Archive of February 23, 2014

Bishop Pates calls US to join international land mine ban

Washington D.C., Feb 23, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The head of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace is asking the government to join an international convention banning the use of land mines.

“Please urge the President to exercise his leadership on banning landmines by acceding to the Ottawa Convention,” wrote Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, in a Feb. 12 letter to National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice.

“Our views are grounded in Church teaching that calls for a ban on landmines on moral grounds since they are indiscriminate weapons that kill and maim innocent civilians during and long after hostilities end,” Bishop Pates explained.

His letter calls the U.S. to ratify the Convention on the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and Their Destruction, also known as the Mine Ban Treaty or the Ottawa Convention.

The international accord calls for signatory countries to cease the development and production of anti-personnel land mines, destroy its stockpile of land mines within four years, and clear its mined areas within a decade of signing the treaty. A small number of mines may be retained for the sake of training purposes.

Currently, 161 countries have signed the convention, including member states of the European Union, Canada, Australia, all of the nations in South America, and most countries in Africa.

In his letter, Bishop Pates referred to a statement made by Rice in her former role as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. In 2011, the ambassador voiced concern over the dangers that unexploded mines “cost in terms of security and human potential” and concluded that “we must resolve to strengthen our efforts to ensure that the earth is sown with the fruits of opportunity and prosperity, not dangerous remnants of war.”

Bishop Pates asked that the U.S. ratify the treaty in “keeping with the spirit of your statement” on land mines.

Echoing the Holy See's concern for “deplorable humanitarian consequences of anti-personnel mines,” he also noted the danger that unexploded mines still pose today to civilians in countries around the globe, including in Iraq, Cambodia, Lebanon and Afghanistan.

The bishop pledged the support of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference, saying that it would “work vigorously for ratification of a treaty that rids the world of these weapons which cause long-term, irreparable, and indiscriminate harm.”

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Catholic University leaders reject criticism of Koch grant

Washington D.C., Feb 23, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Catholic University of America’s president and business school dean say criticism of a $1 million grant from the Koch Foundation is unfounded and treats debatable positions as official Church teaching.

“We think the groups complaining about the Koch Foundation gift are suggesting a litmus test that neither we nor they would want to apply to other cases,” university president John Garvey and Dean Andrew Abela of the university’s School of Business and Economics said in a Feb. 20 Wall Street Journal essay.

“We welcome constructive criticism, but we believe it would be a mistake to stifle debate by pretending that genuinely controversial positions are official church teaching.”

In January 2013, The Catholic University of America created a separate business school for business, finance and economics-related courses drawn from its School of Arts and Sciences. The new business school later received a $1 million grant from the Charles Koch Foundation.

The grant has drawn objections from Faith in Public Life, a Democratic-leaning communications strategy organization. The group’s affiliate Faithful America organized a petition drive asking the university to reject the grant. The pro-labor union group Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice was also critical.

The Faithful America petition said that brothers Charles and David Koch’s political efforts are “clearly out of step with Catholic social teaching,” claiming that they are “the biggest funders” of the Tea Party movement, and “anti-government think tanks” that are “waging war on anti-poverty programs.”

The petition claims that the Charles Koch used his influence to veto professor hires at another university.

The online petition had 33,000 signatures as of Feb. 21, an increase from 28,000 in mid-December.

However, Garvey and Abela suggested that the criticism stems not from any improper activity being funded by the Koch Foundation, but because the critics believe the Koch brothers “hold some views that we should reject.”

“This objection is a rather strong form of guilt by association,” the university leaders said.

They went on to argue that it would “surely” not be wrong to accept a malaria vaccine research grant from the Gates Foundation, which supports artificial contraception, nor would it be wrong to accept a grant from a foundation simply because one of its founders personally donated to abortion provider Planned Parenthood.

Garvey and Abela also considered that objections might derive from concerns that the business school would entertain or justify “ideas at odds with Catholic social teaching.” They noted the Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice’s objection that the grant may give the impression that Catholic Church does not support public sector unions, given the Koch brothers’ support for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who limited bargaining rights for some such unions.

