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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS May-16-2012

By Catholic News Service


Georgetown criticized for having Sebelius speak at commencement event

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Archdiocese of Washington issued a statement May 15 strongly criticizing Georgetown University for selecting Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius as a featured speaker at an awards ceremony during its commencement week ceremonies. Sebelius has been invited to speak at Georgetown's Public Policy Institute awards ceremony May 18 during the university's commencement weekend. The nation's Catholic bishops have repeatedly criticized the HHS contraceptive mandate, saying it threatens the religious freedom of Catholic institutions such as universities, hospitals and social service agencies because it would force them to provide employees with health insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization procedures in violation of church teaching. The statement from the Washington Archdiocese noted that because of the "dramatic impact this mandate will have on Georgetown and all Catholic institutions, it is understandable that Catholics across the country would find shocking the choice of Secretary Sebelius, the architect of the mandate, to receive such special recognition at a Catholic university. It is also understandable that Catholics would view this as a challenge to the bishops." As of May 16, more than 27,000 people had signed a petition on the website of the Cardinal Newman Society urging Georgetown University's president, John DeGioia, to "withdraw the invitation to Secretary Sebelius immediately." DeGioia acknowledged in a May 14 statement that "concerns have been expressed by some" on the campus and in the larger American Catholic community objecting to Sebelius participating in an awards ceremony on campus.

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Almost 6,000 gather in sports arena transformed for bishop's ordination

ROCKFORD, Ill. (CNS) -- It was with some trepidation that the planning committee for the ninth bishop of Rockford's ordination and installation Mass chose a downtown sports arena for the ceremony. However, once it was announced March 20 that Msgr. David J. Malloy, from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, would succeed retiring Bishop Thomas G. Doran, the committee felt there was no other choice. The Cathedral of St. Peter in Rockford has a capacity of 800. Since the bishop-designate was from a neighboring diocese and extremely well known in the U.S. church, they needed a location big enough to accommodate friends, family, diocesan priests and personnel, as well as Catholics who wanted to get a first glimpse of their new shepherd. By the time the crowd of almost 6,000 filled the BMO Harris Bank Center for the ceremony May 14, the arena had been transformed with a cathedral-like atmosphere, bathed in stained glass. A huge stage had been built to elevate a simple altar displaying the diocesan seal. The backdrop was adorned with projected images of the cathedral's circular stained-glass rose window and its windows featuring King David and St. Matthias -- celebrating Bishop Malloy's name and the feast day on which he was ordained. The projections framed a crucifix borrowed from Sacred Heart Church in Sterling. High above the altar a simple cloth became a baldacchino, or canopy, bathed in soft lights of red, the liturgical color of the day. Special vinyl covers, made to match the design of the rose window, were placed over all the signs normally advertising everything from soft drinks to radio stations at a venue known to most in northern Illinois as the home of the Rockford IceHogs Hockey Team. Among the busloads of people arriving at 10 a.m. to be seated in time for the 1:30 p.m. procession were two buses were filled with parishioners from Bishop Malloy's parish, St. Francis de Sales in Lake Geneva, Wis., where he served as pastor for the last nine months. There were dignitaries from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, where Bishop Malloy served for 10 years, five as associate general secretary and then as general secretary from 2006 to 2011.

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At audience, pope says work should help, not hinder, family life

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Work obligations should not harm a person's family relationships but should provide support, giving couples the resources to have and raise children and spend time together, Pope Benedict XVI said. At the end of his weekly general audience May 16, Pope Benedict noted how the United Nations chose "family and work" as the focus of the 2012 International Day of Families, which was celebrated May 15. Work should not be an obstacle to the family, he said, "but rather should support and unite it, help it to open itself to life" and interact with society and the church. Pope Benedict also expressed his hope that Sundays would be respected by employers as "a day of rest and an occasion to reinforce family ties." In his main audience talk, the pope looked at prayer in the biblical letters of St. Paul. The New Testament letters, he said, include prayers of thanksgiving, praise, petition and intercession, demonstrating how prayer is appropriate for every occasion in life. "Prayer should not be seen simply as a good work we do for God -- something we do -- but as a gift, the fruit of the living spirit of the Father and of Jesus Christ within us," the pope said. Pope Benedict said often "we do not know how to pray in the right way," but simply opening oneself up and setting aside a bit of time for God, the Holy Spirit will take over. "The absence of words, but the desire to enter into dialogue with God, is a prayer that the Holy Spirit not only understands, but carries to and interprets for God."

