Washington D.C., Nov 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A French movement dedicated to the understanding of marriage as an institution between a man and a woman has assembled a large coalition that respects all persons, regardless of political affiliation or sexuality.
The question of marriage is “not a question of religion, faith, political opinion; it's a question of life,” Ludovine de La Rochère, president and founder of La Manif Pour Tous, said in a Nov. 1 interview with CNA.
In defining marriage for society, she added, “the question is not homosexuality: it is the reality of marriage and filiation of children.”
La Manif Pour Tous, which translates as “The Demonstration for Everyone” began in late 2012 when French President Francois Hollande announced that his government would pursue the redefinition of marriage to include both same-sex and opposite-sex partners. At the time, France also had civil unions open to all couples regardless of sex.
“From the very beginning it was a great success,” Rochère said. On Nov. 17 2012, a first demonstration of around 200,000 people was held in Paris against the proposed legislation. Over the course of the next several months, a coalition was formed of over 40 organizations representing a variety of people – parents, members of the LGBT community, communists, atheists, Catholics, and Muslims, among others.
“For the first time, many organizations worked together,” she remarked, to protest the French government's insistence on same-sex marriage. “We are open to everybody, and encourage everyone to join,” she said of the movement’s membership.
The largest demonstration was held March 24, 2013, Rochère said, with “at least 1 million” people marching between 3 different locations in Paris alone. Simultaneous marches were held elsewhere across France, she added. In addition, the movement collected over 700,000 signatures on a petition to halt the government's attempt to redefine marriage.
However, the French government and media have both tried to act “as if we never existed,” Rochère said.
After the March 24 demonstration, the French media under-reported the number of protestors at the marches, she claimed, saying that only around 300,000 people attended, and without mention of the other demonstrations.
Rochère said that since the March protest, the French media has not reported on La Manif Pour Tous' other events, and has labeled the movement as “homophobic” and “religious,” despite its broad and diverse support – even among the gay community in France.
In addition, she said, the government, who “thought it would stop,” have ignored the widespread support for La Manif Pour Tous.
“It was terrible for French democracy.”
Between February and April, both the French Senate and National Assembly approved legislation redefining marriage and permitting adoption by same-sex couples. The redefinition of marriage went into effect May 18.
Furthermore, “we began to be arrested” for speaking out in opposition to the law, Rochère said.
“In those demonstrations we have had to defend freedom of thought, freedom of opinion, freedom of expression, and freedom of conscience, because many of the demonstrations have been forbidden by the ministry of the interior,” she explained.
Some violators of the government's restriction on the marches, such as a 23-year-old man named Nicolas, were arrested and subjected to “scandalous” prison conditions, she said.
Violations of free speech escalated to the point that the European Union called on France to respect human rights. The French human rights department is also investigating the restrictions on free speech and expression “because it thinks what happened was absolutely illegal.”
“France is the country of human rights, but we are in a situation in which human rights are no longer respected.”
In spite of these difficulties, the group will “go on insisting that we will never surrender.” Rochère stated that even she and the other organizers “didn't realize the determination and motivation and dynamism of each of those Frenchmen who were convinced” of the nature of marriage as an institution oriented to the family.
Since the law has passed, she said, parents across the country have been organizing in their communities “to exercise their parental rights” to know what is being taught to their children about marriage, sexuality, and gender.
Allies of the Manif movement “have proposed to French people to think and debate about” the nature of the family, and potential means of protecting the family through economic policy, and are getting ready to protect the definition of the family as upcoming laws attempt to enshrine in French law the idea that two parents of the same sex are no different from parents of the opposite sex.
Instead, what Rochère and others involved in La Manif Pour Tous wish to emphasize, is the image of “family as the place of solidarity” and the place of filiation.
“When you understand that a child is born to a mother and a father,” she said, the need to protect the “right for children to have a mother and a father” becomes very clear.
This right can be balanced with the rights of all persons, she emphasized, and people should “have great respect” for persons with same-sex attractions.
