Archive of March 27, 2013

Bishop stands firm on maintaining Catholic identity in schools

Santa Rosa, Calif., Mar 27, 2013 (CNA) - Bishop Robert F. Vasa of Santa Rosa, Calif., has said that he will allow several months for education and instruction before moving forward with a Catholic identity policy for diocesan school teachers.

“The Pastors and I agree that a longer implementation period is in order,” Bishop Vasa said in a March 19 letter to the diocese.

“It is now clear to me that there are a number of significant misunderstandings about what the Church teaches, as well as why, and this presents an opportunity to teach.”

The bishop had previously introduced a contract addendum, entitled “Bearing Witness,” which all educators within the diocese were to sign, acknowledging that they are “ministerial agent[s]” and are “called by God to a life of holiness.” The statement of faith encourages teachers to keep God in their “thoughts, words and deeds.”

It further requires that teachers reject the “modern errors” that “gravely offend human dignity,” including contraception, abortion, same-sex “marriage” and euthanasia. Teachers would be expected to attend Mass regularly and not to “teach, advocate, model or in any way encourage beliefs or behaviors contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Originally, teachers would have been required to sign the additional pledge on all contracts for the 2013-2014 school year, a change that would have affected 11 schools and nearly 200 teachers.

Reports indicated that some parents and teachers resisted the requirement, arguing that it was too harsh.

“I'm a Catholic, but to have the bishop do this is not the type of Catholicism my faith teaches me,” said parent Lori Edgar to PressDemocrat, a Santa Rosa news outlet.

Bishop Vasa responded to the various critiques by explaining that he “had failed to properly communicate” with principals and pastors in the diocese before issuing the requirement, and will now delay the pledge of faith until the spring of 2015, at which time it will be implemented in some form.

PressDemocrat reported that the Bishop’s decision to delay the implementation of the policy was a sign of the bishop had “relented” and that he was softening his position.

In his letter to the diocese, however, the bishop stood by his decision, calling the additional time an opportunity to instruct teachers on the requirements of the faith.

Bishop Vasa said that “this desire to strengthen our Catholic schools is just too important not to do well” and that the additional months of preparation and instruction will help this project.

“We agree that we need to engage our Teachers and give them the necessary faith instruction which they need to more fully understand and appreciate the teachings of the Church, including those issues about which there is such sharp contrast between the mores of society and the clear and consistent teachings of the Church.”

“This,” Bishop Vasa said, “is too important a goal to try to accomplish in one year by way of a couple of meetings and a mandate.”

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Speakers at marriage rally highlight needs of children, families

Washington D.C., Mar 27, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Speakers at the national March for Marriage told the crowds gathered in Washington, D.C., that marriage is fundamentally about preserving an institutional link between parents for the sake of their children.

“Marriage matters because family matters to our society and because marriage matters for families,” said Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.
“Society needs an institution that connects mothers and fathers to their children,” he told CNA.

The March for Marriage took place on March 26 on the National Mall, with a rally and march in front of the Supreme Court. Organizers estimated that some 15,000 people were in attendance.
The event coincided with the first day of oral arguments before the Supreme Court on two cases concerning same-sex “marriage.” Rulings in the cases are expected this summer and may determine how the issue is handled across the country.

Rev. Bill Owens, founder and president of the Coalition of African-American Pastors, refuted the idea that same-sex marriage is an issue of civil rights.
Owens, who marched in the Civil Rights Movement, criticized the analogies of same-sex “marriage” to the historic movement for racial equality. Efforts to preserve the definition of marriage as it always has been are not comparable to “what we suffered,” he said.
“I am marching again, and this time I’m marching to defend marriage,” Owens explained.

Eric Teetsel, executive director of the pro-marriage Manhattan Declaration, echoed these comments. 

“I’m all for rights and the equal dignity of every human being,” he said, addressing a variety of privileges associated with marriage.
“The fact is that we can give rights for a variety of non-marital relationships,” Teetsel said, “but none of those relationships are marriage.”
Marriage, he stressed, is “not arbitrary: it’s the first institution of society.”