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Vatican says reconciliation talks with SSPX still ongoing

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Reconciliation talks between the Vatican and the Society of St. Pius X have not reached their conclusion but will continue, the Vatican said May 16, after members of its doctrinal congregation examined the latest communication from the head of the breakaway traditionalist group. "Some observations were formulated which will be kept in mind in further discussions," said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, following a meeting of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Those observations regarded the SSPX's official response to a "doctrinal preamble," prepared by the Vatican in September, outlining "some doctrinal principles and criteria for the interpretation of Catholic doctrine necessary to guarantee fidelity" to the formal teaching of the church, including the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. The response was submitted in April by Bishop Bernard Fellay, the society's superior general. While Bishop Fellay has been generally positive about the possibility of reconciliation with Rome, leaked letters show that the society's three other bishops have had serious reservations about the process. "In consideration of the positions taken by the three other bishops of the Society of St. Pius, their situation will have to be treated separately and individually," Father Lombardi said in a statement. In addition to the hesitancy of the three bishops to support fully Bishop Fellay's efforts, Father Lombardi said, Bishop Richard Williamson's public denials of the Holocaust and anti-Semitic statements also would require discussions separate from those of reconciliation with the SSPX as a whole.

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European scholars: Church could be player in solving economic crisis

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- While there is no roadmap to solving Europe's economic crisis, the Catholic Church -- with its history of serving the poor -- can help in the face of government austerity measures, longtime observers said. "At the moment, if you gather three European economists, you have four options" of how to solve the crisis, said Raul Gonzalez Fabre, professor of economics and ethics at Comillas Pontifical University in Madrid. However, he and other European observers said the Catholic Church can help guide discussions so that a balance is achieved among government, charitable agencies and private enterprise. While Europe's economic situation poses serious challenges that are expected to take years to resolve, observers such as British Jesuit Father Frank Turner say the church's steady hand in serving the poor and assisting the newly unemployed will help cement its role as a key adviser in the development of economic solutions aimed at the common good in the 17-nation euro zone. It's not that the church offers specific answers. Father Turner, who works at the Jesuit European Social Center in Brussels, pointed to Pope Benedict XVI's 2009 encyclical "Caritas in Veritate" ("Charity in Truth") as a basic framework for action. In broad terms, the document calls for a balance between global development and the common good. Father Turner also cited a January commentary by the Commission of the Bishops' Conference of the European Community that addressed the importance of developing "a highly competitive social market economy" in response to the growing financial crisis.

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We are family: Pope to give Catholic families hope in troubled times

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI will meet with the world's families at a time when the institution of the family is under threat and many are still struggling with a worldwide economic crisis and a lack of cultural and societal support. As a sign of his deep concern for bolstering the family based on the lifelong union between a man and a woman, the pope will travel to Milan to meet with those attending the May 30-June 3 World Meeting of Families. The pope will arrive June 1 and will close the event with an outdoor Mass. His three-day visit is an extraordinary sign of how much the pope wants to reaffirm the importance of families built on Christian values, Bishop Jean Laffitte, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family, told Catholic News Service. "It's as if the pope wants to say 'I am giving the maximum importance to what you families live out and I want to be near you; I believe in what you are experiencing and want to renew this hope,'" the bishop said. The Milan gathering will be the second world family meeting that Pope Benedict has attended in his pontificate. The meetings, held every three years, are hosted by different dioceses around the world and are sponsored by the Vatican's council for the family as a way for families to meet, discuss critical issues and grow in the faith. Even though the pope missed the sixth world meeting in Mexico City in 2009, he has always been a vocal advocate of families. Almost all of his speeches to visiting diplomats, heads of state and the world's bishops address the need for governments and the church to support this fundamental building block of society. It's the family where future generations are formed to be members of a constructive, generous, hopeful and peaceful world, the pope has said.

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Blair says without faith, world would head for tragedy, disaster

LONDON (CNS) -- Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair made an impassioned defense of religion, saying the world would be heading for tragedy and disaster without faith. In a May 14 interview in front of more than 4,300 people at an Anglican conference in the Royal Albert Hall, London, Blair also revealed that he had once been rebuked by an official for proposing to end a speech with the words: "God bless Britain." Blair, a former Anglican who became a Catholic in 2007 -- less than a year after he stepped down from leading his country for a decade -- said that faith was vital because it introduced the virtue of humility into societies. "What is the essence of our faith besides all the things we believe, certainly as Christians, about Jesus Christ and his place in our lives?" he asked. "It is also fundamentally a belief that there is something bigger and more important than you, that you are not the only thing that matters, that there is something that is greater and transcendent," he told the leadership conference organized by the Holy Trinity Brompton, an influential Anglican parish in London. "I think that essential obligation of humility for humanity is deeply important," he said. "It is what allows us to make progress, it is what keeps us from ideology or thought processes that then treat human beings as if they were secondary to some political purpose." He said: "For a long period of time, what people thought was that as society became more developed and as we became more prosperous, that faith would be relegated, that it would become a kind of relic of the past -- what kind of ignorant people do but not what civilized, educated people do. I think a world without faith would be a world on the path to tragedy and disaster, I really believe that," he added.