“Lack of respect for homosexual persons is, of course, abnormal,” Rochère remarked, but stressed that working against the redefinition of marriage “is not homophobia” because “the subject of the family is of interest to all persons.”
“It's a scandal to deprive children of a father and a mother” by adopting them to same-sex couples, she continued, because in such a case “they will be deprived of either a father or a mother.”
In such a case, she proclaimed, the government and society should work to protect children. “The role of the society of the civilization is to protect the weak,” Rochère said, and it is important for those in power to recognize that “children can't be used as anyone wants, they have rights.”
“What is important is that we be together for families.”
Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - U.S. Bishops gathered at their fall general assembly in Baltimore were asked to hold a special collection for victims of Typhoon Haiyan, which has caused devastation in Southeast Asia.
The number of fatalities has been estimated at 10,000 in the Philippines, where Typhoon Haiyan one of the largest storms in recorded history, struck on Nov. 8.
However, Dr. Carolyn Woo, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, said reports on the ground suggest that this is “probably a very low estimate” because some areas are still inaccessible, and the damage there has not yet been assessed.
It is expected that 3 million people will be “very displaced” in the aftermath of the storm, and more than 9 million are believed to have been affected by the storm, she told the U.S. bishops, assembled on Nov. 11 for their annual fall meeting.
Catholic Relief Services is establishing three regional offices in the devastated areas. The organization has pre-committed $20 million in aid, prior to raising the funds, because there is a critical need for supplies. Compounding the devastating effects of the typhoon, the country was struck by an earthquake last month, and many supplies were depleted from that disaster.
In the coming days, Catholic Relief Services will work to offer shelter, hygiene and sanitation kits, and “cash for work” debris removal program. The agency’s goal is to serve 100,000 families, some 500,000 people. Its representatives will also be meeting with the bishops of the Philippines and considering long-term rebuilding efforts in the nation.
Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, chairman of the board for Catholic Relief Services, asked his fellow bishops to consider taking up a special second collection for victims of the storm in the Philippines and Vietnam. The funds will be used both for imminent humanitarian needs and long-term rebuilding.
Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis’ message of concern for the poor is one that is echoed in the U.S., as part of a robust Catholic social teaching that cares for immigrants, the unborn and the religiously persecuted, said two cardinals.
“The message has been so consistently a message of social concern,” explained Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C.
He explained that “sometimes the spotlight will focus on one aspect of the teaching,” and the emphasis is currently moving towards “the needs of the poor.” However, this does not mean a change in Catholic teaching, he said, pointing to the Church’s long history of social justice advocacy in the U.S., which was influential in forming institutions and legislation in the country.
This focus may seem new because of the ability to overlook the poor in the United States, he said, observing that because the country is relatively well-off, “I think at times we don’t always see the needs of people right here in our own country.”
Part of the Church’s great task is teaching the Gospel message “in a world that is constantly changing” and hostile at times, the cardinal noted.
“All of that has to be done in the context of God’s love for us,” he continued.
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the bishops’ conference, agreed.
Poverty “has been a constant, constant concern since the founding of the Conference of Bishops,” he said.
Throughout the course of his three-year presidency, the cardinal explained, he has received “griping” complaints from some Catholics who think “we’re too concerned on social justice issues,” such as poverty, immigration, and education.
“I hope we are hung up on that, because we’re supposed to, because that’s what Jesus asked us to be,” he stressed.
The cardinals spoke at a Nov. 11 press conference after the first general session of the U.S. bishops’ conference fall general assembly in Baltimore.
They also discussed the importance of international religious liberty, which was a focus of Cardinal Dolan’s presidential address to the bishops.
The cardinal connected international religious freedom with efforts to defend religious liberty at home.
“We’ve achieved such unity, we’ve achieved such enthusiasm, we’ve achieved ecumenical cooperation and we’ve achieved such interest, that it’s raised our conscience to say that we can’t stop here,” he explained.