“The grant we received is not concerned with public unions. Even if it were, we wouldn't turn it away as a project unfit for study at a Catholic university,” Garvey and Abela said.

They noted that the Catholic Church “has long supported unions” in its social teaching, including Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical “Rerum Novarum,” which taught that workers have the right to organize and bargain collectively. At the same time, this encyclical said this subject depends on “practice and experience” and on “the nature and aim of the work to be done,” among other circumstances.

Garvey and Abela said that Leo XIII and his successors never advanced an official Church position on government worker unions, which “should be as open to debate at the Catholic University of America as at Columbia, Stanford or any other serious university.”

They also pointed out that 25 Catholic universities are among the 270 U.S. universities to have received Koch Foundation grants. They suggested that the controversy over this particular grant is related to The Catholic University of America’s status as the national university of the Catholic Church.

Garvey and Abela said the university is “grateful” for the grant and is keeping it because “it would be an unhealthy precedent for a university to refuse support for valuable research because the money, somewhere back up the line, once belonged to a donor whose views on other subjects were unpopular within the academic community.”

The university had previously defended the grant in a Dec. 16 statement which said the negative attention “has all been externally driven by organizations with a political agenda.”

The grant critic Faith in Public Life has been involved in several Catholic-related media campaigns. A leaked June 2012 email from the organization revealed it had been circulating talking points and adversarial questions for the media to ask Catholic bishops in the controversy over federal mandates of health coverage for sterilization and contraception, including some drugs that can cause abortions.

The email urged the media to reject as a “fiction” the Catholic Church’s position that the mandate poses a serious threat to religious liberty.

The organization Faithful America has run several petition campaigns critical of Catholic Church actions, such as the firing of a Catholic school teacher who contracted a same-sex “marriage.” A July 2013 petition from the group called on Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York to resign, alleging that he concealed Church funds from abuse lawsuit settlements.

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Christian leaders should serve, says Pope

Vatican City, Feb 23, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his Sunday Angelus message, Pope Francis spoke about the importance of service rather than special privilege in the Christian community, connecting the day’s gospel reading to the Saturday consistory that created 19 new cardinals.

“Through baptism, we all have the same dignity: all of us, in Jesus Christ, we are sons of God,” the Pope stressed on Feb. 23 to the huge crowds filling St. Peter’s Square and spilling out onto the road.

Many had come to Rome for the consistory of cardinals. Pope Francis took the opportunity to issue a reminder about the importance of a spirit of service in the Church.

“Those who have received a ministry of leadership, preaching, administering the sacraments, should not be considered owners of special powers, but offer service to the community, helping them to walk the path of holiness with joy.”

The Pope then reflected on the scripture passage read at Sunday’s Mass in which St. Paul corrects the early Christians of Corinth for taking pride in following one particular apostle over another.

“St. Paul explains that this way of thinking is wrong, because the community does not belong to the apostles, but it is they who belong to the community, but the community, as a whole, belongs to Christ!” he exclaimed.

The dynamics of a Christian community must be marked by efforts to “build unity, because unity is more important than division.”

To this end, the various members of the Church must pray for one another, insisted the pontiff. “I also invite you to support these pastors and to assist them with prayer, so that they always guide people with the zeal that has been entrusted to them, showing all the tenderness and love of the Lord.”

Such unity and prayer should result in leading lives that witness to the truth, he explained.

“All together, bishops, priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful must offer the testimony of a Church faithful to Christ, animated by the desire to serve our brothers and ready to go with prophetic courage to meet the expectations and spiritual needs of the men and women of our time.”

The pontiff urged those gathered to be encouraged by the events of weekend in which 19 new Cardinals from various countries were created.

“May the liturgical moments and celebration that we had the opportunity to live in the last two days strengthen us all in faith and love for Christ and for his Church!”

He asked the crowds to pray for the prelates, that they would be “good servants rather than good masters.”

“May the Virgin Mary accompany us and protect us in this journey,” he concluded, before leading the Angelus prayer.

