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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Jun-6-2012

By Catholic News Service


Vatican notification draws criticism, support from Catholic theologians

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Vatican criticism of Mercy Sister Margaret Farley's 2006 book, "Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics," reflects a misunderstanding of what a Catholic theologian should do and is both ill-timed and unfair, according to theologians at a variety of U.S. Catholic universities. "All persons who care about the Catholic intellectual tradition and the vocation of the theologian should be saddened by this notification," said Jesuit Father Brian F. Linnane, president and theology professor at Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore. But William E. May, senior research fellow at the Culture of Life Foundation and professor emeritus of moral theology at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, said the Vatican was "100 percent correct" in its assessment of Sister Farley's book. Father Linnane and May were referring to the June 4 notice from the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that Sister Farley's book contains "erroneous propositions" on homosexual acts, same-sex marriage, masturbation and remarriage after divorce that could cause confusion and "grave harm to the faithful." In its five-page notification, the congregation said the book "is not in conformity with the teaching of the church" and "cannot be used as a valid expression of Catholic teaching, either in counseling and formation, or in ecumenical and interreligious dialogue." Sister Farley, who taught at Yale University Divinity School from 1971 to 2007 and now serves as Gilbert L. Stark professor emerita of Christian ethics, acknowledged that some of the positions taken in the book "are not in accord with current official Catholic teaching" but said it was designed "to help people, especially Christians but also others, to think through their questions about human sexuality." The notification seemed to boost sales of "Just Love," which had been listed at No. 142,982 among all titles sold by amazon.com. By 3 p.m. EDT June 6, it had reached No. 15 on the list of Amazon best-sellers. May said the Vatican was "perfectly right" to warn against what he called an "atrocious" work.

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Brother says rediscovery of his own faith as young man led him to Taize

CHICAGO (CNS) -- When Brother Emile of Taize, France, was in high school, he liked history and he was good at it. The French Canadian with an easy smile from the small town of Timmins in northeastern Ontario thought he would grow up to be a professor of history and write about it. "I never imagined I'd be living in a monastic community," said the soft-spoken brother. "That's something I grew into little by little, discovering it. I'm still discovering what it's about." Brother Emile, who like the others in the community does not use a last name, has spent nearly 40 years discovering his life within that ecumenical monastic community in France's Burgundy region. He is the public face of Taize's brothers whenever they travel around the world. The second to youngest of 13, he grew up in a Catholic family "profoundly marked by the Gospel." His grandparents had extensive knowledge of the lives of the saints. The 56-year-old said his grandfather spoke of them on a first-name basis saying, "Peter said this and then James said that" and some siblings were convinced the saints were personal friends of their granddad. But when he was 17, he questioned whether Christians' optimism was based on anything real and he had all but given up his Catholic faith. A young nun prodded him to go to a local Taize weekend in town. Brother Emile thought it was about France and the developing world, not faith. "There was a rediscovery that was quite sudden," he explained in an interview with Catholic News Service in Chicago, where he has been for about three months. "I woke up at the end of that weekend, Sunday morning, and I knew it was true, that Christ was risen. ... That was enough. I didn't really need to be convinced."

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CD, beer latest endeavors for New Mexico monastic community

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A Benedictine monastic community has recorded a CD that has now climbed to the top of the classical sales charts of online retailer Amazon.com. The same community, the Monastery of Christ in the Desert in Abiquiu, N.M., also has begun expanding the sales territory for the beer it brews based on Belgian Benedictine recipes that have survived over centuries. But with these both of these ventures being relatively new, that begs the question: How has a monastic community that's supposed to be self-sustaining been able to sustain itself in a remote part of New Mexico over nearly a half-century? The answer: It hasn't always been easy. The monastery was started in 1964. "Our founder came from a fairly wealthy family and basically they lived off donations," said Abbot Philip Lawrence, who has led the community since 1978. "They tried to start a cheese-making industry but the water here would have to be treated and they didn't have the money for a water purification plant," Abbot Lawrence told Catholic News Service during a May 25 telephone interview from the monastery. The CD, "Blessings, Peace & Harmony," was recorded not in a recording studio or even the monastery chapel, but in the monastery's refectory, or dining hall. Following a quick cackle noting the improbability of it all, Abbot Lawrence said, "We did one recording inside the chapel a number of years ago, but the acoustics were not as good. The refectory has the echo delay that works well for chant." He doesn't know if his U.S. Benedictines will replicate the success of the Spanish Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo do Silos, whose "Chant" CD of nearly 20 years ago became a top-three success on U.S. pop charts. As for the beer, Abbey Beverage Co. produces Monks' Ale, Monks' Dubbel, Monks' Tripel and Monks' Wit. The first of these, Monks' Ale, has been available since 2005. Monks' Wit debuted in 2010. Monks' Tripel debuted in limited markets in February, and Monks' Dubbel does the same in June.

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Archbishop: Religious liberty campaign not meant to 'throw' election

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. Catholic Church's challenges to the federal government's contraceptive mandate under the health care law is not an attempt to "throw" the presidential election in favor of one candidate or against another, said the chairman of the bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Freedom. Speaking with members of the Catholic Press Association in a conference call June 6, Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori said the bishops' campaign emerged because of the federal government's attempt to force religious organizations to pay for health services that violate fundamental religious principles. The mandate was announced Aug. 1, 2011, as part of the rules the Department of Health and Human Services is issuing to implement the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed in 2010. Along with the mandate, HHS released a four-pronged religious exemption that has raised objections among Catholic Church officials and others who say it is so narrow that most religious employers will not qualify. On Jan. 20 of this year, HHS announced that nonprofit groups that do not provide contraceptive coverage because of their religious beliefs will get an additional year "to adapt to this new rule." Said Archbishop Lori in the 45-minute session: "It's important to say the struggle we are engaging in here is not a partisan issue. We didn't choose the time. We didn't choose the place. We're not trying to throw an election. We're simply trying to defend fundamental freedoms. It's not a Republican or Democratic issue. It's not a Catholic issue. It's a freedom issue," he said.

