Bishops criticize court ruling on same-sex marriage

Both the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the California Catholic Conference issued statements this afternoon criticizing the federal appeals court ruling  striking down the California ban on same-sex marriage.

The USCCB news release:

WASHINGTON—Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, joins the bishops of California in denouncing the February 7 decision of a federal court rejecting the constitutionality of Proposition 8, a voter-approved  initiative in California that recognizes marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

“Today’s court ruling is a grave injustice, ignoring the reality that marriage is the union of one man and one woman,” Cardinal-designate Dolan said. “The Constitution of the United States most assuredly does not forbid the protection of the perennial meaning of marriage, one of the cornerstones of society. The people of California deserve better. Our nation deserves better. Marriage deserves better.”

The decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the August 4, 2010 decision of a federal district judge who had ruled Proposition 8 unconstitutional.

“Our society does not operate in an amoral or value-less vacuum,” said Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage. “To flourish, it must be infused with moral direction that is grounded in the truth. Of course, the true meaning of marriage, like the gift of human life, is ultimately not subject to a vote or court ruling. But in California, as in every other state where marriage has been put to a vote, the people justly upheld the truth of marriage. How tragic for California, for the nation, and especially for children, that this correctly-informed judgment has now been set aside.”

The California Catholic Conference statement:

We are disappointed by the ruling today by a panel of the Ninth Circuit that would invalidate the action taken by the people of California affirming that marriage unites a woman and a man and any children from their union. However, given the issues involved and the nature of the legal process, it’s always been clear that this case would very likely be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Marriage between one man and one woman has been—and always will be—the most basic building block of the family and of our society.

In the end, through sound legal reasoning, we believe the court will see this as well and uphold the will of the voters as expressed in Proposition 8. We continue to pray for that positive outcome.

Text of Cardinal Levada address opening Rome symposium on abuse

By Francis X. Rocca
Catholic News Service

ROME — Cardinal William J. Levada, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, gave the opening address Monday at “Toward Healing and Renewal,” a weeklong symposium in Rome aimed at improving efforts to stop clerical sexual abuse and better protect children and vulnerable adults. Here is the text of Cardinal Levada’s address:

“Toward Healing and Renewal” is the title given to this Symposium for Catholic Bishops and Religious Superiors on the Sexual Abuse of Minors.  For leaders in the Church for whom this Symposium has been planned, the question is both delicate and urgent.  Just two years ago, in his reflections on the “Year for Priests” at the annual Christmas greetings to the Roman Curia, Pope Benedict XVI spoke in direct and lengthy terms about priests who “twist the sacrament [of Holy Orders] into its antithesis, and under the mantle of the sacred profoundly wound human persons in their childhood, damaging them for a whole lifetime.”  I chose this phrase to begin my remarks this evening because I think it important not to lose sight of the gravity of these crimes as we deal with the multiple aspects the Church’s response.

As I begin my presentation, I want to offer a word of gratitude to the Pontifical Gregorian University for this initiative.  Even those of us who have been dealing with this issue for decades recognize that we are still learning, and need to help each other find the best ways to help victims, protect children, and form the priests of today and tomorrow to be aware of this scourge and to eliminate it from the priesthood.  I hope that this Symposium will make a significant contribution toward these goals.  I thank in particular Fr. Francois-Xavier Dumortier, S.J., the Rector of the University, and Fr. Hans Zollner, S.J., and his team for organizing these days together. Continue reading

Text of papal message for World Communications Day

Here is the text of “Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization,” Pope Benedict XVI’s message for this year’s World Communications Day, marked in most dioceses the Sunday before Pentecost, which this year is May 20. The message was released Jan. 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As we draw near to World Communications Day 2012, I would like to share with you some reflections concerning an aspect of the human process of communication which, despite its importance, is often overlooked and which, at the present time, it would seem especially necessary to recall. It concerns the relationship between silence and word: two aspects of communication which need to be kept in balance, to alternate and to be integrated with one another if authentic dialogue and deep closeness between people are to be achieved. When word and silence become mutually exclusive, communication breaks down, either because it gives rise to confusion or because, on the contrary, it creates an atmosphere of coldness; when they complement one another, however, communication acquires value and meaning. Continue reading

Pope, on plane to Germany, says abuse scandal has driven some from church

ON THE PAPAL FLIGHT TO GERMANY — Pope Benedict XVI met with reporters this morning aboard the papal plane to Germany. He answered four questions: one in German and three in Italian.

