Washington D.C., Mar 21, 2013 (CNA) -
A new survey shows that U.S. Catholics are overwhelmingly content with the election of Pope Francis, with 73 percent of Catholics expressing happiness with the new pontiff.
The poll, conducted by the Pew Research Center less than a week after the Pope's March 13 election, also reports a subset of 31 percent of Catholics who say they are very happy with his election.
Though reported happiness was high, about 24 percent of Catholic respondents told the Pew Research Center they have not heard enough about the Pope to make a judgment.
However, only two percent said they were unhappy with the cardinals' choice.
Among weekly Mass attendees, almost 90 percent are happy with his selection, compared to only 62 percent of Catholics who are infrequent churchgoers.
Women and Catholics over 50 were more likely to report being happy at the Pope’s election.
Although Pope Francis is the first New World Pope and hails from a Spanish-speaking country, U.S. Hispanics were only slightly more likely than Whites to say they were very happy with the selection.
Non-Catholics were reluctant to comment on Pope Francis, with about 60 percent offering no opinion on him.
The survey also asked Catholics what they think Pope Francis should accomplish during his pontificate.
About 70 percent of U.S. Catholics said addressing the sex abuse scandal should be “a top priority” for Pope Francis. Almost 50 percent said he should prioritize standing up for morals and values, while about 40 percent said he should focus on spreading the Catholic faith. Another 36 percent said the Pope should address the priest shortage, while 35 percent said he should reform the Vatican.
Among Catholic respondents, 75 percent said they followed the election of the new Pope very closely or fairly closely. About 50 percent of all U.S. adults said the same.
Catholic respondents were about evenly split on whether Pope Francis’ selection is a “major change.” Those who attend church weekly were slightly more likely to see Pope Francis as a major change.
The Pew poll also asked Catholics about their support Catholic doctrine and practice.
About half of Catholic weekly churchgoers said they favored allowing priests to marry, and about equal numbers favored the ordination of women. About 62 percent of Catholic respondents who are weekly churchgoers said the Church should allow the use of birth control.
Non-weekly churchgoers were less likely to support Catholic teaching and practice. However, there was no significant difference in response based on generational or gender differences.
The Catholic Church sees the ordination of married men as a question of discipline and married men can be ordained in the Eastern Catholic tradition and in exceptional circumstances in the Western Catholic Church. However, ordained priests are barred from marrying even in the Eastern Catholic Churches.
Catholic teaching considers the ordination of women to the priesthood impossible, while the 1968 encyclical of Pope Paul VI recognized the use of artificial contraception as an intrinsic evil.
Pew’s March 13-17 survey on Pope Francis polled 1,501 U.S. adults, including 325 Catholics. The Catholic sample size has a margin of error of plus or minus 6.3 percentage points.
Sioux Falls, S.D., Mar 21, 2013 (CNA) - The bishop of a South Dakota diocese has spoken out after a Catholic health care provider made the decision to comply with the federal contraception mandate without seeking diocesan counsel or authorization.
Jerry Klein, delegate for social outreach for the Diocese of Sioux Falls, told CNA on March 19 that “there is a continued dialogue between the diocese and Avera” Catholic health care systems, but that a response from the health care provider is “not anticipated.”
Avera, a regional health network in South Dakota operated by the Benedictine and Presentation sisters, runs more than 100 hospitals, clinics and nursing homes throughout the area.
On March 1, Bishop Paul J. Swain of Sioux Falls wrote a letter to the clergy of the diocese notifying them that Avera had decided to change its policies to conform with a federal mandate requiring health insurance plans to offer free coverage of contraception, sterilization and early abortion-inducing drugs.
Catholic bishops from every dioceses around the country, including Bishop Swain, have banded together to oppose the mandate, arguing that it coerces individuals into violating their deeply-held religious beliefs by forcing them to provide these products and procedures.
“This development is troubling in a number of ways,” wrote Bishop Swain of Avera’s decision to comply with the mandate. “Most importantly, as an organization, Avera will now be materially cooperative in the termination of life.
“Avera’s decision,” added the bishop, “creates public scandal; as a Catholic institution, its practice is of course inconsistent with Church teaching.”
