Jesuit advocates ‘do-it-yourself church’

March 17, 2012 by  
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Build Ur ChurchUSA, March 12, 2012: Catholics have to “face the fact that today we live in a do-it-yourself church,” step forward to “take responsibility,” and “no longer wait for Father or Sister to do it anymore,” said Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese, who addresses that theme in a new book, A Survival Guide for Thinking Catholics.

The well-known author, social scientist and commentator mentioned the book, which does not yet have a publisher, during a recent NCR interview.

In the book, Reese says he advocates facing issues head-on, such as the exodus of faithful from the church.

“The problem with most books like this is that the last chapter begins, ‘The bishops should’ or ‘The pope should do X, Y and Z.’ I think, frankly, that is a waste of time,” Reese said. “I am tired of reading those books. I think what we have to do is say, ‘OK, these are the problems that are facing the church. What do I need to do? What do we have to do?’ ”

One of the advantages of fewer priests and religious sisters in today’s church “is that the laity have to grow up,” he said.
 
“The church needs to develop a new style of teaching and proclaiming the Gospel, one that is dialogical, one that listens as much as speaks,” he added. “At times we seem totally incapable of doing that.”

At the same time, Reese said, “Clericalism is two sides of the same coin. There is authoritarianism on one side. The other is laity wanting [clerics] to do everything for them.”

Currently a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University in Washington, Reese was editor of the Jesuit weekly magazine America from 1998 to 2005. He resigned after prolonged tension with the Vatican over the magazine’s open treatment of sensitive church topics, from priestly celibacy and the ordination of women to stem-cell research and reception of Communion by pro-choice Catholic politicians.

Reese is the author of a half-dozen other books, most of which focus on church organizational and political structures and challenges. His 1989 book, Archbishop: Inside the Power Structure of the American Catholic Church, for example, was a nuts-and-bolts research volume based on more than 400 interviews and participation from 31 American archbishops, including all the cardinals.

– ncronline

Obama admin lists Vatican as ‘potential money-laundering center’ *Jesus not political but prophetic, Pope says

March 16, 2012 by  
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Vatican money launderingUSA, March 09, 2012: The US State Department has added an unlikely name to the list of countries that are considered money-laundering centers – the Vatican. The listing was published Wednesday in the 2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, and lists 190 countries.

The list is divided into three categories, primary concern, concern, and monitored. The Vatican has been listed with 67 other countries which also includes Poland, Egypt, Ireland, Hungary, and Chile.

A State Department official did confess that the Vatican had recently established programs to prevent money laundering.

The apology continued, as Susan Pittman of the State Department explained, “To be considered a jurisdiction of concern merely indicates that there is a vulnerability to a financial system by money launderers. With the large volumes of international currency that goes through the Holy See, it is a system that makes it vulnerable as a potential money-laundering center.”

In plain English, there is no accusation of wrongdoing, nor even evidence of it. The State Department merely sees the Vatican as a possible risk because of the large volumes of money processed through its banking system.

Meanwhile, the Vatican has taken robust steps to ensure that money is handled in accord with strict integrity and in compliance with all international regulations. In fact, the Vatican is asking for inclusion on the “white list” of states that fully comply with international standards against fraud and money-laundering. The Vatican may be listed on the white list as early as June.

The Vatican Bank has operated independently for 30 years, after untangling itself from the Banco Ambrosiano, which itself had become the target of scandal. Since then, there has been no question raised by anyone that the Vatican Bank has operated safely and securely with the highest degree of integrity, State Department pronouncements notwithstanding.

– catholic online

Jesus not political but prophetic, Pope says

 

Pope Benedict XVIVatican City, March 11, 2012: Jesus was a prophetic voice but not a violent political revolutionary, Pope Benedict XVI said in Sunday comments on Christ’s expulsion of the animal sellers and money changers from the temple in Jerusalem.

“It is impossible to interpret Jesus as a violent person. Violence is contrary to the Kingdom of God, it is a tool of the Antichrist. Violence never serves humanity, but dehumanizes,” said the Pope in his March 11 Angelus address at the Vatican.

His remarks criticized the occasional interpretation of this episode in a political revolutionary sense that places Jesus in line with the Zealot movement.

The Zealots were a Jewish political movement who were “zealous” for God’s law and “ready to use violence to enforce it,” the Pope explained. They were waiting for a Messiah who would liberate Israel from Roman rule. Jesus, however, “disappointed them in this” to the extent that “some disciples deserted him and even Judas Iscariot betrayed him.”

Though Jesus was not being political he was being prophetic, said the Pope. The prophets “in the name of God, often denounced abuses, and they did so sometimes with symbolic gestures.”

The key to understanding the actions of Christ, the Pope said, is to listen to Jesus’ words during the event: “Take these things and make not my Father’s house a market!”

These words reminded the disciples of Psalm 69: “Zeal for your house consumes him.”