The pope was asked about the number of German Catholics formally renouncing their membership in the church. He said people leave for a number of reasons and the formal declaration often is the last step in a long process of moving away from the Catholic community.

Some, he said, have left because of the revelation of “terrible scandals” involving clerical sexual abuse, especially if the scandals have affected people close to them.

He said the church is “the Lord’s net” and like any fisherman’s net, there can be bad fish. Catholic leaders need to explain and help people understand the nature of the church as the people of God and “learn to withstand even these scandals and work against these scandals from the inside.”

Pope Benedict, who has been in Rome for some 30 years, was asked if he still feels German. He said, yes, a person’s cultural roots can’t be cut easily and, besides, most of the books he reads are written in German.

Asked about the planned protests in Germany during his visit, the pope said they were normal in a secularized, democratic society.

But, he said, there are also “great expectations and great love for the pope in Germany.”

The pope added that in many sectors of the German population, there is a growing sense of a need for a moral voice in society.

Notes on papal meeting with special nun; behind the scenes at the vigil

MADRID — Pope Benedict XVI’s trip to Spain did focus on young people, including young religious women, but it wasn’t an exclusive focus.

Yesterday afternoon Pope Benedict met briefly with Cistercian Sister Teresita, who just turned 104. But what is even more interesting, she entered the Cistercian cloister on the very day Joseph Ratzinger, the pope, was born: April 16, 1927. With the exception of a few hours during Spain’s Civil War in the 1930s, Sister Teresita has spent the last 84 years inside the convent at Buenafuente del Sistal.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters that also present at the meeting was a younger consecrated woman, a sister of the Sacred Heart, who retired back to Spain after working with then-Cardinal Ratzinger at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He did not give her name.

On another note, Father Lombardi also spoke a bit about what happened last night, during the storm that hit Cuatro Vientos airfield just after the pope arrived.

Pope leading Eucharistic adoration. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

He said the pope “was very decisive” about remaining with the young people and leading them in Eucharistic adoration even when the sound system failed. Father Lombardi said Msgr. Guido Marini, papal master of ceremonies, went to the pope several times and suggested that the evening be cut short. The pope decided not to read the bulk of the speech he prepared, but he said, “No,” to the idea of leaving.

While the pope was waiting for the worst of the storm to pass and for the sound system to come back on, firefighters lowered a big screen on the altar platform because it was a danger in the wind, Father Lombardi said. But other than that, he said, the pope was safe the whole time.

Father Lombardi also asked people to read the full text of the speech the pope had prepared and “take it as if it were delivered,” especially because the vigil was the World Youth Day appointment where the pope planned to speak about the importance of the vocation of marriage.

Here is the Vatican translation of that section of the prepared text:

During this prayer vigil, I urge you to ask God to help you find your vocation in society and in the Church, and to persevere in that vocation with joy and fidelity. It is a good thing to open our hearts to Christ’s call and to follow with courage and generosity the path he maps out for us.

The Lord calls many people to marriage, in which a man and a woman, in becoming one flesh (cf. Gen 2:24), find fulfillment in a profound life of communion. It is a prospect that is both bright and demanding. It is a project for true love which is daily renewed and deepened by sharing joys and sorrows, one marked by complete self-giving. For this reason, to acknowledge the beauty and goodness of marriage is to realize that only a setting of fidelity and indissolubility, along with openness to God’s gift of life, is adequate to the grandeur and dignity of marital love.

Christ calls others to follow him more closely in the priesthood or in consecrated life. It is hard to put into words the happiness you feel when you know that Jesus seeks you, trusts in you, and with his unmistakable voice also says to you: “Follow me!” (cf. Mk 2:14).

