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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS May-3-2012

By Catholic News Service


Before overflow crowd, new Salina bishop promises to 'reflect Christ'

SALINA, Kan. (CNS) -- In front of more than 1,200 people and with countless others watching live on television and the Internet, Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger was ordained May 1 as the 11th shepherd of the Diocese of Salina. The overflow crowd at Sacred Heart Cathedral watched a lengthy procession of more than two dozen archbishops and bishops and more than 150 priests, deacons and seminarians as the rite of ordination began. Afterward, the new bishop offered his gratitude to the papal nuncio, his fellow bishops and priests, and his family, then spoke to his new flock at large. "The truth is I owe you, and most especially the people of the Diocese of Salina, more than just the emotion of gratitude," he said. "I actually owe you a life well-lived, poured out in service as your brother in Christ, your spiritual father, your shepherd, your bishop -- a life lived out in such a way that it points to Christ, reflects Christ and calls us all to an ever deeper union with Christ. It is a huge task, and I tremble before it," he acknowledged. "I know my limitations and weaknesses all too well. Were it not for my trust and hope in the divine assistance of the Holy Spirit, I would be too shaken to even try." Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., ordained the new bishop and was joined by co-consecrators from Bishop Weisenburger's home Archdiocese of Oklahoma City -- Archbishop Paul S. Coakley, the most recent bishop of Salina, and retired Archbishop Eusebius J. Beltran.

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Dioceses defend against in vitro suits filed by former teachers

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Both the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., are defending themselves against lawsuits filed by Catholic school teachers who were fired for pursuing in vitro fertilization treatments. In the Indiana case, Emily Herx is suing the diocese after being fired from her teaching job of eight years at St. Vincent de Paul Grade School in Fort Wayne. She had asked the pastor, Msgr. John Kuzmich, for time off so she could pursue in vitro fertilization treatments with her husband. The diocese has not yet filed a response to the suit, but diocesan spokesman Sean McBride told Catholic News Service May 3 that Herx was not fired but rather did not have her contract renewed. Herx's suit alleges that Msgr. Kuzmich called her a "grave, immoral sinner" -- a claim the priest denies -- and said she would cause scandal if word got out about her planned in vitro treatments. The suit said Herx appealed to Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend. It added he told her, "In vitro fertilization ... is an intrinsic evil, which means that no circumstances can justify it." The diocese issued two statements in response to the lawsuit. "The diocese views the core issue raised in this lawsuit as a challenge to the diocese's right, as a religious employer, to make religious-based decisions consistent with its religious standards on an impartial basis," said an April 24 statement, adding that it denied Herx's claims of sex, pregnancy and disability discrimination. "The diocese has clear policies requiring that teachers in its schools must, as a condition of employment, have a knowledge of and respect for the Catholic faith, and abide by the tenets of the Catholic Church as those tenets apply to that person," the statement said. "The diocese requires that its teachers serve as moral exemplars. Those requirements, and others, are expressly incorporated into diocesan teacher contracts."

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Autism both a challenge and a blessing, family says

DENVER (CNS) -- Damien O'Connor believes his 10-year-old daughter, Mary Rose, is the happiest child he's ever met. She loves to dance in the backyard with her favorite stuffed animals. And when she prays the rosary, she doesn't say it, she sings it. When Mary Rose was a year and a half old, literally overnight she stopped responding in ways she had previously. Three psychologists confirmed she had an autism spectrum disorder, developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. "We were devastated," said O'Connor, of the diagnosis revealed to him and his wife, Monica. About nine months later, 3-year-old Damien Jr. began acting unusually. "We never dreamed it would be the same diagnosis," he said. But it was. Two out of three of the couple's children are autistic. Mary Rose also has a twin sister, Ana Theresa. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 1 in 88 children have been identified with an autism spectrum disorder. "Nobody wants this for their children," said O'Connor, whose family resides in Milford, Conn. "I think the hardest thing for parents is you have to mourn the fact that they're not going to be who you thought they were going to be." Through their Catholic faith, and support from doctors, the Milford School District, and their parish, St. Michael Church in New Haven, Conn., they can see their children's disabilities not only as challenges, but blessings. "(Though) our family situation is nowhere near perfect," he said. "I love and adore (my children) for who they are."

