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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS May-26-2009

By Catholic News Service


Obama nominates New York Latina to Supreme Court

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- President Barack Obama has nominated federal appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court; if she is confirmed, the New York native of Puerto Rican descent would become the first Hispanic to serve on the high court. Obama announced his choice of Sotomayor, 54, at a brief event at the White House May 26. If confirmed by the Senate, she would join the court when the next term opens in October, replacing retiring Justice David Souter. At the White House announcement, Sotomayor described herself as "an ordinary person who has been blessed with extraordinary opportunities and experiences." Sotomayor has been a judge on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals since 1998, nominated to that post by President Bill Clinton. Before that she spent six years as a U.S. District Court judge in New York, nominated to that position by President George H.W. Bush in 1991. She also served as an assistant New York County district attorney and worked in private practice. She was joined at the White House by her mother, Celina Sotomayor; her mother's husband, Omar Lopez; her brother, Juan Sotomayor, a New York physician, and his wife and children.

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Bishop praises court for affirming voters' right to define marriage

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Speaking on behalf of his fellow Catholic bishops in California, Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton praised the California Supreme Court for upholding the voters' affirmation of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, but expressed disappointment that the court permitted an estimated 18,000 same-sex couples to remain legally married. The May 26 ruling of the high court upheld the constitutionality of the state's Proposition 8 declaring that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California," but said the voters' decision could not be applied retroactively to those who married before the initiative was passed. Bishop Blaire said he and his fellow bishops "are strongly committed to protecting the dignity and worth of every human person" and supported "the intent of law to provide equal protection for all." "However, such purpose does not have to trump the natural and traditional definition of marriage between a man and a woman," he added in a May 26 statement. "The law has found other ways to regulate civil unions without destroying the traditional understanding of marriage. We believe -- as do the majority of Californians -- that marriage between a man and a woman is foundational to our culture and crucial for human perpetuity," he said.

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Health reform urgent but abortion must be off the table, bishop says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Although there is an urgent need for "comprehensive health care reform leading to accessible and affordable health care for all," Congress must not include abortion as part of a national health care benefits package, the chairman of the U.S. bishops' domestic policy committee said. Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., who chairs the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, outlined the bishops' criteria for health care reform in a brief statement to the Senate Finance Committee May 20. The next day, the USCCB sent letters with the same message to the House, Senate and White House. Calling health care a "critical component" of the ministry of the Catholic Church, Bishop Murphy said the church brings "strong convictions and everyday experience" to the issue. "The church provides health care, purchases health care and picks up the pieces of a failing health care system," he said. "The Catholic community encounters and serves the sick and uninsured in our emergency rooms, shelters and on the doorsteps of our parishes. One out of six patients is cared for in Catholic hospitals."

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Attorney traces federal conscience-clause protection to Roe decision

NEW YORK (CNS) -- "Signs of erosion" of support for federal conscience-clause protection began to appear about 10 years ago and have continued at the state level, attorney Susan J. Stabile told a group of Catholic health care leaders May 21. She discussed two potential federal threats to conscience claims, and concluded that neither one would specifically repeal conscience protection for health care workers. Stabile, who holds the Robert and Marion Short distinguished chair in law at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis, spoke on "Legal Challenges to Catholic Health Care: The Elimination of the Conscience Clause and Related Concerns." She delivered the address during the 25th Catholic Healthcare Administrative Personnel program May 18-22 at St. John's University in New York. Stabile cited as the first potential threat the Department of Health and Human Services' regulations adopted in December 2008 to ensure that "recipients of department funds do not support coercive or discriminatory practices" in the delivery of health care. She said, however, the regulations did not create new restrictions or grant substantive rights.

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Health care crisis offers chance for rapid turnaround, bishop says

NEW YORK (CNS) -- A gradual turnaround of the country's ailing health care system is not practical and policymakers should seize this "most unlikely of times" to change the system, said Bishop Joseph M. Sullivan May 22. The retired auxiliary bishop of Brooklyn, N.Y., was the closing speaker at the 25th Catholic Healthcare Administrative Personnel program held May 18-22 at St. John's University in New York with joint sponsorship by St. Vincent Catholic Medical Centers. Fifty administrators and pastoral care professionals from dioceses across the United States participated. Bishop Sullivan, a former board chairman of the Catholic Health Association, said health care represents one-sixth of the gross national product and must be included in discussions about the economic recovery. "Health care reform needs to address insurance coverage, the delivery system and the financing system," he said. "Everything is intertwined." He said a recent meeting at the White House convened representatives of unions, physicians, pharmaceutical companies, medical device producers, the American Hospital Association and high-level government officials. Although the 2010 federal budget includes a $635 billion reserve fund for health care reform legislation, the participants could not reach agreement on how it should be spent to achieve reform, he said.

