Hawaii Catholic Herald ready for new saint (again)

Tapestry of Blessed Marianne Cope (CNS photo from Reuters)

Three years ago the Hawaii Catholic Herald was on top of the canonization of one of Hawaii’s own — St. Damien de Veuster, a Belgian priest who devoted his life to ministering on the Hawaiian island of Molokai, serving people with leprosy, now known as Hansen’s disease. Once again the state’s is readying for the canonization of one of its own: Blessed Marianne Cope, who will be canonized Oct. 21. She succeeded St. Damien, spending the last 30 years of her life ministering on Molokai. She died on the island in 1918 at age 80. She was beatified in 2005.

This week’s issue of the Hawaii Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Honolulu Diocese, has a special section about Mother Marianne that includes a tribute to the sister who directed her cause for decades and died last year, just days before the Vatican announced that the path for Mother Marianne’s sainthood had been cleared.

The issue also features a timeline of Mother Marianne’s path to sainthood, a preview of what Hawaii’s pilgrims heading to Rome for the canonization can expect, and a story about the miracles attributed to her intercession.

The eight-page section also hightlights the six other saints to be canonized Oct. 21, including Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, known as the “Lily of the Mohawks” and the first Native American to be beatified. It also describes how the Diocese of Syracuse, N.Y., will be celebrating the canonization. It is in that diocese that Mother Marianne’s religious community, the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, has a shrine and museum dedicated to the soon-to-be saint. The chapel at the motherhouse there has a reliquary containing her remains.

Colorado Springs man says ordeal of wildfire has strengthened his faith

Colorado Springs home damaged by wildfire smolders. (CNS photo/Reuters)

Al Cunningham, one of the thousands of residents displaced by the worst fire in Colorado history, told Linda Oppelt of  The Colorado Catholic Herald, the whole ordeal has strengthened his faith. “It’s not that I’m not attached to my property, but it’s not the end of the world,” he said in an interview with the newspaper of the Colorado Springs Diocese.

He was one of about 80 people who attended a special Holy Hour at St Mary’s Cathedral Thursday night to pray for the victims and first responders of the Waldo Canyon Wildfire, the Herald reported. Bishop Michael J. Sheridan announced the prayer service in an email to priests and deacons of the diocese early Wednesday.

Beverly Beal, of Manitou Springs, told Oppelt that seeing “people coming together as a community to offer support” has strengthened her faith. On Sunday morning, for example, when she had been evacuated and went to Mass, “a couple we didn’t even know offered us their home,” she said.

The Colorado Catholic Herald has had extensive coverage of  the disaster and the emergency relief efforts of the diocese, Catholic Charities and parishes. A June 30 story reported on President Barack Obama’s visit to the area and how evacuees were coping with a tough week.

The Associated Press reported this morning that of the 35,000 people who had been evacuated, 3,000 of them were still displaced. More of the evacuees were allowed to return to their neighborhoods today see what, if anything remained of their houses. News reports said about 350 homes were destroyed. Two people died in the blaze that started June 23 in a popular hiking area. AP said the fire was 55 percent contained but that 1,500 firefighters remained on the scene.

Is St. Hildegard on your playlist?

St. Hildegard of Bingen

St. Hildegard of Bingen

This may be a case of what’s old is new again. Not old as in “so last week” but old as in nine centuries ago.

By that I mean the works of St. Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th-century German Benedictine mystic. There is not much this woman didn’t do. She founded two monasteries, wrote sacred music, composed songs, plays and poems. She also wrote about plants and medicines, theology and philosophy.

There may be renewed attention to her accomplishments when her curriculum vitae expands this fall.

On Oct. 7 St. Hildegard will be named a doctor of the church joining a high-profile list of 33 other church doctors.

Pope Benedict XVI announced May 27 that she would receive the title just a couple of weeks after he announced that she would be added to the church’s list of saints, although she had never been canonized. In a 2010 series of audience talks, Pope Benedict described St. Hildegard as a good role model for Catholics today because of her love for the church amid problems of clergy’s abuse of power in her day.

With all this renewed attention to this 12th-century mystic a June 25 story in The Catholic World Report provides a beginner’s guide to her music, asking readers to consider “how many saints can you say that you have a playlist of audio files?”

