Bishops Commend House Resolution Seeking Protection for Religious Minorities in Iraq

November 30, 2010

WASHINGTON (MetroCatholic) — The U.S. bishops commended a resolution in the House of Representatives that condemns recent attacks on religious minorities in Iraq and calls for the U.S. government to work with the Iraqi government to protect these vulnerable groups.

In a November 29 letter to the sponsors of House Resolution 1725, Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany, New York, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, co-adjutor archbishop of Los Angeles and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, called for its immediate passage. 

The resolution was introduced November 18 by Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) and co-sponsored by Representatives Frank Wolf (R-VA), Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), Mark S. Kirk (R-IL), Gary C. Peters (D-MI), Joseph Pitts (R-PA), and Trent Franks (R-AZ),).

“Our conference welcomes this bipartisan resolution as a way to focus attention on the situation of the vulnerable religious communities in Iraq,” the bishops wrote.  “In particular,” they added, “we support the emphasis on developing a comprehensive plan to improve security for religious minorities and to increase their representation in the Government of Iraq and to include them in all aspects of Iraqi society.”

In their letter, the bishops referenced the recent attack in Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad.
“The October 31 attack on worshippers in Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad that killed 58 and wounded 75 and the continuing violence against Christians are horrific reminders of the appalling lack of security that has condemned many in Iraq to live in fear,” the bishops said. The House resolution condemns the attack against Our Lady of Salvation Church.

The bishops also welcomed the resolution’s concern for Iraqi refugees and supported its call for measures to accelerate the review of their applications for resettlement and to improve conditions on the ground so that refugees may safely return to Iraq.

“We sincerely hope that H. Res. 1725 will be adopted quickly by the House of Representatives as we believe it will help improve security for all Iraqis, especially Christians and other vulnerable minorities,” the bishops said. “We hope it will contribute to the overall goal of achieving a “responsible transition” that will reduce further loss of life and address the refugee crisis in Iraq.”

New San Antonio archbishop asks Catholics to listen for God’s call

November 29, 2010

San Antonio, Texas, Nov 27, 2010 / 07:19 am (CNA).- Catholics should be open to God’s call while remembering that Christianity can be countercultural and “unsettling” for the modern world, Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller said at his installation Mass in San Antonio, Texas.

More than 1,800 people attended the Nov. 23 Mass at St. Mark the Evangelist Church, where the former auxiliary bishop of Chicago was installed as the sixth Archbishop of San Antonio.

At the Mass, papal nuncio Archbishop Pietro Sambi read an apostolic letter from Pope Benedict XVI confirming his appointment. He also presented the 53-year-old archbishop with a crosier which had belonged to Archbishop Jerome Droassaerts, Archbishop of San Antonio from 1918 to 1940.

“Today marks a new beginning in the wonderful history of the Catholic faith in this local church of San Antonio,” Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller said in his homily.

He recalled the early Franciscans who evangelized the region, including Venerable Fray Antonio Margil de Jesus and Fr. Miguel Calvo. He also voiced “special gratitude” to his two predecessors, Archbishops Patrick Flores and Jose Gomez, while also noting the diverse non-Hispanic Catholic immigrants who have come to the city throughout its history.

“In short, we thank God that, for nearly 400 years, the Roman Catholic Church in Texas has continued faithfully to proclaim the Good News here. We also rejoice that a personal and deeply pious Catholic religiosity has matured here, including the beautiful devotion of Our Lady of Guadalupe, our Mother, la Morenita.”

He then expounded upon the readings for the Mass, the first of which was the story of God’s calling of Samuel.

“God always speaks first. That is the way it should be. Creation is to listen attentively and respond appropriately,” the archbishop explained. Because Samuel was open to God’s call, “something new began in the history of salvation.”

Archbishop Garcia-Siller connected this to his own response to hearing that Pope Benedict XVI wanted to appoint him to San Antonio.

“I immediately felt real peace and joy tempered by a deep awareness of the great responsibility I had been asked to embrace. I felt, in faith, a deep affection for you, the people of the Archdiocese of San Antonio,” he said.

The second Mass reading, about the apostles and the first day of Pentecost, showed the disciples experiencing “something very wonderful” that they needed to share with the whole world.

