New video highlights work of priests, in their own words

Our friends at Salt + Light Television, Canada’s premier Catholic media ministry, sent along this video they produced for Toronto’s annual “Ordinandi Dinner” for seminarians who will be ordained this year. (Here’s a story posted today by another longtime CNS friend, The Catholic Register in Toronto, on this week’s dinner.)

In the fast-paced video, about a dozen priests (they’ll come at you so quickly you’ll lose count) give their testimonies to what their priesthood means to them. It’s a celebration of ordained life. Take a look:

Vatican panel’s document on role of theologians, bishops available here

In the new issue of Origins, the CNS documentary service, the International Theological Commission, an advisory body to the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, says theologians and bishops have distinct but complementary roles in teaching the Catholic faith (click here for the CNS story), but theologians ultimately must defer to the pope and bishops regarding the authentic interpretation of the faith. Titled “Theology Today: Perspectives, Principles and Criteria,” the 20,000-word text looks at developments in Catholic theology since Vatican Council II and offers criteria for recognizing theology that is authentically Catholic.

You can download this edition of Origins here (.pdf). It also includes the text of Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan’s March 2 letter to U.S. bishops saying the White House has failed to consider the U.S. bishops’ concerns on the contraceptive mandate for health insurance plans.

To purchase copies of the regular print version of this edition of Origins (Vol. 41, No. 40), call (202) 541-3290.

Late Rep. Donald Payne’s Catholic connections

U.S. Rep. Donald M. Payne, D-N.J., who died March 6 of colon cancer at a New Jersey hospital, was a Baptist but held many Catholic institutions in high esteem. A graduate of Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J., he was the only non-Catholic among the 26-member official White House delegation to the installation of Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.

He also had “an amazing interest in Ireland,” according to Father Sean McManus, president of the Irish National Caucus. “I used to tell him he had been to (Northern Ireland) more often than I,” the priest told CNS after Payne’s death.

At a 1995 House hearing on the MacBride Principles, Payne said that as an African-American he could “easily identify with the Catholic minority” in Northern Ireland. Father McManus called him “a lovely man who ‘hungered and thirsted for justice’ — in America, Africa, Ireland and throughout the world.

Maryknoll leadership calls for alternatives to nuclear power

The damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan on March 21. (CNS/Tokyo Electric Power Co. via Reuters)

The production of nuclear power poses threats to the health of people and the well-being of the environment and should be abandoned in favor of alternate forms of energy, says a statement from Maryknoll leadership.

Released today, the statement also connects the development of nuclear energy to nuclear weapons proliferation, which has been opposed by church officials worldwide, including Pope Benedict XVI.

“At this time, we know that the end of fossil fuel power for our energy is dwindling. As this dwindles people are looking for alternatives. What we’re saying is that nuclear energy is not the alternative to go for,” says Kathy McNeely, interim director of the Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns in Washington.

“We think we need to start looking at alternatives. That really means living more simply that others might live,” she explains.

The statement is backed by a 16-page backgrounder that explores the dangers posed by nuclear energy.

McNeely told Catholic News Service this morning the statement was issued to mark the first anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident in northeast Japan. Three of the plant’s four reactors were disabled by the giant wave after a catastrophic magnitude 9 earthquake. The plant was damaged so severely that high doses of radiation were released, contaminating nearby communities and adjacent areas of the Pacific Ocean, scientists say.

Maryknoll sisters in New Mexico ministering alongside uranium miners routinely exposed to radiation in the course of their work as well as sister in ministry in Japan pushed the society to research the issue and publish a statement, according to McNeely.

The Catholic Foreign Missionary Society (Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers) and Maryknoll Lay Missioners also supported the statement.

The fact that Maryknoll’s headquarters in Ossining, N.Y., is located less than 10 miles from the Indian Point nuclear power plant also influenced the order’s leadership, the statement says.

While the statement does not explicitly state which alternative energy forms must be developed, McNeely says it is prudent for the world to explore “things that don’t exact such a high cost on people and the earth.”

Plans call for distributing the document to key members of Congress, Maryknoll supporters and faith-based organizations for study, reflection and action, McNeely adds.

Setting the record straight

Cardinal Dolan

Yesterday the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights complained that we had downplayed last Friday evening’s letter from Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, to his fellow bishops. The cardinal’s strongly worded letter charged that the White House was ignoring the bishops’ religious freedom concerns in the rules that would mandate contraceptive coverage in health insurance plans.

