradition, while those who agreed with the way the council was being implemented backed the second candidate and wanted to continue along the same course.  

Both groups were strong enough that neither of them was able to surpass the two-thirds threshold required for electing a Pope.  So, to break the stalemate, Cardinal Franz Koenig put forward the name of Cardinal Karol Wojtyla.

What remains to be seen is whether the story will repeat itself at the 2013 Conclave.

Michele Zanzucchi, the editor of Città Nuova magazine published by the Focolari movement, maintained in a March 5 conversation that the “American, Latin American and Asian groups of cardinal seem to be solid. Europeans, on the other hand, still seem to be bewildered.”

In fact, there are two schools of thought among the cardinals about what type of Pope is needed for the Church’s current problems, particularly those related to the administration – called the Roman Curia – that assists him in his ministry.
Cardinal Séan O’Malley of Boston summed up those positions at a March 5 press conference in Rome.

“There are two general views. The first one maintains that, since the current Church’s problem comes from the Curia, we should elect someone outside the Curia; the second contests that there is a need for an internal leader, since the first commitment of the new Pope should be the Curia reform.”

To be clear, the main point of divergence is not tied to doctrinal differences but is more about who is better qualified to carry out reform and push ahead with some of Benedict XVI’s initiatives.

Meanwhile, those cardinals who work in the Curia or are connected to it were able to tie up some of the schedule of the cardinals who want an outsider to reform the Curia. They did this by announcing a Eucharistic adoration and Vespers ceremony for the afternoon of March 6 in St. Peter’s Basilica.

A commission of three cardinals that was chosen at random to assist the dean with his duties, for three days, advanced the idea for the ceremony. The group consists of Cardinals Re, Sepe and Rodé – all proponents of a candidate from the Curia – along with the Colleges of Cardinals’ chamberlain, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

The prayer meeting will be held in St. Peter’s Basilica tonight at 5:00 p.m. The cardinals are not required to attend, and it might be possible to draw a rough sketch of the groups that will operate inside the conclave based on who is present or not.

As for the names being floated right now as potential candidates for the next Pope, the general feeling among Vatican analysts is that these are just “trial balloons” and that the curiali and shepherds from outside the Curia will go with someone not yet in the limelight.

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College of Cardinals imposes media silence after breach

Vatican City, Mar 6, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The College of Cardinals has decided that its members will no longer speak to journalists after several cardinals gave too much information to Italian press.

“Concern was expressed in the general congregation about leaks of confidential proceedings reported in Italian newspapers,” said Sister Mary Ann Walsh, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ media director.

“As a precaution, the cardinals have agreed not to do interviews,” she added in her March 6 statement to journalists who were hoping to attend a press conference with Cardinals Francis George and Theodore McCarrick.

The American cardinals have been the only ones to organize press conferences during the general congregation phase of the Sede Vacante period.

Before the decision was made to maintain media silence, three press briefings were held at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, attracting outlets from all over the world. Cardinals Donald Wuerl, Daniel DiNardo, Sean O'Malley and Francis George all spoke over the course of three sessions.

But the Italian media was also interviewing cardinals of other nationalities.

Today was the third day of preliminary meetings as the cardinals prepare to vote for a new Pope.

The Holy See press office director, Father Federico Lombardi, said he was not surprised that the American cardinals were offering the press briefings.

“The Americans are well organized, they have a good relationship with the media and so much American media with many people has come here (to Rome),” he said March 6 at the Vatican press office.

“So I’m not surprised the American cardinals have paid attention to communicating with them,” said Fr. Lombardi.

He added that other cardinals, including Germans and Italians, had not organized press conferences because “they’re either not so numerous or not as well organized.”

But Fr. Lombardi stands by the decision of the College, saying, “it’s natural that their discernment progresses into more reflection and more silence,” and during the conclave “there will be absolute silence.”

“The congregations are not a synod or a congress in which we try to report as much information as possible,” he noted.

“They are on a path towards arriving at the decision of electing the Roman pontiff.”

Fr. Lombardi observed that in the beginning “there were moments of openness and communication.”  

“Afterwards, in harmony with the rest of the College, it has been established whether and how to communicate,” he said.

The full complement of 115 cardinal electors will be present in Rome by Thursday.

Polish Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz of Warsaw will be arriving later today, and Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam will land in Rome on March 7.

Updated at 6:02 p.m. Rome time with comments from Fr. Lombardi througout and more details about background to the decision.

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Profile of future Pope begins to take shape

Vatican City, Mar 6, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - On their third day of pre-conclave meetings the cardinals are beginning to develop the profile of what the next Pope needs to look like.
The principle themes of today’s meeting were “the Church in today’s world, the New Evangelization, the Holy See, the dicasteries and their relations with the bishops, and what’s beginning to emerge is a profile of the next Pope,” Father Federico Lombardi told the press March 6.
For the first time, a recommended limit of five minutes was placed on the length of comments cardinals could make, resulting in 18 different interventions during the three-hour gathering.
Thus far cardinals from all over the world have made 51 interventions during the course of the four sessions. The College voted March 6 to add an afternoon session for Thursday, after having earlier voted to not hold them on Tuesday and Wednesday, allowing the cardinals more time to meet with each other informally.
Fr. Lombardi also provided an update on the number of cardinals present in Rome for the eventual conclave.
Yesterday four cardinals arrived at the Vatican, bringing the total number in attendance to 153. The count for cardinals who can vote in the conclave rose to 113, just two shy of the expected 115.
Polish Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz of Warsaw will be arriving today, and Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam will land in Rome on March 7.
As the decision on the date of the conclave to elect the new Pope nears, workers are erecting a platform in the Sistine Chapel, setting up the two stoves used to burn the ballots and send up smoke, and sewing together cloth wall hangings.

