Backers of California’s Prop. 8 have standing to appeal ruling, says court

In a unanimous decision issued Nov. 17, the California Supreme Court ruled that the faith-based groups that sponsored Proposition 8, the state’s 2008 voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, have the right to appeal a federal judge’s 2010 ruling it is unconstitutional, reports George Raine of Catholic San Francisco.

“Catholics are among the backers of Prop. 8 who appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal the ruling that it discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation and gender,” Raine writes. “As the circuit court took up the issue, its judges needed to resolve a question: Do the backers of the proposition have the legal right to defend it in court when two elected officials, the former governor and the former attorney general, refused to do so?”

The Nov. 17 decision, Raine continues, “was a victory for ProtectMarriage.com, the proponent in the case, and it allows the 9th Circuit now to resolve the critical question in the case – whether or not Prop. 8 is constitutional – although it is expected the U.S. Supreme Court will have the final word.”

Andy Pugno, general counsel of ProtectMarriage.com., told Raine: “(The) decision is a critical step in our three-year battle to uphold marriage between a man and a woman.”

Looking at ‘musical legacy, faith’ of Bruce Springsteen

A New Jersey pastor who has had a long friendship with Bruce Springsteen held a workshop a few weeks back examining the “musical legacy and faith” of the singer-songwriter, according to a story by correspondent Christina Leslie in this issue of The Monitor, newspaper of the Diocese of Trenton, N.J. A crowd of about 150 — including Bruce’s mother, Adele — gathered for the session held by Father Kevin J. Keelen, pastor of St. Barnabas Parish in Bayville.

“Every indigenous tribe has music. It’s part of being human,” the Augustinian friar said. “Tonight’s about Bruce and us. He evangelizes in a different way.” Citing lyrics from Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart,” the priest quoted St. Augustine: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, God.”

With anecdotes drawn on his friendship with “The Boss,” Father Keelen “wove a picture of a deeply spiritual musician whose faith is reflected in his extensive music portfolio,” writes Leslie.

Legionary brother talks about wound of Father Maciel’s transgressions

ROME — Legionaries of Christ Brother Daniel Turski drew a striking contrast between Blessed John Paul II and Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, the disgraced Legionaries founder, while asking a question after a talk by chastity author and speaker Christopher West.

Christopher West speak in front of an image of Blessed Pope John Paul II during a Theology of the Body conference at Regina Apostolorum University in Rome Nov. 11. (CNS/Paul Haring)

At a conference on the “Theology of the Body” today at the Legionary-run Regina Apostolorum University, in an auditorium full of Legionary brothers and priests, Turski held up the late Pope John Paul as a model of chastity in contrast to his order’s founder, Father Maciel, who who was discovered to have sexually abused seminarians and fathered children.

In responding to Turski, West encouraged the Legion to be honest about its weaknesses and not try to hide the wound of Father Maciel’s transgressions. “There is a new humility in you,” West said of the Legion, adding that he saw great hope for the Legion as “the army that will bring Theology of the Body to the world.”

I spoke with Brother Turski after he made his comment. He said he hadn’t planned to say it, but it came out spontaneously.

Speaking about the late pope and the Father Maciel, Turski told me, “One opened his wounded humanity to Christ, but another recognized his wound but hid it out of fear.”

Turski, a Canadian who entered the Legion in 2003, said that he was very struck when West pointed out that sexual desires are not meant to be repressed, but rather — through the virtue of chastity — lived in an appropriate manner.

“We’ve had the repression of what is wrong, but haven’t had the proper education of what is right,” Turski said of sexual formation in the Legionaries. He said that Father Maciel’s personal wound “has trickled down into chastity formation.”

Turski said there was plenty of talk about avoidance in his chastity formation, but he also said he saw the need for something West advocated in his talk: namely reverence. West had talked about reverence being the virtue that enables one to see the dignity of the person as one would see a beautiful flower he or she would not want to trample over.

Turski said he and his Legionary brothers talk among themselves about Father Maciel. A fellow Legionary brother also said this was not the first time that a Legionary such as Turski had publically acknowledged Father Maciel’s misdeeds.

Did Cardinal Bertone really ‘disown’ the document on economic reform?

UPDATED Monday, Nov. 14:  Vatican Secretariat of State reviewed and corrected the document ahead of publication; see sixth paragraph below.

VATICAN CITY — Our Italian colleague Sandro Magister, usually an insightful commentator on all things Vatican, stirred things up with a post last Thursday asserting that the Vatican’s Secretariat of State had “disowned” the recent document of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace on reform of the global economic system.

Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, left, and Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George wait for Pope Benedict XVI to arrive on the South Lawn of the White House in 2008. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

He reported that Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the secretary of state, was blindsided by the publication of the document, and afterward issued a “binding order” against the release of any document by a Roman Curia office unless the text had been inspected and authorized by his office.

Sources we’ve spoken to offered a very different reading of the situation.

First, at the press conference presenting the document, Bishop Mario Toso, secretary of the justice and peace council, said the text had been “reviewed by the competent offices of the Secretariat of State” before publication.

Indeed, it would be very difficult to imagine that Cardinal Bertone was unaware of the document and its potential implications — for one thing, its release was announced five days ahead of time.

UPDATE: On Monday, one source said that in preparing the document, the Justice and Peace council had in fact worked closely with the Secretariat of State’s “Second Section,” which deals with foreign affairs, and that the Second Section had reviewed and corrected the text ahead of time — precisely because everyone knew it dealt with sensitive issues.

Second, sources said Cardinal Bertone did issue a recent instruction regarding the Secretariat of State’s role in releasing documents, but it had nothing to do with the Justice and Peace text on economic justice. Instead, they said, it was provoked by an unrelated mistake that occurred the same week — the premature release of Pope Benedict’s annual message on migration, which was posted briefly on a Vatican Web site, apparently before the Secretariat of State had seen it.

Cardinal Bertone’s order, they said, simply stipulated that any documents bearing the pope’s signature must be released through his office. The Justice and Peace document did not fall into that category, even though its content was reviewed by the Secretariat.

Third, the sources denied Magister’s report that Professor Leonardo Becchetti, a professor of economics at the University of Rome, was the main author of the document. Becchetti, who has been described by online critics as a socialist ideologue, had little or nothing to do with preparation of the text but was called in to help explain economic issues at the press conference.

Finally, Magister’s assertion that the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, had “torn to shreds” the Justice and Peace document deserves a closer look. What the newspaper ran was an article by Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, president of the Vatican bank, that analyzed current economic problems. It did not once refer to the Justice and Peace document, and focused its criticism on the financial decisions that have led to the current crisis. To call it a “repudiation” of the Justice and Peace document is more than a stretch.

What our Vatican sources did say is that the Justice and Peace document, which called for the creation of a world political authority to regulate financial markets and rein in the “inequalities and distortions of capitalist development,” has indeed sparked discussion and debate inside the Vatican.

But that’s to be expected, they said. The council’s president, Cardinal Peter Turkson, and other officials made clear that this text was a proposal, not a prescription, and aimed to generate reflection and discussion. They also emphasized that it was not a document of the magisterium, or official church teaching, and that it expressed the position of the pontifical council, not the Holy See.

That doesn’t mean the document can be dismissed as insignificant, or that the conclusions of a pontifical council do not merit attention by Catholics. It would be good to keep in mind these words posted at the top of the Roman Curia web page, from the Second Vatican Council document Christus Dominus:

In exercising supreme, full, and immediate power in the universal Church, the Roman pontiff makes use of the departments of the Roman Curia which, therefore, perform their duties in his name and with his authority for the good of the churches and in the service of the sacred pastors.

Praying for the nation’s veterans, who put their lives on the line to ‘defend, protect our precious liberties’

Veterans participate in 2009 ceremony in Calverton, N.Y. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

“We enjoy great freedoms in the United States. Let us never forget the men and women who have laid down their lives on the line to defend and protect our religious liberties,” Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, head of the U.S. Archdiocese of the Military Services, said in a prayer for Veterans Day released Nov. 10.

The annual Veterans Day observance “invites us to remember those killed in the line of duty, those still suffering the effects of their generous response in times of national need, and of course, everyone who has retired from active duty,” he continued.

“We cannot forget the sacrifices of so many. We sense an obligation to express our gratitude, and we certainly remember them in our prayers,” Archbishop Broglio added.

U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki said that today at “the 11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month of 2011, we will pause to honor America’s veterans and celebrate their contributions to our way of life. Few have given more to our nation than the men and women who have served in our armed forces in peace and war.” Check out his statement and a gallery of photos of members of the military serving over the years put together by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Pope reminisces about land where his grandmother was born

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI now has the official papers proving his status as an honorary citizen of the municipality where his grandmother and great grandmother were born.

At a mini-audience today, just after his weekly general audience, the pope met with a delegation from Natz-Schabs, in northeastern Italy. The area was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1918 and even today most residents speak German. His maternal grandmother Maria Tauber-Peintner and great grandmother Elisabeth Maria Tauber were born in Raas, a village in Natz-Schabs.