The bishop described Avera’s health care over the years as a “ministry of hope” and “a great gift of loving service to those in need,” made possible by the “heroic sacrifices” of all those involved. Because of all the valuable services that have been provided by the system, he said that he was “deeply saddened” by news of Avera’s decision to include the immoral coverage.
“While healthcare today is complex and highly regulated,” said Bishop Swain, “compliance with government requirements must not be viewed as licit reasoning for compromising moral teachings.”
He explained in the letter that Avera’s president and CEO, John Porter, said that he had personally made the decision to bring the company into compliance with the mandate.
Bishop Swain added that he was neither consulted nor informed of the decision before it was made.
Two members of diocesan offices in Sioux Falls had been members of the Avera board of directors and finance committee. However, the men did not play any part in the decision, and both have since resigned from their posts on the board.
Currently, Avera’s policy change applies only to health insurance plans offered through for-profit businesses and for individuals. Plans covering priests and lay diocesan employees have not been affected because they are currently protected by a one-year “safe harbor” period. The government is currently preparing details of a revised policy for religious groups that will take effect when the safe harbor period ends; however, the initially proposed ideas have been criticized as inadequate to protect religious liberty.
Bishop Swain told his priests that he wanted them to be informed of the development because many Catholics in the diocese “have grown accustomed to choosing a health insurance plan or medical providers based upon the Catholic mission of Avera,” but the group’s recent decision “ends our ability to blindly trust that all its activities are consistent with Church teaching.”
He said that he has asked Avera’s administration to stay in touch with him so that both dialogue and consultation can be offered as the regulations go into effect for religious employer plans later this year.
“Sadly, we must consider whether a Catholic healthcare delivery system in our day will be able to balance the regulatory and financial obligations it faces in order to remain a viable business while maintaining its unique and important mission of the healing ministry of Jesus,” he said.
“Let us all continue to pray that our religious liberty and freedom of conscience might be protected and that those who carry out the ministry of Catholic healthcare might be encouraged to persevere when facing financial and regulatory adversity,” the bishop concluded.
Annapolis, Md., Mar 21, 2013 (CNA) - Catholics in Maryland are welcoming the repeal of the death penalty in the state as a step towards a culture of life that respects the dignity of all human persons, from conception to natural death.
“As Catholics we recognize the intrinsic dignity of every human life, said Linda Brenegan, respect life program director for the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
“Repealing the death penalty acknowledges in law that value (of every human life) - even of those who have degraded themselves by committing serious crimes,” she told CNA on March 20.
“Could Maryland now begin to move toward acknowledging the obvious dignity of the most innocent among us – the child in the womb? We hope, pray and work for that day,” she continued.
On March 15, the Maryland House of Delegates approved a measure to repeal the death penalty, following the state Senate’s passage of the same bill. Gov. Martin O’Malley, who introduced the bill in January, has strongly supported it and promised to sign it into law.
When the legislation takes effect, Maryland will become the 18th state to end the practice of the death penalty, replacing capital punishment with life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Opponents of the measure have not stated whether they will continue to oppose the repeal, but they do have the option of bringing it to a referendum for the state’s citizens to vote on it before it goes into effect.
Pro-life advocates are applauding the measure as an important part of fostering a coherent defense of all of human life.
“We are grateful to the many members of the General Assembly who considered this issue with great deliberation over the last two weeks, and who followed their conscience in supporting repeal and the value of all human life,” said Mary Ellen Russell, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference in a statement.
The conference emphasized that the “Catholic Church teaches that a consistent ethic of life demands respect for the dignity of every human life, including those of criminals on death row.”
“The test of whether the death penalty can be used is not the gravity of the offense, but whether it is absolutely necessary to protect society,” the statement said.
Sylvia "Cookie" Harris of Maryland Right to Life told CNA that “as a Catholic I feel that the repeal of the death penalty is a good thing.”
Harris now hopes that the renewed respect for the lives of prisoners will lead to a culture that respects the unborn.
She explained that going forward, she is hopeful that “all of the effort, and time and resources focused on ending the death penalty will now be refocused on ending abortion in Maryland.”
Vatican City, Mar 21, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis will celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at a youth detention center rather than the traditional Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Vatican says.
On March 28, Holy Thursday, Pope Francis will celebrate the Chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in the morning, but then go to the Casal del Marmo youth detention center rather than the Basilica of St. John Lateran.
