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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Feb-1-2013

By Catholic News Service


Once more into the immigration law process: a familiar road

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- They've been down this road before -- trying to pass a far-reaching reform of the U.S. immigration system. The last time Congress passed a substantial immigration reform law in 1986, then-Father Nicholas DiMarzio, as director of Migration and Refugee Services for the U.S. Catholic bishops, was a part of coalition-building among interest groups such as the National Council of La Raza and the AFL-CIO. "It was a whole different political scene," said now-Bishop DiMarzio of Brooklyn, N.Y. "Bipartisanship was possible. I don't know how it's going to work this time." In the mid-1980s, the problem of millions of immigrants being in the country without permission to be here was a relatively new issue, he told Catholic News Service. The situation affected around 5 million people in perhaps 10 states, mostly along the Mexican border plus New York, Florida and Illinois. Today, an estimated 11 million people lack legal immigration status and they live throughout the country. The list of states with the fastest-growing populations of immigrants includes Tennessee, North Carolina, Arkansas, Delaware and Wyoming. The past history of the kind of coalition-building it took to pass previous immigration legislation may bear lessons for today as Congress launches what may be the best chance for comprehensive reforms since the era of the Iran-Contra Affair and the initial public stock offering for Microsoft.

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HHS issues proposed rules on exemptions from contraceptive coverage

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Exemptions from the requirement to provide contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act will be simplified to include many more types of religious institutions and accommodate the needs of self-insured church entities that say they must keep a clear financial and functional wall between themselves and the provision of contraceptives. A new set of proposed rules announced Feb. 1 by the Department of Health and Human Services attempt to accommodate objections raised by Catholic institutions, among others, that said the previous rules would force them to stop providing employee health insurance because the federal requirement to include contraceptive coverage violates their religious beliefs. The Affordable Care Act includes coverage of contraceptives in all insurance plans. Under what has become known as the contraceptive mandate, the early version of proposed rules for this part of the nationwide health care program mandated all employers provide free coverage of contraceptives for their workers. The first version of proposed rules for this coverage exempted only religious organizations whose main purpose is the inculcation of faith and who employ and serve members of the faith. A later "accommodation" said nonexempt organizations could do this through third-party insurers. The expansion would cover religious higher education institutions, health care providers and charitable agencies that do not discriminate on the basis of religion as to whom they serve or employ. The new proposed rules specify that no exemption will be given to "for-profit, secular employers." Some for-profit entities such as Christian-owned craft retailer Hobby Lobby have sued the federal government over the contraceptive mandate, saying that it violates the religious beliefs of the owners and the faith-based company outlook, and so they should be entitled to a religious exemption.

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Churches, faith groups across nation plan 'preach-in' on global warming

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Events that ended with the suffix "-in" were a staple of the late 1960s and early '70s. But organizers think the time is right for a "preach-in" on the effects of climate change and global warming. Interfaith Power & Light, which is sponsoring the nationwide event Feb. 9-10, has already lined up one Catholic parish and one convent as early signers-on to the preach-in. At the Church of the Epiphany in Louisville, Ky., there won't be any preaching per se. "The liturgy was already planned" before the parish signed up for the event, said Larry Kerr-Howe, the parish's social responsibility minister. "We're just doing the postcards" at the weekend Masses Feb. 9-10, Kerr-Howe told Catholic News Service in a Jan. 29 telephone interview from Louisville. The postcards ask President Barack Obama to "please act boldly to protect the climate. ... As you acknowledged on the night you won re-election, 'we must protect our children from the destructive power of a warming planet.'" Among the ways to protect the climate as suggested by the postcard are "speeding the transition to clean energy, limiting carbon pollution and supporting vulnerable people who need assistance." On an international scale, the postcard says the United State should be "sharing clean technology with the developing world, protecting global forests and supporting climate refugees." The Church of the Epiphany is well-positioned to address these issues, according to Kerr-Howe. In this decade alone, the parish's Environmental Concerns Committee has conducted battery recycling, electronic trash collection, carbon footprint measuring, and sponsored programs on linking food and faith with the environment, and on Buddhism and the response to global warming.

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Poor catechesis, cultural pressures thwart church teaching on IVF

BANGKOK (CNS) -- After John Tran Minh Chien's wife was unable to get pregnant after seven years of marriage, the couple decided to travel the 155 miles from their home in southwestern Kien Giang province to Ho Chi Minh City in a bid to get medical help. Chien, a tractor driver, said he was found to suffer from male infertility. "I could not get my wife pregnant after receiving fertility treatment from the hospital during the past year," he told the Asian church news agency UCA News. "So this year we decided to get in vitro fertilization treatment to have a baby ourselves." As a Catholic, Chien is defying the teachings of his faith. With in vitro fertilization, a woman's eggs are removed, united with sperm in a laboratory, and then implanted in the womb of the mother or a surrogate. The procedure is costly, and the Catholic Church teaches IVF is immoral because fertilization does not take place through the sexual union of a husband and wife. The church also condemns the common IVF practice of destroying or freezing fertilized embryos that are not implanted. Father Louis Nguyen Anh Tuan, secretary general of the Vietnamese bishops' Committee on Family Life, said IVF "is against Christian moral values because life exists from (the moment of) conception. Any elimination of embryos is a crime," he added.

