Posts Tagged ‘US’

US bishop: Political will lacking, but Holy Land wants peace

Washington D.C., Oct 1, 2014 / 04:14 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Christians and Muslims are coexisting peacefully in Israel and Palestine, but the political will for peace is not yet there, said the leader of a recent bishops’ pilgrimage to the Holy Lan…

Bishop Conley to Catholics in medicine: strive to be saints

Orlando, Fla., Sep 30, 2014 / 04:52 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic medical professionals can lead other people to God by dedicating themselves to holiness and following the examples of saintly doctors, Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Neb., said.


Christian groups stand with diocese to protect Seal of Confession

Baton Rouge, La., Sep 30, 2014 / 04:44 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Nearly 20 organizations, both Catholic and other denominations of Christian, have joined the Diocese of Baton Rouge in asking the Supreme Court to protect a priest from being forced to violate the Seal of Confession.

The group heading the support for the diocese, Catholic Action for Faith and Family, stated it “fully supports the Diocese of Baton Rouge’s position that ‘civil courts are entirely without jurisdiction to decide what constitutes a sacrament in the Catholic Church’.”

“For this reason Catholic Action has filed an Amicus Brief, supported by 17 other Catholic and Christian organizations. The brief decries the fact that the Louisiana Supreme Court has directed the trial court to hold an evidentiary hearing to decide whether or not a sacrament actually took place.”

The case in question is a Louisiana Supreme Court ruling that a jury, not the Catholic Church, may determine if a priest’s conversation with a minor about sexual abuse was made in the Sacrament of Confession and thus is protected under confidentiality in state law.

The specific conversation between diocesan priest Fr. Jeff Bayhi and a minor who said she was abused by a parishioner allegedly took place during the Sacrament of Confession in May.

According to the court’s ruling, Fr. Bayhi could be forced to testify in court about the contents of confession, or whether it took place. However, under Church teaching, the “Seal of Confession” compels a priest not to reveal, under any circumstances, the contents of a confession. A violation of the seal incurs automatic excommunication.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “every priest who hears confessions is bound under very severe penalties to keep absolute secrecy regarding the sins that his penitents have confessed to him. He can make no use of knowledge that confession gives him about penitents’ lives.”

A state appeals court initially ruled that the alleged confession was “confidential” and thus Fr. Bayhi did not have to testify in court as to its alleged contents or whether it even took place.

However, the state Supreme Court reversed that decision, saying that the Seal of Confession did not shield Fr. Bayhi from mandatory reporting laws because the girl herself had waived her confidentiality privilege, so the priest could no longer invoke the privilege either.

The diocese is now asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.

Eighteen organizations filed an amicus brief in support of the diocese, including the groups Catholic Answers, the Catholic League, Priests for Life, and John Paul the Great Catholic University.

However, the brief was also signed by a number of non-Catholic groups, including interdenominational Christian groups like Gospel of Life Ministries, the National Pro-Life Religious Council, the National Clergy Council, and the National Pro-Life Center.

“[We] have an interest in preserving the right of religions to define in their own view which communications are confessional and absolutely protected from disclosure, and to protect the right of ministers to refuse to break the seal of the confessional if their religious beliefs require the maintenance of that seal,” the 18 organizations wrote in an amicus brief supporting the diocese.

The groups emphasized that the case carries grave First Amendment implications.

Previous Supreme Court precedent makes clear, they stated, that the rights of priests and penitents “are protected not only by statutes, but also by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

The current state Supreme Court decision violates both the Religious Question Doctrine and the Ministerial Exception, principles that are already established, the groups claimed.

The Religious Question Doctrine deals with the government’s power to determine a religious claim from a secular point of view.

In this case, “the secular answer to the religious question of how to define a ‘Confession’ would override the religious answer,” the brief stated.

“The priest-penitent privilege stands solely on religious justifications. It is a practice unique to religion, and especially unique to the Catholic faith. Adopting any definition of a ‘Confession,’ beyond how a particular religion defines ‘Confession,’ will potentially override the religious definition of a ‘Confession’ and is constitutionally impermissible.”

The court ruling also violated the Ministerial Exception protections of the First Amendment, the groups claimed. In a 2012 ruling n Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the government could not interfere in the employment of ministers by churches.

The brief cited that ruling, emphasizing that priests are automatically excommunicated – the highest canonical penalty – if they break the Seal of Confession, even if a court tries to force them to do so.

“This means that a priest who has incurred an automatic excommunication for breaking the seal is no longer allowed to act as a priest. He is disqualified from ministry as long as the excommunication is in effect. Thus, the action of the state of Louisiana would coerce priests into doing acts that will disqualify them from ministry in the Catholic Church and thus directly impact who the Church is able to appoint and retain as its ministers, in violation of Hosanna-Tabor,” the brief said.