Dear young people, if you wish to discover and to live faithfully the form of life to which the Lord is calling each of you, you must remain in his love as his friends. And how do we preserve friendship except through frequent contact, conversation, being together in good times and bad? Saint Teresa of Jesus used to say that prayer is just such “friendly contact, often spending time alone with the one who we know loves us” (cf. Autobiography, 8).

Pope hears confessions in the park at WYD

MADRID — Pope Benedict XVI began his third day in Madrid by hearing confessions in one of 200 portable confessionals set up in a park for World Youth Day pilgrims.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the pope offered the sacrament of reconciliation to four World Youth Day volunteers: two young men and two young women. The pope heard the confessions of two in French, one in German and the confession of a Spaniard in Italian.

While the pope used one of the same portable white confessionals that all penitents and priests in the park used, a white screen was placed around his to increase privacy.

Pope Benedict XVI leaves a confessional after offering the sacrament of reconciliation to four World Youth Day volunteers in Madrid's main park Aug. 20. (CNS/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Organizers originally had said the pope would offer the sacrament to three young people.

“There was a fourth in case there was time,” Father Lombardi said. “They told the pope, ‘We have three young people, plus one in reserve,’ and the pope said, ‘What’s a reserve for confession?’”

(CNS/Paul Haring)

“The pope wanted to give a sign of his personal participation for the importance of the sacrament of confession, which — as we know — in our day isn’t used as much as in previous eras.

“But the World Youth Days demonstrate its continuing relevance and the fact that when there is a clear, widespread and generous offer of the possibility for the sacrament of reconciliation, young Christians happily welcome it,” Father Lombardi said.

Pope to declare St. John of Avila a doctor of the church

MADRID — Pope Benedict XVI announced this morning that he will declare St. John of Avila the 34th “doctor of the church.”

The Spanish saint, who lived 1500-1569, was famed as a preacher, confessor and spiritual writer. He is best known for the works “Audi, Filia” (“Listen, Daughter”), which is a guide to the spiritual life, and for his “Treaty of God’s Love.” In Spain he is honored as the patron saint of diocesan priests.

St. John of Avila will become the 34th doctor of the church. St. Therese of Lisieux was the 33rd and it was at World Youth Day in Paris in 1997 that Blessed John Paul II announced his intention to name her among the church’s greatest, most influential spiritual writers and theologians.

He will join a list that includes early church fathers like Sts. Jerome, John Chrysostom and Augustine, and Catholic household names like Sts. Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure and fellow Spaniard, St. John of the Cross. There are three women doctors of the church: Sts. Therese of Lisieux, St. Catherine of Siena and St. Teresa of Avila.

Here is the Vatican’s translation of the pope’s announcement:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With great joy, here in this Cathedral Church of Santa María La Real de la Almudena, I announce to the People of God that, having acceded to the desire expressed by Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela, Archbishop of Madrid and President of the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, together with the members of the Spanish episcopate and other Archbishops and Bishops from throughout the world, as well as many of the lay faithful, I will shortly declare Saint John of Avila a Doctor of the universal Church.

In making this announcement here, I would hope that the word and the example of this outstanding pastor will enlighten all priests and those who look forward to the day of their priestly ordination.

I invite everyone to look to Saint John of Avila and I commend to his intercession the Bishops of Spain and those of the whole world, as well as all priests and seminarians. As they persevere in the same faith which he taught, may they model their hearts on that of Jesus Christ the good shepherd, to whom be glory and honor for ever. Amen.

Vatican liturgist ready for World Youth Day; missal published

VATICAN CITY — Msgr. Guido Marini, the master of papal liturgies, is ready for World Youth Day.

The chief Vatican liturgist has posted on the Vatican website the multilingual missal of prayers Pope Benedict XVI will use Aug. 18-21 in Madrid.

The missal includes descriptions — in Spanish and Italian — of each event and the texts of the prayers to be used at events like the welcoming ceremony and the meeting with the disabled, as well as at the Masses.

The introduction to the missal says, “Young people from every part of the earth, from every ethnic group and culture, will arrive in Madrid because they want to remain solid in the faith, rooted and grounded in Christ.”

