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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Jun-25-2012

By Catholic News Service


Court rejects much of Arizona immigration law, upholds status checks

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. Supreme Court, in a mixed opinion with several dissents, affirmed the section of an Arizona immigration law that requires state law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of detainees who they suspect are in the country illegally. But the court threw out other parts of the law, called S.B. 1070, as an infringement on the powers of the federal government. The decision in Arizona v. United States was announced June 25, but the court delayed its rulings on four lawsuits related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act until June 28, the final day of its 2011-12 court term. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said sections of the Arizona law that make it a state misdemeanor to fail to comply with federal alien-registration requirements or to seek or engage in work without proper authorization both intrude on federal rights in "a field in which Congress has left no room for states to regulate." Also overturned as "an obstacle to federal law" was a section that authorized state and local law enforcement to arrest a person without a warrant if the officer "has probable cause to believe" that the person "has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States." But because of certain limitations on the immigration checks, Kennedy said, "The mandatory nature of the status checks does not interfere with the federal immigration scheme." These limitations include a stipulation that anyone with a valid Arizona driver's license or similar identification cannot be presumed an illegal alien; a ban on officers' consideration of race, color or national origin, except as allowed by law; and a requirement that the law be "implemented in a manner consistent with federal law regulating immigration, protecting the civil rights of all persons and respecting the privileges and immunities of United States citizens."

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Muslim, Christian, Jewish leaders sign joint letter against HHS mandate

ST. LOUIS (CNS) -- Two dozen religious leaders have joined the president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in signing an open letter he wrote to oppose the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' contraceptive mandate and urge it be retracted. The Rev. Matthew C. Harrison June 21 issued the letter called "Free Exercise of Religion: Putting Beliefs into Practice," which states that "no government should tell religious organizations either what to believe or how to put their beliefs into practice." The letter, available online at www.lcms.org/president, also objected to the narrowly drawn exemption to the mandate, which requires most religious employers to provide free coverage of contraceptives and sterilization procedures for their workers. It added that this "incursion" by the HHS prevents the free exercise of religion. "For the well-being of our country, we oppose the application of the contraceptive mandate to religious institutions and plead for its retraction," it added. Among the Catholic signers of the letter were Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Freedom; and Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis. The headquarters of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod are based in St. Louis.

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Researcher says he's 'astonished' by results of study of martyrs' bones

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (CNS) -- A team of researchers has been studying the skeletal remains of martyrs kept in reliquaries at a Louisville Catholic church, and so far the results seem to confirm information about the two saints passed down over the centuries. Since 1902, the bones of two martyrs -- St. Magnus, a Roman centurion, and St. Bonosa, a young Roman virgin -- have flanked the altar at St. Martin of Tours Church. There the pair, who are believed to have been martyred in the third or fourth century in Rome, have attracted the curious and the faithful alike. In late May, their remains were removed from their reliquaries -- made of marble and glass -- and a team of researchers from the University of Louisville began examining the bones in a former chapel at St. Martin. Philip DiBlasi, an archaeologist who teaches skeletal forensics at the University of Louisville, and four students are taking an inventory of the remains, determining their demographic profiles and hoping to learn even more about the pair of ancient saints. While his research isn't complete, DiBlasi said during an interview with The Record, Louisville archdiocesan newspaper, that he has been astonished by the findings. "I am really comfortable with (the notion) these (remains) are who they represent," he said. "I am frankly astounded that the demographic information (that was passed down in stories about the saints) is so close to what we have found."

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Distress remains over 'show me your papers' part of immigration ruling

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In what one observer called "the judicial equivalent of white smoke," immigration advocates were largely happy with the June 25 Supreme Court ruling that struck down three key provisions of Arizona's own immigration law. However, they voiced distress over the one part of the law the high court kept intact: the "show me your papers" provision. Because of "certain limitations," the court said, such checks do not "interfere with the federal immigration scheme." But the decision also said the provision would face further scrutiny and could later be found unconstitutional. "We are encouraged that the court did not rule it (the provision) constitutional," said Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Migration, in a statement. "Implementation of this provision could lead to the separation of families and undermine the church's ability to minister to the immigrant population." Archbishop Gomez said, "The court's decision to strike down the other provisions of the Arizona law reaffirms the strong role of the federal government in regulating immigration." With regard to the court allowing checks of people's papers, he added: "We stand in solidarity with our brother bishops in Arizona, as they prepare to respond to the implementation of this provision and its potential human consequences." The archbishop said the U.S. bishops would ask state legislators to "pursue humane reform on the federal level" rather than the state level. "Humane enforcement of our nation's laws are part of any solution, but enforcement by itself, unjustly administered, only leads to abuses and family breakdown."