The article notes that St. Hildegard often invented her own language for some of her lyrics.

It also points out that her music — primarily Gregorian chants — had “something of a ‘pop culture’ moment back in 1994, when Richard Souther’s album “Vision: The Music of  Hildegard von Bingen became a hit” and won the Billboard Classical/Crossover album of the year award.

(CNS photo)

(CNS photo)

Since her 69 works could be overwhelming,  the author suggests a sample playlist of 12 songs to download.

The music certainly won’t be what everyone is listening to, but it just might give those who hear it an appreciation for liturgical music or at the very least, a connection with a saint.

CUA president pens columns about HHS mandate

CUA President John Garvey     (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

John Garvey, president of The Catholic University of America in Washington, has been writing a fair amount on the contraceptive mandate in the new health care reform law.

He wrote an op-ed piece in the May 25 edition of The Washington Post and a commentary in the June 8 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Both columns outlined why Catholic University recently joined 42 Catholic dioceses, schools, hospitals, social service agencies and other institutions in filing suit in federal court to stop three government agencies from implementing a mandate that would require them cover contraceptives and sterilization in their health plans.

Catholic organizations have objected to the contraceptive mandate since it was announced last Aug. 1 by Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Unless they meet the four criteria of a narrow religious exemption or have a grandfathered health plan, employers will be required to pay for sterilizations and contraceptives as part of their health coverage beginning as soon as Aug. 1, 2012. Religiously affiliated institutions will be given an additional year — by August 2013 — to comply with the mandate.

Garvey, writing for the Chronicle, noted that if the federal government had provided a “genuine accommodation” to Catholic organizations with the health care law, it could have attained its goals “while respecting fully the constitutionally protected rights of our universities to remain true to our founding missions: the development of intellect and the inculcation of virtue.”

“Barring that, we feel compelled to seek relief from the courts,” he wrote.

In the Post, Garvey said Catholic institutions that filed suit against the HHS mandate “object that the rules force them to support activities — sterilization and abortion, in addition to contraception — that they view as immoral. It’s like compelling Jehovah’s Witnesses to salute the flag, or Quakers to fight or Jews to eat pork.”

UPDATE: Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik has written a similar commentary in USA Today that appeared yesterday. He also co-wrote a June 8 column in the Pittsburgh Catholic, the diocesan newspaper, discussing the reason for the lawsuits.

‘For Greater Glory’ is a ‘strong film with a timely message’ about religious liberty, says archbishop

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez at premiere of “For Greater Glory.” (CNS photo/Reuters)

It’s not every day a Catholic archbishop welcomes a host of Hollywood celebrities at a movie premiere, but that was the scene on the red carpet May 31, when Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez greeted the stars of the new movie “For Greater Glory,” among them Andy Garcia, Eva Longoria and Eduardo Verastegui. The film, opening yesterday in theaters, is about the 1920s Cristero Rebellion in Mexico.

“The anti-Catholic persecutions in Mexico in the 1920s and 1930s are long forgotten, it seems. The reality is hard to believe,” the archbishop wrote in his May 29 column for The Tidings, newspaper of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. “Just a generation ago, not far from our borders, thousands of men, women and even children, were imprisoned, exiled, tortured and murdered. All for the ‘crime’ of believing in Jesus Christ and wanting to live by their faith in him.

“So I welcome the new film, ‘For Greater Glory.’ It tells the dramatic story of this unknown war against religion and our church’s heroic resistance. It’s a strong film with a timely message. It reminds us that our religious liberties are won by blood and we can never take them for granted.”

Catholic News Service reviewer John Mulderig echoed that sentiment in his review: The Mexican government’s tyrannical interference with religious liberty, while obviously far more extreme than anything taking place north of the border today, nonetheless carries a sobering resonance with current events.

“If the film can be taken as a cautionary tale about where excessively zealous, overweening secularism can lead a nation, the warning is a stark one.”

The Catholic Church has canonized 25 martyrs of the rebellion and beatified even more. The most famous of the martyrs is St. Toribio Romo Gonzalez, a popular patron of Mexican migrants. On March 25,  the second full day of his two-day visit to Mexico before he traveled to Cuba, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass in Silao, in the central state of Guanajuato, the country’s Catholic heartland and a stronghold of the 1920s Cristero Rebellion.