“No one is excluded from their proclamation that Jesus is Lord, that God loves all people, that all of us are sisters and brothers, beloved children of the one God, for God alone is able to feed the deepest hungers of the human heart,” the archbishop explained.

The fact that some bystanders thought the apostles were simply intoxicated with wine reminds Christians that their message is “countercultural” and can be “profoundly unsettling and even threatening to some,” he said.

“Ignorance, fear, and insecurity feed racism and hatred toward the stranger. The worldly pursuit of possessions, pleasure, and power militate against the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience,” he lamented. “We live in a deeply divided nation and region where the notion of brotherly love may seem quaint and naïve.”

Rather than withdraw into ourselves and seek only our own personal good or “defiantly” stake out our own position while ignoring common ground with others, the archbishop urged reflection on the gift of the Holy Spirit.

“My friends, it is the Holy Spirit that enables the community of faith to proclaim the gospel, to attract a crowd, to have something to say worth hearing. The wind blows where it will. God has the power to accomplish in our midst what he wants – in spite of all obstacles.”

This is possible only when Christians are open to God’s word and are in a loving relationship with Jesus.

“We are to love God fully, holding nothing back. And to love one another as Jesus has loved us – continuously, without limits, throughout our life,” he exhorted. “My brothers and sisters, I do love you, and I am willing to lay down my life for you!”

He urged those assembled to be “Spirit-filled and Spirit-led missionaries of the gospel in the world.” Entrusting his mission and ministry to Our Lady of Guadalupe’s intercession, he concluded:

“May the quality of our love for one another bring out to everyone that we are truly the Lord’s disciples and missionaries!”

He closed with the phrase “Viva Cristo Rey!”, the last words of the martyred Mexican priest Bl. Miguel Pro, whose feast day coincided with the installation Mass.

The San Antonio archdiocese reports that installation Mass attendees included Archbishop Garcia-Siller’s 76-year-old father, Gustavo Garcia Suarez, and his 75-year-old mother, Maria Cristina Siller de Garcia. Many siblings and relatives of new archbishop, the eldest of 15 children, also attended.

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, and the apostolic nuncio to Mexico concelebrated the installation Mass with several other Texas bishops.

Southern Poverty Law Center Defames Mainstream Pro-Family Groups as ‘Hate Groups’; DefendChristians.Org Calls on Congress to Defund the SPLC

November 25, 2010

VISTA, Calif., (MetroCatholic) — The Southern Poverty Law Center has released a new list of “hate groups” that includes many highly regarded, mainstream Christian organizations because of their opposition to homosexuality.

“The Southern Poverty Law Center has utterly discredited themselves by this provocative attack on organizations that promote traditional family values,” said Rev. Gary L. Cass, of DefendChristians.Org, a ministry of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission.

“Labeling mainstream conservative organizations as ‘Hate groups’ is defamatory and is simply an intimidation tactic. We call on Congress to cut off their funding.”

“Defend Christians.Org will work to form a coalition of organizations to lobby Congress to withhold funds from SPLC. We will also demand Congress restrict Federal law enforcement from relying on the biased SPLC reports, like the discredited ‘Report on Right-Wing Extremism’ SPLC wrote for the Department of Homeland Security,” said Cass.
“The SPLC has been reduced to a far left propaganda organization that uses hype and hysteria to enrich a few liberal attorneys at taxpayer expense and has long out lived its usefulness,” said Cass.

The new SPLC “Hate Group” list has eighteen organizations including large, mainstream ministries like the American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, Coral Ridge Ministries, Liberty Council, Family Research Council, Traditional Values Coalition and the National Organization for Marriage.

Catholic Home Missions Subcommittee Announces 2011 Grants

November 24, 2010

WASHINGTON (MetroCatholic)—The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions has announced its 2011 grantees. A total of 362 projects in 88 “home mission” dioceses were approved at the subcommittee’s meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico, October 27-28. Grants were made to 73 Latin dioceses and 15 Eastern Catholic eparchies.
           
“Home Missions” is the name for dioceses and parishes in the United States and its territories and dependencies, which cannot provide basic pastoral services to Catholics without outside help.
           