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Faith is genuine only if coupled with charity for others, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Faith and charity can never be separated nor opposed to each other, just as faith by itself isn't genuine without charity, Pope Benedict XVI said. "Faith is knowing the truth and adhering to it; charity is 'walking' in the truth," the pope said in his annual message for Lent, which in 2013 begins Feb. 13 for Latin-rite Catholics. "Faith is genuine only if crowned by charity." The text of the pope's message was released by the Vatican Feb. 1. "It would be too one-sided to place a strong emphasis on the priority and decisiveness of faith and to undervalue and almost despise concrete works of charity, reducing them to a vague humanitarianism," Pope Benedict said. "It is equally unhelpful to overstate the primacy of charity and the activity it generates, as if works could take the place of faith." At a news conference to present the message, Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which promotes Catholic charitable giving, told reporters, that insisting on the indissoluble link between faith and charity is like "hitting a raw nerve." The cardinal said the pope's message underscores how misguided it is to see faith as an abstract, intellectual endeavor and charity as the concrete or practical side of the church, or to favor one over the other. "It's convenient for many, inside and outside" the church, to see it as divorced from the real world, "inebriated from the scent of candles, busy putting the sacristy in order, focused on obscure theological debates and clerical quarrels rather than on the integral human person Christ spoke to," the cardinal said.

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Bishops offer prayers for victims of massive Mexico City explosion

MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- The Mexican bishops' conference expressed solidarity with the victims and families affected by an explosion at the headquarters of the Mexican state oil company Jan. 31 that killed at least 25 and injured 101. The cause of the blast in the basement of a building beside the 54-story Pemex tower in Mexico City is uncertain. Crews continued late into the night to rescue people trapped in the debris. "We lift prayers to the creator for the injured have a quick recovery, so that the deceased are granted eternal life and so that he gives the affected families the necessary strength en these moments of pain," said the statement signed by conference president Cardinal Jose Francisco Robles Ortega of Guadalajara and secretary-general Auxiliary Bishop Eugenio Lira Rugarcia of Puebla. President Enrique Pena Nieto promised a thorough investigation. He asked for no speculation, but conspiracy theories and suspicions were voiced via Twitter -- especially by opponents, who accuse Pena of planning to privatize the state-run oil industry. Pena denies such allegations and instead promises to strengthen the industry through attracting outside investment, a sensitive touchy topic because Mexicans regard state-ownership of oil a symbol of sovereignty. Pemex income provides about 33 percent of government income and is critical in a country with low rates of tax collection and considerable tax evasion.

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Pro-life Vietnamese offer dignified burial for aborted fetuses

HANOI, Vietnam (CNS) -- In a 160-square-foot hut 10 miles north of Hanoi, Anna Nguyen Thi Nhiem takes aborted fetuses out of a refrigerator and wraps them in white cloth and plastic bags, all the while saying prayers. She places about 20 tiny bodies into urns and buries them in freshly dug graves in the cemetery at Ben Coc sub-parish. "I bury 50 such urns in a grave before I have it built," she told UCA News, the Asian church news agency, while wiping sweat from her face. Seven volunteers, including Nhiem's husband and children, collect aborted fetuses from eight clinics around Hanoi. They are all Christians and mostly Catholics who are against terminating pregnancies and believe that the resulting aborted children deserve a proper Christian burial. "Aborted fetuses are saints and worthy of being interred properly," said Nhiem, a mother of four. In the past, she had to secretly bury fetuses in her garden or on the banks of a nearby river out of fear of the local authorities and people living in the area. However, since mid-2007, Nhiem has been able to bury the fetuses in a new 3,200-square-foot cemetery attached to the church. Nhiem donated more than half of the site from the family's extensive rice fields. They are thinking of donating more land to expand the effort. "Now the cemetery is nearly filled with tombs," she said.

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Cardinal relieved of public duties for past failure to protect children

LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- Cardinal Roger M. Mahony will "no longer have any administrative or public duties" as retired archbishop of Los Angeles because of past failures to protect children from clergy sex abuse, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez announced Jan. 31. The archbishop's statement came the same day the archdiocese released 12,000 pages of personnel files of clergy who were the subject of a 2007 global abuse settlement. The material has been posted on the website http://clergyfiles.la-archdiocese.org, along with supporting information that includes the names of members of the hierarchy involved in the handling of abuse allegations. Archbishop Gomez also accepted Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Curry's request to be relieved of his responsibility as the regional bishop of Santa Barbara. Cardinal Mahony, 76, headed the archdiocese from 1985 until his March 2011 retirement. Bishop Curry, 70, was the archdiocese's vicar of clergy and chief adviser on sexual abuse cases in the mid-1980s. "These files document abuses that happened decades ago," Archbishop Gomez said Jan. 31. "But that does not make them less serious. I find these files to be brutal and painful reading. The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil. There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children. The priests involved had the duty to be their spiritual fathers and they failed. We need to acknowledge that terrible failure today," he said.