This psalm is “a cry for help in a situation of extreme danger because of the hatred of enemies,” the Pope said. This is the same situation that Jesus will experience in his passion. It is “zeal for the Father and for his house” which therefore led Jesus to the cross.

His zeal, though, is “the zeal of love that pays personally, not that of a person who wants to serve God through violence.” In fact, the “sign” that Jesus gave as proof of his authority was his own death and resurrection when he said he would “destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it.” This “temple” was his own body.

“With Easter Jesus begins a new cult, the cult of love, and a new church which is Christ himself, the Risen Christ, by which every believer can worship God the Father ‘in spirit and truth,’” the Pope concluded.

“Dear friends, the Holy Spirit has begun to build this new temple in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Through her intercession, we pray that every Christian becomes a stone of this spiritual house.”

– cna/ewtn news

Top US Bishop: We did not ask for this fight, but we will not run from it

March 7, 2012 by  
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Pope Benedict XVI makes Archbishop Timothy Dolan a cardinal

Pope Benedict XVI makes Archbishop Timothy Dolan a cardinal

United States, March 4, 2012: Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, sent a letter to all the Catholic bishops of the United States reasserting the conviction of the Catholic Church that it will not yield to the Obama administration’s command—issued in the form of a Health and Human Services regulation implementing the president’s health-care plan–that Catholics and Catholic institutions must violate the teachings of their faith by purchasing and providing health insurance plans that pay for sterilizations, contraceptives and abortifacients.

“We have made it clear in no uncertain terms to the government that we are not at peace with its invasive attempt to curtail the religious freedom we cherish as Catholics and Americans,” Cardinal Dolan wrote to his brother bishops.

“We did not ask for this fight, but we will not run from it,” he said.

“Since January 20, when the final, restrictive HHS Rule was first announced,” Cardinal Dolan wrote, “we have become certain of two things: religious freedom is under attack, and we will not cease our struggle to protect it.”

Although the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops posted the cardinal’s letteron its website and issued a press release about it, neither The Washington Post nor The New York Times nor any other American newspaper that appears in the massive Lexis-Nexis database of news sources published a story about it in any of their Saturday editions. Nor, as of the early hours on Sunday, had any secular newspaper that shows up in a Google News search published a story about the letter.

Despite the silence from the establishment media, the cardinal’s defiant letter was in fact a major event in what has become the most significant confrontation over religious freedom in the history of the United States.

On Thursday, the Senate voted 51 to 48 to reject an amendment sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri that would have added “conscience protection” language to the Obamacare legislation, and thus protect employers from being forced to provide health insurance coverage for sterilizations, contraceptives and abortifacients if they have a moral or religious objection to these things.

If enacted, this amendment would nullify the HHS sterilization-contraception-abortifacient regulation insofar is it effects employers, but not insofar as it effects individuals who buy their own insurance and who would still be mandated under Obamacare to purchase insurance.

“And you now ask the obvious question,” wrote Dolan, “”What’s next?’”

Dolan first noted that the Obama administration’s regulation jeopardizes the church’s ability to carry out the ministries that he said have been entrusted to it by Jesus.

“As pastors and shepherds, each of us would prefer to spend our energy engaged in and promoting the works of mercy to which the Church is dedicated: healing the sick, teaching our youth, and helping the poor,” said O’Connor. “Yet, precisely because we are pastors and shepherds, we recognize that each of the ministries entrusted to us by Jesus is now in jeopardy due to this bureaucratic intrusion into the internal life of the church.”

Cardinal Dolan then said that the so-called “concession” President Obama had offered in February—that he would order insurance companies working with Catholic institutions to provide sterilizations, contraceptives and abortifacients to the workers at those institutions for free—did not solve the problem.

“For one, there was not even a nod to the deeper concerns about trespassing upon religious freedom, or of modifying the HHS’ attempt to define the how and who of our ministry,” wrote the cardinal.

“Two, since a big part of our ministries are ‘self-insured,’ we still ask how this protects us,” he wrote.  “We’ll still have to pay and, in addition to that, we’ll still have to maintain in our policies practices which our Church has consistently taught are grave wrongs in which we cannot participate.

“And what about forcing individual believers to pay for what violates their religious freedom and conscience?” he wrote. “We can’t abandon the hard working person of faith who has a right to religious freedom.

“And three,” he said, “there was still no resolution about the handcuffs placed upon renowned Catholic charitable agencies, both national and international, and their exclusion from contracts just because they will not refer victims of human trafficking, immigrants and refugees, and the hungry of the world, for abortions, sterilization, or contraception.”

The cardinal revealed that President Obama had invited the bishops to work with the White House to “work out the wrinkles” on his proposed accommodation. But that effort failed to make progress as the White House showed no flexibility on the core issue.