Rev. Gene Rivers, pastor of Azusa Christian Community, also commented that marriage “is not an issue of civil rights,” but is instead an institution focused on the well-being of the next generation, which can only come from the union of man and woman. 

“We are out here today to tell the Supreme Court that we must defend the definition of marriage as between one and one woman to ensure the development of children,” he emphasized.
“To deprive a child of a mother and a father,” Rivers continued, “destabilizes the community, particularly the Black community.” He pointed to examples of poverty and social turmoil exacerbated by single-parent homes.
Archbishop Cordileone added that the redefinition of marriage would gravely harm children.

“We’ve known for 20 years or more now the problem of fatherlessness – children who grow up without a father” he told CNA, pointing to studies showing the difficulties faced by children raised in single-parent homes.
“The solution isn’t to give them two fathers and no mother.”

He added that while a child may grow up happy and successful in a variety of situations, “if a child grows up without a father or a mother, it’s always a deprivation.”

New York State Senator Ruben Diaz (D-Bronx), minister and president of the New York Hispanic Clergy Organization, remarked that balance and equality for children comes from the sexual difference between spouses.  

“There cannot be equality in marriage if two people cannot procreate,” said Diaz.

Allison Howard of Concerned Women for America said that the opportunity to publically discuss the meaning of marriage is valuable and that the Supreme Court should not “shut that debate down.”
“This is the first time that we have had to answer that question, ‘What is Marriage?’” Howard noted.

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Holy Week is time to bring Christ to forgotten, Pope teaches

Vatican City, Mar 27, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis said Holy Week is a time for moving beyond a “dull or mechanical” way of living the faith and to bring the joy of Christ to those who are most distant or in need.

“Holy Week is not so much a time of sorrow, but rather a time to enter into Christ’s way of thinking and acting,” Pope Francis said March 27 at his first general audience.

“It is a time of grace given us by the Lord so that we can move beyond a dull or mechanical way of living our faith, and instead open the doors of our hearts, our lives, our parishes, our movements or associations, going out in search of others so as to bring them the light and the joy of our faith in Christ,” he told the thousands of pilgrims.

He explained that this means helping those “especially those furthest away, forgotten, those in need of understanding, consolation and help.”

Since Catholics are observing Holy Week this week, Pope Francis said that after Easter he would resume the “witness” he received from his “beloved predecessor Benedict XVI,” referring to the series of teachings for the Year of Faith.

The Argentinian Pope addressed pilgrims only in Italian, unlike Benedict XVI and John Paul II. However, a summary of his remarks was delivered in French, English, German, Spanish, Polish, Portuguese and Arabic by different presenters.

“It’s so necessary to carry Jesus’ living presence, who is merciful and full of life,” to others, said the Pope.

“Living Holy Week is always entering further into God’s logic, into the logic of the cross, which isn’t firstly about pain and death but about love and self-giving, which gives life,” he added.

The Pope explained that coming out of one’s self means “entering the logic of the Gospel, following Jesus Christ and staying with him.”

“I hope that you all might live these days by courageously following the Lord, carrying within you a ray of his love to all the people you meet,” said the Pope as he reflected on Holy Week.

We too, if we want to stay with him, “should not simply remain in our own secure world, that of the ninety-nine sheep who never strayed from the fold, but we should go out, with Christ, in search of the one lost sheep, however far it may have wandered,” he challenged the crowd.

“People tell me that they don’t have time and that it’s hard. And (they say) what can I do with my weakness and my sins?”

Pope Francis pointed out that when we lack the courage to carry Christ to others, we are a little like Saint Peter, to whom Jesus spoke some of the harshest words in the Gospels: ‘get behind me, Satan, because you don’t think according to God but according to men.’

“God thinks always with mercy, don’t forget this,” said the Pope.

“He thinks like the father who waits the return of his son and would watch every day to see if his son would return home,” he said. “This is our merciful God.”

According to the Pope, God also thinks like the Samaritan who doesn’t look away from the man in need, but helps him without asking for anything in return or asking whether he is Hebrew, pagan, Samaritan, rich or poor.

“He doesn’t ask these things and he doesn’t ask for anything, he just goes to his help,” underscored Pope Francis.