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Indian bishop resigns after joining 'consecration' of megachurch leader

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of an Indian bishop who participated in the "consecration" of the first bishop of a homegrown charismatic community that is independent of any church. Announcing the resignation Jan. 31, the Vatican said only that 66-year-old Bishop Isidore Fernandes of Allahabad, India, was leaving his office under the terms of Canon 401.2 of the Code of Canon Law, which covers "ill health or some other grave cause." Father Isidore D'Souza, spokesman of the Allahabad diocese, said in an email response to questions, "Obviously, the reason is the so-called 'consecration'" of Rajendra B. Lal. In early November, Lal became "the first bishop of Yeshu Darbar," a megachurch that began as a prayer group in Lal's home in 1994 and now attracts some 50,000 people each Sunday to services in an Allahabad stadium. The Yeshu Darbar website says the community "is open to all people and it discriminates (against) no people on the basis of caste, creed and religion, and believes that God is not imprisoned in a specific religion but available to all people when they travel beyond their religious boundaries."

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Chaldean Catholic bishops elect Kirkuk archbishop as new patriarch

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The bishops of the Chaldean Catholic Church elected Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk to be the new patriarch of the Iraq-based church, and Pope Benedict XVI formally welcomed the election of the new patriarch. After four full days of prayer and discussion, the 15 Chaldean Catholic bishops elected Archbishop Sako late Jan. 31 as the successor to 85-year-old Cardinal Emmanuel-Karim Delly of Baghdad. As is customary for the patriarchs of the Eastern churches in union with Rome, newly elected Patriarch Sako formally requested communion, or unity, with the pope. The Vatican announced Feb. 1 that the pope had extended "ecclesial communion" to him, formally recognizing the election. The new patriarch chose "authenticity, unity, renewal" as his patriarchal motto and told the Vatican's Fides news agency, "We find ourselves facing so many difficulties, inside and outside the country, but with Christ's help and with the collaboration of the bishops, we will find a way to live a unity that will enable us to rebuild." As Iraq continues to struggle with the aftermath of war, "the Chaldean church must be a sign of hope, witness and communion, despite the difficulties," he told Fides. Patriarch Sako said he and his fellow Iraqis must work together "to defend human dignity and peaceful coexistence based on equal rights and obligations for all citizens."

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Philadelphia priest, former teacher both convicted of child sex abuse

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- A suspended priest and a former Catholic school teacher in Philadelphia were convicted Jan. 30 on several charges related to the sexual abuse of a 10-year-old altar boy that took place from 1998 to 2000. The jury deliberated for about 20 hours over a four-day period, after listening to several days of testimony in a trial that began Jan. 14. Father Charles Engelhardt, 66, an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, and a priest for more than 40 years, was found guilty of child endangerment, corruption of a minor, indecent assault and conspiracy. The jury was deadlocked on one count of involuntary deviant sexual intercourse. The priest was assigned to St. Jerome Parish in Philadelphia when the abuse occurred. Bernard Shero, 49, a former teacher at St. Jerome School in Philadelphia, was found guilty of all charges against him: rape, involuntary deviant sexual intercourse, child endangerment, corruption of a minor and indecent assault, according to The Associated Press. Shero and Father Engelhardt were to remain in protective custody until April 18, when they are scheduled to receive their sentences. Shero faces a maximum of 57 years in prison and Father Engelhardt, a maximum of 37 years. The two were among five defendants named in a February 2011 grand jury report and presentment that was released following an investigation into allegations that two priests and a teacher sexually abused a 10-year-old boy at St. Jerome Parish in Philadelphia, and that another priest assigned to St. Jerome sexually assaulted a 14-year-old boy.

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Priest says slain Texas man 'exact opposite' of those who took his life

NEDERLAND, Texas (CNS) -- A Texas Catholic pastor remembered a former parishioner killed in an attack on an Algerian gas facility as being "a good man to everyone he met. Victor Lovelady was the exact opposite of the people who took his life," Msgr. Dan Malain, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Church in Nederland said at Lovelady's funeral Mass Jan. 29. Lovelady, 57, was one of three American civilians killed at the Ain Amenas gas plant in Algeria during a four-day siege by al-Qaida that began Jan. 16. At least 23 workers taken hostage by Islamist militants were killed when the Algerian Army carried out a final assault that ended the siege. Besides the three Americans, workers from Britain, France, Japan and other countries were among the dead. Msgr. Malain described Lovelady's death as a "loss inflicted by hatred and evil. Family was at the heart of Victor Lovelady's life. In marriage we have to learn unconditional love. Victor learned that and lived that," Msgr. Malain said. Lovelady and his wife of 33 years, Maureen, had lived in Nederland until about two years ago. He graduated from Nederland High School, the same school his two children, Erin and Grant, attended. "My dad is such a family man. He used to drive back and forth from Houston just so we could go to school here," Erin Lovelady said of her father.


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