While threats to religious liberty in the U.S. – such as ongoing challenges posed by the federal contraception mandate – are “real and genuine,” they are not as “graphic and dramatic” as the threats to religious liberty faced elsewhere, he continued.
“As important and as high of a priority as our defense of religious liberty is, in comparison with what other nations are going through, it pales.”
International bishops have approached the U.S. bishops to “say to us ‘thank you for the attention you’re giving to the protection of religious freedom, but now could you expand your solicitude to us?'” Cardinal Dolan said.
“It’s almost like an affirmation of what we’re doing at home. Now it’s time to take it to the next step.”
The fight for religious liberty in the United States is “hollow unless it’s accompanied by some type of robust solicitude for the religious freedom of those throughout the world,” he underscored. “Not only is it a matter of justice, but it’s a matter of credibility.”
Furthermore, the “attitudinal, philosophical encroachments upon religious liberty” facing the Catholic Church in America today should be taken seriously because of the importance of the United States as a “beacon” of religious freedom across the world, the cardinal stated.
He said that foreign bishops have told him that “if religious liberty crumbles in the United States, we’re going to be worse off.”
The focus of the New Evangelization “has to be the defense of the faith,” he urged.
Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has elected Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville as its next president, giving national prominence to a prelate with significant experience in Catholic social services.
Archbishop Kurtz, 67, has served as the conference vice president since 2010. He was elected conference president at the conference’s fall assembly in Baltimore the morning of Nov. 12. He will serve a three-year term.
The bishops’ conference president plays a significant role in coordinating and leading charitable and social work and education, while providing a public face for the Catholic Church in the U.S.
Archbishop Kurtz served as Bishop of Knoxville from 1999-2007. He was a priest of the Diocese of Allentown, Pa. for 27 years, with a special focus in social services, diocesan administration, and parish ministry. He served as the director of the diocese’s Catholic Charities affiliate from 1988 to 1998 and was an executive director of the diocese’s Catholic Social Agency and Family Life Bureau.
He is the vice chancellor of the board of the Catholic Extension Society and an adviser to the Catholic Social Workers National Association, the Archdiocese of Louisville website says. He is on the board of directors of the National Catholic Bioethics Center and on the advisory board to the cause for the canonization of Servant of God Archbishop Fulton Sheen.
The archbishop has previously served as chair of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage and Family Life.
He recently co-authored a booklet on the vocation of Christian parenthood and Christian parents’ relationship with their parish. The booklet focuses on a prayer called “The Blessing of the Child in the Womb,” which was drafted by the U.S. bishops’ conference.
Archbishop Kurtz was born in Mahanoy City, Pa. in 1946. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in divinity from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. He holds a master’s degree in social work from the Marywood School of Social Work in Scranton, Pa.
The election of Archbishop Kurtz marks a return to the customary practice of electing the conference vice president to the presidency. In 2010, the U.S. bishops broke with this tradition by choosing then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York as their conference head instead of the conference’s vice president at the time, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz.
The bishops’ conference elected Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston as its vice president.
Vatican City, Nov 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Costa Rican ambassador to Italy praised Pope Francis for his example and attention to the poor, speaking also of the many visible fruits in the country's relationship with the Vatican.
“We are absolutely marveled, absolutely happy he has been selected, because His Holiness has an attitude...so beautiful, so paternal, so open,” Ambassador Jaime Feinzaig reflected in a Nov. 8 interview with CNA.
Feinzaig has held the position as Costa Rica's ambassador to Italy for just over a year, and accompanied the president of the country, Laura Chinchilla, in an audience with the Pope last week.
Expressing his joy in election of the Argentinian pontiff, the ambassador reflected that “the election of Pope Francis is one of the most important acts of the century. It’s one of the most important acts in the history of the Catholic Church.”
Despite having been in office for such a short time, Feinzaig revealed that there are already “logical” and “obvious” changes in Costa Rica’s interaction with the Italy so far since the new pontiff’s election.