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Book says young women attracted to orders whose members wear habits

DENVER (CNS) -- While the last 40 years have seen an overall drop in the numbers of women entering religious life, a new book released by the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious says orders that are more visibly countercultural seem to be flourishing. The council represents the superiors of more than 100 religious communities of sisters whose members wear an identifiable religious habit. A canonically approved organization founded in 1992 to promote religious life in the United States, the council notes that the average age of its member communities' sisters is under 35. The book, titled "The Foundations of Religious Life: Revisiting the Vision" and published by Ave Maria Press, is a project of the council. It explores why the orders represented by the council are gaining numbers and how they are living out the vision of consecrated life described by the Second Vatican Council. The book, released May 16, consists of essays written by six religious sisters representing five orders. The topics they address are: religious consecration, the spousal bond, the threefold response to vows, communion in community, and mission.

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New Vatican document again encourages Chinese Catholics to reconcile

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI knows the full structural unity of Catholic communities in China will take time, but the spiritual reconciliation of Chinese Catholics "can and must take place now," said a new Vatican document. Marking the second anniversary of Pope Benedict's 2007 letter to Chinese Catholics, the Vatican published a reading guide and summary of the letter to clarify certain points and help people understand it better. The 2007 letter established new guidelines to favor cooperation between clandestine Catholic communities and those officially registered with the government. The papal letter strongly criticized the limits placed by the Chinese government on the church's activities. But on several key issues, including the appointment of bishops, it invited civil authorities to a new and serious dialogue. The new compendium of the papal letter, released at the Vatican May 24, used a question-and-answer format quoting the original letter, but it also included several new footnotes and appendixes to clarify questions raised in the past two years.

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Pope tells Vatican diplomats to first be good priests

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI told priests studying to be Vatican diplomats that their primary concern must be to be good priests rather than to have a brilliant career and see the world. "The Lord wants us to be saints," the pope said May 23 during a meeting with students and staff of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, which prepares priests to work in Vatican embassies around the world as well as in the Vatican Secretariat of State. God is not looking for people "worried about building a humanly interesting or comfortable career, looking for applause or success, but entirely dedicated to the good of souls," the pope said. Pope Benedict told them that, as priests, their diplomatic task will be to get to know and understand the social and political problems of the lands where they will work, then to apply the teachings of the Gospel and the church to those situations. "That ability to dialogue with modernity that is requested of you, as well as the contact with people and with the institutions they represent, require a robust interior structure and a spiritual solidness that is able to safeguard and even highlight better your Christian and priestly identity," the pope said.

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Irish religious orders do not want to renegotiate 2002 abuse deal

DUBLIN, Ireland (CNS) -- The 18 Irish religious congregations implicated in the abuse of children in their care say they do not wish to renegotiate a controversial deal in which they received indemnity from being sued by victims in exchange for contributing to a victim's compensation fund. The deal made as one of the final acts of an outgoing government in 2002 has proved increasingly controversial, partly because the overall compensation paid out has increased by hundreds of millions of euros, so that the religious orders are only paying about 10 percent of the compensation paid to victims of decades of abuse. "Rather than reopening the terms of the agreement reached with government in 2002, we reiterate our commitment to working with those who suffered enormously while in our care. We must find the best and most appropriate ways of directly assisting them. We will meet again in the coming days to explore the detail of our responses," said a statement issued May 25.

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Vatican Radio announces it will begin accepting advertising

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- For the first time in its nearly 80-year history, Vatican Radio is opening up to advertising in the hopes of easing the strain on its budget, the Vatican spokesman said. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, who is also the director of Vatican Radio, told a news conference May 26 that the use of satellites and the Internet will allow the radio to overcome obstacles that had previously made advertising impossible. The question of advertising has been raised many times over the years in relation to the "significant expenses" of the radio's budget, but had been rejected "for practical reasons, not because we think advertising is bad," Father Lombardi said. With programs broadcast in about 40 languages and given the particularly religious nature of the programs, plus the fact that transmission occurred mostly by shortwave radio, Vatican Radio was "not appropriate for advertising," he said. But the use of satellites and the Internet has changed the landscape of radio transmission, and now many smaller, local Catholic-oriented stations are able to pick up and retransmit Vatican Radio programs, making advertising more feasible and attractive to potential advertisers.

