The Church Around the World

The Church Around the World

Virginia bans same-sex "marriage"

The Virginia legislature has passed a law by a veto-proof majority that bans any "partnership contract or other arrangement between persons of the same sex purporting to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage." Virginia already has legislation that defines marriage as being only between a man and a woman. The new law will prohibit any form of counterfeit "marriage" or civil union between homosexual partners.

Democrat Mark Wagner had proposed to insert an amendment that would have struck out key clauses, but what is being called a "bipartisan superiority" decisively defeated the attempt to water down the bill. "What the Virginia legislature has done is a great example for other states to follow in protecting our country from counterfeit marriage," said Jan large, Concerned Women for America's chief counsel.

The legislation states: "A civil union, partnership contract, or other arrangement between persons of the same sex purporting to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage is prohibited. Any such civil union, partnership contract, or other arrangement entered into by persons of the same sex in another state or jurisdiction shall be void in all respects in Virginia and any contractual rights created thereby shall be void and unenforceable."

Virginia already has laws that prohibit homosexual partners from adopting children, and the General Assembly resisted attempts to rewrite the laws against sodomy after the US Supreme Court decision that struck down a similar ban in Texas.

The new law went into effect on 1 July.

Catholic World News

Spanish policies on family concern Pope

Pope John Paul II hinted at misgivings over the policies of the new Spanish Government, as he welcomed its new ambassador on 18 June 18. As he accepted the diplomatic credentials of Jorge Dezcallar de Mazarredo, the Holy Father laid heavy stress on the importance of marriage and family life. That emphasis suggested some concerns about the policy of Spain's new Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

During the campaign leading up to his victory in March 2004, Zapatero announced his support for efforts to liberalise Spain's divorce law, to give legal recognition to same-sex unions, and to allow adoption by homosexual couples. He also indicated his sympathy for human cloning for research purposes.

Shortly after his election, Zapatero announced: "The time has come to respect the sexual choices of every individual, to offer a lay vision of society in which no one imposes his beliefs, whatever they may be - neither in schools nor anywhere else." At the same time, the new prime minister announced plans to cut government aid to Catholic schools.

Although he did not allude directly to Zapatero's policy statements, Pope John Paul warned the new Spanish ambassador about "the incoherent nature of certain tendencies" in public life. He cited first policies in which "the fundamental right to life is limited, or used as a tool, as in the cause of abortion." He also condemned attempts to "confuse marriage with other very different forms of union."

Catholic World News

Cardinal Ratzinger on pro-abortion politicians

In a confidential letter sent to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington DC and Bishop Wilton Gregory, the president of the US bishops' conference, in June, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger made it clear there must be "no eucharistic communion for the politicians who systematically campaign for abortion."

Cardinal McCarrick, who heads a committee of US bishops studying possible responses to pro-abortion Catholic politicians, told reporters that the Ratzinger letter left the issue in the hands of the American hierarchy.

At their Denver meeting, the US bishops adopted a policy statement re-affirming the Church's condemnation of legal abortion, but stopping short of any call for withholding the Eucharist from prominent abortion supporters. In conversations with the press, Cardinal McCarrick even suggested that the Ratzinger letter gave support to that position.

However, in his letter, Cardinal Ratzinger was insistent that Communion should be refused to any Catholic public figure who takes stances contrary to clear-cut moral teachings, e.g., on abortion and euthanasia. He also reminded Catholics in general that "the practice of indiscriminately presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion, merely as a consequence of being present at Mass, is an abuse that must be corrected (cf. Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, nos. 81, 83).

The Cardinal referred to the Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, with reference to judicial decisions or civil laws that authorise or promote abortion or euthanasia. The Encyclical states that there is a "grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection" and "in the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to 'take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law or vote for it'" (no. 73).

Christians, he said, have a "grave obligation of conscience not to co-operate formally in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God's law". From the moral standpoint, "it is never licit to co-operate formally in evil ... This co-operation can never be justified either by invoking respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits it or requires it".

On the other hand, issues such as the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, on which "there may be a legitimate diversity of opinion" among Catholics, are not to be equated with abortion and euthanasia.

In the case of abortion or euthanasia, he said, "when a person's formal co-operation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws)", his pastor "should meet with him, instructing him about the Church's teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation.

If an individual, "with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist", the minister of Holy Communion "must refuse to distribute it"

This decision, he concluded, "is not a sanction or a penalty" nor a passing of judgement "on the person's subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person's public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin."

