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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Mar-30-2012

By Catholic News Service


Country's emerging budget debate points to wide divide in election year

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The budget debates are just starting on Capitol Hill and in a highly polarized political climate that means they'll be going right through the Nov. 6 elections -- and most likely beyond. It's how Washington works these days. No matter what form the 2013 budget finally takes later this year or early next year, spending on some programs is expected to fall. It comes down to how deep those cuts will be, where they will be focused and whether new tax revenues are part of the picture. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives approved a budget resolution written by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the House Budget Committee chairman, who admitted he is taking dead aim on the country's $15 trillion debt. Ryan's $3.5 trillion plan -- with a $600 billion deficit -- calls for massive spending cuts in nonmilitary programs, turning Medicaid into a block grant program administered by the states, reshaping Medicare over the next decade and simplifying the tax code by closing loopholes and lowering individual and corporate tax rates. Ryan, who is Catholic, told Catholic News Service March 27 that he believes addressing the country's debt is essential to head off a future crisis. "We have a moral and legal responsibility to do everything we can here," he said. "The debt will literally overtake the economy like it is in Europe." He reserved his main concerns for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and said his plan will ensure their future without bankrupting the government. The real work on the budget will come over the summer and into the fall as House subcommittees begin to consider specific appropriations. The Senate is not a player in the budget debate. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., Senate majority leader, said in February that Democrats do not plan to introduce a formal budget because guidelines under the debt-ceiling agreement reached in December are sufficient.

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Bishop continues to weigh options on 13 church closings in Cleveland

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Bishop Richard G. Lennon of Cleveland said he has not decided whether to appeal a series of Vatican decrees that reversed the closings of 13 parishes. In a letter sent March 27 to be distributed at Masses the weekend of March 31-April 1, Bishop Lennon said he was continuing to study the decrees from the Congregation for Clergy in a effort to "fully understand" them. The letter was made public on the diocesan website March 28, two weeks after Bishop Lennon was informed of the congregation's actions. "As I hope you can appreciate, this is a very complex matter with no easy or perfect solution," Bishop Lennon wrote. "With the help of a number of advisers -- including members of the clergy, laity and experts in church law -- I am carefully studying and seeking to fully understand the decrees. I can assure you that this is not nearly as clear-cut as it may appear on the surface. Although the decrees are brief in length, they are deep in underlying meaning and I continue to receive significant input and clarification." The bishop promised to explain his rationale for the decision he finally reaches. "Be assured that I will act fully in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church and with the utmost respect for its governance and authority. I pray that God will guide me and I ask for your prayers," he said. Parishioners who had hoped their churches would reopen in time for Easter, April 8, expressed disappointment that the bishop has not yet acted in accordance with the decrees. "Again we'll be shuttered out of our churches in the holiest time of the year," said Patricia Schulte-Singleton, president of St. Patrick Church parish council when the west side Cleveland parish closed and formed the Save St. Pat's Committee.

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Vatican-Jewish dialogue calls for economy based on moderation, justice

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A Vatican-Jewish dialogue commission said moderation, honesty and a fair distribution of world resources are the ingredients for a more just economic order. National and international leaders and policymakers should also turn to ethics consultants as part of their decision-making process, representatives of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Vatican's Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews said in a joint statement. The statement, released by the Vatican March 30, came at the end of a three-day meeting of the dialogue commission in Rome. It was the 11th meeting in a dialogue that began in 2002. The promotion of economic justice includes "the universal destination of the goods of the earth; a culture of 'enough' that implies a degree of self-limitation and modesty; responsible stewardship; an ethical system of allocation of resources and priorities; and the critical importance of honesty, transparency, gratuitousness and accountability," it said. The recent global economic crisis reflected "a crisis of moral values in which the importance of having, reflected in a culture of greed, eclipsed the importance of being," it said. The well-being of individuals and societies comes about when people recognize their obligations and responsibilities toward others and engage in real solidarity, it said. "This posits the obligation to guarantee certain basic human needs, such as the protection of life, sustenance, clothing, housing, health, education and employment," it said.

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Emotional moment: Havana seminarians had chance to meet pope

HAVANA (CNS) -- Kenny Fernandez Delgado was 13 when Blessed John Paul II came to the tropical Cuban capital. His remembers little about the 1998 event other than arriving late for the Mass at Revolution Square with his mother and a brother. Today, Fernandez is in his first year of theology studies at the new San Carlos and San Ambrosio Seminary. He called the chance to see Pope Benedict XVI March 28 an exhausting, emotional and unique opportunity. That morning, the seminarians rose at 4 a.m., about an hour earlier than their normal wake-up call. When the pope arrived at the morning Mass in Revolution Square, the seminarians were seated in a section close to the papal stage. "We shouted and clapped; we were very motivated to see the pope, especially because we were promised to have a group photo with him," Fernandez said. "Some of us could touch the pope and kiss the fisherman's ring." Fernandez was informed by an Italian-speaking security official that he was not among those who would be shaking hands with the pope. However, Pope Benedict addressed the group and told the seminarians they were in his thoughts and prayers. "It was a very emotional moment; he said he wished us well and will pray for us," he said. "He is a very kind person, and a little shy. We also felt he was a little tired."

