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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Oct-30-2009

By Catholic News Service


Churches working to ensure everyone is counted in 2010 US census

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Churches have a crucial role to play in ensuring that everyone is counted on Census Day 2010, April 1. That's the message Alejandro Aguilera-Titus and Beverly Carroll of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat on Cultural Diversity in the Church are delivering as key point people in the USCCB's partnership effort with the U.S. Census Bureau. The numbers gathered in the 2010 census will determine representation in Congress and the allocation of more than $400 billion in annual federal funding for local schools, roads, parks and other services. "Historically we know there are three major communities that are difficult to count -- the new immigrant, those who are isolated due to little knowledge of English and the low-income," said Aguilera-Titus, assistant director for Hispanic affairs in the cultural diversity secretariat, in an interview with Catholic News Service Oct. 27. But with 19,000 parishes and thousands more social service agencies, health care facilities and educational institutions around the country, the Catholic Church is in a unique position to reach many of those people and to convince them that it's important to be counted, said Carroll, assistant director for African-American affairs, in the same interview.

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USCCB distributes bulletin inserts on health care reform nationwide

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has sent bulletin inserts to almost 19,000 parishes across the country in an effort to urge Catholics to prevent health care reform from being derailed by support for abortion funding. "Health care reform should be about saving lives, not destroying them," the insert states. It urges readers to contact Senate leaders so they support efforts to "incorporate long-standing policies against abortion funding and in favor of conscience rights" in health reform legislation. "If these serious concerns are not addressed, the final bill should be opposed," it adds. The insert highlights an amendment sponsored by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., which "addresses essential pro-life concerns on abortion funding and conscience rights." "Help ensure that the rule for the bill allows a vote on the amendment," the insert states. "If these serious concerns are not addressed, the final bill should be opposed." The insert also directs Catholics to the Web page www.usccb.org/healthcare. Parishes also were receiving suggested pulpit announcements and petitions in support of this effort.

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Legionaries of Christ barred from ministering in Miami Archdiocese

MIAMI (CNS) -- Miami Archbishop John C. Favalora has barred the Legionaries of Christ from exercising any ministry in the archdiocese, effective immediately. In a letter addressed to all the priests in the archdiocese, Msgr. Michael Souckar, archdiocesan chancellor, said the decision was made because the order had not adhered to the condition set by the archdiocese that they minister only to their own members. "Because the Legionaries of Christ have not abided by the restrictions, Archbishop Favalora has barred them from any ministry in the Archdiocese of Miami," the priest said. "In the past, (Legionaries of Christ) priests were given individual approval by the vicar general each time they wished to come to the Archdiocese of Miami but their ministry was restricted to their own members," he said. Jim Fair, Legionaries of Christ spokesman, told Catholic News Service Oct. 30 the order was "surprised and disappointed" by the news but would obey the archdiocese's wishes and hoped to restore a working relationship with the archdiocese in the future. Mary Ross Agosta, archdiocesan director of communications, said that "from time to time the archdiocese will issue statements of clarification, often when we receive phone calls, letters or e-mails inquiring about issues, programs, visitors, speakers, etc. Such statements are not unusual, as they provide clear communications for clergy, parishioners and the south Florida community."

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Bishops to consider revised directives on withdrawal of food, water

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A proposed revision to the directives that guide Catholic heath care facilities would clarify that patients with chronic conditions who are not imminently dying should receive food and water by "medically assisted" means if they cannot take them normally. "As a general rule, there is an obligation to provide patients with food and water, including medically assisted nutrition and hydration for those who cannot take food orally," says the revised text of the "Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services" proposed by the U.S. bishops' Committee on Doctrine. "This obligation extends to patients in chronic conditions (e.g., the 'persistent vegetative state') who can reasonably be expected to live indefinitely if given such care," the new text adds. Deleted from the directives would be a reference to "the necessary distinctions between questions already resolved by the magisterium and those requiring further reflection, as, for example, the morality of withdrawing medically assisted hydration and nutrition from a person who is in the condition that is recognized by physicians as the 'persistent vegetative state.'" The proposed revision to the directives will come before members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for debate and vote at their fall general assembly Nov. 16-19 in Baltimore. A majority vote by those present and voting is required for passage.