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Report: Kidnapping, extortion plague migrants traveling through Mexico

MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- A report released by the Mexican Diocese of Saltillo says that abuses such as kidnapping and extortion by organized crime groups have become the most serious problem for undocumented Central Americans traveling through the country. The fifth annual report on the human rights situation for migrants transiting Mexico also says that government organizations, police officers and guards working for private security companies continue violating the human rights of migrants and continue ignoring complaints that highlight allegations of improper and possibly illegal conduct. "The aggressions against migrants are not ending, but becoming more offensive, becoming more cruel," said Father Pedro Pantoja, director of the diocesan migrant shelter, Casa Belen, Posada del Migrante, in the northern city of Saltillo. The report -- compiled by the shelter and two Saltillo migrant advocacy organizations, Humanidad Sin Fronteras and Frontera Con Justicia -- outlines a grim situation that has failed to improve over the past year, even though the Mexican government approved laws in 2008 that discard criminal penalties for those detained without proper immigration documents.

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Bomb kills two inside Catholic church in Nepal

KATMANDU, Nepal (CNS) -- A powerful bomb exploded inside the Catholic Church of the Assumption, killing two Catholics and injuring several others. The blast, suspected to have been triggered by members of a Hindu extremist group, occurred as approximately 300 Catholics gathered for the weekly Mass at the church May 23, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News. The main weekly Mass in Nepal is celebrated on Saturday, because Sunday is a working day in the predominantly Hindu country. "The blast was so powerful that it literally sent people flying," recalled parishioner Josh Niraula. "We were just 15 minutes into the Mass." Leaflets belonging to a little-known Hindu group, the Nepal Defense Army, lay scattered all over the floor, leading people and the police to believe that the group was responsible for the blast. The same group has been blamed for the murder of Salesian Father John Prakash Moyalan in Sirsiya, in eastern Nepal, last year.

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Pope prays for peace, honors fallen soldiers in visit to Monte Cassino

MONTE CASSINO, Italy (CNS) -- At the Benedictine Abbey of Monte Cassino, founded by St. Benedict and rebuilt after being destroyed by U.S. bombers during World War II, Pope Benedict XVI prayed for peace. After celebrating evening prayer with members of the abbey community and with representatives of Benedictine monks and nuns from around the world May 24, Pope Benedict lighted a lamp at the Polish military cemetery on the hillside just below the abbey. The pope prayed that God would "welcome into your merciful embrace" all those who fell in the battle of Monte Cassino as well as "the fallen of every war that has bloodied the earth." He prayed, "Give to all those still suffering because of fratricidal wars the strength of invincible hope, the courage to take daily actions for peace (and) a concrete trust in the civilization of love." Standing before the tombs of more than 1,000 Polish soldiers who died with thousands of Allied and German troops on the hillside, Pope Benedict also asked God to help modern men and women understand that peace is more precious than any material thing.

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US seminarians finish second in Clericus Cup soccer match

ROME (CNS) -- Dreams of glory for the Pontifical North American College soccer team were vanquished with a single corner kick to their goal in the final duel for the Clericus Cup tournament trophy. The NAC Martyrs, the team fielded by the U.S. bishops' seminary in Rome, finished the season with a respectable second place after going undefeated into the final match May 23 against a team from the Neocatechumenal Way's Redemptoris Mater seminary. The loss did not discourage the North American College rector, Msgr. James F. Checchio. "They're winners," he said after the game. "They're great men; they played hard and they keep improving." The important thing, he said, "is that they are coming together in unity and a spirit of cooperation, with brothers from other countries." The Clericus Cup tournament for priests and seminarians studying in Rome was established in 2006 and first played in 2007; it now involves 386 seminarians and religious from 69 countries.

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Archbishop retires amid reports many of his priests are not celibate

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of a 54-year-old archbishop from the Central African Republic following an investigation into priests of his diocese who live more or less openly with women and the children they have fathered. The Vatican announced May 26 that Archbishop Paulin Pomodimo, 54, of Bangui had resigned under the terms of Canon 401.2 of the Code of Canon Law, which states that "a diocesan bishop who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause is earnestly requested to present his resignation from office." Passionist Father Ciro Benedettini, vice director of the Vatican press office, said Archbishop Pomodimo resigned because of "insurmountable difficulties in running the diocese." The news agency Africa News had reported May 25 that Archbishop Pomodimo and several priests in his archdiocese would be sanctioned "for adopting a moral attitude which is not always in conformity with their commitments to follow Christ in chastity, poverty and obedience."


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