Bishop Michael Warfel, chairman of the subcommittee said, “The subcommittee is pleased to be able to offer assistance to our brothers and sisters in home mission dioceses. The Church in these areas is impacted by challenges of geography, low Catholic population, a lack of pastoral resources and parishioner poverty. Through the generosity of Catholics to the annual Catholic Home Missions Appeal we can provide funds that keep vulnerable parishes open and support catechesis and evangelization to strengthen the Church here at home.”
           
The breakdown for the $8,474,500 in approved grants is as follows:

  • 149 evangelization projects (including campus ministry, communications, general evangelization, Hispanic ministry, migrant ministry, ministry with handicapped people, prison ministry and youth and young adult ministry); 41.2 percent of total funding.
  • 41 projects for mission parishes (buildings and properties, personnel); 11.3 percent.
  • 58 projects for religious education (Catholic schools, parish religious education); 16 percent.
  • 114 projects for training for ministry (including clergy continuing education, diaconate training, lay ministry training, seminary education and vocations); 31.5 percent.

Grants from the USCCB Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions are ordinarily capped at $125,000. However, due to the needs of a number of home mission dioceses this year, the subcommittee awarded an additional $10,000 to 21 dioceses with the greatest needs.  Two dioceses were funded for the first time: the Archdiocese of Agana in Guam and the Diocese of Gaylord, Michigan.
           
In addition, the subcommittee approved a $40,000 grant for the newly created Apostolic Exarchate for the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church in the United States. Bishop Warfel presented the check to the exarchate’s first bishop, Bishop Thomas Naickamparampi, at the subcommittee’s November 16 meeting during the bishops’ Fall General Assembly in Baltimore.
           
Approximately 90 of the 200 Latin and Eastern Catholic dioceses in the United States, about 45 percent, are unable to provide the ministries of word, worship, and service for their people without outside help. To provide a continuing source of support for needy local communities the bishops of the United States created the Catholic Home Missions Appeal in 1998. The annual collection is usually taken up on the last weekend in April.
           
For more information on funded dioceses and the Catholic Home Missions visit www.usccb.org/hm.

American College in Leuven, Belgium to Close in 2011

November 23, 2010

WASHINGTON (MetroCatholic) — Due to the small number of seminarians and available priest faculty, the American College of the Immaculate Conception in Leuven, Belgium, has announced its closure in June 2011. The announcement was made to the seminary community immediately after the decision was made by the board of bishops of the American College and confirmed by the body of bishops at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) General Assembly on November 17, in Baltimore.

“The seminary has served the Church in the United States and other parts of the world faithfully, steadfastly and zealously throughout its 154-year existence, and so this is a sad moment for many of us,” said Bishop David Ricken, chair of the board and bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin.

The USCCB provides guidance to all United States seminaries through its norms for priestly formation found in the Program for Priestly Formation (PPF). The American College is one of two European seminaries governed directly by the USCCB; the other is the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

Despite strong efforts, enrollment has not grown at the American College to a sustainable level. In addition, the seminary has struggled with obtaining qualified priests for its faculty. Small enrollment creates significant financial challenges as well as difficulties for priestly formation. The PPF notes that, “The seminarians and faculty form the heart of the seminary community, and this reality needs careful cultivation so that the distinctive aims of seminary formation can be achieved.”  The difficulties in maintaining this necessary community environment for priestly formation led to the decision to close the American College.

“We hold a good relationship with both the theology and philosophy faculties at the University,” noted Bishop Ricken. “We are grateful to the Archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels, the theology and philosophy faculties and the people of Belgium for their support and collaboration with the Roman Catholic Church of the United States for these many years.”

The American College of the Immaculate Conception was founded in 1857 by the bishops of the United States with the dual purpose of training young European men to serve as missionary priests in North America and of offering to American seminarians the philosophical and theological riches available at Europe’s oldest Catholic university in Leuven.

Thomas More Society Rallies Illinois State’s Attorneys in Support of Parental Notice

November 22, 2010

CHICAGO (MetroCatholic) — Today, the Thomas More Society took another step toward the long-overdue enforcement of Illinois’ Parental Notice of Abortion Act. Society attorneys filed a “friend of the court” brief in the Illinois Appellate Court on behalf of a bipartisan group of Illinois State’s Attorneys, urging the rejection of the American Civil Liberties Union’s latest attack on the Act’s constitutionality. The ACLU contends that the Act violates the privacy, due process and equal protection guarantees in the Illinois Constitution of 1970.