“At a recent meeting between staff of the bishops’ conference and the White House staff, our staff members asked directly whether the broader concerns of religious freedom—that is, revisiting the straight-jacketing mandates, or broadening the maligned exemption—are all off the table,” wrote the cardinal. “They were informed that they are. So much for ‘working out the wrinkles.’”

The cardinal said that the bishops would continue to seek a legislative remedy to the administration’s attack on religious liberty and would also pursue protection of religious liberty through the federal courts.

“Perhaps the courts offer the most light,” he said, pointing to the Supreme Court’s recent 9-0 decision against the Obama administration in theHosanna-Tabor case in which the administration tried to tell a Lutheran church who its ministers would be.

“Given this climate, we have to prepare for tough times,” the cardinal wrote. He closed the letter by noting to his brother bishops that religious freedom now faces a threat not from a foreign enemy but from within the United States.

“Brothers, we know so very well that religious freedom is our heritage, our legacy and our firm belief, both as loyal Catholics and Americans,” he wrote. “There have been many threats to religious freedom over the decades and years, but these often came from without. This one sadly comes from within. As our ancestors did with previous threats, we will tirelessly defend the timeless and enduring truth of religious freedom.”

– cns

Solidarity with Christians in the Holy Land

March 3, 2012 by  
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Holy LandVatican City, March 01, 2012: Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, has sent a letter to the bishops of the world concerning the traditional Good Friday collection for the Holy Land. The letter, which also bears the signature of Archbishop Cyril Vasil S.J., secretary of the congregation, has the purpose of sensitising the Catholic Church around the world with regard to the Holy Land, and of promoting initiatives of prayer and fraternal charity towards Christians of Jerusalem, Israel, Palestine and neighbouring countries.

“The Son of God made man, after having crossed this land announcing the Kingdom and confirming the word with mighty works, wonders and signs, went up to the Holy City to immolate Himself”, reads the English-language version of the letter. “From that time, every Christian finds himself at home in that City and in that Land. This is possible thanks to the pastors in this place, who, by the will of the Lord Jesus, continue in our day also to gather our brothers and sisters in the faith to celebrate the love of Him Who ‘makes all things new’.

“The Congregation for the Oriental Churches hereby reminds the bishops of the entire world of the unceasing request of Pope Benedict XVI that the mission of the Church in the Holy Places be generously supported. Although specifically pastoral, this mission at the same time offers a praiseworthy social service to all without exception. In this way, fraternity, which can overcome division and discrimination, increases and gives renewed impetus to ecumenical dialogue and inter-religious collaboration. This constitutes an admirable work of peace and reconciliation, which is all the more necessary today, as we share the Holy Father’s preoccupation ‘for the people of those countries where hostilities and acts of violence continue, particularly Syria and the Holy Land'”.

“This year, Good Friday seems more fitting than ever as a sign of the needs of both pastors and faithful, which are bound up with the sufferings of the entire Middle East. For the disciples of Christ, hostility is often the daily bread which nourishes the faith and sometimes makes the echo of martyrdom. Christian emigration is exacerbated by the lack of peace, which tends to impoverish hope, changing it into the fear of facing alone a future that seems to exist only in the abandonment of one’s own country.

“Nonetheless, as was the case for the Gospel’s grain of wheat, so the trials of Christians in the Holy Land prepare without doubt a brighter tomorrow. The dawning of this new day, however, requires support now for schools, medical assistance, critical housing, meeting places, and everything else that the generosity of the Church has devised”.

“We have the duty to restore the spiritual patrimony which we have received from these Christians’ two millennia of fidelity to the truth of the faith. We can and must do this by our prayer, by concrete assistance, and by pilgrimages. The Year of Faith, which marks the fiftieth anniversary of Vatican Council II, will provide particular motivation for us to direct our steps towards that Land. … Next Good Friday, around the Cross of Christ, let us be conscious of being together with these brothers and sisters of ours. May the loneliness that is at times strongly felt in their situation be overcome by our fraternity”.

Also made public today was a report prepared by the Custody of the Holy Land (a province of the Order of Friars Minor with responsibility for the Holy Places), listing the works carried out with the proceeds of the Good Friday collection of 2011. Restoration and maintenance has been carried out on numerous shrines, churches and convents in the Holy Land including such places as Bethlehem, Jerusalem (Gethsemane and the Shrine of the Flagellation, among others), Jaffa, Magdala and Mount Tabor. Other initiatives sought to improve welcome services for pilgrims.

A significant part of the proceeds was used to fund student scholarships, to help small business, and to build houses, schools and areas for children. Other recipients of aid included families, parish communities, the poor and cultural institutions.