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North Carolina family hopes God's plan includes trip to world meeting

CHARLESTON, S.C. (CNS) -- The Tuncaps have a lot of faith in God and his plans for their family, and they're hoping those plans include a trip to the World Meeting of Families in Milan, Italy. At a cost of $11,000 just for the flight, the May 30-June 3 event would normally be impossible for the young family, but so far, God has provided a way around every obstacle. Allen Tuncap, a Petty Officer 2nd Class in the U.S. Coast Guard, said he and his wife, Janell, live simply with their five children -- Ethan, 10; Aveah, 6; Tobey, 3; Elyjah, 2; and Madden, 6 months. They attend Mass at St. John Neumann Catholic Church on the Charleston Air Force Base and have formed close friendships there and through the South Carolina Guam Association. Allen said he was online one night, reminiscing about his two amazing trips to World Youth Day, when he came across an ad for the family meeting. He said it was like Blessed John Paul II had sent him a message from heaven. He immediately felt called to attend and told Janell about it. Then they found out the cost. But discouragement gave way to a rebirth of excitement when they found out they could fly free on a U.S. Air Force cargo plane through a "space available" program. The catch is the family won't know whether they have a seat onboard until the last minute. "It's precarious. We won't know until it happens," Allen told The Catholic Miscellany, newspaper of the Charleston Diocese. "It's all prayer. If it's God's will, it's God's will."

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Retired Canadian bishop laicized by Vatican

OTTAWA, Ontario (CNS) -- Raymond Lahey, the retired bishop of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, who was convicted of importing child pornography, has been laicized by the Vatican, said the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. A statement on the CCCB website May 16 said the conference learned from the Vatican that "Raymond Lahey has been dismissed from the clerical state." As such, he loses all rights and duties associated with being a priest, except the obligation of celibacy, said the bishops' statement. "Raymond Lahey has accepted the Decree of Dismissal, which also requires him to pray the Liturgy of the Hours in reparation for the harm and the scandal he has caused, and for the sanctification of clergy," the statement said. The 71-year-old former bishop pleaded guilty in May 2011 to charge of possession of child pornography for importation. He was released from prison Jan. 4 after the judge gave him double credit for eight months already served. The judge also imposed a period of 24 months' probation with strict conditions on him.

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Legionaries of Christ priest admits affair, removed from ministry

THORNWOOD, N.Y. (CNS) -- A popular, telegenic Legionaries of Christ priest who has appeared over the years as a church analyst for CNN, CBS, ABC and Fox News has been removed from public ministry after admitting he had a relationship with a woman "a number of years ago" and fathered her child. In a May 15 statement, Father Luis Garza, director of the order's North American territory, announced that Father Thomas D. Williams, "after consultation with his superiors, will undergo a period of reflection, prayer and atonement without public ministry." In his own statement, Father Williams said: "A number of years ago I had a relationship with a woman and fathered her child. I am deeply sorry for this grave transgression and have tried to make amends. My superiors and I have decided it would be best for me to take a year without active public ministry to reflect on the wrong I have done and my commitments as a priest," he continued. "I am truly sorry to everyone who is hurt by this revelation, and I ask for your prayers as I seek guidance on how to make up for my errors." Both statements were posted on the Legionaries' website, www.legionariesofchrist.org. Father Williams' own website, www.thomasdwilliams.com, had been taken down as of March 16. A member of the Legionaries of Christ since 1985 and ordained a priest in 1994, Father Williams holds degrees in theology, philosophy and business. Based in Rome, he was serving as dean of the theology school at the Rome's Pontifical Regina Apostolorum University. He has worked extensively for Sky News in Britain covering church and ethical issues. For both NBC and Sky News, the priest covered the final illness and death of Pope John Paul II, the 2005 papal conclave and the election of Pope Benedict XVI.


Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/USCCB. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.
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