Bishop Finn’s spokesman confirms Vatican visitation

Kansas City, Mo., Sep 30, 2014 / 02:59 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph has confirmed that an archbishop has held a visitation on behalf of the Vatican and met with Bishop Robert Finn, but cannot talk about the reasons for the…

Hundreds gather as pastor’s Iranian imprisonment reaches two years

Washington D.C., Sep 30, 2014 / 04:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Hundreds of advocates gathered Sept. 25 in Washington, D.C., to pray for the release of American pastor Saeed Abedini, who has now been imprisoned in Iran for the past two years.

At the prayer vigil, Abedini’s wife read from a letter in which the imprisoned pastor reassured his 8-year-old daughter that “ Lord Jesus Christ is in control,” and expressed his wish that she “learn important lessons during these trying times,” particularly that “everything that is happening in it is for His good purpose.”

Born and raised as a Muslim in Iran, Abedini converted to Christianity in 2000, becoming an American citizen in 2010 following his marriage to his wife Naghmeh, who also is an American citizen.

After his conversion to Christianity, Abedini began working with house churches in Iran. Although his work was technically legal, it drew complaints from the government, and he agreed to shift his work towards non-religious humanitarian efforts.

While visiting non-religious orphanages in September 2012, Pastor Abedini was arrested on charges of threatening national security. He was sentenced to eight years in prison; he has now served two years.

Human rights groups following the case have claimed that the true reason for the imprisonment was the pastor’s Christian faith and his conversion away from Islam.

Both the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama have called on the Iranian government to release Abedini. Nearly 300,000 people have signed an online petition calling for his freedom.

At the vigil, Naghmeh thanked those present for “standing with us.”

She read from a letter sent by her husband to their daughter for her eighth birthday.

The imprisoned pastor expressed his wish that he would be released soon, but told his daughter that even if he was not set free, they would sing ‘Hallelujah’ together “either separated by prison walls or together at home.”

“So, let Daddy hear you sing a loud ‘Hallelujah’ that I can hear all the way here in the prison!” he said in the letter.

The Abedini children Rebekkah and Jacob then led the crowd in singing some of their father’s favorite hymns.

Also present was Rev. Franklin Graham, who was introduced as a spiritual advisor to the Abedini family.

“We’ve asked you tonight to pray for Pastor Saeed and to pray for others who are imprisoned,” he said, asking the crowd to “remember those who are persecuted for their belief,” particularly Christians.

The prayer vigil concluded with a prayer walk in front of the White House.

In addition to the D.C. event, more than 500 other prayer vigils in 33 countries around the world had been scheduled to recognize the pastor’s second year of imprisonment in Iran.


Bishops find hope for religious dialogue at Palestinian university

Washington D.C., Sep 28, 2014 / 04:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Reflecting on their recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land, U.S. bishops have cited relationships there between Christian and Muslim students as a sign of hope for peace in the region.

A delegation of 18 bishops from the U.S. made the pilgrimage to Palestine and Israel Sept. 11-18.

“What was really positive about this was the tremendous work being done there by Catholic Relief Services and by the Knights of Malta and the Knights of the Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre and a lot of these Catholic organizations that … doing really good work,” Bishop Richard Higgins, an auxiliary of the military archdiocese who was among the pilgrims, told CNA.

“The other really positive thing, that I think the bishops would agree on, was the experience of Bethlehem University … that university has over 3,000 students, and over 70 percent of them are Muslims. The rest of them are Christians of different denominations.”

“Having young people of that age being educated together and living basically together spiritually where there are particular cultures day by day, that is a very positive force as far as I am concerned … I believe the resolution down the road will be between educated people who have lived alongside each other for years and understand both cultures and respect each other.”

The entire group of bishops said they were “encouraged by Bethlehem University, a Catholic institution that is building bridges between Christians and Muslims as they study together to create the future of Palestine.”

During their trip, the bishops said Mass at pilgrimage sites and with Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal and with Palestinian communities. The bishops also met and prayed with Jews and Muslims, as well as Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Protestant Christians.

“Motivated by the love of Christ and deep concern for both Israelis and Palestinians, we went to pray for peace, and to work for a two-state solution and an open and shared Jerusalem,” the bishops said in a communique following their return.

They described Jerusalem, Israel’s border wall, and the situation of Christians Palestinians all as signs of contradiction in the region.

The border wall, they said, is for Israelis “a sign of security; for Palestinians, a sign of occupation and exclusion. The contrast between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories is also a sign of contradiction. In crossing the border one moves from freedom and prosperity to the intimidation of military checkpoints, humiliation, and deeper poverty.”

The bishops lamented that “the route of the barrier wall, the confiscation of Palestinian lands in the West Bank, especially now in the Bethlehem area and the Cremisan Valley, and any expansion of settlements threaten to undermine the two-state solution.”

In addition, they noted with alarm the rate of emigration of Christian Palestinians.