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Pornography is 'a sexual Katrina' tearing men down, says speaker

NEW ORLEANS (CNS) -- The scourge of addiction to pornography, especially among men, has created "a sexual Katrina" that is destroying families, church and society, a prominent speaker on sexual integrity told a recent gathering of men in New Orleans. Dan Spencer, an advisory board member of the "My House" anti-pornography initiative in the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kan., told 200 men at the 13th annual Morning Men's Spirituality event that pornographic addiction is so prevalent it qualifies as one of the major battles the Catholic Church must speak out about and fight. "It is the single largest battle, in my opinion, in this room -- the battle of pornography," said Spencer, an advertising and marketing executive and consultant. "There are men here -- and not just one or two -- who are addicted to pornography and who struggle with sexual issues. This sexual Katrina is destroying homes, families, men, our society, our church. This is enormous." Spencer, who spoke Oct. 17 at St. Rita Church, said as many as 54 percent of men admit to viewing pornography in a one-month period, and 10 percent are addicted, including those who regularly attend church.

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Archbishop blesses new shrine in salt mine 120 stories beneath Detroit

DETROIT (CNS) -- Clad in a black miner's jacket and sky blue hard hat, Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron descended 1,200 feet and 400 million years into the salt of the earth. The archbishop blessed a newly crafted statue and shrine to St. Barbara, the patroness of miners, at the base of the hoist -- the only portal in or out --- at the Detroit Salt Co. on the city's southwest side, Michigan's lone rock-salt mine. "We must be disposed and appreciate what this means," Archbishop Vigneron told a group of about 30 miners. "When the church blesses a statue for people to use, to pray at, we do this because when we look at this statue we see somebody who followed Christ. And we, like that saint, will seek to please Christ. "Those saints are our friends. They pray for us; they remember us and help us with their love," he said. Emanuel Manos, company vice president, was inspired to create the shrine after a trip to visit his family in Slovakia in 2008. He met Jan Martinka, a master woodworker, in Rajec, Slovakia, and asked him to make the statue.

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Catholic officials laud agreement to end Honduran crisis

MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- Catholic officials in Honduras lauded a political agreement that aimed to end the four-month political crisis sparked by a June coup that unseated President Manuel Zelaya. "This is a big step forward for the country," said Father German Calix, president of Caritas Honduras, the church's charitable aid agency. "It relieves much of the political pressure that we had been experiencing." His comments were echoed by Father Efrain Romero, director of Caritas in the Diocese of Santa Rosa de Copan, where many church leaders had been outspoken in their opposition to the coup. The agreement "was long overdue, but we're now able to have a dialogue on how to emerge from this political crisis," he said. Both men spoke to Catholic News Service by telephone Oct. 30 after political parties reached the agreement that seemed to promise to end the four-month crisis that had produced allegations of human rights violations and repression and had battered the national economy. It restores Zelaya to office, pending a vote in Congress and a nonbinding opinion from the Supreme Court. The agreement also establishes a power-sharing government, transfers control of the military to the top electoral tribunal and allows for the full recognition of elections scheduled for Nov. 29 that will select a new president. It discards any amnesties for political crimes and forbids the possible convening of a convention to rewrite the Honduran Constitution.

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Awe for creation, pursuit of truth benefits science, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The same awe and amazement for creation and the quest for truth that underlined the work of early scientists would bring huge benefits to scientific discoveries today, Pope Benedict XVI told a group of astronomers. The fathers of modern science, who included the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei, did not limit their studies to the realm of reason, but were also motivated by a sense of wonder and the search for truth, he said. "Our own age, poised at the edge of perhaps even greater and more far-ranging scientific discoveries, would benefit from that same sense of awe and the desire to attain a truly humanistic synthesis of knowledge, which inspired the fathers of modern science," the pope said. The pope made his remarks Oct. 30 to an international group of distinguished astronomers, including the Vatican's own astronomers, as well as friends and benefactors of the Vatican Observatory Foundation. The modern scientific method of observation, testing hypotheses and critical analysis, requires patience and discipline and is essential if science is to benefit humanity and respect the natural world, he said. "At the same time, the great scientists of the age of discovery remind us also that true knowledge is always directed to wisdom, and, rather than restricting the eyes of the mind, it invites us to lift our gaze to the higher realm of the spirit," he said.