After the prayer, Pope Francis greeted various pilgrim groups present in the square and wished everyone a “good Sunday and a good lunch.”

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Cardinals bring 'voice of poor' to Vatican

Vatican City, Feb 23, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis’ appointment of new cardinals from distant and impoverished countries has helped bring the topic of pastoral care for those struggling in poverty to Vatican discussions.

“I suppose looking back now, it’s not surprising that he chose cardinals from the poorest countries in the world. Nicaragua, Burkina Faso, and Haiti - to have cardinals from those countries, we’d never have thought in the past of having those cardinals,” Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor of the United Kingdom told CNA Feb. 22. “But he said, ‘no, I want to hear the voice of the poor.’ So it was surprising, but I think I understand.”

Cardinal Chibly Langlois of Haiti, who was appointed in yesterday’s consistory, said that he felt that his new office helps “continue to show the importance of our Pope for the people of Haiti.”

“That means to be with him, to bring to our Pope the situation of our country,” he told CNA.

Haiti is one of world’s poorest countries. It is still recovering from a devastating 2010 earthquake that killed over 200,000 people and left over one million homeless.

For Cardinal Langlois, being given the red hat means “to be in the service of God, (and) of the people. So for us in Haiti, that means we have to continue to serve the people, and serve the Church around the world.”

Pope Francis’ homily at Mass this morning also focused on the importance of serving God and the Church, particularly through a life of sanctity.

“Dear brother cardinals, the Lord Jesus and mother Church ask us to witness with greater zeal and ardor to these ways of being holy,” he said, encouraging them to have a spirit of “goodness, forgiveness, service.”

The Pope went on to stress that entrance into the College of Cardinals means a life of service, not privilege. “A cardinal enters the Church of Rome, the Church, not a royal court,” he insisted.

“May we always allow ourselves to be guided by the Spirit of Christ, who sacrificed himself on the Cross so that we could be ‘channels’ through which his charity might flow. This is the attitude of a cardinal, this is how he acts.”

After Mass during his Angelus message, Pope Francis said the Church “entrusts the testimony of this pastoral lifestyle to the new cardinals,” adding that their presence at the consistory “offered a valuable opportunity to experience the catholicity, the universality, of the Church.”

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor expressed a similar feeling regarding the series of meetings that took place among the cardinals in the days preceding the consistory.

“One or two of them have spoken, these cardinals who are coming from these very poor countries. They’ll get used to these meetings in time and be able to speak, as it were, with more experience. But even to see them there, it was very good.”

The pastoral concerns for those in very impoverished circumstances are often different than in other areas of the Church. Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila told CNA that the biggest challenge facing families in the Philippines is poverty.

“We don’t have any divorce, but what separates families is poverty. People look for jobs elsewhere. They leave their villages, they go to the big cities, they go abroad, so even without the divorce law, de facto there is separation because of migration,” he explained.

“I have appealed to dioceses that have accepted Filipino migrant workers to support them pastorally,” he said, noting that “the pastoral care of family, of a person, who is married, but whose family is not physically present,” presents a special challenge.

“How do you provide pastoral care so that they will remain faithful to their spouses and their children left behind? It’s an approach to family life which is quite unique.”

Cardinal George Alencherry, who heads the India-based Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, also expressed concern for migration due to poverty.

“The families are split up, the children--either for studies, or for a job, etc. - are going in different parts of the world, and that unity of the family is broken,” he said. “That’s a big problem.”

“There are many who are poor, in our country, and how to attend to the needs of the poor--all these are problems,” he added.

When asked if there was hope of a solution, Cardinal Alencherry replied, “God is always rich, and we will find ways--they may not be 100 percent perfect ways, but we will try in our own way what we can do.”

Cardinal Tagle also expressed hope in the face of difficulties, explaining that in the Philippines, “you also see how the extended family supports especially the children who are left behind, so the ‘traditional’ clan, the traditional extended family, is serving its purpose.  And we rejoice where something, in a way disappears, another reality is present to take on responsibility, especially for the children.”

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