“We come out of ourselves with love, with God’s tenderness, with respect and patience knowing that we put our feet, our hands and our hearts into it, but it’s God who ultimately guides all of our actions,” he said.

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Vatican TV documentary reveals Pope Francis' first words

Vatican City, Mar 27, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican Television Center will release the documentary “Francesco” next week, providing an intimate look at the historic events that led to the election of Pope Francis, including his first words after his election.

“I am a great sinner confident in the patience and mercy of God. In suffering, I accept,” said Monsignor Dario Edoardo Vigano, director of Vatican Television, as he recounted the moment when the Pope was asked if he accepted the results of the voting.

The film, titled “Francis: The Election of a Pope from the Ends of the Earth,” will be distributed throughout Italy as a supplement to the April 2 edition of the national newspaper Il Corriere della Sera.

It follows the historic events that have occurred at the Vatican, beginning with Benedict XVI renouncing the papacy on Feb. 11 and concluding with the March 23 meeting between Pope Francis and his predecessor at Castel Gandolfo.

The documentary reconstructs the pivotal moments of the period using interviews with four cardinals – Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica; Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture; and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals.

The DVD supplement in Italian will cost 10.90 euro, and there are plans to make it available in English, French and Spanish through the company HDH Communications.

The film will be debuted for an international audience in Florence and Cannes, Msgr. Vigano said.


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Pope calls for end to Central African Republic violence

Vatican City, Mar 27, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis appealed for an “immediate halt to violence and looting” in the Central African Republic after a coup toppled the country’s government over the weekend.

“I call for an immediate halt to the violence and looting, and a political solution to the crisis to be found as soon as possible that would restore peace and harmony to that dear country for too long marked by conflict and division,” he said March 27 at his first general audience.

“I am closely following what is currently happening in the Central African Republic and wish to assure my prayers for all those who are suffering, especially the relatives of the victims, the wounded and those who have lost their homes and have been forced to flee,” he told the thousands of pilgrims in Saint Peter’s Square today.

Michel Djotodia, the leader of the rebels, ousted President Francois Bozize in a coup over the weekend.

Djotobia said in a March 26 statement that he is suspending the constitution and dissolving parliament.

During the coup, 13 South African troops who were sent in January to support the government against the rebels, were killed on the outskirts of the capital, Bangui.
The rebels have accused the president of breaking January’s peace deal, which created a power-sharing government composed of rebels, civilian opposition and Bozize loyalists.

In the wake of the government being overthrown, Doctors Without Borders reported widespread looting of hospitals in the capital city, Bangui.

UNICEF warned March 26 that the lives of 600,000 children in Central African Republic are being seriously affected by the ongoing conflict across the country.

Even before the fighting, the U.N. agency estimated that 2,500 children, boys and girls, were in the country’s armed groups.

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100,000 march for life in Peru

Lima, Peru, Mar 27, 2013 (CNA) - More than 100,000 Peruvians bore the heat on March 23 to take part in the Great March for Life 2013, voicing support for the defense of human life from conception to natural death.

The marchers also expressed opposition to any efforts to legalize abortion in the country.

The pro-life march, which began at 9 a.m. local time, stretched for ten blocks down one of Lima’s most important avenues. 

Entire families with their children and young babies took part in the march, along with a large number of young people wearing pro-life t-shirts.

The Reyes Aranguren, a family of quintuplets, was among those taking part in the event.  In a recent interview with CNA, they shared their testimony and said that “without God, we would have had an abortion.”

Participants observed a minute of silence during the march in honor of the babies who have died from abortion. Organizers also released hundreds of white balloons.

Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani addressed the participants at Lima’s Ramon Catilla Park and thanked the Peruvian Congress for declaring March 25 the Day of the Unborn Child.

Attendance at the march was more than double that of 2012, when some 40,000 took part in the event.

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Chief Justice refutes claim that gay lobby is politically powerless

Washington D.C., Mar 27, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts suggested that the gay community is so politically powerful that it does not need special protections, citing the rapid change in public opinion over same-sex marriage.