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Hugo Chavez died 'in the bosom of the Church'

Caracas, Venezuela, Mar 6, 2013 (CNA) - A source in Venezuela has revealed to CNA that President Hugo Chavez died “in bosom of the Church” and received spiritual direction and the sacraments in his last days.

In announcing Chavez’s death to the nation on March 5, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said the Venezuelan leader died “clinging to Christ.” The source in Venezuela told CNA that during the last weeks of his life, Chavez requested spiritual direction and asked to receive the sacraments.

Ever since he assumed power in 1999, Chavez butted heads continuously with the Catholic Church over statements by the bishops warning of the risks and excesses of his Socialist agenda. In 2002, Chavez accused the Venezuelan bishops of being a “tumor” for his revolutionary goals and demanded that the Vatican not intervene in the internal affairs of the country.

In recent years, Chavez occasionally took part in the religious services of distinct denominations, but he surprised the press in April 2012 when he showed up at a Catholic church in his hometown of Barinas to attend Holy Week services. He wore a rosary around his neck and prayed for strength to fight his illness. Last July, Chavez made public his request to meet with the Catholic bishops.

After Chavez’s death, the Archdiocese of Caracas, led by Cardinal Jorge Urosa who is currently in Rome for the conclave, sent its condolences and asked that those in public office “apply the mechanisms established in the Constitution,” that public order be maintained and that “all political sectors foster peace and harmony among the people.”

The secretary general of the Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela, Bishop Jesus Gonzalez de Zarate, called for national unity. “At this time let us all put forth our best sentiments,” he said during an interview on Venezuelan television.

“Death is not the end of our life,” he added. “Death only opens the way to a life of complete happiness, at the side of God our Father.”

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Doctors warn UN that abortion harms mothers

New York City, N.Y., Mar 6, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -  Medical experts before the United Nations argued that abortion is not medically necessary to promote women’s health and can actually harm women instead.

“Real medical care decreases maternal mortality; abortion does not decrease maternal mortality,” Dr. Donna J. Harrison told CNA on March 6. 

Harrison, who serves as the director of research and public policy for the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, was on a panel of doctors from around the world who testified before the U.N. Commission for the Status of Women in New York City.

The doctors challenged assumptions that the expansion of healthcare and women’s rights demands the expansion of abortion. They stressed that pregnancies – even those considered to be high-risk – do not necessitate conflict between the needs of the mother and those of the child.

Instead, they explained, innovative solutions treating the whole person and the whole of society lead to increased health for all involved.

Dr. Eoghan de Faoite, board member for the Committee on Excellence in Maternal Healthcare in Ireland, criticized the international attacks on Ireland’s ban on abortion.

The doctor noted that the country has one of the lowest rates of maternal death in the developed world and has not experienced the “rise in mortality” seen in other Western countries that have legalized abortion.

His presentation also cited studies that found no data to suggest that abortion lowers maternal mortality. Based on these reports, the Committee on Excellence in Maternal Healthcare has declared that abortion is not a medically necessary procedure.

De Faoite clarified that delivering babies before they are able to survive on their own is sometimes necessary to save the life of the mother, but in cases such as these, efforts are made to save the child as well as the mother.

He also addressed the case of Savita Halappanavar, whose death in Ireland in late 2012 sparked worldwide controversy. The doctor said that she was infected with a highly aggressive form of E.Coli, and that there is “no evidence to date that termination of pregnancy would have saved (her) life.”

Dr. Elard Koch of the Center of Embryonic Medicine and Maternal Health in Chile presented data showing an increase in maternal deaths after the legalization of abortion in countries around the world. This is caused by the complications that come from abortions, he said, adding that the abolition of abortion in countries such as Chile have coincided with a decline in abortion. 

Koch’s presentation argued that maternal mortality can be effectively decreased through education, skilled birthing technicians and access to clean and highly staffed birthing facilities rather than abortion.

In an interview with CNA after the presentations, Dr. Harrison commented on the dangers of pill-induced abortions, which carry a “higher rate of complications after the abortion” and are “much more dangerous.”

In addition, these procedures are not necessarily supervised by a physician, but can be administered “without examining a woman and without any plans for follow-up,” she said.

This is particularly dangerous because what would be a complication in the West “becomes a death” in the developing world, Harrison explained, pointing to the inability to access immediate emergency care in cases such as severe hemorrhaging and incomplete abortions.

She noted that the proliferation of these pill-induced medical abortions is partly “because it is much easier to spread than surgical abortion” and because it is “cheaper for the abortion provider to give a woman a pill than it is to take care of her surgically or be available for her in case she has a complication.”

Nonetheless, it is both “dangerous” and “irresponsible” to promote such abortions in the developing world, Harrison warned, “and it will result in an increase in death and complications in women from abortion.”

She echoed Koch’s findings, saying that a better way to reduce maternal mortality is through focusing on complications such as hemorrhage, hypertension and infection by providing skilled birth attendants, delivery facilities and adequate prenatal care.

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