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.

HHS ruling stirs editorial reaction in Catholic press

Catholic newspapers in their editorial pages have strongly and consistently criticized the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services since its Jan. 20 announcement that there will be no change to a narrowly drawn religious exemption to a new federal mandate that all private employers provide no-cost contraception and sterilization in their health care plans.

The HHS said churches and other religious organizations have exactly one year to get on board with this policy.

“The administration wants to make Americans co-conspirators in its efforts to institutionalize these unacceptable immoral practices. We cannot support this effort,” wrote Stephen Trosley, editor of The Catholic Telegraph in Cincinnati.

The St. Louis Review called the decision, announced by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, “grossly counter to our fundamental right to free exercise of religion.”

It is, quite simply, moral dictatorship. It is an imperious decision made by bureaucrats who have no respect for the sanctity of human life or for the fundamental right of free people in a free society to act according to their consciences.”

The Jan. 26 unsigned editorial added: “We detest the Obama administration’s blatant disregard for life and liberty. If this mandate remains unchanged, many schools, hospitals, social service agencies and other faith-based organizations that serve diverse, frequently poor and vulnerable segments of our society may be forced to stop providing health care to their employees rather than include coverage of morally unacceptable ‘preventive services’ — a phrase properly applied to disease, not the miracle of pregnancy as Sibelius does.”

Our Sunday Visitor pointed out that the president unequivocally pledged respect for conscience rights, religious liberty and diversity of belief during his commencement address at the University of Notre Dame in May 2009 and a round-table interview with Catholic journalists a few weeks later.

“And now the Catholic Church finds itself in the odd position of being the primary defender of tolerance, pluralism and the principles of liberal democracy against a government that seeks to coerce citizens into behavior that violates their consciences,” said the Catholic weekly newspaper’s editorial board in its Feb. 5 edition.

Michael Sean Winters, columnist for National Catholic Reporter, wrote that President Barack Obama lost his vote “when he declined to expand the exceedingly narrow conscience exemptions proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services. The issue of conscience protections is so foundational, I do not see how I ever could, in good conscience, vote for this man again.”

He said the president’s decision “essentially told us, as Catholics, that there is no room in this great country of ours for the institutions our church has built over the years to be Catholic in ways that are important to us.” He also said it “shamefully” treats “those Catholics who went out on a limb” to support him.

Across the ocean, the British Catholic weekly newspaper, The Tablet, also weighed in, saying President Obama “made a serious mistake.”

The editorial pointed out that Obama “appears to have been taken in by the fact that most American Catholics do not have personal moral objections to contraception. He has failed to understand that what they mean by this is that contraception should be a matter for individual consciences. That is not compatible with imposing access to contraception by government regulation.”

The point secular opinion fails to grasp is that there are some things that should – must – be beyond the reach of state power, such as the freedom to make available contraception to employees of Catholic hospitals or not, or the freedom of Catholic childcare agencies to decide whether to accept gay couples as possible parents in adoption cases. Similarly, marriage, which stands at the core of civil society, is not something the state is free to tinker with.”

Catholic newspapers were not the only ones with something to say on this issue either.

A Jan. 23 Washington Post editorial  said the Obama administration “came down on the wrong side of a tough call.”

It said the best approach would have been for HHS to offer an exemption for religiously affiliated employers. Since it had already recognized the principle of a religious exemption, it  “should have expanded it.”

Instead, the Post said the ”administration’s feint at a compromise — giving such employers another year to figure out how to comply with the requirement — is unproductive can-kicking that fails to address the fundamental problem of requiring religiously affiliated entities to spend their own money in a way that contradicts the tenets of their faith.”

A Jan. 24 column in The Wall St. Journal examined how the decision is affecting Catholics across the board. The piece was headlined: “Obama offends the Catholic left: A contraceptive mandate provokes an unnecessary war.”

William McGurn, writes that the Obama administration’s decision predictably drew fire from Catholic bishops but “less predictable — and far more interesting,” he wrote, “has been the heat from the Catholic left, including many who have in the past given the president vital cover.”

Catholic liberals, he said, understand that if this ruling is left to stand, it “threatens the religious institutions closest to their hearts — those serving Americans in need, such as hospitals, soup kitchens and immigrant services.”

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