Pope, Orthodox Patriarch joint declaration

In a joint declaration released on 1 July, Pope John Paul II and the Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople reaffirmed their "desire to pursue the path toward full communion." They also said that "profound political and social changes in Europe" would have important consequences for the future of Christianity there.

The Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch acknowledged that relations between the Catholic and Orthodox world have been complicated by the fall of the Soviet empire and the revival of Eastern-rite Catholic churches that had been oppressed by Communist regimes.

Although the joint declaration did not touch upon specific problems, the most volatile issue facing the Catholic and Orthodox leaders has been the quest of Ukrainian Catholics for recognition of a Byzantine Catholic patriarchate in Ukraine - a step that is adamantly opposed by the Orthodox churches.

Last November, Patriarch Bartholomew warned the Pope that recognition of a Ukrainian patriarchate could cause a complete break in ecumenical ties. On 3 June, when he met the Ukrainian Catholic Major Archbishop Lubomyr Husar, Pope John Paul II disclosed that he supported the bid for a Ukrainian patriarchate, but felt that he could not recognise that patriarchate against the avowed opposition of other Eastern churches.

During the meeting, the Orthodox leader issued an invitation for the Pope to visit him at his own See in Constantinople - now known as Istanbul. Earlier in the day, the Patriarch had presided at a liturgical celebration in the church of St Theodore on the Palatine, which has been handed over to the Orthodox Church, at the direction of Pope John Paul, to provide Orthodox believers with a suitable place of worship in Rome. Patriarch Bartholomew was present for the formal opening of the church as an Orthodox parish.

Catholic World News

New Catholic pro-life centre for Brisbane

The Good Counsel Network recently established in Brisbane is a Catholic charitable pro-life organisation which is currently raising funds to set up and maintain pro-life counselling centres which will reach out to women who are in crisis over their pregnancies and seeking an abortion.

The counselling centres will offer free pregnancy testing, honest information about the medical realities of abortion, and confidential, compassionate one-to-one counselling.

The doors of the Network's counselling centres will be open to women of all faiths and none, but their aims and methods will be based firmly on authentic Catholic teaching.

Similar centres operating in the USA, Mexico, Argentina, Britain, Ireland, Austria and Belgium have saved over one million babies' lives to date. Worldwide, in proportional terms, 65-85 percent of women who come to such counselling with the intention of seeking an abortion undergo a change of heart, and go on to give birth.

To meet the costs of establishing and maintaining counselling rooms, advertising, employing a full-time counsellor to train and co-ordinate volunteers, and other expenses, the Good Counsel Network hopes to raise $70,000.

For further information, or to make a donation, contact The Good Counsel Network at PO Box 1135, Indooroopilly, Qld 4068, tel (07) 3278 3904,
email:, web:

Canadian bishop: duties of Catholic politicians

The Archbishop of Kingston, Ontario, has spoken out on Catholics in political life saying that "if they claim any right to be called Catholic, they must unequivocally and publicly state their opposition to abortion."

Writing in the diocesan paper, The Journey, Archbishop Anthony Meagher said: "It is never appropriate for Catholic leaders to claim that acceptance of such denial of human dignity - for example abortion on demand - is a sign of Canada's tolerance and goodness. It is not; it is simply cowardice."

In order to call themselves Catholic, he said, politicians must also act on marriage and euthanasia. "They must also ask themselves honestly if it is reasonable to equate the value to society of a same-sex union with the union of a man and a woman who will give life to and nourish a family. Similarly, in order to be faithful to Christ, they must never fail to protect those nearing the end of their lives."

While his remarks applied most directly to Prime Minister Paul Martin, a Catholic, Archbishop Meagher broadened the application of his letter saying, "To which leaders am I referring? Actually, I am being no more specific than saying that, 'If the shoe fits, wear it'."


President Bush: no change to stem-cell policy

President George W. Bush has re-stated the principles behind his policy limiting taxpayer funding of embryonic stem-cell research, despite the use of President Ronald Reagan's death from Alzheimer's disease by groups that oppose the ban.

Bush, speaking last June before the Southern Baptist Convention via satellite, said: "Life is a creation of God, not a commodity to be exploited by man." A White House spokesman later confirmed that the president was referring to the use of life as a "commodity" in stem-cell research.

The president signed an executive order in August 2001 limiting taxpayer funding of embryonic stem-cell research to 78 existing stem-cell lines that had already been harvested from embryos. Private funding for such research and research using adult stem cells are unaffected by the order.

In a speech in May, former first lady Nancy Reagan had called on Bush to change his policy, and 58 US Senators sent a letter to Bush in June also asking for him to re-think his opposition to funding the research.

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