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Student loan debate: Combined course in economics, political science

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Congressional lawmakers seem to agree on two things: College student loan debt is out of control and something should be done about it. Where they disagree is how to solve the problem. Currently they are looking at one piece of this puzzle: how to keep a lower interest rate on federally subsidized undergraduate student loans for low- and middle-income students which is set to double to 6.8 percent this June. Isaiah Toney, a senior at George Washington University in Washington, said he is "extraordinarily happy" this issue is being raised, but he thinks the discussion has been too narrow. "The big fight has been over possible increase in interest rates for Stafford loans, which is very important, but there is also the huge issue of private loans which have interest rates at 10 percent or more," he told Catholic News Service May 2 in between exams. When Toney graduates this summer, he will owe $85,000 in student loans -- a staggering amount that has made him rethink the type of job he wants. Instead of a career in public service, he now realizes -- in the midst of an already intense job search -- that he couldn't live on that salary while paying off his college loans. He's hardly alone. Today's college graduates are often underemployed just to pay off debts. Some default on their loans, which could prevent them from future borrowing or make it difficult to get a job. The crisis has even had an impact on vocations.

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Guidelines posted for faith-based participation in government programs

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Obama administration has issued guidelines for how federally funded faith-based programs should be administered, ranging from explanations of what is considered "explicitly religious" activity to how organizations can preserve their religious identities while using federal funds to provide services. Among the guidelines are that faith organizations are not required to remove crucifixes, icons and other religious material from rooms where federally funded services are provided; and that any client who receives services should, on request, be referred to a non-faith-based organization if one is available. The guidelines also spell out, for instance, that Alcoholics Anonymous programs are considered "explicitly religious" and therefore ineligible to participate. And, while employees of most federally funded programs must remain neutral when it comes to religion, participants are free to express their faith, including by prayer. Among possible exceptions to that policy are programs that fund some work of prison chaplains, it said. The document also says the religious character of an organization may neither favor or count against applicants for funding. While the guidelines addressed many of the major areas of concern raised by the presidential Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, there are topics they don't cover, said Melissa Rogers, a First Amendment attorney who chaired the council and participated in an interagency task force to draft the guidelines. "There was a long list of subjects we wanted to discuss," said Rogers, director of the Center for Religion and Public Affairs at Wake Forest University Divinity School. "This addresses some of the most important ones that cut across a large number of service providers and situations."

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Progress brings problems without guidance from truth, faith, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Excluding truth and the transcendent from scientific debate and research has impoverished modern thought and weakened the intellect's ability to understand reality, Pope Benedict XVI said. True intellectual and scientific progress requires an openness to dialogue with opposing views, rather than settling with the "mere repetition" of what one already knows, he added. The pope made his remarks May 3 in an address to faculty, doctors and students at Rome's Sacred Heart University, one of the biggest Catholic universities in the world. The pope spoke to hundreds of people, including Italian government officials, gathered in the square outside the auditorium of the university's Agostino Gemelli Department of Medicine and Surgery. His visit marked the 50th anniversary of the faculty's founding. The pope praised the scientific and technological discoveries that have been made in modern times, saying they rightly are a source of pride. However, the "breakneck" speed of innovation sometimes has brought with it "disturbing consequences." Lurking behind the optimism about all the new possibilities now open to humanity is "the shadow of a crisis of thought," he said. Mankind has a plethora of new tools and means but often lacks noble ends because the prevailing culture of "reductionism and relativism" has led to the disappearance of the true meaning of things, he said. "Almost blinded by technical potency, (humanity) forgets the fundamental question of meaning, thereby banishing the transcendental dimension to irrelevance," he said.

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Loretto nuns, allies lose shareholder vote involving Guatemalan mine

TORONTO (CNS) -- An American community of Loretto Sisters and its allies lost a shareholder vote that would have forced Canadian mining giant Goldcorp Inc. to set aside almost $50 million to pay for post-mining cleanup at a major gold mine in Guatemala. Management at Goldcorp had opposed the Loretto Sisters' motion at the company's annual general meeting in South Porcupine, Ontario, April 26. The motion asked Goldcorp to revise its mine-closure plans in San Marcos, Guatemala, in light of an independent study that pegged mine closure costs at $49 million. Indigenous, poor farmers in the region around the open-pit Marlin Mine have concerns about environmental costs of the mine, which produces about 400,000 ounces of gold per year from up to 6,000 tons of ore per day processed with cyanide. Loretto Sister Natalie Wing, who spent a year living and working with peasants in the Diocese of San Marcos, knew the vote against the company was a long shot. "It's kind of like faith. You just do it because you know it's right," she told The Catholic Register in an interview from Kentucky, where she was preparing to take final vows. The shareholder motion was brought at the behest of Mayan peasants who live near the mine, said Sister Wing. "It's done with the local people. It's not being imposed from the top. It's giving voice to the people who don't have much exposure to media, who might be illiterate," she said.