Receiving the certificate, the pope said he grew up with his mother recounting stories about how beautiful the area was. He said he discovered it was true when, in 1940 at the age of 13, he was on a bicycling trip there with his brother and sister.

As children, “we saw that it really was true” what their mother had told them: “It was the angels” who made that land, he said.

Returning to the area in the 1950s, he said, “I could perceive the particular closeness of God that is expressed in the beauty of those lands.” The beauty was found not only in creation, but in what human hands were able to make — like Gothic belltowers — and in the way people acted with kindness toward one another, the pope said.

According to Vatican Radio, Natz-Schabs was the 13th city to grant Pope Benedict honorary citizenship. The towns include the city in Germany where he was born, Marktl am Inn, which is about 175 miles northeast of Natz-Schabs.

The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, said the pope’s second cousin — Anna Tauber Uberbacher, 86 – was part of the group from Natz-Schabs, as was a distant cousin, Franz Tauber, who now owns the property where the pope’s grandmother and great grandmother were born.

5,000 Haitian cholera victims petition U.N. seeking compensation, adequate response to end epidemic

(CNS/Paul Jeffrey)

Thousands of Haitians stricken with cholera during the last 13 months are seeking compensation and an improved response to ending the epidemic from the United Nations, according to a petition filed with the world agency.

The petition filed by lawyers with Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti in conjunction with the Office of International Lawyers on behalf of more than 5,000 Haitians charges that cholera was introduced into the country by Nepalese troops serving with the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti — MINUSTAH — and that the world body has done little in response to the spread of the disease.

The petitioners also want the U.N. to boost medical treatment for current and future victims and build a clean water and sanitation infrastructure. They also are demanding an apology from U.N. officials.

The Haitian Ministry of Health and Population reported as of Oct. 26 that the disease has caused 6,712 deaths and infected more than 485,000  people, making it the largest cholera epidemic in the world.

Brian Concannon Jr., an attorney and director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, said the suit is aimed at the U.N. in order to reach an agreement that more needs to be done to overcome the spread of the water-borne disease that causes diarrhea and rapid dehydration.

“We want the United Nations to live up to its responsibilities. It’s a great opportunityy for them to act in support of their ideals,” Concannon told Catholic News Service after announcing the lawsuit at a press conference in New York.

The U.N. is being targeted because tests on the cholera strain showed it to be virtually identical to the type that infected 1,400 people in Nepal in summer 2010. No deaths were reported in the southern Asia nation.

Soon thereafter, Nepalese troops were sent to Haiti to serve with MINUSTAH. But under U.N. guidelines they were not tested for the disease because none of them exhibited any symptoms.

The troops set up camp on a tributary of the Artibonite River in central Haiti and soon the outbreak began, the lawsuit claims. A U.N. team investigated and concluded that leaks from a pit containing human waste from the camp may have caused the strain to enter the river  system, reaching nearby communities where the first cholera cases were reported. Until the outbreak, Haiti had no reported cholera cases in 50 years.

Concannon said that without adequate treatment facilities nearby, people fled to other parts of Haiti, rapidly spreading the disease.

“The response the U.N. has is what I would call a charity approach, as if they’re trying to raise a little money in response,” he said. “What this calls for is a justice approach … not what the U.N. has extra to provide but what the Haitian people deserve.”

Praying for sainthood for heroic military chaplain Father Kapaun

(CNS photo/St. Louis Review)

With Veterans Day fast approaching, this is a good time to recall the heroic actions of Father Emil Kapaun, whose canonization cause was formally opened in July 2008.

A priest of the Diocese of Wichita, Kan., he died May 23, 1951, in a North Korean prisoner of war camp. He was serving as a U.S. Army chaplain when he and his men were overrun during battle. The chaplain had the chance to fall back to safety during the fighting, but instead chose to stay and was captured along with his men. As a result of his heroic example in serving his fellow soldiers in the prison camp, his captors eventually forced him into the camp hospital, known to the prisoners as the “death house.”

This past Wednesday the Father Kapaun Guild in Wichita hosted the first of monthly Masses being celebrated from here on out. On Nov. 11 the guild’s annual wreath-laying ceremony will take place at a statue of the priest in his hometown of Pilsen, Kan., after a morning Mass at St. John Nepomucene Church there.

The guild is also asking supporters of the Kapaun cause to send letters to their U.S. senators and representatives asking them to put forth the late priest’s name for a Congressional Medal of Honor. The guild’s website also links to an area devoted to Father Kapuan on the website of The Wichita Eagle daily newspaper.

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.

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