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Nigerian cardinal urges crash victims' families to find strength in God

LAGOS, Nigeria (CNS) -- Cardinal Anthony Okogie of Lagos consoled the families of the victims of the crashed Dana Air plane and urged them to draw strength from God. "My heart goes out to all those who lost their loved ones, friends and well-wishers. I condole with them and indeed all Nigerians," the cardinal said in a statement June 4, the day after the crash. "My prayer is that the good Lord will give the relations and all of us the fortitude to bear this irreplaceable loss," he said. "It is unfortunate and could have been avoided if those at the helm of affairs do the right thing at the right time." The cardinal called for a government overhaul of the nation's aviation sector. The following day, the government suspended Dana Air's license for the remainder of its investigation. "We should stop the habit of toying with issues that concern human life," the cardinal said. "Before now, there has been so much public outcry over the deteriorating condition of our aviation sector without corresponding effort by those in authority to address the challenges." The Dana passenger aircraft with 153 people on board was traveling to Lagos from Abuja when it developed engine problems and crashed into residential buildings in a Lagos suburb.

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Sundays must be a day of rest dedicated to God, family, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The demands of work can't bully people out of needed time off, Pope Benedict XVI said. Sunday must be a day of rest for everyone, so people can be free to be with their families and with God, the pope said. "By defending Sunday, one defends human freedom," he said during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square June 6. In his catechesis, the pope told an estimated 15,000 pilgrims and visitors about his trip June 1-3 to Milan for the seventh World Meeting of Families. He thanked everyone who made the "unforgettable and wonderful event" possible and praised the willingness he witnessed of people striving to live a "Gospel of the family. Humanity has no future without the family," he said. Young people need to be born and raised in "that community of life and love that God himself wanted," that is, a family based on marriage between a man and woman, he said. He reminded young people that they, too, have a responsibility to contribute to the well-being of the family, such as by saying "yes" to God's will, working hard in their studies, being generous to others, being active in the community and using their talents to better the world. The pope said when he met government representatives in Milan, he reminded them of the importance of policies and laws that protect the family. The most essential is the right to life, "whose its deliberate suppression can never be allowed." The identity of the family, based on marriage between a man and a woman, needs recognition, too, the pope said.

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Astronomy students watch Venus transit at Vatican Observatory

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- An international group of astronomy students watched Venus' passage across the face of the sun from the roof of the papal summer villa in Castel Gandolfo. "It was a special thrill to be able to see it from the pope's palace," said Giannina Dalle Mese Zavala, a student from Mexico. "We were lucky to just be in the right place at the right time," Zara Randriamanakoto, a student from Madagascar, said in an article published in the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, June 6, the day of the transit. The two women were part of a monthlong summer school sponsored by the Vatican Observatory. The summer program, held every two years, accepts about 25 promising students, mostly from developing nations, who specialize in astronomical sciences. The observatory's June 3-29 summer school program on the evolution of star clusters coincided with the rare transit of Venus. The Vatican newspaper article said the students and faculty were up on the roof of the papal palace at 5:30 a.m., with their telescopes and binoculars specially fitted with solar filters to track the planet's movement across the sun. The observatory's own solar telescope, located in the papal palace, was connected to a brand new digital imaging camera that gave students an up-close view of the transit, the article said.

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Pope congratulates Britain's Queen Elizabeth on diamond jubilee

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In her 60-year reign, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II has offered the world an inspiring example of Christian leadership and dedication to duty, Pope Benedict XVI said in a message to the monarch. Congratulating the queen on her diamond jubilee, the pope said her reign demonstrated "a commitment to maintaining the principles of freedom, justice and democracy, in keeping with a noble vision of the role of a Christian monarch." Queen Elizabeth concluded a four-day celebration of her anniversary June 5 with a church service and a carriage procession through central London. The pope's message, dated May 23 and published by the Vatican June 6, also praised the queen's "personal commitment to cooperation and mutual respect between the followers of different religious traditions." Pope Benedict said her efforts "contributed in no small measure to improving ecumenical and interreligious relations throughout your realm."

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Minnesota priest who changed a Guatemalan village dies at 78

ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) -- Memorial services were held in two countries for a priest who went to a mission of the New Ulm Diocese in a remote Guatemalan village 48 years ago and launched a series of education, health and agriculture initiatives that changed San Lucas Toliman and touched thousands of U.S. visitors. Msgr. Gregory Thomas Schaffer died of a rare form of lymphoma May 24 at a Marian care center in St. Paul. He was 78. He had spent most of his priestly career in San Lucas Toliman, located on Guatemala's Lake Atitlan. Msgr. Schaffer started schools for children and for adults; opened medical clinics; helped people build sturdy homes; arranged to provide 4,000 families with three acres of land each; started a major fair-price coffee initiative in the region and brought in thousands of missionaries over the years from the United States to help make it happen. Kathy Huebert, the New Ulm-based U.S. coordinator for the mission, told Catholic News Service June 5 that the future of the San Lucas Mission is "very much up in the air," as Msgr. Schaffer was unable to leave in place permanent arrangements for its continued operation. "There's a very good group of people working on it," she added. Dozens of groups of missionaries are scheduled to visit over the next three months, Huebert said, so it seemed likely that a final decision about the future would be put off until the slower season in September. Another priest of the New Ulm Diocese, Father John Goggin, remains at San Lucas Mission, but Huebert said he is not expected to take over as pastor.


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