Archbishop Chaput warns about Catholic Institutions losing Religious Identity

June 30, 2011 by  
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Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver

Denver, USA, 22 June 2011 (CNA/EWTN):  Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver warned Catholic social workers against the danger of Church institutions losing their religious identity amidst increasing hostility from the government and society. “The more that Catholic universities or hospitals mute their religious identity; the more that Catholic social ministries weaken their religious character … the less useful to the Gospel they become,” he said. Archbishop Chaput delivered a dual message to Catholic social workers this week, urging them to not let their Christian identity wane and also stressing that the government has no right to impede the work of Catholic institutions. At a June 21 address to the Catholic Social Workers National Convention in Denver, he said that civil society consists “not just of autonomous individuals” but communities as well. “Those communities also have rights. Catholic institutions are extensions of the Catholic community and Catholic belief,” he emphasized.

“The state has no right to interfere with their legitimate work, even when it claims to act in the name of individuals unhappy with Catholic teaching.” Archbishop Chaput’s remarks were made against the backdrop of Catholic Charities in several dioceses across the U.S. shutting down adoption and foster care services after their local states enacted civil union laws. Despite these setbacks, however, the Denver archbishop said that Catholic ministries “have the duty to faithfully embody Catholic beliefs on marriage, the family, social justice, sexuality, abortion and other important issues.”  “And if the state refuses to allow those Catholic ministries to be faithful in their services through legal or financial bullying,” he added, “then as a matter of integrity, they should end their services.” “Catholic social ministry begins and ends with Jesus Christ,” he said. “If it doesn’t, it isn’t Catholic.”

“And if our social work isn’t deeply, confidently and explicitly Catholic in its identity, then we should stop using the word ‘Catholic.’  It’s that simple.” Archbishop Chaput warned that “a new kind of America” is emerging in the 21st century, one that is likely to be “much less friendly to religious faith than anything in the nation’s past.” The reason for this, he said, is that “America’s religious soul – its Christian subtext – has been weakening for decades.” The archbishop observed that religious communities have historically had a great deal of power in shaping attitudes and behavior in the U.S.  “And that’s why, if you dislike religion or resent the Catholic Church, or just want to reshape American life into some new kind of experiment, you need to use the state to break the influence of the Church and her ministries.” He said that in the years ahead, the nation’s religious communities will encounter more attempts by civil authorities to interfere and will find less “unchallenged space” to carry out their work in the public square.

“It’s already happening with Catholic hospitals and adoption agencies, and even in the hiring practices of organizations like Catholic Charities,” the archbishop said. He noted that this increasing hostility towards the Catholicism shows how “no one in Catholic social work can afford to be lukewarm about his faith.” “Being faithful to Catholic teaching isn’t something optional for a Catholic social worker.  It’s basic to his or her identity,” he said, adding that the faith “is much more than a list of dos and don’ts.” Rather, Catholic teaching is part “of a much larger view of the human person, human dignity and our eternal destiny,” he said. “The content of this teaching comes from God through his son Jesus Christ.  It’s defined by the universal Church and then preached, taught and applied by the local bishop.”  Archbishop Chaput concluded his remarks by saying he “painted a pretty stark picture of the America we may face in the next few decades.”  “But we shouldn’t lose heart, even for a minute,” he said.

“Our job is to let God change us, and then to help God, through our actions, to change the lives of others. That’s what we’ll be held accountable for, and it’s very much within our ability – if we remain faithful to who we are as believers.”

Officials credit Obama administration for UN’s first gay rights resolution

June 23, 2011 by  
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Large Gay Pride March as United Nation Council approve Gay Rights Resolution

Large Gay Pride March as United Nation Council approve Gay Rights Resolution

New York, 21 June, 2011 (CNA): State Department officials say the U.N.’s first-ever resolution on “sexual orientation and gender identity” represents an international victory for the Obama administration’s policy agenda. “This is really a paradigmatic example of using the U.N. system to advance one of President Obama’s top policy priorities,” said Suzanne Nossel, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, after the resolution’s passage on June 17. “We’ve been able to deliver on broad international support behind an agenda that we have set as a key goal for this Administration.” During Friday’s media briefing, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Dan Baer also emphasized the role of President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Geneva-based Human Rights Council’s decision.