– vatican info

New Cardinals Must Love God, the Church and their fellow men

February 21, 2012 by  
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New Cardinals Must Lover God, the Church and their fellow men_PopeVatican City, February 18, 2012: Titular or diaconate church assigned by the pope to Cardinal George Alencherry is the title of San Bernardo alle Terme. With the creation of twenty-two new cardinals in this morning’s consistory, the College of Cardinals now has 213 members of whom 125, being under the age of eighty, are eligible to vote in an eventual conclave for the election of a new Pope. The non electors, that is cardinals over the age of eighty and ineligible to vote in a conclave, now number 88. Benedict XVI has created eighty-four cardinals in the four consistories of his pontificate. The current members of the College of Cardinals come from seventy-one States, distributed as follows: Europe 119, North America (U.S.A. and Canada) 21, Latin America 32, Africa 17, Asia 20 and Oceania 4.

In St. Peter’s Basilica at 10.30 a.m. this morning, Benedict XVI celebrated the fourth ordinary public consistory of his pontificate, during which he created twenty-two new cardinals. Following the opening prayer and the proclamation of the Gospel, the Holy Father pronounced his homily, extracts of which are given below:

“‘Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo Ecclesiam meam’. … With these words the entrance hymn has led us into the solemn and evocative ritual of the ordinary public consistory. … They are the efficacious words with which Jesus constituted Peter as the solid foundation of the Church. On such a foundation the faith represents the qualitative factor: Simon becomes Peter – the Rock – in as much as he professed his faith in Jesus as Messiah and Son of God”.

“The words Jesus addressed to Peter highlight well the ecclesial character of today’s event. The new cardinals, in receiving the title of a church in this city or of a suburban diocese, are fully inserted in the Church of Rome led by the Successor of Peter, in order to cooperate closely with him in governing the universal Church. … In carrying out their particular service in support of the Petrine ministry, the new cardinals will be called to consider and evaluate the events, the problems and the pastoral criteria which concern the mission of the entire Church. In this delicate task, the life and the death of the Prince of the Apostles, Who for love of Christ gave Himself even unto the ultimate sacrifice will be an example”.

“It is with this meaning that the placing of the red biretta is also to be understood. The new cardinals are entrusted with the service of love: love for God, love for His Church, an absolute and unconditional love for his brothers and sisters, even unto shedding their blood, if necessary, as expressed in the words of placing the biretta and as indicated by the colour of their robes. Furthermore, they are asked to serve the Church with love and vigour, with the transparency and wisdom of teachers, with the energy and strength of shepherds, with the fidelity and courage of martyrs. They are to be eminent servants of the Church that finds in Peter the visible foundation of unity.

“In the Gospel we have just heard proclaimed there is offered a model to imitate and to follow. … Serving God and others, self-giving: this is the logic which authentic faith imparts and develops in our daily lives and which is not the type of power and glory which belongs to this world”.

Today’s Gospel reading in which James and John asked Christ to be allowed to sit with Him in His glory, one on His right and one on His left, “gives Jesus a way to address each of the disciples and ‘to call them to Himself’, almost to pull them in, to form them into one indivisible body with Him, and to indicate which is the path to real glory, that of God: ‘You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all’.

“Dominion and service, egoism and altruism, possession and gift, self-interest and gratuitousness: these profoundly contrasting approaches confront each other in every age and place. There is no doubt about the path chosen by Jesus: He does not merely indicate it with words to the disciples of then and of today, but He lives it in His own flesh. He explains, in fact, ‘For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many’. These words shed light upon today’s public Consistory with a particular intensity. They resound in the depths of the soul and represent an invitation and a reminder, a commission and an encouragement especially for you, dear and venerable brothers who are about to be enrolled in the College of Cardinals.

“According to biblical tradition, the Son of man is the One Who receives power and dominion from God. Jesus interprets His mission on earth by combining the figure of the Son of man with that of the suffering servant, described in Isaiah. … His service is realised in total faithfulness and complete responsibility towards mankind. In this way the free acceptance of His violent death becomes the price of freedom for many, it becomes the beginning and the foundation of the redemption of each person and of the entire human race.

“Dear Brothers who are to be enrolled in the College of Cardinals, may Christ’s total gift of self on the Cross be for you the foundation, stimulus and strength of a faith operative in charity. May your mission in the Church and the world always be ‘in Christ’ alone, responding to His logic and not that of the world, and may it be illumined by faith and animated by charity which comes to us from the glorious Cross of the Lord. On the ring which I will soon place on your finger, are represented Sts. Peter and Paul, and in the middle a star which evokes the Mother of God. Wearing this ring, you are reminded each day to remember the witness which these two Apostles gave to Christ even unto martyrdom here in Rome, their blood making the Church fruitful. The example of the Virgin Mother will always be for you an invitation to follow her who was strong in faith and a humble servant of the Lord”.

“Dear brothers and sisters, pray that [the new cardinals’] lives will always reflect the Lord Jesus, our sole Shepherd and Teacher, Source of every hope, Who points out the path to everyone. And pray also for me, that I may continually offer to the People of God the witness of sound doctrine and guide holy Church with a firm and humble hand”.