The parental notice law requires an abortion doctor to notify a parent, grandparent, stepparent living in the household or legal guardian before performing an abortion on a minor, unless the minor states in writing that she is a victim of abuse or secures a confidential “judicial bypass.” Although the Illinois General Assembly enacted the current parental notice law on a bipartisan basis more than 15 years ago, the law has not gone into effect because of the ACLU’s federal and state court challenges. Though upheld by a Cook County judge, the law’s enforcement was still “stayed” by agreement of the ACLU and Attorney General, pending a final ruling on the ACLU’s appeal. Illinois is the Midwest’s only state without a parental notice or consent law in effect.

“We are thrilled that so many county prosecutors throughout Illinois support a parent’s right to know before a minor is taken for an abortion,” said Peter Breen, executive director and legal counsel at the Thomas More Society. “It’s long past time for Illinois to protect its daughters from ’secret’ abortions by affirming the right of parents to be involved in their children’s medical decisions.”

The amicus brief argues the following points:

  • The Illinois Constitution does not confer a right to abortion. On the contrary, the 1970 Constitutional Convention referred abortion issues to the legislature.
  • Numerous other federal and state courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have repeatedly upheld parental notice as constitutional.
  • The Illinois General Assembly properly found that parental consultation prior to an abortion promotes many legitimate state interests.

Thomas More Society special counsel Paul Benjamin Linton drafted the brief, which thirteen State’s Attorneys from across Illinois have joined. For more information or for comment from the Thomas More Society, please contact Stephanie Lewis at 312-422-1333 or [email protected]. For a copy of the brief, please visit www.thomasmoresociety.org.

About the Thomas More Society
Founded in 1997, the Thomas More Society is a national public interest law firm that exists to restore respect for life in law. Based in Chicago, the Thomas More Society defends the sanctity of human life, the family, and religious liberty in courtrooms across the country. The Society is a nonprofit organization wholly supported by private donations. For more information or to support the work of Thomas More Society, please visit www.thomasmoresociety.org.

Bishops’ Website Offers Resources for Advent and Christmas Seasons Including Book of Reflections from Pope Benedict XVI

November 19, 2010

WASHINGTON (MwtroCatholic) — The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is continuing its tradition of providing online resources for the Advent and Christmas seasons with suggestions for daily prayer, reading, reflection and action.

As a special spiritual gift this season, USCCB is providing a downloadable book of scriptural reflections for Advent and Christmas featuring the words of Pope Benedict XVI from his homilies, speeches and other addresses during his papacy.

The 37-page document includes a scripture quote and a reflection from the Holy Father for every day of Advent, which begins on Sunday, November 28, through the seventh day in the Octave of Christmas, December 31. “Advent & Christmas with Pope Benedict XVI” is a preview of the upcoming Vatican publication “A Year with Pope Benedict XVI,” which will be available from USCCB.

“This has become one of the more popular features on the bishops’ website,” said Helen Osman, secretary of communications for USCCB. “It is a great one-stop resource for families and individuals seeking ways to enter more deeply into the spirit of the Advent and Christmas seasons.”

Other material highlighted in the interactive online Advent and Christmas calendars is from the Vatican publication “Advent and Christmas with the Church Fathers” and “Reflections on Advent and Christmas: Cultivating the Gift of Self,” new releases which are available from USCCB.  A Festival of Lesson and Carols, which is a service of Scripture and song that dates to the late 19th century, can be heard live online or downloaded for later listening. The audio program features music performed by the Choir of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

The USCCB Advent/Christmas website also features videos in which Catholics discuss their favorite Old Testament stories, passages and characters.

Other resources on the website include a list of recommended holiday-themed movies, prayers and blessings from the USCCB publication Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers, and suggestions for remembering the immigrants and the poor throughout the season.

The Advent/Christmas site (http://www.usccb.org/advent/) was created by the USCCB Department of Communications with funding from the Catholic Communication Campaign.

Divine Worship Committee Affirms Timeline for Implementation of Roman Missal

November 19, 2010

WASHINGTON (MetroCatholic) — After meeting in Baltimore for the annual Fall General Assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Committee on Divine Worship issued a statement affirming the timeline of the implementation of the Roman Missal, Third Edition.