Spanish sculpture that will be part of the WYD Way of the Cross service (CNS/WYD Madrid)

The theme, “Planted and Built Up in Jesus Christ, Firm in the Faith,” uses “metaphors of the root and of construction to show the depths of union with the Lord, the strength of the bond and the key to its vitality. To be rooted signifies belonging; one who is rooted maintains strong bonds with his or her origins,” the presentation said.

The missal includes the prayers the pope will say at the beginning and end of the Way of the Cross service Aug. 19, but does not include the text of the meditations that were written by Spanish Sisters of the Cross. The description says that in remembering Christ’s suffering, the meditations will remind people of “the suffering and pain that many young people in different parts of the world experience because of war, fratricidal conflicts, persecution because of their faith, marginalization and drug addiction. In addition, the victims of abortion, terrorism and natural catastrophes will be remembered.”

The book also describes the “Celebration of Forgiveness” being held in Madrid’s Retiro Park. It says 200 confessionals will be set up in the park beginning Sunday, Aug. 14, and priests from around the world will hear confessions in dozens of languages. The pope will hear the confessions of a small group of pilgrims Aug. 20.

Remembering Blessed John Paul’s words in Sudan

VATICAN CITY — In his weekly editorial for Vatican television and radio, the papal spokesman marked the independence of South Sudan by reminding listeners of Pope John Paul II’s visit to Sudan in 1993 and the extremely strong words he used to defend the rights of Christians in the predominantly Muslim nation.

I was with Pope John Paul for that visit in February 1993 when we spent just eight hours in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, at the end of a week-long trip that also included Benin and Uganda.

The 50 or 60 journalists traveling with the pope had only a couple international phone lines and telex machines to use to file our stories. I remember feeling fairly panicked that I wouldn’t be able to file my story before we had to head back to the airport for the flight back to Rome. In those days, before everyone had fast internet connections, it usually didn’t matter if we had to wait a day to file.

Pope John Paul II was greeted by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir when he arrived in Sudan in February 1993. (CNS/Arturo Mari, L'Osservatore Romano)

But Pope John Paul was blatant and bold as he denounced the persecution of Sudanese Christians. He said their names were written “on the palms of the hands of Christ, pierced by the nails of the crucifixion.”

There were soldiers carrying guns everywhere. It was the first time I’d seen military with weapons standing in plain sight on the platform where the pope was celebrating Mass. (It was also the first and only time I’ve seen camels grazing at the edge of a field where a papal Mass was being celebrated.)

In the end, I only got one story out from Khartoum, but it included news of the pope’s meeting with President Omar al-Bashir, who is still in office. The pope told al-Bashir, who came to power in a 1989 military coup, that the measure of a national government’s maturity is the way it respects human rights and protects its minorities.

And Pope John Paul told church workers that when he looked at what was going on in Sudan, “I see clearly a particular reproduction of the mystery of Calvary in the lives of the majority of Christian people.”

As Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the papal spokesman, pointed out in his editorial, it’s been more than 18 years since Pope John Paul visited the African nation, “an estimated 2 million people have died and 4 million were displaced, but now there are hopes that the war really is over and that the new Republic of South Sudan, desired by an overwhelming majority of its inhabitants, can start a new chapter in peace.”

The pope and ‘El Gordo’

SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, Spain — Spanish lottery lovers have seen a sign from God, well, specifically from Pope Benedict XVI, who is visiting their country today and tomorrow.

The famed Christmas lottery, called Loteria de Navidad, has the largest cash prize payout of all the lotteries in the world.

Its first prize is dubbed “El Gordo” because it is a “fat” chunk of money. Last year’s top prize gave out $4,200,000. There are hundreds of smaller cash winnings and the drawing on Dec. 22 every year can take hours.

As I was reading one of today’s local Galician newspapers, I saw a small article about how the main lottery outlet that sells the tickets was receiving a “multitude of requests by telephone and Internet” for the numbers 61110 and 71110.

Apparently a large number of people think the dates of the pope’s visit 6/11/10 and 7/11/10 (Europeans put the day first and the month second) are mighty auspicious and want to cash in.

I checked last year’s winning numbers and the closest winners were 61112 and 71104 — not too far off.

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