Following his homily the Pope pronounced the the formula of creation of the new cardinals, their names and the diaconate or presbyteral order to which they have been assigned. The new cardinals then recited the Creed and swore their faithfulness and obedience to the Pope and his successors. They then received their biretta and ring from the hands of the Pope who also assigned them their title or diaconate.

Following the ceremony Cardinal Angelo Amato S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, introduced the ordinary public consistory for the canonisation of the following blesseds: Jacques Berthieu, French martyr and priest of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits); Pedro Calungsod, Filipino lay catechist and martyr; Giovanni Battista Piamarta, Italian priest and founder of the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth and of the Congregation of the Humble Sister Servants of the Lord; Maria del Carmen (nee Maria Salles y Barangueras), Spanish foundress of the Conceptionist Missionary Sisters of Teaching; Maria Anna Cope (nee Barbara), German religious of the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis in Syracuse U.S.A.; Kateri Tekakwitha, American laywoman, and Anna Schaffer, German laywoman. The Holy Father has decreed that the canonisation ceremony will take place on Sunday 21 October. The consistory concluded with the apostolic blessing.

– vis

Interfaith leaders stand with Catholics against administration *US bishops release new statement for HHS mandate removal

February 16, 2012 by  
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Cardinal-Donald-D.-Wuerl-of-WashingtonUSA, February 11, 2012: Evangelical and Jewish leaders declared their solidarity with Catholics on Feb. 10, as the Obama administration sought to quell controversy over its policy on contraception and religious ministries.

“Stories involving a Catholic, a Protestant and a Jew typically end with a punch line,” wrote Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C., Prison Fellowship founder Charles Colson, and Manhattan-based Orthodox Rabbi Meir Soloveichik in a Wall Street Journal editorial.

“We wish that were the case here, but what brings us together is no laughing matter: the threat now posed by government policy to that basic human freedom, religious liberty.”

They criticized Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for her Jan. 20 decision on religious employers’ coverage of contraception, saying the rule “stands the First Amendment on its head.”

“Instead of encouraging the different faith communities to continue their vital work for the good of all, the Obama administration is forcing them to make a choice: serving God and their neighbors according to the dictates of their respective faiths – or bending the knee to the dictates of the state.”

The Jewish and Evangelical leaders joined Washington’s archbishop in opposing the administration’s attempt to require religious ministries – including schools, hospitals, charities, and media outlets – to subsidize contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing drugs in their health plans.

Only ministries that primarily served and employed members of their own faith, for the sake of promoting “religious values,” were to be held exempt from the rule.

After three weeks of uproar, led by over 170 Catholic bishops, the administration announced a new policy on Feb. 10.

In place of the policy forcing many religious ministries to purchase plans covering contraception and sterilization, the new rule shifts the burden to these institutions’ insurance providers – requiring them to offer the “preventive services” without a co-pay.

The administration claimed that under the new policy, “religious organizations will not be required to subsidize the cost of contraception.”

But critics said the administration was only shifting the subsidy, by forcing religious employers to contract with insurance providers offering the controversial services.

Catholic League President Bill Donohue responded to Friday’s revised rule by predicting the president would soon see Catholics “team with Protestants, Jews, Mormons and others to recapture their First Amendment rights.”

Friday’s editorial from Colson, Soloveichik, and Cardinal Wuerl offered a preview of that prospect, as they explained that the administration’s attempt to mandate contraception coverage was not just offensive to Catholics.

“Coverage of this story has almost invariably been framed as a conflict between the federal government and the Catholic bishops,” they observed. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

“Under no circumstances should people of faith violate their consciences and discard their most cherished religious beliefs in order to comply with a gravely unjust law. That’s something that this Catholic, this Protestant and this Jew are in perfect agreement about.”

Two days earlier, Colson co-authored a Christianity Today editorial with Beeson Divinity School Dean Timothy George, stressing Evangelicals’ duty to unite with Catholics against the contraception mandate.

In their column “First They Came for the Catholics,” George and Colson said Evangelical Christians “must stand unequivocally with our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters. Because when the government violates the religious liberty of one group, it threatens the religious liberty of all.”

US bishops release new statement for HHS mandate removal

 

Archbishop_Timothy_Dolan_USUSA, February 10, 2012: The U.S. bishops released a new statement rejecting President Barack Obama’s attempted compromise over the Health and Human services contraception mandate, calling for its complete removal.

The bishops issued an initial statement of caution the afternoon of Feb. 10 after President Obama announced a new policy stating that religious employers will not have to directly purchase contraceptives, but will be required to pay for health care plans from insurance companies that offer them without cost.

Later in the day, however, the bishops released a comprehensive statement calling the mandate and its recent update unacceptable and urging Catholics across the nation “to join together in this effort to protect religious liberty and freedom of conscience for all.”

Below is the U.S. bishops’ statement in full:

The Catholic bishops have long supported access to life-affirming healthcare for all, and the conscience rights of everyone involved in the complex process of providing that healthcare. That is why we raised two serious objections to the “preventive services” regulation issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in August 2011.