“I suppose the sea change has a lot to do with the political force and effectiveness of people representing” gay marriage, Roberts said March 27 while listening to arguments over the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

“As far as I can tell, political figures are falling over themselves to endorse your side of the case,” he told Roberta Kaplan, the attorney representing Edith Windsor, who contracted a civil union with another woman in New York.

The case in question, United States v. Windsor, concerns the 1996 law which defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman for federal purposes.

The court had heard arguments the day before in a case concerning Proposition 8, a California measure similarly recognizing marriage as existing solely between a man and a woman. Decisions in both cases are expected in late June.

Windsor had to pay more than $350,000 in inheritance taxes after the death of her partner because although the state of New York recognized them as being “married,” the federal government did not. 

Windsor consequently filed a lawsuit claiming that DOMA violated her equal protection rights. The law is being defended by Republican leaders in the House of Representatives, because President Obama's Department of Justice has refused to do so since 2011, when the president said he believed the law to be unconstitutional and discriminatory.

Lawyers for both sides of the argument began by addressing questions of jurisdiction, and then moved on to the merits of the case. Justices voiced skepticism that they could even decide the case, because it is not being defended by the executive branch.

Since family law is normally the prerogative of states to regulate, not the federal government, several justices were intent on discussing Congress' right to define marriage.

However, Attorney Paul Clement, representing House Republicans, said that DOMA is not federal regulation of marriage, but instead acts to preserve states' rights, to prevent the federal government from recognizing same-sex “marriages” in one state and thereby pressuring other states to acknowledge them as well. 

Several justices also questioned Congress' intent in adopting DOMA, suggesting that it was based not on concerns of uniformity, but out of dislike, fear or animus toward homosexuals as a group.

Another significant question debated during the hearing was which standard of review should be used to judge the law. Normally in such cases, legislation is examined according to whether it is reasonably related to a “legitimate” government interest, in order to determine if there is a “rational basis” for the law.

In some cases, however, a “heightened” level of scrutiny is applied. In these instances, a law must be “narrowly tailored” to achieve a “compelling” government interest. This standard of review is applied when a “fundamental right” is at stake or the legislation targets race, religion or some other “suspect classification,” which is determined through criteria such as political powerlessness and historical discrimination.

Clement defended DOMA's constitutionality by saying it was adopted for the sake of uniformity: “it defines the term (marriage) wherever it appears in Federal law in a consistent way.”

This intent to “provide uniform treatment of taxpayers” across state lines serves as a “rational basis” for the law, he argued.

However, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli argued against DOMA on behalf of the Obama administration, suggesting that the law should be subject to a higher level of scrutiny because it targets “a class that has undeniably been subject to a history of terrible discrimination.”

Verrilli argued the statute is unconstitutional because this discrimination denies equal protection of the law to “married” same-sex couples, but denied that it poses a federalism problem.

Attorney Roberta Kaplan, who agreed with Verrilli in opposing DOMA, did so for different reasons, saying she does not consider the law to be an equal protection problem, but suggested that there is no “legitimate Federal interest that is being served by Congress's decision … to undermine the determinations of the sovereign States with respect to eligibility for marriage.”

Discrimination against “married” gay couples was the purpose of DOMA, she argued, and it is “undermining the policy decisions made by those States that have permitted gay couples to marry.”

Kaplan said that when DOMA was passed, there was “an incorrect understanding that gay couples were fundamentally different than straight couples.”

That understanding “I don't think exists today,” she said. “ understand that there is no such distinction. So I'm not saying it was animus or bigotry, I think it was based on a misunderstanding of gay people.”

But Justice Antonin Scalia questioned Kaplan about her confidence of that judgment, and noted that there has been a “sea change” in public opinion in the years since DOMA was enacted.

When Kaplan reiterated that this change was on the basis of a new “understanding,” Roberts responded that this could be attributed to the profound political effectiveness of the gay lobby.

Roberts' point suggests that homosexual people are not a persecuted class who deserve special protections and “heightened scrutiny,” as Verrilli's argument had suggested.

Advocates on both sides of the issue will now wait for approximately three months to see how the court will rule in the case, a decision that could have a tremendous impact throughout the nation.

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Pope Francis to offer hope by washing young inmates' feet

Rome, Italy, Mar 27, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis’ decision to wash the feet of 12 young people at a juvenile detention center on Holy Thursday is being described as a display of love for the young people and invitation to renewal.