“Both the President and Secretary Clinton have made LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) human rights a priority,” Baer said. He recalled that Secretary of State Hilary Clinton “gave a speech last year in which she said gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.” “She has sent out a cable to all ambassadors instructing them that LGBT human rights are part of our comprehensive human rights policy,” he stated. Eileen Donahoe, the U.S. Ambassador to the Human Rights Council, said the resolution was “a game changer … at least at the Human Rights Council, on the topic of protections for LGBT people.” The text of the resolution is, despite all the publicity, relatively modest. It requests the commissioning of a study documenting “discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.”

That study will seek to determine “how international human rights law can be used to end violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.” Next spring the council will convene a panel discussion to discuss the study’s findings. Nossel says the resolution won’t create a “sea change overnight.” Rather, she explained, “it’s a beginning of an international norm that will take hold gradually.” “If you look at the human rights provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, they didn’t all take hold overnight.” But, she said, “by putting them down definitively in an internationally-backed document, you set an irreversible process in motion.” Proposals to place “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” on the same level as race, religion, or biological gender have encountered opposition at the U.N., from Muslim countries as well as the Vatican.

Opposition from several African and Middle Eastern countries ensured that Friday’s vote was close one. In the end, 23 countries supported the resolution, first introduced by South Africa, with 19 countries voting against it. Two historically Eastern Orthodox countries, Russia and Moldova, joined the Arab and African countries in their opposition. Poland, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Hungary and Ukraine were all among the resolution’s supporters. The Holy See’s permanent mission in Geneva has not yet issued a public statement on the resolution. But the Vatican has repeatedly called for an approach that respects the legitimate human rights of all persons, without falsely equating heterosexual and homosexual behavior. In 2008, the Holy See explained that it opposes “unjust discrimination toward homosexual persons,” while objecting to the categories of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”

The Vatican is concerned that these categories “create serious uncertainty in the law” regarding matters such as marriage, adoption, and the rights of religious organizations. Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See’s permanent observer and representative at the Human Rights Council, spoke out in March 2011 against the misuse of the “orientation” concept as a means of attacking those who reject an ideology of sexual liberation. The archbishop pointed out that the term “sexual orientation” refers properly to “feelings and thoughts, not to behavior.” “For the purposes of human rights law, there is a critical difference between feelings and thoughts, on the one hand, and behavior, on the other,” Archbishop Tomasi explained. “A state should never punish a person, or deprive a person of the enjoyment of any human right, based just on the person’s feelings and thoughts, including sexual thoughts and feelings.” “But states can, and must, regulate behaviors, including various sexual behaviors. Throughout the world, there is a consensus between societies that certain kinds of sexual behaviors must be forbidden by law. Pedophilia and incest are two examples.”

Afraid to Die? US Bishops Propose “Infinitely Better Way”

June 17, 2011 by  
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United States Conference of Catholic BishopsPrelates Approve Statement on Physician Assisted Suicide:

Washington, DC, 16, JUNE 2011 (Zenit.org).- The dying process can be frightening, but society can be judged on how it responds to these fears, according to the U.S. bishops in a new document on physician assisted suicide. The bishops are in Seattle for their spring general meeting and approved today a statement titled “To Live Each Day With Dignity.” “A caring community devotes more attention, not less, to members facing the most vulnerable times in their lives. When people are tempted to see their own lives as diminished in value or meaning, they most need the love and assistance of others to assure them of their inherent worth,” the statement affirmed.

The document offers a brief history of the development on debates regarding physician assisted suicide. It affirms that — contrary to marketing strategies — the drive to legalize this crime does not enhance the freedom of those with serious health conditions. “Suicidal persons become increasingly incapable of appreciating options” and have a “kind of tunnel vision that sees relief only in death. They need help to be freed from their suicidal thoughts through counseling and support and, when necessary and helpful, medication,” the bishops declared.

Furthermore, “apparently free choices may be unduly influenced by the biases and wishes of others,” they warned. “By rescinding legal protection for the lives of one group of people, the government implicitly communicates the message — before anyone signs a form to accept this alleged benefit — that they may be better off dead. Thus the bias of too many able-bodied people against the value of life for someone with an illness or disability is embodied in official policy.”