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Court bars mandatory life without parole for youths, rejects cross case

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 25 that mandatory life sentences without possibility of parole for crimes committed by juveniles are an unconstitutional violation of the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Such sentences prevent judges "from taking account of an offender's age and the wealth of characteristics and circumstances attendant to it," including immaturity, "failure to appreciate risks and consequences," home environment and the degree to which the juvenile participated in the crime, said the 5-4 majority opinion written by Justice Elena Kagan. The decision was announced on the next-to-last working day of the court's 2011-12 term, when the justices also accepted or rejected dozens of cases for their next term beginning in October. On the final day of the term, June 28, the court's decision on four cases related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act were to be announced. One of the cases turned down June 25 involved the Mount Soledad Cross, located on federal land near San Diego. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in January 2011 that having the cross on public land violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and sent the case back to U.S. District Judge Larry Burns in San Diego, who had ruled in favor of the government in 2008. Justice Samuel Alito explained the court's rationale for turning down the case, saying it "remains unclear precisely what action the federal government will be required to take." But he indicated that once that determination is made, the Supreme Court would likely accept the case for consideration. "This court's Establishment Clause jurisprudence is undoubtedly in need of clarity, ... and the constitutionality of the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial is a question of substantial importance," Alito wrote. "Our denial, of course, does not amount to a ruling on the merits, and the federal government is free to raise the same issue in a later petition following entry of a final judgment."

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Vatican faces 'urgent' need for priests with new vocations guidelines

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In an effort to respond to a "clear and pressing" need for priests, the Vatican released a set of guidelines to help bishops and church communities promote, recruit and educate a new generation of men for the priesthood. The church needs "suitable" candidates and must avoid men who "show signs of being profoundly fragile personalities," while helping others heal from any possible "individual deviations" from their vocations, the document said. "The witness of Christian communities giving account of the faith that is in them becomes even more necessary," because it's a community of believers committed to passing on God's love that "prepares the Lord's call that invites people to consecration and mission," it said. Based on responses to a questionnaire sent to bishops' conferences and directors of national vocations offices around the world in 2008, the Congregation for Catholic Education sought to address a widespread demand for pastoral guidelines for fostering vocations "based on clear and well-founded theology of vocation and of the identity of the ministerial priesthood." Titled "Pastoral Guidelines for Fostering Vocations to Priestly Ministry," the 29-page document was released June 25. It also marked the 70th anniversary of the inauguration of the congregation's Pontifical Work for Priestly Vocations.

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Pope seeks advice from top cardinals on credibility crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI asked some of his closest advisers for guidance on how to restore trust and confidence in the Catholic church's leadership amid a scandal over leaks of confidential Vatican papers. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the pope called two extraordinary meetings June 23 to "deepen his reflections" over the leaks and their consequences. Paolo Gabriele, the pope's personal butler, was arrested May 23 after confidential letters and documents addressed to the pope and others within the Vatican administration were allegedly found in his Vatican apartment. Many of the documents were published in Italian media over the past several months and in a recently released best-selling book by an Italian journalist. Gabriele is being held in a cell on Vatican grounds on charges of aggravated theft. He is the only person charged so far in the scandal the Italian media has called "VatiLeaks." The first of the pope's meetings was with cardinals heading the various congregations and councils that make up the Roman Curia, the central government of the church. Although the pope meets these men periodically, the morning encounter was "particularly important and urgent to effectively demonstrate the unity of spirit that guides it," Father Lombardi said.

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Media adviser role is positive step for Vatican, says new US appointee

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The establishment of a new post of senior communications adviser is a step in the right direction to help the Vatican deal with the challenges of a sound-bite culture, said the American journalist appointed to the job. Greg Burke, 52, was named to the newly created position in the Vatican's Secretariat of State and will start in July. The announcement was made on Vatican Radio June 24. Burke, a native of St. Louis, told Catholic News Service June 25 that his job will be to help "shape the message" coming out of the Vatican and make sure everyone there "stays on message." It's a role similar to the White House's director of communications, who supplements the work of a more visible spokesperson, Burke said, as he described some of the challenges he plans to address: "What's the message we want to get out? How do we get it out?" And how does the Vatican respond to issues getting traction in the media? The communications strategy "sounds very simple, but its execution will be very complicated," he said. He will also help develop and strengthen lines of communication among the Holy See's numerous communications outlets, which include TV, radio, a newspaper, a book publishing house and a press office. He will work with Archbishop Angelo Becciu, the No. 3 official at the Vatican Secretariat of State, and U.S. Msgr. Peter B. Wells, assessor for general affairs. Burke, who's a graduate of Columbia University's school of journalism, has spent the past 24 years based in Rome as a journalist -- with the National Catholic Register, Time magazine and, for the past 10 years, the Fox News network.