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Church hails view that rising population helps Philippine economy

MANILA, Philippines (CNS) -- The Catholic bishops of the Philippines welcomed a statement by the country's finance secretary, who said the nation's rising population is a boon to the economy. An official of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines praised the observation by Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima May 2, saying it reflected a pro-life stance that would benefit the country's future, reported UCA News, the Asian Catholic news agency. "It's nothing short of a miracle," Father Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the bishops' Commission on Family and Life, said May 3. The church, engaged in a years-long debate over provisions of a reproductive health bill pending in the Philippine legislature, was buoyed by news reports quoting Purisima as saying that the booming population will be the future driver of economic growth, since working-age Filipinos would make up the majority of the Philippine economy by 2015. Individual bishops welcomed the government's statement as well. "It's very good that (the government) sees it that way," said Bishop Camilo Gregorio of Batanes. However, he added, the government has been "very inconsistent" because it also advocates a "non-pro-life stand" by pressing for the passage of birth control measures in national legislation. Retired Bishop Teodoro Bacani of Novaliches said he was pleased the government has realized that the population growth can be an asset to the economy.

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US al-Qaida official called Catholics 'fertile ground' for conversion

DUBLIN (CNS) -- A U.S. al-Qaida official concluded that Catholics were "fertile ground" for conversion, "particularly after the rage expanding against the mother church (Vatican) as a result of its scandals and policies refused by many of its public." American al-Qaida spokesman Adam Gadahn wrote Osama bin Laden in January 2011 and laid out reasons for reaching out to Catholics, particularly the Irish. He urged bin Laden to use public anger at the church's mishandling of clerical abuse to encourage Irish people to convert to Islam, according to newly declassified documents. The letter was contained in files allegedly found at bin Laden's Pakistan hideout after he was killed by U.S. special forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan, last May. The Combating Terrorism Center, a privately funded research base at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, posted a number of declassified documents belonging to bin Laden on its website May 3. They were taken in the raid on his house. The letter from Gadahn particularly highlighted the reason for approaching the Irish, noting Ireland was not a participant in "Bush's Crusade wars." It noted "the increasing anger in Ireland towards the Catholic Church after exposing a number of sex scandals and others" and speaks of the hunger of youths because of the economic downturn in Ireland.

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Mexican 'Cristero' fight relevant to actor's Cuban heritage

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In the upcoming movie "For Greater Glory," Catholic actor Andy Garcia plays a Mexican Revolution-era general lured out of retirement a decade later to head the insurgent "Cristero" forces doing battle against their own government's severe curbing of religious freedoms, which included the murder of priests, the desecration of churches, and laws designed to reduce the visibility of the Catholic Church in the overwhelmingly Catholic country. It is a battle that the Cuban-born Garcia feels strongly about. Garcia, 56, was taken by his family out of Cuba when he was 5 years old after Fidel Castro grew more firmly entrenched in power. "I'm a Cuban exile," Garcia says. He followed Pope Benedict XVI's trip to Cuba in February. "It's good that he went," Garcia told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview to promote "For Greater Glory." "I'm glad the Catholic churches have a little more religious freedom now. Because Fidel Castro abolished the church when he took over. So it's good that the church has more freedom. But what about the synagogues in Cuba? Are they open? Because Castro abolished them, too, at the same time." Garcia added, "There is this group in Cuba, the Ladies in White, who go out into the public after Mass and do peaceful, nonviolent protests to seek the release of political prisoners, who are their husbands, their brothers and their cousins. And sometimes they get beat up. The group requested an audience with the pope. And they didn't get it," he said. "I understand that this can't always happen. Politics happens. Sometimes politics and religion are in cahoots, sometimes politics and religion are in complete opposition, as they are in this movie."