Many changes can be seen “worldwide” he noted, due to Pope Francis' unique “style,” emphasizing that “with his example, with the dialogues” he offers a new approach to situations.
“He preaches with his own example, with his example he is changing all the structures that haven't always been all good. So we only have blessings for the Holy Father. In this I speak in the name of all of Costa Rica.”
Among the issues discussed in Chinchilla's cordial meeting with the Holy Father were the country's infrastructure problems, the need for peace and the means required in order to obtain it, as well as concern surrounding the use of nuclear and chemical weapons.
Both sides of the discussion also stressed the need for greater collaboration between the Church and State in their shared concern over the protection of human life and environmental concerns, as well as handling various social problems.
Despite these present concerns, Fenzaig highlighted several areas of growth in the country where many fruits of previous collaboration efforts can be seen, one of which is the topic of immigration.
This issue is “very, very, very important,” he stressed, adding that “Costa Rica has been extremely open to all the immigration.”
Recalling how most of the country's immigrants come from Nicaragua, the ambassador revealed that “It's interesting the Costa Rican government is welcoming Nicaraguan people that don't have work in Nicaragua,” adding that the relationship between the people in each country is “very close, it's very nice.”
Although the influx of immigrants is “a source of” problems for Costa Rica, Fenzaig observed that “Costa Ricans and Nicaraguans, we are brothers, we are brothers and sisters.”
When asked if Pope Francis' continuous call to have compassion for the poor and marginalized has helped to foster this attitude, the ambassador replied “Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. The Holy Father is a man truly wise,” and “truly magnificent.”
“Really, with all of my heart, compliments.”
Feinzaig also made known that there will be a special delegation of different ambassadors to the Holy See on the Dec. 8-10 of of next year, where they will have the opportunity for a private audience with the Bishop of Rome.
Vatican City, Nov 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In his daily homily Pope Francis recalled how God formed man with his own hand, emphasizing that he is a father who seeks to console his children rather than hurt them.
“Jesus, God, has taken his wounds with him: he makes them visible to the Father. This is the price: The hands of God are hands blistered by love! And this consoles us much,” the Pope stated during his Nov. 12 daily homily.
The pontiff directed his reflections to those who attended his Mass in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse.
Centering his words on the day’s reading from the Book of Wisdom describing how God created man by hand out of the dirt of the earth, the Pope emphasized that "God has created man for incorruptibility," but that "by the devil's envy, death entered the world."
This envy, he specified, has begun a war which is a “way that ends with death,” emphasizing also that now “we all have to undergo death.”
However, noted the Pope, “it is one thing to pass this experience with a belonging to the devil and it's another thing to pass this experience by the hand of God,” adding that we have been in the hands of God “since the beginning.”
“The Bible explains the creation to us, using a beautiful image,” reflected the pontiff, “that God, with his hands, makes us out of mud, of the earth, in his image and likeness.”
“The hands of God have created us: God the artisan, eh! He has created us like an artisan. These hands of the Lord...the hands of God, that have not abandoned us.”
Pope Francis continued by reflecting that God is our Father, and that as such he “teaches us to walk; teaches us to go on the path of life and of salvation.”
His hands, stressed the Pope, “caress us in times of sorrow, they comfort us,” observing that “it is our Father who caresses us! He loves us so much,” and within “these caresses, many times, there is forgiveness.”
It is good to think about this fact, advised the pontiff, conveying that the “blistered” hands of Jesus have paid the price for our salvation out of love.
“Let us think of the hands of Jesus,” he encouraged, “when he touched the sick and would cure them… they are the hands of God: They cure us! I can't imagine God slapping us! I can't imagine it.”
“Reproaching us, yes I can imagine, because he does that! But he never, never, hurts us. Never! He caresses us.”
When God does need to chastise, “he does it with a caress, because he is a Father,” said the Pope, quoting the verse from scripture which states that “the souls of the just are in the hands of God.”
Pope Francis concluded his homily by urging those present to continue thinking about the hands of God, which “have created us like a craftsman, have given us eternal health.”