First, we objected to the rule forcing private health plans—nationwide, by the stroke of a bureaucrat’s pen—to cover sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortion. All the other mandated “preventive services” prevent disease, and pregnancy is not a disease. Moreover, forcing plans to cover abortifacients violates existing federal conscience laws. Therefore, we called for the rescission of the mandate altogether.

Second, we explained that the mandate would impose a burden of unprecedented reach and severity on the consciences of those who consider such “services” immoral: insurers forced to write policies including this coverage; employers and schools forced to sponsor and subsidize the coverage; and individual employees and students forced to pay premiums for the coverage. We therefore urged HHS, if it insisted on keeping the mandate, to provide a conscience exemption for all of these stakeholders—not just the extremely small subset of “religious employers” that HHS proposed to exempt initially.

Today, the President has done two things.

First, he has decided to retain HHS’s nationwide mandate of insurance coverage of sterilization and contraception, including some abortifacients. This is both unsupported in the law and remains a grave moral concern. We cannot fail to reiterate this, even as so many would focus exclusively on the question of religious liberty.

Second, the President has announced some changes in how that mandate will be administered, which is still unclear in its details. As far as we can tell at this point, the change appears to have the following basic contours:

• It would still mandate that all insurers must include coverage for the objectionable services in all the policies they would write. At this point, it would appear that self-insuring religious employers, and religious insurance companies, are not exempt from this mandate.

• It would allow non-profit, religious employers to declare that they do not offer such coverage. But the employee and insurer may separately agree to add that coverage. The employee would not have to pay any additional amount to obtain this coverage, and the coverage would be provided as a part of the employer’s policy, not as a separate rider.

• Finally, we are told that the one-year extension on the effective date (from August 1, 2012 to August 1, 2013) is available to any non-profit religious employer who desires it, without any government application or approval process.

These changes require careful moral analysis, and moreover, appear subject to some measure of change. But we note at the outset that the lack of clear protection for key stakeholders—for self-insured religious employers; for religious and secular for-profit employers; for secular non-profit employers; for religious insurers; and for individuals—is unacceptable and must be corrected. And in the case where the employee and insurer agree to add the objectionable coverage, that coverage is still provided as a part of the objecting employer’s plan, financed in the same way as the rest of the coverage offered by the objecting employer. This, too, raises serious moral concerns.

We just received information about this proposal for the first time this morning; we were not consulted in advance. Some information we have is in writing and some is oral. We will, of course, continue to press for the greatest conscience protection we can secure from the Executive Branch. But stepping away from the particulars, we note that today’s proposal continues to involve needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions, and to threaten government coercion of religious people and groups to violate their most deeply held convictions. In a nation dedicated to religious liberty as its first and founding principle, we should not be limited to negotiating within these parameters. The only complete solution to this religious liberty problem is for HHS to rescind the mandate of these objectionable services.

We will therefore continue—with no less vigor, no less sense of urgency—our efforts to correct this problem through the other two branches of government. For example, we renew our call on Congress to pass, and the Administration to sign, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act. And we renew our call to the Catholic faithful, and to all our fellow Americans, to join together in this effort to protect religious liberty and freedom of conscience for all.

– can

Note from Holy See Press Office Director on leaked Vatican documents *Letter claims pope would die within 12 months

February 15, 2012 by  
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Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Frederico Lombardi S.JVatican City, February 14, 2012: Given below is the text of a note written by Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Frederico Lombardi S.J. and released late yesterday afternoon by Vatican Radio, concerning the recent leaking of a series of Vatican documents.

“Nowadays we must all have strong nerves, because no one can be surprised at anything. The American administration was affected by Wikileaks, now the Vatican too has its disclosures, its leaked documents, which tend to create confusion and bewilderment, and to throw a bad light on the Vatican, the governance of the Church and, more broadly, on the Church herself.

“We must, then, remain calm and keep our nerve, make use of reason, something which not all media outlets tend to do. The documents in question are of different kinds and importance, drawn up at various times and for differing situations. One thing is the discussion of the improved economic management of an institution such as the Governorate, which has many different activities; another are notes on current juridical and legislative questions, about which it is quite normal that there should be contrasting opinions; quite another are delirious and incomprehensible reports about plots against the Pope’s life. Yet, putting them all together helps to create confusion. Serious reporting should be capable of distinguishing the issues and understanding their differing importance. It is obvious that the economic activities of the Governorate have to be managed wisely and rigorously. It is clear that the IOR and financial activities must be correctly integrated into international anti-recycling norms. These are of course the Pope’s instructions. At the same time, it is evident that the story about a plot against the Pope, as I said immediately at the time, is nonsense, madness, and does not deserve to be taken seriously.