Excessive

The bishops’ document notes that such a biased judgment “is fueled by the excessively high premium our culture places on productivity and autonomy, which tends to discount the lives of those who have a disability or are dependent on others. If these persons say they want to die, others may be tempted to regard this not as a call for help but as the reasonable response to what they agree is a meaningless life.” Such a backward view may even lead those who choose to live to be seen as “selfish or irrational, as a needless burden on others.” The prelates acknowledged that the suffering of chronic or terminal illness is often severe. This suffering cries out for compassion, they stated. “True compassion alleviates suffering while maintaining solidarity with those who suffer. It does not put lethal drugs in their hands and abandon them to their suicidal impulses, or to the self-serving motives of others who may want them dead. It helps vulnerable people with their problems instead of treating them as the problem.”

Practical matters

The bishops also warned of a “slippery slope” that begins when life is taken in the name of compassion. “Dutch doctors, who once limited euthanasia to terminally ill patients, now provide lethal drugs to people with chronic illnesses and disabilities, mental illness, and even melancholy,” they noted. “Once they convinced themselves that ending a short life can be an act of compassion, it was morbidly logical to conclude that ending a longer life may show even more compassion. “Psychologically, as well, the physician who has begun to offer death as a solution for some illnesses is tempted to view it as the answer for an ever-broader range of problems.”

There is also the possibility that government programs and private insurers may limit support for care that could extend life, while emphasizing the “cost-effective” solution of a doctor-prescribed death, the prelates warned. “Why would medical professionals spend a lifetime developing the empathy and skills needed for the difficult but important task of providing optimum care, once society has authorized a ‘solution’ for suffering patients that requires no skill at all? Once some people have become candidates for the inexpensive treatment of assisted suicide, public and private payers for health coverage also find it easy to direct life-affirming resources elsewhere.”

Unfinished business

The bishops’ document affirms: “There is an infinitely better way to address the needs of people with serious illnesses.” “Respect for life does not demand that we attempt to prolong life by using medical treatments that are ineffective or unduly burdensome,” the bishops clarified. “Nor does it mean we should deprive suffering patients of needed pain medications out of a misplaced or exaggerated fear that they might have the side effect of shortening life.” But effective palliative care allows patients to “devote their attention to the unfinished business of their lives, to arrive at a sense of peace with God, with loved ones, and with themselves.” “No one should dismiss this time as useless or meaningless,” the prelates declared.

“When we grow old or sick and we are tempted to lose heart, we should be surrounded by people who ask ‘How can we help?'” the bishops concluded. “We deserve to grow old in a society that views our cares and needs with a compassion grounded in respect, offering genuine support in our final days. The choices we make together now will decide whether this is the kind of caring society we will leave to future generations.”

Full statement, including resources list: www.usccb.org/toliveeachday/bishops-statement-physician-assisted-suicide.pdf

Congress Prepares to End Program that Assists Persecuted Iranian Christians

June 2, 2011 by  
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Persecuted Iranian ChristiansWashington, DC, 1 June, 2011 – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Congress is planning to end an expense-free humanitarian program called the Lautenberg Amendment that has received bipartisan support for over 20 years. The amendment grants heavily persecuted Christians and other religious minorities in Iran a safe avenue to apply for refugee status. Without the program, persecuted Iranian Christians who are unable to flee the country will likely face imprisonment or execution.

The Lautenberg Amendment has rescued persecuted Christians, Baha’is and Jews from Iran since 2003 by establishing a clear standard for processing refugee applications submitted by religious minorities. Because the U.S. does not have an embassy in Tehran, the program allows the Austrian Embassy to issue special visas that allow persecuted minorities into Austria in order to be interviewed at the U.S. Embassy in Vienna. The program does not require the expenditure of funds, nor does it increase the number of refugees admitted into the U.S. The program simply offers Iranian applicants who are members of a persecuted religious group the same opportunity to be granted refugee status in the U.S. that is given to applicants in other countries throughout the world.

Rep. Lamar Smith, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, is calling for oversight of this amendment and all immigration policies, which could lead to the end of the program in Iran. If the program is not renewed, 688 persecuted Iranian minorities who have already begun the refugee application process will be trapped in Iran and may be arrested along with the 254 Christians who have been arrested since June 2010. One of the imprisoned, Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, was issued the death sentence for apostasy in September 2010.

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