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Catholic groups see positive aspects, weaknesses in final Rio document

RIO DE JANEIRO (CNS) -- Representatives of some Catholic nongovernmental organizations expressed disappointment at what they described as weak wording in the final document of Rio+20, the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, but others found positive aspects. "If this is the future our leaders want, today and tomorrow's poor and marginalized people certainly aren't part of it. Their right to live in dignity and in harmony with nature has once more been denied," said Denise Auclair, a policy expert with CIDSE, an international alliance of 16 Catholic development agencies. The final U.N. document, "The Future We Want," included 700 voluntary commitments by social groups, businesses and governments in addition to those commitments negotiated among country delegates. The volume of investments in these commitments was more than $513 billion. Rio Cardinal Odilo Scherer, the pope's special envoy to the conference, told leaders from around the world that people were nature's stewards, and they had a "duty toward future generations who will inherit the consequences of our decisions. In this regard, this conference provides an opportunity for governments to come together to help chart a course for advancing development for all people, especially those who are most in need." A CIDSE statement said the conference "failed to deliver concrete measures to tackle climate, food and financial crises, without which sustainable development remains a distant dream."

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Christians cautious about Islamist's victory in Egyptian election

CAIRO (CNS) -- Christians expressed caution about the election of Islamist Mohammed Morsi as Egypt's new president, saying they hope he will follow through on his pledge "to be a president for all Egyptians." Said Michel Agram, 45-year-old worshipper at the Melkite Catholic Church in Cairo's Heliopolis district June 24: "We have to accept Morsi and now we will see what he will do. Not all Egypt wants Morsi. You can see that from the results," Agram said of the narrow 882,000-vote margin of victory over Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister under ousted President Hosni Mubarak. "I would hope he (Morsi) knows this and will act accordingly." The election of Morsi, 60, chairman of the Islamic Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, has fed fears among Christians and more liberal Muslims that the Islamists will use their political mandate to impose conservative restrictions on dress and behavior. A statement to Morsi from the Coptic Catholic Church June 25 praised his apparent "willingness ... to work with skilled people of all groups and sectors of society to achieve the common good."

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Philadelphia priest found guilty on one charge of child endangerment

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- With the same expression of serenity that he had shown for 13 weeks, Msgr. William J. Lynn listened to the criminal jury foreman speak the verdict of guilty on one charge of endangering the welfare of a child June 22 in a Philadelphia courtroom. Msgr. Lynn becomes the first high-ranking Catholic clergyman in the United States to be convicted of a crime associated with the handling of priests accused of child sexual abuse, though he himself faced no charge of abuse. According to guidelines mentioned by Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina, Msgr. Lynn faces a sentence of six months to seven years for his conviction. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Aug. 13. The priest's defense lawyers would not comment on whether they will appeal. The Philadelphia Archdiocese as well as lawyers for the prosecution and defense had been bound from commenting on the trial since it began March 26. Sarmina lifted the gag order at the trial's conclusion. A statement by the Philadelphia Archdiocese June 22 acknowledged the "difficult time for all Catholics" during the trial, especially for victims of sexual abuse. "The lessons of the last year have made our church a more vigilant guardian of our people's safety," the statement said. "The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is on a journey of reform and renewal that requires honesty and hope. We are committed to providing support and assistance to parishioners as they and the church seek to more deeply understand sexual violence, and to create an environment that is safe and welcoming to all, including past victims."

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Impeached Paraguayan president fights ouster from office

LIMA, Peru (CNS) -- As neighboring countries recalled their ambassadors from Paraguay for consultation, Fernando Lugo, the bishop-turned-president who was impeached June 22, announced that he was forming a parallel government. Paraguay's Senate ousted Lugo, 61, after a two-day trial that the former president called a "parliamentary coup d'etat." The move came after a confrontation between landless peasants and police left 17 people dead. Vice President Federico Franco, who was sworn in as president immediately, said the Senate vote was constitutional, but he faced turbulent fallout as Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela and Bolivia announced that they would not recognize the new government or were recalling their ambassadors for consultation. The Argentine Foreign Ministry said Franco would not be invited to attend a meeting of the Mercosur South American trading bloc scheduled for June 27 in Argentina. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said Paraguay's new chief executive would not be welcome at the next meeting of the Union of South American Nations. As the impeachment trial loomed, the Paraguayan bishops' conference issued a statement June 21 calling for "political prudence" and calm consideration of "the legal, political and social consequences of the impeachment trial." The bishops urged "political leaders, grassroots organizations, unions and the public to remain calm and avoid confrontation and violence."


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This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.
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