Here’s what the Catholic League initially said about our coverage:

Catholic News Service never commented on, or posted, Cardinal Dolan’s letter in its “News Stories” section; instead, it relegated it to its blog postings, never highlighting the USCCB-America dispute.

As we advised the Catholic League shortly after the news release was issued yesterday, this seriously misrepresented our coverage of the cardinal’s letter.

Cardinal Dolan’s letter to his fellow U.S. bishops on Friday was an expanded version of his Thursday blog post. We reported on the cardinal’s blog item (More ‘confusion than clarity’ about HHS mandate, Cardinal Dolan says), but Friday’s expanded letter came too late for us to update that story.

Since we had already closed the wire for the week when the letter arrived late Friday afternoon, our solution — which we often do when news breaks at odd hours — was to write about the cardinal’s letter on our blog for Catholic readers over the weekend. We also posted a link to it on our Facebook page describing it as breaking news that evening.

Monday morning after we reopened the wire we wrote and posted for our clients a 650-word story on the cardinal’s letter. You can read that story here.

Our public website only includes a fraction of the stories, photos and other material we provide to our paying clients. This is why the Catholic League presumably assumed in issuing its release yesterday that we had not done a detailed story on the cardinal’s letter. (Our Monday story also prominently mentions the USCCB dispute with America magazine’s editorial, which the Catholic League says we never highlighted.)

The Catholic League’s initial misrepresentation of our coverage of the cardinal’s letter has spawned other errors. Spero News ran the Catholic League’s release under the ludicrously silly headline Catholic News Service spikes Cardinal Dolan.

Catholic League communication director Jeff Field did respond to CNS’s concerns today and amended the original post to note that “while there was no CNS story on this issue posted to its website, there was one that was sent to its client list.” We appreciate the Catholic League’s willingness to set the record straight. Unfortunately in a digital world, the original remains in places like Spero and other news aggregators.

Finally, no other news organization — Catholic or secular — has covered the U.S. bishops struggle on religious liberty issues, including the HHS mandate, more than Catholic News Service. Nor has CNS taken any editorial position, even benignly, against the work of the USCCB. As a wire service, CNS does not take editorial positions. It is too busy covering the daily news of a global church.

Pope, Anglican leader to mark Camaldoli’s 1,000th anniversary

Pope Benedict XVI and Archbishop Rowan Williams in London in 2010. (CNS/Catholic Press Photo)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI and Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, will meet at the Vatican Saturday morning and then will lead evening prayer together at Rome’s Church of St. Gregory al Celio.

The ecumenical vespers service is part of the celebrations of the 1,000th anniversary of the Camaldolese Benedictine monastic family, which includes hermits, monks and nuns. The community has a monastery at St. Gregory, which is closely tied to the history of the evangelization of England. St. Gregory the Great chose St. Augustine of Canterbury and 30 monks from a convent at the church to go to England; they landed in 597 and are credited with laying the foundations for the renewal of English Christianity after the Anglo-Saxons drove Christians out of the southern and eastern parts of the island.

The vespers Saturday mark the third time in recent history that a pope and an Anglican archbishop of Canterbury have led a prayer service together at St. Gregory. In 1989, Pope John Paul II and Anglican Archbishop Robert Runcie celebrated there and in 1996 Pope John Paul and Anglican Archbishop George Carey did likewise.

The millennial celebration of the Camaldoli will continue Sunday with a conference on “Monastic Virtues and Ecumenical Hopes.” Archbishop Williams will speak along with Father Robert Hale, prior of the New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, Calif.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the visit of the archbishop of Canterbury and the prayer service with the pope “are part of the continuing ecumenical journey” of the Roman Catholic Church and Anglican Communion. It’s a sign that although there are serious differences preventing full communion, both are committed to continuing the search for unity.

And in another ecumenical gesture, the Vatican and the Anglican Westminster Abbey in London issued a joint press release today announcing that the Sistine Chapel and the Choir of Westminster Abbey will combine forces to provide the music for the pope’s celebrations of the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in late June.

“This momentous ecumenical occasion is the first time in its over-500 year history that the Sistine Choir has joined forces with another choir,” the press release said. Guest choirs often sing at papal liturgies where the Sistine Choir is present, but they do not sing together.

USCCB president issues new letter on contraceptive mandate, religious freedom

Just about quitting time tonight, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a new letter from its president, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, to his brother bishops updating them on the status of their battle with the Obama administration over its contraceptive mandate for health insurance plans and how that impacts the church’s religious freedom. Much of the letter repeats what Cardinal Dolan said in his blog yesterday, but there are several new elements as well.