Prison chaplain Father Gaetano Greco told CNA that the Pope’s visit “will make them see that their lives are not bound by a mistake, that forgiveness exists and that they can begin to build their lives again.”

Fr. Greco confirmed that Pope Francis will wash the feet of 12 of the young people at the detention center after the Vatican announced that the new Holy Father was planning to celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at Rome’s Casal del Marmo juvenile detention center on Holy Thursday.

Some of the young men volunteered to have their feet washed, Fr. Greco explained, while others were given an invitation to help them overcome their embarrassment or self-consciousness.

“But all of them are very happy, and the visit will make them think, reconsider and understand that there are people in this world who are concerned for them,” he said.

He added that many of the juveniles come from broken families and have sought an escape in drugs and crime.

“That Pope Francis himself is concerned for them is very significant, because it exposes this problem that so many disadvantaged boys and girls are experiencing,” the priest said.

The residents chosen to have their feet washed by the Pope range in age from 16 to 21 years old.

Pope Francis’ visit to the juvenile detention center means that he will not celebrate Holy Thursday at the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

In 2007, former Pope Benedict XVI also celebrated Holy Thursday Mass at the prison.

On that occasion, Benedict said, “Life without God doesn’t work because it has no light.” He encouraged the young people “to abandon sin and chose to return to God.” 

“Let us together take this journey of interior liberation,” he told them.

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Thousands flood DC to stand up for marriage

Washington D.C., Mar 27, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Citing concerns for the well-being of children and respect for the democratic process, participants in the national March for Marriage in Washington, D.C., stressed the importance of marriage for society.

Sara Barrios from New York City told CNA that without the biologically-based institution of marriage, the foundations of family and society “will fall apart.”

Without a man and a woman, “it is impossible to have children,” Barrios added. “Even same-sex couples have to go outside what they call a union, to get a child.”

Protests both for and against a redefinition of marriage coincided with the start of oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court on March 26. The high court will rule this summer on two cases that could have drastic consequences for the way the nation understands marriage.

Defenders of marriage argue that the state has no right to redefine an institution that precedes it and is rooted in nature and biology. Men and women naturally come together to create children, and marriage is designed to reflect this unique reality, they argue.

Thousands of participants for the March for Marriage chanted “one man, one woman” in both English and Spanish as the March progressed along its route from the National Mall to the Supreme Court.

Organizers estimated well over 10,000 participants at the march, which was the first of its kind in the U.S.

Patricia Barley, of Durham, N.C., told CNA that she decided to march not only because she believes in the traditional definition of marriage, but also because “I think it’s important that the Supreme Court and the government recognize the voices of the people.”

Jim McCrery, a high school student from Washington, D.C., said that he was at the march because “though there is there separation of church and state, the country is still guided by morals.”

He added that he doesn’t think two men or two women “can give what a man and a woman can give to their children.”

Sister Bernadette Morse, a sophomore undergraduate student at Franciscan University said that although she was a religious sister, she was at the march to support marriage for all of society. She added that she hoped the protest would be a “visible sign” that Americans are united in defending the truth of marriage.

“I want my brothers and sisters to be able to receive the gift of marriage that God has given us, in order to make of themselves a whole gift and bring forth life as we were created for,” Sr. Bernadette explained.

“It means everything to me because it’s the way He called us to be fully alive through making a gift of ourselves,” she continued.

Caitlin Seery, program director for the Love and Fidelity Network, came alongside more than 60 students from around the country, including some 40 from Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio.

 The Love and Fidelity Network is a web of more than 25 college organizations and hundreds of college students that support the traditional understanding of marriage and sexual ethics.

Seery explained that for college students, marriage is “very much on their minds,” and they are “standing up” for their beliefs and the “child’s right to a mother and father.”

Samantha Lei, who came from New York with her school-age daughter and her daughter’s friend, explained that it is important for society to recognize that marriage is between a man and a woman.

“Kids grow up better with a daddy and a mom,” she stressed, adding that she hoped “that the judges will listen to us.”

“These are the fundamentals of America,” she explained.

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