“They are blistered hands and they accompany us on the path of life. Let us entrust ourselves to the hands of God, like a child entrusts himself to the hand of his father. This is a safe hand!”
Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. bishops have voted overwhelmingly to continue their “Call to Prayer” aimed at the promotion of life, marriage and religious freedom.
“The work of the New Evangelization requires prayer and ongoing conversion,” said Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.
Addressing the gathering of U.S. bishops at their annual fall conference in Baltimore, he explained on Nov. 11 that a national pastoral strategy introduced last year produced positive results and should be continued.
The strategy is designed to be a simple “call to prayer” reminding people to pray and fast for the protection of life, marriage and religious freedom in the United States.
It involves a call for families and individuals to pray a daily Rosary, as well as special Prayers of the Faithful at Masses and monthly Eucharistic Holy Hours held at various parishes and cathedrals.
The pastoral strategy also recognizes “the importance of spiritual and bodily sacrifice in the life of the Church” and encourages Catholics to fast and abstain from meat on Friday.
In addition, it included a second Fortnight for Freedom during the summer of 2012, following the first one held the previous year, as a way to promote prayer, education and action for the defense of religious freedom.
Over the past months, the bishops’ conference has made resources available to the faithful in order to participate in this call to prayer. Social media reminders and an online pledge to fast on Fridays have been particularly popular, drawing thousands of participants.
Launched last December, the initiative was scheduled to run through the end of this month. Archbishop Cordileone asked his brother bishops to build on the success experienced so far and continue the efforts into the future.
In a vote of 203 to 17, with five abstentions, the bishops voted to extend the initiative with renewed communication and outreach. They also discussed ways to further enhance the pastoral strategy as it moves forward.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix suggested efforts towards greater ecumenical and interfaith action, pointing to the multi-faith 40 Days for Life campaigns as an example.
Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore encouraged his fellow bishops to be proactive, so that issues involving Church teaching can be matters of catechesis before they become matters of legislation.
Archbishop Cordileone noted the importance of formation, so that the faithful understand the Church’s teaching on complex issues. He suggested that this must begin with seminarians and lay leaders, who can spread the message in their instructional roles.
Ultimately, the archbishop said, these efforts must go beyond raising awareness about Catholic teaching.
We must “create a ‘culture of the call to prayer,’” he explained.
Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. bishops have voted to add a bishops’ conference staff member to work with the post-abortion healing ministry Project Rachel at a national level, citing growing demand for help.
“Over the past several years, diocesan interest in and expansion of post-abortion healing ministries have dramatically increased,” Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, the chair of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life activities committee, said at the assembly Nov. 12.
“While it’s encouraging that so many dioceses are asking for help and responding, the pro-life committee recognized some time ago that additional help would be needed.”
Cardinal O’Malley said the committee envisions the new position as a resource for diocesan directors, who offer retreats, support group models and training resources for priests.
The U.S. bishops approved the creation of the new position by a vote of 225-9 on Nov. 12.
Project Rachel works to support the healing of women who have had abortions, through counseling, retreats, prayers, resources and other efforts.
The U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities has worked with diocesan Project Rachel leaders to develop “many helpful resources” and to provide on-site, customized diocesan training.
“Yet the demand for help is ever increasing,” the cardinal said.
The Project Rachel website, HopeAfterAbortion.com, which connects those in need to diocesan programs, receives five million visits each year.
Cardinal O’Malley said the funding for the new position was possible “through the ongoing generosity of the Knights of Columbus.”
Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle, chair of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Priorities and Plans, said his committee recommended the additional staffer at the U.S. bishops’ fall assembly, which is meeting in Baltimore from Nov. 11-14.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the outgoing president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, voiced his “sincere appreciation” to the Knights of Columbus, the largest Catholic fraternal organization in the U.S., for their financial support.
“They’re so good to us in so many ways,” he said after the vote.
Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. bishops have overwhelmingly approved the creation of a statement on pornography to address the “serious pastoral challenges” and consequences that it poses on a spiritual, social and personal level.