This tradition is one that new pontiff has practiced since his days as Archbishop of Buenos Aires.
During that time, then-Cardinal Bergoglio would celebrate Holy Thursday Mass in a hospital, prison or shelter for the poor.
Images of the then-Cardinal washing and kissing the feet of AIDS patients and mothers with children began circulating the internet shortly following his election.
In a March 16 address to the media, Pope Francis confirmed that he chose his name after Saint Francis of Assisi after a friend urged him “not to forget the poor” when congratulating him on his election.
“Oh how I would like a poor Church and for the poor!” Pope Francis remarked.
The Holy Thursday Mass is defined by Christ’s commandment to love and his humble gesture of washing his disciples’ feet.
The Office of Liturgical Celebrations has confirmed that other Holy Week celebrations will be held according to tradition.
In 2007, Benedict XVI visited the same youth detention center to celebrate Mass in the Chapel of the Merciful Father.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mar 21, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis surprised the owner of a kiosk in Buenos Aires with a telephone call to send his greetings and explain that he will no longer need a morning paper delivered each day.
Around 1:30 p.m. local time on March 18, Daniel Del Regno, the kiosk owner’s son, answered the phone and heard a voice say, “Hi Daniel, it’s Cardinal Jorge.”
He thought that maybe a friend who knew that the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires bought the newspaper from them every day was pulling a prank on him.
“Seriously, it’s Jorge Bergoglio, I’m calling you from Rome,” the Pope insisted.
“I was in shock, I broke down in tears and didn’t know what to say,” Del Regno told the Argentinean daily La Nacion. “He thanked me for delivering the paper all this time and sent best wishes to my family.”
Del Regno shared that when Cardinal Bergoglio left for Rome for the conclave, he asked him if he thought he would be elected Pope.
“He answered me, ‘That is too hot to touch. See you in 20 days, keep delivering the paper.’ And the rest is, well, history,” he said.
“I told him to take care and that I would miss him,” Del Regno continued. “I asked him if there would ever be the chance to see him here again. He said that for the time being that would be very difficult, but that he would always be with us.”
Before hanging up the phone, he added, the Pope asked him for his prayers.
Daniel’s father, Luis Del Regno, said they delivered the paper to the former cardinal’s residence every day.
On Sundays, he said, the cardinal “would come by the kiosk at 5:30 a.m. and buy La Nacion. He would chat with us for a few minutes and then take the bus to Lugano, where he would serve mate (tea) to young people and the sick.”
Among the “thousands of anecdotes” the elder Del Regno remembers is one involving the rubber bands that he put around the newspapers to keep them from being blown away when they were delivered to the cardinal.
“At the end of the month, he always brought them back to me. All 30 of them!”
He said he gets goose bumps whenever he thinks about Pope Francis’ simplicity.
“In June he baptized my grandson, it was an amazing feeling,” Del Regno said. “I know what he’s like. He’s one of a kind.”
CNA STAFF, Mar 21, 2013 (CNA) - Clarifying previous comments, a priest who was kidnapped during Argentina’s dictatorship in the 1970s is emphasizing that Pope Francis was not responsible for his detainment.
In a statement published on the official website of the Jesuit order in Germany, Father Francisco Jalics said that while he once believed his 1976 kidnapping was due to a denunciation by then-Father Bergoglio, he realized some 20 years ago that this belief was incorrect.
Following the election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio to the papacy on March 13, several media reports attempted to connect the new Pontiff to the Argentine dictatorship of Rafael Videla. At the time of the dictatorship, Fr. Bergoglio had been provincial of the Jesuits in Argentina.
Father Jalics – who is now retired in Germany – issued a statement sending his best wishes to the new Pope and offering assurances that the two are on good terms.
The 86-year-old priest said that his earlier statements were misinterpreted by the media. He adamantly denied that then-Father Bergoglio played any role in causing his five year-long captivity alongside another priest, Father Orlando Yorio, who died in 2000.
“Since my statement on March 15 of this year, I have received many questions, so I would like to add the following. I almost feel obliged to do so, because some commentaries contradict what I wanted to say,” Fr. Jalics said.
“These are the facts: Neither I nor Orlando Yorio or were denounced by Father Bergoglio.”
“As I made clear in my previous statement, we were arrested because of a catechist who worked with us first and later joined the guerilla,” he explained.