“There is something very sad in the fact that documents are dishonestly passed from the inside to the outside in order to create confusion. Both sides bear responsibility: firstly the suppliers of documents of this kind, but also those who undertake to use them for purposes that certainly have nothing to do with pure love of truth. We must, therefore, stand firm, not allowing ourselves to be swallowed up by the vortex of confusion, which is what ill-intentioned people want, and remaining capable of using our reason.

“In a certain sense – according to an ancient expression of human and spiritual wisdom – the emergence of more powerful attacks is a sign that something important is at stake. The series of attacks against the Church on the issue of sexual abuse has been justly met with serious and profound commitment to far-sighted renewal; not a myopic response but purification and rehabilitation. We have now taken control of the situation and are developing a powerful strategy of healing, renewal and prevention, for the good of society as a whole. At the same time, there is a serious commitment to ensure authentic transparency in the working of Vatican institutions, also from an economic perspective. New norms have been issued and channels have been opened for international monitoring. And yet a lot of the recently leaked documents tend to discredit precisely those efforts. This, paradoxically, constitutes another reason to continue them with determination, not allowing ourselves to be cowed. If many people insist on attacking us, the issue is obviously important. Whoever thinks he is discouraging the Pope and his collaborators in their commitment is mistaken.

“As for the issue of the supposed power struggles in view of the next conclave, I would invite everyone to note that all the Pontiffs elected during the last hundred years have been people of exalted and unquestioned spiritual merit. Cardinals have naturally sought, and still seek, to elect someone who deserves the respect of the people of God, someone who can serve humankind in our time with great moral and spiritual authority. Reading these events as an internal power struggle depends to a large extent on the moral coarseness of those who provoke them and those who see them as such, people often incapable of seeing anything else. Fortunately, those who believe in Jesus Christ know that – whatever may be written in today’s newspapers – the true concerns of those with positions of responsibility in the Church are the serious problems facing the men and women of today and tomorrow. Not for nothing do we also believe in, and speak of, the assistance of the Holy Spirit”.

– vatican info service

Letter claims pope would die within 12 months

 

Letter claims pope would die within 12 monthsVatican City, February 13, 2012: An unsigned letter published in an Italian daily has claimed that Pope Benedict XVI would die within 12 months, driving the country to frenzy.

The newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano published the letter, written in German, which spoke of a death plot against the pope and quoted Archbishop Paolo Romeo of Palermo as predicting that the pontiff would die within 12 months.

The anonymous missive, dated December 30 and marked “strictly confidential for the Holy Father”, claims to report comments Cardinal Romeo made on a trip to Beijing last year.

The letter was delivered in early January to the Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone and the pope’s private secretary Georg Ganswein by Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos of Colombia, according to the daily.

The paper suggested it had been written in German to avoid attracting the attention of certain Vatican officials while communicating clearly and directly with close advisers to the pope, who is a German.

The detailed letter reports several conversations that Cardinal Romeo allegedly had with Italian businessmen in Beijing on a trip November last and suggested the pope’s replacement would be Archbishop Angelo Scola of Milan.

“This seems something so far from reality and not serious that I don’t want to even comment,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said when asked for comment by the paper.

– timesofindia / sydney morning herald

Religious Freedom Sunday is coming

January 11, 2012 by  
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Religious Freedom Sunday is comingUnited States of America, January 10, 2012: While the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church falls on the second Sunday of November every year, another important Sunday is approaching for both persecuted and free Christians.

According to Assist News, Religious Freedom Sunday is a day for churches to talk to their congregations about their freedom of religious expression. Religious Freedom Sunday is Jan. 15. It will precede Religious Freedom Day on Monday, Jan. 16.

Religious Freedom Day marks the anniversary of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom in 1786. It stopped the practice of taxing people to pay for the support of the local clergy, and it protected the civil rights of people to express their religious beliefs without suffering discrimination. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison authored this important legislation, which later played a major role in the development of the First Amendment.

During Religious Freedom Sunday, churches have the opportunity to inform their congregations about the religious liberties of public school students. It also serves as a way for Christians to prepare for Religious Freedom Day.

Open Doors and Gateways to Better Education are teaming up to encourage Americans to learn more about their religious freedom.

“We are very grateful to be collaborating with Gateways to Better Education for Religious Freedom Sunday,” says Dr. Carl Moeller, President/CEO of Open Doors USA. “We hope that American Christians will take this opportunity to learn more about their religious freedoms so that they can advocate on behalf of those who share our faith but not our freedom.”

Eric Buehrer, President of Gateways to Better Education, says: “There is a natural fit between Open Doors and Gateways: Open Doors brings awareness to the need for religious freedom internationally, and Gateways brings awareness to the religious freedom we have, but often don’t realize we have, domestically in our public schools.

“Not being aware of our religious freedom and, therefore, not exercising it, is like being unaware that someone set up a bank account for you and deposited a million dollars in it–it does you no good. Too many children and young people are under the misguided impression that they cannot express their faith while in a public school. And too many teachers think they must make their classrooms ‘religion-free zones.'”