“The unresolved conflict and occupation undermine human dignity and the ability of Christians to raise their families,” the bishops wrote. “Israeli policies in East Jerusalem prohibit Christians who marry someone from outside the City to remain there with their spouse, and security policies restrict movement and confiscate lands, undermining the ability of many Christian families to survive economically. The harsh realities of occupation force them to leave. Muslims also suffer similarly, but have fewer opportunities to emigrate.”

Bishop Higgins commented that “it’s probably not news to you that the number of Christians in the Holy Land is diminishing and will continue to diminish. Especially if they’re Palestinian Christians,” citing “the restrictions placed upon them.”

“Their attitude is that there’s not much of a future for you in the Holy Land if you are a Palestinian Christian. So they … emigrate as soon as they can.”

The leader of the pilgrimage, Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, shared that sentiment in an interview with Wyatt Goolsby of EWTN News Nightly.

“One of the great disappointments that we came upon was the realization that I think about 10 or 15 years ago, 12.5 percent of the population was Christian. Today, only 1.5 percent,” he said.

“So the Christians are really being squeezed, and we have to advocate for them also among both the Muslim and Jewish sisters and brothers because it is the Holy Land, which we consider to be so sacred and special.”

Bishop Pates emphasized that hope is possible because of prayer.

“The power of prayer is truly something that we have confidence in.”

Arizona town urged to stop discriminating against houses of worship

Phoenix, Ariz., Sep 28, 2014 / 06:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Local government restrictions in Gilbert, Arizona are threatening the protection of religious speech by limiting signs promoting houses of worship while allowing political, ideological, and nonc…

On 30th anniversary, Project Rachel looks to a global future

Milwaukee, Wis., Sep 26, 2014 / 04:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After 30 years of providing post-abortion healing and support across the United States, Project Rachel is hoping to take its ministry abroad.

“The aftermath of abortion is a universal phenomenon,” founder Vicki Thorn said in a recent interview with CNA. “The symptoms are basically the same across cultures; this is a woman who has lost her child in a traumatic and unnatural fashion.”

Founded in 1984 as a response to the Roe v. Wade decision that allowed widespread abortion in the U.S., Project Rachel is a diocesan-based healing ministry for those who have suffered the devastating consequences of abortion.

The ministry boasts a network of clergy, mental health professionals, and spiritual directors who provide one-on-one, confidential care for those affected by abortion. Care includes counseling, support groups and retreats.

Project Rachel has always had a very open relationship with the bishops and is designed to be a diocesan program, under the authority of a local bishop.

Since its founding 30 years ago, Project Rachel has spread to at least 165 dioceses across the United States. Now, Thorn has her eyes set on farther horizons.

Thorn has traveled to more than two dozen countries over the past several years to talk about Project Rachel’s work. She said there was incredible interest and need in Eastern Europe.

During a trip to Romania, Thorn met with a group of doctors and seminarians. They told her about a woman who had had 70 abortions. Thorn said she initially was in disbelief. Then she begin hearing about other women who had had a similar number of abortions.

“That was all of Eastern Europe,” Thorn said, adding that the average woman in Eastern Europe and Russia has had at least nine abortions.

“How does the Church deal with this? We don’t know how. It’s not on our radar. But, it needs to be.”

Thorn said she has already made connections with several priests in Poland, as well as Orthodox and Byzantine bishops in Romania. Her short-term goal is to schedule an Eastern Europe training session for Project Rachel in Poland.

“It’s just a question of God’s timing,” she said. “The need is so profound.”

She said she experienced a similar need for a healing ministry like Project Rachel in Japan and Taiwan, where it is believed that abortion ends the cycle of reincarnation. Thorn said locals try to appease the spirits by burning money, clothing and food so those who are aborted can continue the journey of reincarnation.

In China, Thorn said she met several religious sisters who had performed abortions as midwives because they did not have the formation to know that abortion is morally wrong.

“This awareness of the wound (of abortion) is there in corners we don’t even think about,” Thorn reflected. “What varies from culture to culture is how to explain the problem.”

Thorn said her goal is to work with local religious communities who are open to taking on Project Rachel as a charism, or special emphasis in their outreach.

“Because the problem with second and third-world countries is they don’t have access to mental health professionals,” Thorn explained. “There is no way that, if I am poor, I can get to a psychologist. It’s not going to happen.”


At UN, cardinal condemns terrorism’s use of religion

New York City, N.Y., Sep 26, 2014 / 02:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Terrorism represents a “fundamental threat to our common humanity” and people of faith must condemn religion-based terrorism, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State…

Bishop, canonist: Gay unions among sins barring Communion

Lewistown, Montana, Sep 25, 2014 / 04:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The denial of Holy Communion to a same-sex couple who obtained a marriage license is in line with broader Church teaching on public grave sin and the Eucharist, explained a prominent canon l…

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