In the statement, Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson, New Jersey, outgoing chairman of the committee, said “there is assurance that the published text will be available in more than ample time for implementation in Advent 2011. It is good to note also that the catechetical preparation for implementation is already underway and has proceeded with much enthusiasm and wide acceptance by both clergy and laity. It is clear at this point in time that there is an attitude of openness and readiness to receive the new text.” The full statement is available on the USCCB’s Divine Worship homepage: www.usccb.org/liturgy.

The Roman Missal, Third Edition, the book of prayers used in the worship of the Roman rite, was promulgated by Pope John Paul II as part of the Jubilee Year 2000. The U.S. bishops completed their approval of the translation of the Missal into English at their November 2009 meeting. The translation received recognitio, or approval, from the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in spring 2010.

FRC Urges Health Advisory Panel to Oppose Mandates for Abortion or Contraceptives in Obamacare

November 17, 2010

WASHINGTON (MetroCatholic) — Jeanne Monahan, director of Family Research Council’s Center for Human Dignity, will speak today before the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Preventive Services for Women and call for the exclusion of abortion or contraceptives in the new health care law and thereby to the conscience rights of all Americans.

In her statement, Monahan will offer the following comments:

“The committee should not recommend the inclusion of abortion as a means of preventing pregnancy. FRC rejects any suggestion that ‘abortion is healthcare’ or that pregnancy is a disease. Including abortion, whether medical or surgical, as a mandated, free-of-charge preventive care service would further expand abortion in the health care law and undermine the conscience rights of many in the health care profession.

“Family Research Council also urges the Institutes of Medicine and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to exclude contraceptives and protect the conscience rights of health insurers, providers and participants who object to contraceptives. Fertility, like pregnancy, is not a disease.

“By their very nature, contraceptive services are elective and not medically necessary. They should not be placed in the same category as other basic types of medical care. Additionally, several drugs that have been approved by the FDA to be categorized legally as ‘emergency contraceptives’ can destroy a pre-born baby before and after implantation.

“Any mandates on abortion coverage would expand taxpayer funding for abortion, and inclusion of contraceptives would undermine conscience protections that President Obama promised would be maintained,” Monahan concluded.

U.S. Bishops Elect Archbishop Dolan New President, Archbishop Kurtz Vice President, Bishop Bransfield Treasurer, Also Vote on Chairs-Elect of Six Committees

November 16, 2010

BALTIMORE (MetroCatholic) — The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) elected Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York as their new president and Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky vice president at their annual Fall General Assembly.

Archbishop Dolan, who succeeds Cardinal Francis George of Chicago as president of the USCCB, was elected 128-111 on the third ballot in a run-off with Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona. Archbishop Kurtz was elected 147-91 on the third vice presidential ballot in a run-off with Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap., of Denver. Archbishop Dolan and Archbishop Kurtz begin their three-year terms as president and vice president at the conclusion of this week’s meeting.

The bishops elected Bishop Michael Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia to serve as USCCB treasurer-elect of the USCCB in a 123-114 vote over Bishop Paul Bradley of Kalamazoo. As Archbishop Kurtz is vacating the office of treasurer to assume the vice presidency, the bishops affirmed by acclamation that Bishop Bransfield assume the office immediately.

The bishops voted for the chairmen-elect of six committees who will begin their three-year chairmanships in November 2011. The bishops elected:

  • Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for Military Services to chair the Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance in a 138-105 vote over Bishop Randolph Calvo of Reno, Nevada.
  • Bishop Joseph McFadden of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to chair the Committee on Catholic Education in a 120-118 vote over Coadjutor Bishop David O’Connell of Trenton, New Jersey.
  • Bishop Denis J. Madden, auxiliary bishop of Baltimore, to chair the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs in a 125-113 vote over Bishop Ronald Gainer of Lexington, Kentucky.
  • Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wisconsin, to chair the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis in a 137-102 vote over Bishop Paul Coakley of Salina, Kansas.
  • Bishop Daniel Conlon of Steubenville, Ohio, to chair the Committee on Child and Youth Protection, in a 146-92 vote over Bishop Patrick Zurek of Amarillo, Texas.
  • Archbishop Edwin O’Brien of Baltimore to chair the Committee on International Justice and Peace in a 145-93 vote over Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, New York.

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