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Evangelization faces challenge from Cubans who syncretize religion

SANTIAGO DE CUBA, Cuba (CNS) -- In this Caribbean nation of 11.3 million, one of the greatest challenges to Catholic evangelization comes from Cubans who practice traditional African religions. The fusion of diverse spiritual currents was occurring even before the Catholic Church began expanding throughout the world. When colonizers brought Christianity to the New World, it was expected that other religious systems would adhere to the mother church. In recent decades, however, the church's vision on this matter has been adjusted. The new approach has been inculturation of local populations. It is a process of welcoming traditional popular religious expressions and focusing on a gradual transition toward full communion via evangelization. In Cuba, this syncretism of mostly animist African religions mixed with mainstream Catholicism is popular, said Jesuit Father Juan Rovira, who considers himself an "avid student" of popular devotion. "The only real contact we have with them is when they come to church," said Father Rovira, pastor of Holy Family Parish is Santiago de Cuba. He told Catholic News Service March 29 that most popular devotees come to see him only when they need baptisms, funerals and a few other services. But he also said that some of them are very much in contact with priests. Most are required to be baptized in the Catholic Church before they can be baptized in their syncretic groups, he added. When Pope Benedict XVI visited Santiago de Cuba March 26-27, some Cubans wore traditional African attire. "Those seen at the papal events in their particular dress most likely were not there out of piety," said Father Rovira. "So, I doubt the visit had any noticeable impact on them." He said Santeria, which identifies Catholic saints with African deities, is more openly seen in Havana. His last stay at the capital city coincided with the round-the-island pilgrimage of an image of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, Cuba's patroness.

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Dalai Lama wins Templeton Prize; has 'universal voice of compassion'

WEST CONSHOHOCKEN, Pa. (CNS) -- The Dalai Lama was named March 29 as the winner of the 2012 Templeton Prize. A statement from the John Templeton Foundation, which selects the winner, said his "long-standing engagement with multiple dimensions of science and with people far beyond his own religious traditions has made him an incomparable global voice for universal ethics." The prize, which includes an award of about $1.7 million -- the monetary award must always be larger than those offered in the Nobel Prizes -- will be presented to the Dalai Lama in London May 14. "With an increasing reliance on technological advances to solve the world's problems, humanity also seeks the reassurance that only a spiritual quest can answer," said a March 29 statement by John M. Templeton Jr., foundation president and chairman. "The Dalai Lama offers a universal voice of compassion underpinned by a love and respect for spiritually relevant scientific research that centers on every single human being." Said the Dalai Lama in an acceptance video posted March 29 on the foundation's website: "When I heard today your decision to give me this quite famous award, I really felt this is another sign of recognition about my little service to humanity, mainly nonviolence and unity around different religious traditions."

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Father O'Rourke, health care ethicist, Dominican priest, dies at 85

CHICAGO (CNS) -- Dominican Father Kevin D. O'Rourke, a canon lawyer who was one of the leading Catholic voices in health care ethics, died March 28 at age 85. His death was announced by the Neiswanger Institute for Bioethics and Health Policy at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, where he had taught since 2000. The announcement did not give a cause of death or funeral arrangements. The author of more than a dozen books and hundreds of articles, Father O'Rourke was perhaps best known as the co-author, with Dominican Father Benedict Ashley and Sister Jean deBlois, of "Health Care Ethics: A Catholic Theological Analysis." The fifth edition of the textbook was published in 2006 by Georgetown University Press. Born David O'Rourke on March 4, 1927, in Oak Park, Ill., he attended Fenwick High School there and served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He attended the University of Notre Dame for a year before entering the Dominican order in 1947, taking the religious name Kevin. He took solemn vows in 1951 and was ordained a priest in 1954. Father O'Rourke earned a licentiate in philosophy from Aquinas Institute of Philosophy in River Forest, Ill., in 1952; a licentiate in theology from Aquinas Institute of Theology in Dubuque, Iowa, in 1954; and a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome in 1958. He began his career as an academic bioethicist in 1958 at the Aquinas Institute in Dubuque, serving as dean there, 1969-72. After the U.S. Supreme Court's decisions in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton lifted most state restrictions on abortion, Father O'Rourke went to work for the Catholic Health Association, helping to formulate possible responses if, as feared, the federal government were to require that Catholic hospitals offer abortion services in order to receive Medicaid funds. No such requirement ever materialized, however.


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