Here is a link to the full letter released tonight (.pdf), as well as a news release issued by the USCCB.

Further details on the cyberdefense of the WYD website

VATICAN CITY — The U.S. Servant Sister who masterminded the defense of the World Youth Day website from a major cyberattack last summer has provided more details.

As noted Tuesday, news reports re-visited the attempt to hack the WYD Madrid site after the computer security company Imperva released a report, “Anatomy of an Anonymous Attack,” outlining what the company said it has learned about the hacking activities of the group that calls itself “Anonymous.” The report didn’t mention World Youth Day or the Vatican, but The New York Times reported that it confirmed “the Vatican” or, more accurately, World Youth Day, was the target.

Now there may be questions about that.

Servant Sister Kristen Gardner, who handled the massive computer operation for last August’s celebration of World Youth Day, explained in an email what happened. She said she thinks the news reports have gotten some information confused.

Servant Sister Kristen Gardner, in a 2010 photo from Madrid. (CNS/Paul Haring)

“I highly doubt that the Imperva report is about the WYD website,” she wrote.

“Yes, we were aware of the attack. In July we received several threats from Anonymous via YouTube videos. We prepared all the necessary infrastructure to secure the website, removing all possible security holes. During the week of WYD, which is when the DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attack took place, we were also aware of it, since the website at times was very slow and at other times could not be reached at all. The moments when the site was completely down were usually periods of about 10 minutes maximum.”

Sister Kristen said, “We were able to block the IPs (internet protocols) from which the attack was coming. The day with the most attacks was Thursday, August 18th,” the day Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Madrid.

“Imperva was not hired by WYD, nor did they do anything for us,” she said.

“We were prepared for the attacks,” she said, and especially in the last month before WYD kicked off she and her staff “continued to add extra protections. Thanks to that the hackers were only able to use DDoS tactics and not others. It would have been much worse if they had been able to enter the website and put their own content on it.”

While the cyberattack was not completely successful or destructive, it did create massive headaches.

“The security in the last week made it much, much more difficult to update the website. This was especially so due to the fact that we had a team of 20 volunteers working on the site and we had to daily inform them of the new security measures and the new processes (which took time to be learned) to be followed to update the website.,” she said.

“However, it was worth the work and effort,” Sister Kristen said.

USCCB says Senate vote ‘impels the church to strengthen its resolve’ on religious freedom

UPDATE: Church plans to redouble effort for law to protect religious conscience

From a statement just issued after the Senate today tabled the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act:

WASHINGTON—The Senate’s 51-48 vote March 1 to table the bipartisan Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (S. 1467), sponsored by Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) and 37 other senators, impels the Church to strengthen its resolve to support religious freedom.

“The need to defend citizens’ rights of conscience is the most critical issue before our country right now,” said Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Bishop Lori chairs the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). “We will continue our strong defense of conscience rights through all available legal means. Religious freedom is at the heart of democracy and rooted in the dignity of every human person. We will not rest until the protection of conscience rights is restored and the First Amendment is returned to its place of respect in the Bill of Rights.”

“I am grateful today to Senator Roy Blunt and the 47 other Senators who cast a bipartisan vote reaffirming our nation’s long tradition of respect for rights of conscience in health care,” said Bishop Lori.  “We will build on this base of support as we pursue legislation in the House of Representatives, urge the Administration to change its course on this issue, and explore our legal rights under the Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

Freedom of conscience has been in the forefront since the Obama Administration issued a regulation under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act forcing most employers, including religious institutions, to provide coverage for sterilization and contraceptives, including abortion-inducing drugs, even when they violate church teaching.

Canada welcomes new cardinal home with joyous celebration

Canada welcomed home its newest cardinal yesterday with a Mass at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto. The celebration for Cardinal Thomas C. Collins, the 16th Canadian to be elevated to the College of Cardinals, was covered live by our colleagues at Salt + Light Television, Canada’s premier Catholic media ministry. Cardinal Collins was among the 22 prelates elevated to cardinal Feb. 18 by Pope Benedict XVI. You can watch Canada’s joyous celebration here:

You also can see a special report by Salt + Light on the making of a cardinal that focuses on Cardinal Collins. Our Rome bureau also had the pleasure of interviewing the new cardinal last month in Rome about the significance of the red that a cardinal wears.


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