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Msgr. Shannon, Merton scholar, theology professor, dead at 94

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (CNS) -- Msgr. William H. Shannon, who achieved iconic status as a professor, chaplain, theologian and author during his nearly 69-year priesthood, died April 29 at the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse in Pittsford after a lengthy illness. He was 94. "His intellectual gifts, lively spiritual life and generous spirit touched countless people, myself included," said Rochester Bishop Matthew H. Clark, who described Msgr. Shannon as "an extraordinary priest of our diocese." Bishop Clark was scheduled to preside at the funeral liturgy for Msgr. Shannon May 4 in the Linehan Chapel of Nazareth College's Golisano Academic Center in Pittsford. Interment was to follow in the family plot at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery. "No one in this diocese has ever taught, or ever will teach, theology to more people than Bill Shannon," said Father Charles E. Curran, a fellow diocesan priest and scholar. "He was a well-liked and respected teacher who was never satisfied with just repeating what he had taught before. He incorporated his new understandings and approaches into his teaching," added Father Curran, a professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, who was to give the homily at Msgr. Shannon's funeral Mass. In the 1970s, Msgr. Shannon developed a strong interest in the writings of Thomas Merton, leading him in the 1980s to become founding president of the International Thomas Merton Society, which promotes greater knowledge of Merton's life and writings. Msgr. Shannon also wrote and edited numerous books on the renowned Trappist monk, whose influential writings focused on spirituality, social justice and nonviolence. "Reading Merton began to work on Bill himself. He was not only able to write about Merton, but Merton's thinking and perspective penetrated into Bill's own heart as he learned the importance of contemplation, compassion and unity," said longtime friend and colleague Christine Bochen, professor of religious studies at Nazareth College and a founding member of the international Merton society.

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Philadelphia archbishop informs priests of colleagues' leave status

SPRINGFIELD, Pa. (CNS) -- Archbishop Charles J. Chaput met May 2 with most of the priests of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia at Cardinal O'Hara High School in Springfield to discuss his decisions regarding archdiocesan priests placed on administrative leave. Their status has remained in limbo for more than a year as investigations into clerical misconduct followed the January 2011 Philadelphia grand jury report on priest sexual abuse. Priests on administrative leave do not have faculties, or permission, to function publicly as priests. Archbishop Chaput has made resolution of the cases a high priority since his installation in September 2011. "Justice requires a resolution of these men's circumstances," he wrote in a March 8 column. "Our ability to act on these cases has been limited by a number of stubborn legal and practical factors. But some of these cases are very near conclusion. Our attorneys are committed to cooperating fully with law enforcement. In that spirit, I've asked them to inform the court that, unless otherwise prohibited, we intend to begin announcing the resolution of these administrative leave cases in the coming weeks," he said at the time.

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New Galveston-Houston auxiliary pledges to 'be true in faith, teaching'

HOUSTON (CNS) -- Promising to be a humble servant to God and his people and dedicating his ministry to the Blessed Mother, George Arthur Sheltz was ordained the new auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston May 2 in a packed cathedral of jubilant supporters of the native Houstonian. Bishop Sheltz is only the seventh auxiliary bishop to be ordained in the oldest and largest diocese in Texas. He will assist Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo in shepherding more than 1.2 million Catholics across 10 counties, 146 parishes and 59 schools. "I will be true in faith and in teaching," the newly ordained bishop said in comments near the close of the ordination Mass. "I hope that I will govern with great care and compassion and love. I know that it takes a lot of prayer and hard work to do that." Cardinal DiNardo, principal consecrator and celebrant, joined 18 bishops from around the country and more than 200 clergy present for the ordination, during which Bishop Sheltz was anointed with the sacred chrism, signifying his full share in the priesthood of Christ through the sacrament of holy orders. Bishop Sheltz, who learned of his appointment on Feb. 21, said he was deeply moved and humbled that Pope Benedict XVI had chosen him to help lead the beloved archdiocese where he was born, raised, educated and ordained to the priesthood. "I ask you to pray for me and keep me in your prayers so that I can be that humble servant I have been called to be, but also so to help me keep a sense of humor and to be there when people need me, to be able to listen to them and to be able to help them in anything I can do," Bishop Sheltz said. In doing so, he said he sought to model his life after the Blessed Mother.


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