“Pornography comes in many forms but leaves its effects on all those exploited by or exposed to it. It is a great temptation that ravages men, women and children,” Bishop Richard J. Malone, chairman-elect of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, told the bishops’ fall assembly Nov. 12.
“The number of men, women and children who have been harmed by pornography use is not negligible, and we have an opportunity to offer healing and hope to those who have been wounded.”
The growing awareness of pornography’s “grave” impact means the bishops have “an opportunity to educate and to shine light on the mercy and freedom found in Christ,” he said.
Bishop Malone, who heads the Buffalo diocese, noted that the U.S. bishops have not issued a statement explicitly addressing pornography. He asked the assembled bishops to approve his committee’s request to write a statement on the issue to encourage more pastoral attention to it.
The U.S. bishops approved his request by a vote of 226 to 5.
Bishop Malone said that pornography poses “serious pastoral challenges” for clergy and the faithful. Pornography is widespread and “more accessible than in the past,” affecting people of younger and younger ages. Fewer people disapprove of it, and its use is increasing among both men and women.
Pointing to statistics that pornography is “a significant factor” in nearly 60 percent of divorces, the bishop cautioned that it is “highly addictive” and capable of altering brain chemistry and causing harmful social consequences.
The average age of first exposure to pornography is 10-11 years old, an alarming fact, he said.
“Love resonates in the human heart, because we were made for it,” Bishop Malone explained. “But we also know that there are many obstacles to true, lasting love. There are many counterfeit versions of love that promise much but deliver little.”
“There are many ways in which the body, created in the image of God as male and female, becomes a place of exploitation and ‘use’ instead of a place of communion and love.”
Bishop Malone’s proposal drew strong support and suggestions from the floor of the assembly.
In the question period, Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay, Wis., spoke “very much in favor” of the proposal.
“There are great advantages to the advances in social media. This is the dark side of all of that,” he said.
He warned that pornography “captures younger and younger people” and is “destroying marriages and families at a very rapid rate.”
He praised his diocese’s anti-pornography addiction initiative Reclaiming Sexual Health, noting that there are many new resources and ministries on the topic.
Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City said that his diocese’s Catholic Charities affiliate reports that over 50 percent of family counseling clients had pornography use as a problem that impaired their marriages and family life. He suggested that awareness of this issue should be raised at Sunday Mass, if it can be done through lay witness.
Bishop David Foley, retired head of the Diocese of Birmingham, Ala., praised the Sacrament of Reconciliation for combating pornography.
“I have found the power of the Sacrament of Penance in overcoming pornography is tremendous,” he said.
“It’s true confessors are hearing of this sin more often, but they are working with their penitents. The regular practice of confession is an answer, a strong answer, to this problem.”
Archbishop George Niederauer called attention to the Cincinnati-based Religious Alliance against Pornography, a 30-year-old organization co-founded by Cardinals Joseph Bernardin and John O’Connor.
In addition, Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Neb., recommended the Covenant Eyes anti-pornography filtering and accountability computer program.
“I think it is the best out there,” he said.
Salt Lake City Bishop John Wester noted that the bishops’ Committee on Communications has been working on anti-pornography legislation. Bishop Curtis Guillory of Beaumont, Texas, said his diocese recently held a workshop on the issue for priests. Many of his priests said that they previously lacked information on pornography.
Another speaker, Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, asked that the statement highlight social aspects of pornography, including exploitation of women and children in the U.S. and abroad.
Bishop Malone said that possible statement topics include chastity and sexuality; basic information about pornography, its use and its effects on users and users’ families; the negative effects of pornography on society; an “authentic vision” of the human person; and “the mercy, grace of conversion and freedom Christ offers through his Church, especially through the sacraments and prayer.”
He said the statement could also recommend “proven practical resources” for pornography users, their loved ones, and clergy.
Now that the proposal for the statement has been approved, it must be drafted by bishops working in committee and then presented to the bishops at a future meeting.