“For nine months we never saw her again, but two or three days after she was detained, we were detained as well,” he continued. “The official who interrogated me asked for my papers. When he saw that I was born in Budapest, he thought I was a Russian spy.”
“In the Argentinean Jesuit congregation and in Catholic circles, false information spread in the years prior that claimed we had moved to the poor barrios because we belonged to the guerilla. But that was not the case. I suppose these rumors were motivated by the fact that we were not immediately released,” Fr. Jalics said.
“I was once inclined to think that we were the victims of a betrayal. But at the end of the 1990s, I realized after many conversations that this assumption was baseless,” the priest explained.
“For this reason, it is wrong to assert that our capture happened because of Father Bergoglio,” he declared.
Washington D.C., Mar 21, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Despite proposals to modify the federal contraception mandate, the U.S. bishops said that the regulation is still unacceptable due to its narrow view of religion and resulting violations of religious liberty.
“The identity of the person or group having the religious freedom objection should not matter; what should matter instead is whether the person or group faces government coercion to violate conscience,” said a document filed on behalf of the U.S. bishops.
“Religious freedom is for all who face this threat, not just some,” the March 20 statement declared.
The document was written by Anthony R. Picarello and Michael F. Moses, lawyers for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Responding to a government comment period, it offers feedback on a proposed change to the federal contraception mandate.
“We are willing, now as always, to work with the Administration to reach a just and lawful resolution of these issues,” the lawyers said. “In the meantime, along with others, we will continue to look for resolution of these issues in Congress and in the courts.”
Issued under the authority of the Affordable Care Act, the mandate requires nearly all employers to offer insurance plans covering abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization, even if providing those products violates their deeply-held religious beliefs.
While a small number of religious exemptions were included in the original mandate – mainly to houses of worship – the vast majority of religious organizations were bound by its requirements.
The mandate has come under fire by the U.S. bishops and scores of other religious leaders, who criticize the regulation for violating their constitutional right to religious freedom. More than 100 plaintiffs across the country have filed lawsuits challenging the mandate.
In response to the wave of protests, the Obama administration proposed an “accommodation” under which the objectionable coverage would be offered for free to employees of religious organizations that oppose the mandate.
The administration said this coverage can be offered for free because the cost of the contraceptives would be offset by the “tremendous health benefits” that women enjoy from using contraception, along with the fewer childbirths that will result.
Critics have voiced doubt over these claims, arguing that the coverage will ultimately be funded through the premium payments of the objecting religious groups.
The bishops’ comments enumerated a number of problems with the proposed update to the regulations.
First, the document explained, the suggested alteration “makes no change in the underlying mandate” and still requires coverage of contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-causing drugs.
“These are items and procedures that, unlike other mandated ‘preventive services,’ do not prevent disease,” it stated.
Furthermore, the suggested change “offers no exemption or accommodation of any kind whatsoever” to for-profit businesses, secular non-profits and individual business owners who believe the coverage to be immoral, nor does it allow individuals who do not wish to have such coverage to refuse it when they enroll.
Additionally, while the mandate’s language defining “religious institutions” has improved, the statement explained, “it continues to be highly objectionable” by treating religiously-affiliated charities, schools, hospitals and institutions as having “secondary religious importance” to houses of worship.
In discussing the mandate, the bishops have voiced serious concern over the language it uses to discuss religious institutions and activities, implying that soup kitchens, hospitals and other religious charities are deserving of a lesser degree of religious freedom than churches, temples and synagogues.
The comments stated that “just as religion is not limited to worship, the freedom of religion is not limited to the freedom of worship. Religious freedom must also include the freedom to abide by Church teachings, even outside the four walls of the sanctuary.”
Even non-profit religious institutions that fall under the accommodation will not be relieved of the “burden on religious liberty that the mandate creates,” the bishops’ statement explained. Since funds paid by the employer for other services can be used to pay for the objectionable products, “there still seems to be a funding tie between the employer and the objectionable coverage.”
In addition, there is no accommodation for self-insured plans, it noted.
For these reasons, the mandate breaks a number of federal laws, in addition to the U.S. Constitution, the bishops’ document said.
“As applied to individuals and organizations with a religious objection to contraceptive coverage, the mandate violates the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act,” it stressed.