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Pakistan's security situation means high costs for Catholic schools

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (CNS) -- Catholic education administrators in Pakistan's Punjab province say their schools face huge additional security costs as the security situation in the country deteriorates. Under provincial government guidelines in the wake of recent terror attacks, schools must provide eight-foot boundary walls, surveillance cameras, metal detectors and scanners, a barbed wire perimeter, and at least two armed guards, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News. "The government is providing security arrangements for its own schools. The private and church-run schools have to bear these additional expenses," Dominican Sister Parveen Rahmat, principal of Sacred Heart Cathedral High School in Lahore, told UCA News. Police are reviewing security measures in educational institutions in Punjab province and shutting down any school or college that does not meet the guidelines. "We are trying to meet the requirements but this is not our work," Sister Rahmat said. The government ordered all educational institutions nationwide to close in the wake of suicide bombings at the International Islamic University in the capital Islamabad Oct. 20. Three female students were among six people killed in the blasts.

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Catholic blogosphere: Council looks at promoting charity, truth online

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Communications technology keeps changing, but the need to deliver a message with truth and charity is never obsolete, said Italian Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli. As president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Archbishop Celli presided over a four-day meeting of cardinals, bishops and Catholic media professionals to discuss -- mainly in small groups -- new pastoral guidelines for church communications. A recurring theme during the meeting Oct. 26-29 was what constitutes Catholic communications and what, if anything, can be done about those who use the word Catholic to describe themselves while using all sorts of nasty adjectives to describe anyone who doesn't agree with them. Archbishop Celli said he didn't think a Catholic bloggers' "code of conduct" would accomplish much, especially when what is really needed is a reflection on what it means to communicate. Upright, ethical communication is a natural result of a sincere desire to share the truth about God, about faith and about the dignity of the human person, he said. The archbishop said that what Pope Benedict XVI has said about solidarity and development aid goes for communications as well: "Charity needs truth and truth needs charity."

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German cardinal stresses Catholic role in toppling Berlin Wall

COLOGNE, Germany (CNS) -- A German cardinal said various commemorations of the collapse of the Berlin Wall ignore contributions by the Catholic Church. "It is simply untrue, as many critics maintain, that the church was introverted -- just the opposite," said Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne, who served as bishop of Berlin 1980-88. "Throughout these years, Christians formed a living protest against this inhuman system," said the cardinal. "Yet in the many declarations, speeches, interviews and books appearing for the 20th anniversary, the church's role is being evaluated and covered only very superficially, even by Catholics." On Nov. 9 Germans will commemorate the 1989 fall of the wall, which divided West Germany from the communist-ruled East Germany for 28 years. The anniversary will include a "Festival of Freedom" in Berlin, during which 1,000 giant foam dominos will be toppled along the route of the wall. In an Oct. 26 article in the Die Welt daily, Cardinal Meisner said that under communist rule the Berlin Diocese never adjusted its boundaries, and church officials refused to participate in state ceremonies. Berlin became an archdiocese in 1994.

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Kennedy says he'll meet with Providence bishop on health care reform

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (CNS) -- Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., has accepted an invitation from Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence to engage in a discussion about the issue of health care reform. The bishop issued the invitation following the legislator's sharp criticism about the U.S. Catholic bishops' role in the debate. According to an Associated Press story, no date has been set yet for the meeting. Bishop Tobin told Kennedy in an Oct. 27 letter that, as Congress "nears agreement on a final bill, I believe it is important that you are provided with specific facts about the Catholic Church's position on this critical issue." The bishop sent his letter in response to Kennedy's Oct. 22 interview with Cybercast News Service in which the congressman said the bishops were fanning "the flames of dissent and discord" by insisting that health reform not include abortion funding. "I can't understand for the life of me how the Catholic Church could be against the biggest social justice issue of our time, where the very dignity of the human person is being respected by the fact that we're caring and giving health care" to the millions of people who are currently uninsured, Kennedy said in the CNSNews.com interview.


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