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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Apr-6-2012

By Catholic News Service


Santa Rosa Diocese will 'shut down' if HHS mandate imposed, bishop says

SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) -- If the Diocese of Santa Rosa is required to cooperate with the Obama administration's mandate requiring most religious employers to provide no-cost contraceptive coverage, the diocese won't, said Bishop Robert F. Vasa. "If they shut me down, they shut me down," the bishop said March 30 following a speech on Catholic health care at a three-day conference on Catholic health care reform hosted by Life Legal Defense Foundation and the Christus Medicus Foundation. The Archdiocese of San Francisco and the dioceses of Sacramento, Oakland and Santa Rosa were among the sponsors. However, in an interview with Catholic San Francisco, the archdiocesan newspaper, Bishop Vasa said he believes the church will prevail on the issue because religious liberty is "enshrined in our Constitution. Precisely because Jesus healed the sick, the church is involved in healing ministry," Bishop Vasa said in his keynote address to the conference, stressing the Catholic Church's commitment to health care. "We are involved in this based on the conviction that each person has unique dignity." Catholics must unite as they never have before if they hope to prevail against the federal contraceptive mandate, because the alternatives are bleak, according to speakers at the March 29-31 conference at St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco. "I think we have to mobilize our church in a way we never have before," said William Cox, president and CEO of the Alliance of Catholic Health Care, an association of California Catholic hospitals. "This is something we cannot fight unless we are united," said Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.

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Review of Arizona law has implications beyond state's own immigrants

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When the Supreme Court considers the constitutionality of Arizona's 2010 immigration law April 25, the weight of an eventual ruling will come to bear on far more than one border state's relationship to its own residents. The half-dozen states that have passed laws modeled on Arizona's, the 20 that have considered doing so and the remaining states that haven't weighed in legislatively on immigration all could be affected by the outcome of Arizona v. United States. So could the practices of churches, employers and social service providers. Foreign relations and business ventures also may be affected. And there's a chance the court won't be able to come to a clear decision because Justice Elena Kagan has recused herself from participating, leaving the possibility of a 4-4 vote. Unless that happens, the court is likely to issue a decision just before it recesses at the end of June. Meanwhile, "copycat" legislation, much of it drafted by the same Kansas attorney who helped write Arizona's S.B. 1070, roiled other states over the last year, particularly Alabama. As that state's law, among other provisions, made it illegal to rent or provide utility service without proof of the customer's immigration status, thousands of immigrants moved away, leaving Alabama's agriculture industry reeling from lost workers while crops rotted, unpicked in the fields. The Arizona law passed in April 2010 amid a bruising economic decline and in the heat of political rhetoric blaming undocumented immigrants for the murder of a well-respected rancher as he patrolled his property about 30 miles north of the border. The shooting of Robert Krentz has never been solved, and the law that the bill's sponsor linked to his death has partly taken effect. But its harshest provisions remain blocked by federal courts.

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Weaponry changes, but Bibles remain source of inspiration for soldiers

NEW YORK (CNS) -- Although weapons of war have changed inexorably in the nation's history, thousands of U.S. service personnel still carry a pocket Bible for inspiration as their forbears did, according to the Rev. James Puchy, a retired military chaplain and executive director of the armed services ministries of the American Bible Society. "Soldiers are always very interested in the word of God," Rev. Puchy told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview March 30. He said the turbulence and stress of military service offer "great opportunities to find out what one values most in life. On the brink of eternity, potentially or actually, soldiers look to something that has greater permanence." A 36-volume sample of military Bibles is on display at the Museum of Biblical Art in Manhattan now through May 20. "Finding Comfort in Difficult Times: A Selection of Soldiers' Bibles" includes copies of the New Testament and other Scripture compilations from the Civil War through the current war in Afghanistan. Many of the well-worn books were inscribed in pencil by the soldiers who used them or by their descendents. Liana Lupas, curator of the museum's Rare Book Collection, said efforts to supply Scriptures to American troops date to the Revolutionary War, but the American Bible Society made the first successful military distribution of 65 Bibles in 1817 to the crew of the frigate U.S.S. John Adams. During the Civil War, the society gave more than 3 million Bibles to combatants, wounded, prisoners and displaced civilians on both sides of the conflict, Lupas said. Because of logistical and security challenges, only 10 percent of the total was distributed in the Confederate States. "It's not because we didn't try," Lupas said. Some volumes crossed the front lines of fighting under flags of truce negotiated by the Bible society; others were shipped by local affiliates to their Southern counterparts, but many were confiscated by Union troops as contraband, she told CNS.

