Bishops urge Senate to uphold Defense of Marriage Act (news release)

UPDATE Link to release.

This was released late this afternoon by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:

                                                                                    DATE: November 2, 2011

 

                                                                                    FROM: Don Clemmer

                                                                                                O: 202-541-3206

                                                                                                M: 260-580-1137

 

                                                                                    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

BISHOPS URGE SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE TO OPPOSE BILL THAT WOULD REPEAL DEFENSE OF MARRIAGE ACT

WASHINGTON—The Senate Judiciary Committee should uphold the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage at the federal level as the union of one man and one woman, because of its importance to human rights and the common good, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Promotion and Defense of Marriage efforts. In a November 2 letter, Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, California, asked the Committee to oppose any bill that would repeal DOMA, particularly the Respect for Marriage Act (S. 598).

“All persons have a rightful claim to our utmost respect,” wrote Bishop Cordileone. “There is no corresponding duty, however, for society to disregard the meaning of sexual difference and its practical consequences for the common good; to override fundamental rights, such as religious liberty; and to re-define our most basic social institution. DOMA advances the common good in a manner consistent with the human dignity of all persons.”

Bishop Cordileone noted that DOMA’s definition of marriage reflects a longstanding consensus based in reason that is “accessible to people of all faiths or none at all.”

He added, “Millions of citizens have gone to the ballot in 30 states to ratify similar DOMA proposals by substantial majorities. Forty-one states in all have enacted their own DOMAs. Popularity alone does not determine what is right. But in the face of such broad support in the present day, not to mention a legacy of lived experience and reasoned reflection measured in millennia in every society and civilization throughout all of human history, repealing a measure that merely recognizes the truth of marriage is all the more improvident.”

Bishop Cordileone also wrote that changing the definition of marriage would violate human rights, namely the rights of children to be cared for by both a mother and a father and the right of religious freedom.

“In places where marriage’s core meaning has been altered through legal action, officials are beginning to target for punishment those believers and churches that refuse to adapt,” Bishop Cordileone wrote. “Any non-conforming conduct and even expressions of disagreement, based simply on support for marriage as understood since time immemorial, are wrongly being treated as if they harmed society, and somehow constituted a form of evil equal to racism. DOMA represents an essential protection against such threats to faith and conscience.”

The full text of Bishop Cordileone’s letter can be found at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/promotion-and-defense-of-marriage/upload/Cordileone-to-Senate-Judiciary-Committee-DOMA-Nov-2-2011.pdf

One thing is clear: Chinese Catholics need prayers

After traveling to China in 2007, I came away having learned two important lessons: 1) Nothing is as it seems. 2) The more you learn, the more you realize what you do not know.

A Chinese security officer watches as Catholics pray at an altar during a 2008 pilgrimage in honor of Mary at the Sheshan shrine on the outskirts of Shanghai, China. (CNS/ Reuters)

This does not apply just to China, but to the Chinese Catholic Church, which, on one level, is locked in a battle with the Chinese government: church autonomy vs. government control.

Reports coming from China might indicate that Chinese Catholic leaders are caving in to government officials. For instance, last December the Asian church news agency UCA News reported on the Congress of Catholic Representatives, which some church leaders were forced to attend. The Vatican was critical of the assembly on many levels, including that Vatican-approved bishops were among officials elected to the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China and the Catholic Patriotic Association, two bodies Pope Benedict XVI has said are not in line with church teaching.

Yet in that same 2007 letter to Chinese Catholics in which Pope Benedict criticized the two government-backed bodies, he said he recognized the difficult situation of bishops and priests under pressure from the government and added that the Holy See “leaves the decision to the individual bishop,” having consulted his priests, “to weigh … and to evaluate the possible consequences” of dealing with government pressures in each given situation.

In mid-July, the Vatican condemned the ordination of Father Joseph Huang Bingzhang as bishop of Shantou and said he automatically incurred excommunication. The Vatican said Father Huang “had been informed some time ago that he could not be approved by the Holy See as an episcopal candidate, inasmuch as the Diocese of Shantou already has a legitimate bishop.”

And today UCA News is reporting that the Shantou Diocese has three new priests. The report cites a source, unnamed, as saying that Father Huang might have struck a deal with a neighboring bishop to allow the seminarians to be ordained: Father Huang is still seen by the government as bishop of Shantou, yet he probably recognized the needs of the seminarians who had spent years studying to be priests, so he allowed them to be ordained by a Vatican-approved bishop.

Bishop Paul Pei Junmin (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

Meanwhile, online speculation has considered the circumstances of Bishop Paul Pei Junmin of Liaoning, whom China says was suspended from his posts as vice president of the Chinese bishops’ conference and as head of the Liaoning branch of the patriotic association for refusing to participate in Father Huang’s episcopal ordination.

Bishop Pei, who has Vatican approval, is rumored to have resigned from his posts, and some speculate that the Chinese government announced his suspension to save face. Some reports have said he is under house arrest.

What exactly is going on remains unclear, and those who do know are reluctant to speak for fear of repercussions. What IS clear is that, as they navigate the minefields of church leadership in China, the young church leaders continue to need the prayers of Catholics around the world.

Opera tells story of murdered nun who helped poor farmers, fought powerful landowners in Brazil

2004 file photo of Sister Dorothy Stang. (CNS photo/Reuters)

Ohio-born Sister Dorothy Stang, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and a naturalized Brazilian citizen, was known for her fight against large landowners in the Amazon region. And for that and her ministry to the marginalized there, she was assassinated in 2005 at age 73. Now her story is being told in an American opera titled “Angel of the Amazon.”

The work just had two performances in Boston this past weekend. The Pilot, newspaper of the Boston Archdiocese, carried an advance notice that featured a triptych of Sister Dorothy painted by a member of her order.

Sister Dorothy’s death sparked an international outcry. She was killed Feb.12, 2005, in Anapu, a remote community in the Amazon region. She was shot several times in the chest and head.

For nearly four decades, Sister Dorothy worked in rural Brazil, defending the rights of poor peasants. This fight made her many enemies, including some wealthy landowners. Shortly before her death, the town of Anapu declared her “persona non grata,” stating her work was hindering the region’s development.

In her book titled “Martyr of the Amazon,” published by Orbis Books in 2007, author Rosanne Murphy recounted that Sister Dorothy’s lifelong dream of mission work became a reality in 1966, when she was one of five sisters from her order sent to Brazil following an appeal by Pope John XXIII.

In December 2008 she was one of seven people name to receive the  prestigious U.N. Prize in the Field of Human Rights, awarded by the General Assembly every five years.

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