Religious Freedom Sunday has been recognized since 2008 by Gateways to Better Education. To help churches prepare for Religious Freedom Sunday, Gateways for Better Education has prepared a pamphlet for students. “Free to Speak” is a pocket-sized summary of the U.S. Department of Education guidelines explaining students’ religious liberties.

An estimated 100 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest, and even death for their faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation. Open Doors supports and strengthens believers in the world’s most difficult areas through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development, prayer and presence ministry, and advocacy on behalf of suffering believers.

– mnn/open doors

“War on Christmas” gets crazy

December 21, 2011 by  
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GrinchUnited States, December 19, 2011: Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments on how crazy the “War on Christmas” has become:

North Korea is putting South Korea on notice, warning of “unexpected consequences” if Seoul displays Christmas lights near the border. In China last week, government officials and the police smashed the sound equipment of Christians who were about to celebrate Christmas in a village outside Beijing.

Our atheists share the same mindset, if not the same means.

In a South Carolina cancer center, a 67-year-old volunteer Santa was evicted because of the “different cultures and beliefs of the patients we care for”; it later reversed its decision. In an elementary school in Stockton, California, poinsettias were banned but somehow snowmen were permitted; they justified their censorship by saying there was a Sikh temple in the city (note: there is no evidence that Sikhs suffer apoplexy when they see poinsettias, but there is plenty of evidence that cultural fascists enjoy using them as a foil to justify their own intolerance).

A homosexual group on the campus of Washington and Jefferson College succeeded in getting the Dean to approve a condom-decorated Christmas tree. A skeleton St. Nick was found hanging from a cross on the grounds of the Loudoun County Courthouse in Leesburg, Virginia.

Most atheists are not intolerant, but rare is the atheist qua activist who is not. Unfortunately, we don’t have to look overseas to Communist nations to witness this verity. That they show up at Christmastime, as well as at Easter, is proof that their real hatred is of all things Christian.

– catholic league

Iran jails pastor extra year before feared execution

December 16, 2011 by  
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Iran Pastor YoucefTehran, December 16, 2011: Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has to serve at least one more year in prison before he may be executed for refusing to abandon his faith in Christ and return to Islam, an official assisting him told Worthy News Thursday, December 14.

Iran’s judiciary wants to use that time to “use whatever means necessary to cause him to convert to Islam”, explained Jason DeMars, director of advocacy group Present Truth Ministries (PTM).

DeMars, who is closely involved in the case, said the head of Iran’s Judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, had ordered the presiding judge over the trial in the city of Rasht, to “do nothing for one year.”

“The order was to not issue a verdict and hold Youcef in prison,” DeMars quoted an attorney of the pastor as saying. The court was told “to use whatever means necessary to cause him to recant and return to Islam,” DeMars added.

The 34-year-old Nadarkhani, who has a wife and two children, was detained in his home city of Rasht in October 2009 while trying to register his house church.

“Apostasy” Charges

Nadarkhani was eventually found guilty of “apostasy”, or abandoning Islam, in September 2010 and sentenced to death by the Rasht court.

In June this year Iran’s Supreme Court did not overturn the ruling but instead asked the Rasht court to “re-examine” whether the pastor was a practicing Muslim before he became a Christian at age 19.

Nadarkhani told the court however that he would remain faithful to Christ, said an official of the Church of Iran house church movement.

“Pastor Youcef was [therefore] four times invited [by the court in the northwestern city of Rasht] to recant [his faith] in Christ in order to avoid the execution,” explained Firouz Khandjani, a council member of the pastor’s Church of Iran movement to Worthy News earlier.

“He answered that he will not,”Khandjani said.

International Pressure

With international pressure mounting, the Rasht court decided to ask Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to rule whether Nadarkhani should be executed. It was not immediately clear what role Khamenei played in Thursday’s announced decision to keep the pastor in jail.

With Nadarkhani facing another Christmas behind bars, there is concern among Iranian Christians about the future of the pastor and his family, DeMars suggested.

He said he asked PTM supporters in a message to “pray for this situation” and ask “the Heavenly Father to work His perfect will for Youcef, provide for his family and work salvation in the lives of many in Iran.”

Iranian government officials have denied Nadarkhani faces the death penalty by hanging for his Christian faith, despite court documents confirming this possibility.

Iran Denies

Press TV, viewed as a mouthpiece of the government, claimed recently that “Nadarkhani has a history of committing violent crimes and that he has never received a death penalty for his religious preference.”

The European Union, United States and other countries have urged Iran to release the evangelical pastor.

Activists view him as a voice for many other voiceless believers facing harassment and detention in the strict Islamic nation.

There has been a government crackdown on new churches amid reports there may be as many as 100,000 devoted Christians, including many former Muslims, in Iran.

Some church groups say hundreds of thousands of people have turned to the Christian faith at a time of increased hardship in the country.

– worthy briefs

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