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Adoring cross in stocking feet, pope leads Good Friday celebrations

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Uncovering the cross and genuflecting before it in his stocking feet, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the Liturgy of the Lord's Passion in St. Peter's Basilica. The pope presided at the service April 6 and chanted the solemn prayers of intercession for the church, for himself and for the world, but during the homily he sat and listened. Following tradition, the homily was delivered by the preacher of the papal household, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa. Pope Benedict was scheduled to speak briefly later that night at the end of the Stations of the Cross in Rome's Colosseum. The meditations for the late-night event were written by Danilo and Annamaria Zanzucchi, an Italian couple married 59 years; they helped establish the Focolare Movement's New Families initiative and focused their meditations on the sufferings and joys of family life. At the liturgy in St. Peter's Basilica, the pope and thousands of faithful stood as three deacons and the Sistine Chapel Choir chanted the the account of the Passion from the Gospel of St. John. In his homily Father Cantalamessa -- borrowing an image used by ancient Christian theologians -- asked the pope and others gathered at the Vatican to imagine themselves in a stadium where a courageous man beats a ruthless tyrant. When the battle is over, the courageous man hands the victory crown to his supporters, who spent the entire battle seated in the stands, watching. In Christ's passion, death and resurrection, that's what happened, the preacher said. Christ fought and humanity won. The Good Friday liturgy of Christ's passion, he said, is not simply a commemoration of an important event that happened in the past, but should be a prayerful experience that makes Christ's sacrifice "present and operative." However, "we must be careful on this day ... not to merit the reproach that the Risen One addressed to the pious women on Easter morning, 'Why do you seek the living among the dead?'" Father Cantalamessa said.

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Testimony emotional, combative at Philadelphia priests' ongoing trial

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- A young man took the stand for two days and repeated numerous times that he had been allegedly abused by Father James J. Brennan, one of two priests of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on trial in the landmark case. At turns both emotional and combative with Father Brennan's defense lawyer, William Brennan, who is no relation to his client, the now 30-year-old witness described in his testimony April 4 an incident in 1996 that he called rape. But state prosecutors have charged the priest with attempted rape in the alleged incident. Conviction or acquittal on the charge would be significant not only for Father Brennan, 48, but also because the case represents a charge of endangering the welfare of a child against former archdiocesan secretary for clergy Msgr. William Lynn, 61. As head of the office that dealt with troubled priests and recommended clergy assignments to Philadelphia's archbishop from 1992 to 2004, he is the highest ranking Catholic Church official to be charged for crimes connected with the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the United States. The trial began March 26 in the Court of Common Pleas. Both priests remain free on bail and their priestly faculties to minister publicly are suspended. Description of the alleged 1996 incident of abuse by Father Brennan April 4 led to bizarre courtroom drawings and detailed verbal depictions as the witness, who was 14 at the time, said the priest forced him to sleep in the same bed close together and pressed his private parts against the boy as they both slept in their underwear. Defense lawyer Brennan attempted to show jurors that details of the witness's story had changed over the years and he pointed to the man's convictions for crimes including making false reports to police, theft and other offenses. He cited the man's testimony at various times that showed a lapse in memory as a result of his admitted drug and alcohol addictions and mental health problems. In 2008, for example, under oath at Father Brennan's canonical trial as he fought the church's attempt to laicize him, the witness said he could not remember certain details of the alleged 1996 incident. "My mind might have been scrambled. I don't really remember too much of that time (1996)," said the witness, whose name is being withheld by news media.


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