Bishops warn on Victorian Government legislation
Two Melbourne Catholic bishops have warned against social engineering moves by the Victorian Labor Government.
In his homily at the Mass for the opening of the legal year in St Patrick's Cathedral, on 29 January, Archbishop Denis Hart singled out Victorian Government 'proposals to give legal recognition to couples in a relationship who are not married, including providing marriage-like legitimacy to same sex intimacy.'
These proposals, he said, were 'emphatically opposed by the Church' since 'the inevitable consequence of legal recognition of same sex unions would be the redefinition of marriage, which would become, in its legal status, an institution devoid of essential reference to factors linked to heterosexuality; for example, procreation and raising children'.
The Archbishop added that a 'state which gives legal standing to such unions fails in its duty to promote and defend marriage as an institution essential to the common good and will result in changes to the entire organisation of society, contrary to the common good.'
In the event of such proposals becoming law, he warned, 'the Church would have to assess its ability to cooperate in their application'. This would then raise the question as to 'how to ensure that Church bodies are not directly or indirectly discriminated against or subject to sanction when they act accordingly.'
This is no idle concern, given what the Church has encountered in Canada and the UK, for example, following similar legislation.
Archbishop Hart's concerns were reinforced by Auxiliary Bishop Peter J. Elliott during his homily at an Ecumenical Service for the opening of the legal year in St Paul's (Anglican) Cathedral, Melbourne, also on 29 January. Bishop Elliott noted attempts by secularists to sideline natural law in the devising of legislation.
'Law', he said, 'now depends on the dictates of the State, or is determined by the more forceful opinions of individuals or factions, or law making may be driven by ideology, such as the push for a so-called 'right' to abortion. In our society such trends are justified by appealing to an undefinable authority, 'community values' or 'community standards', so right or wrong is replaced by approximate consensus'.
Bishop Elliott referred to 'the challenge of social engineering, that is, attempts to use legislation and subsequent laws to change the way people act and think' on areas 'concerning the value of human life, the right to life, the integrity of marriage, even the nature of parenthood and the family.'
While secularists warned against 'imposing religious values' on society, it was in fact the secularists themselves who were driving social engineering, and 'trying to impose their values on our society' such as 'a 'toleration' that breeds intolerance, 'choice' that kills the innocent, 'dying with dignity' that could unleash terror and also ruin another noble profession.'
Benedict XVI's message to the Jesuits
In a message to the 35th general convention of the Society of Jesus in January, Benedict XVI called for a revival of traditional Jesuit loyalty to the Catholic faith and the Holy See.
'I heartily hope that the present congregation affirms with clarity the authentic charism of the Founder so as to encourage all Jesuits to promote true and healthy Catholic doctrine,' Benedict wrote in a message to the 225 Jesuit delegates meeting in Rome. The Pope's letter was made public on 18 January, the day before the general congregation was scheduled to elect a new superior general.
Benedict called the Society of Jesus to a 'renewed ascetic and apostolic impulse' and in more specific terms suggested that 'it could prove extremely useful that the general congregation reaffirm, in the spirit of St Ignatius, its own total adhesion to Catholic doctrine, in particular on those neuralgic points which today are strongly attacked by secular culture, as for example the relationship between Christ and religions; some aspects of the theology of liberation; and various points of sexual morality, especially as regards the indissolubility of marriage and the pastoral care of homosexual persons.'
The Pope also reminded the delegates of the special loyalty that Jesuits owe to the Holy See, confirmed 'in a vow of immediate obedience to the successor of Peter.' That loyalty is urgently needed today, he said, to help preach the Gospel message faithfully to a society 'distracted by many discordant voices.'
Catholic World News
Vatican support for Archbishop Chaput
At a press conference on 29 January, Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, the president of the papal charity Cor Unum, offered his support for Archbishop Charles Chaput's recent stand against a potential Colorado law.
Cardinal Cordes, in response to a reporter's question, stated: 'This bishop is doing the right thing.'
The Archbishop of Denver had objected to a proposed measure before the Colorado legislature which would bar charitable agencies receiving state funding from discrimination on the basis of religion in personnel policies. He argued that such a measure would compromise the Catholic identity of church-run charities, and that he would rather see those charities stop delivering services than comply.
'This is not idle talk,' Archbishop Chaput added. 'I am very serious.'
Cardinal Cordes, referring to Benedict XVI's encyclical Deus Caritas Est, said 'it was a response to a development in society' whereby 'Catholic agencies have to be very careful not to lose their liberty, taking money from donors who later try to introduce a mentality that does not correspond to ecclesiastical objectives.'
Meanwhile, Christopher Rose, the president of Denver's Catholic Charities, published a letter to the editor in the 30 January issue of the Denver Catholic Register backing Archbishop Chaput's position.
'Helping the poor and suffering is not just the government's business,' Rose stated. 'In fact, govern- ment is the newcomer to this work. It's been the business of religious communities for centuries.'
Hiring religious believers to operate charities with similar religious beliefs, Rose argued, is not discrimination, but rather 'the legit- imate practice of faith-based agencies seeking to hire people of like faith to ensure that their mission of serving the poor is faithfully undertaken.'
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Court fines France over lesbian adoption
The European Court of Human Rights ruled in January that France must pay €10,000 (about $17,000) plus legal costs to a woman who was not allowed to adopt a child because of her lesbian lifestyle.
In a 10-7 decision, the court determined that the French government violated articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 8 forbids discrimination while Article 14 addresses the rights of private and family life. French law, which permits single people to adopt children, does not address adoption by homosexuals.
Meanwhile in Poland, a new poll found that about 90 percent of those surveyed oppose the adoption of children by homosexuals. In an interview for the newspaper Dziennik, parliamentarian Stefan Niesiolowski, of the governing Civic Platform Party, stated his colleagues' opposition to the European Court's decision.
Catholic World News
US abortion rate declines
The number of abortions performed in the US in 2005 dropped to 1.2 million, the lowest level since 1976.
The figure comes from a report released in January by the Allan Guttmacher Institute, a research group associated with Planned Parenthood. The institute surveyed 1,787 abortion providers in 2005, the first such study since 2000.
The total number of surgical abortions among women aged 15-44 declined from 1.3 million in 2000 to 1.2 million in 2005. The eight percent drop continues a downward trend begun in 1990, when abortions peaked at 1.6 million. The previous low for abortion numbers was registered in 1976, when 1.2 million abortions were performed.
The abortion rate in 2005 declined to 19.4 per 1,000 women, falling from 21.3 per 1,000 in 2000. The rate had peaked at 29.3 in 1981.
According to the survey, the abortion rate tends to be higher in the north-eastern United States, while lower in the South and the Midwest.
Pro-life reaction to the study was guardedly positive.
'It's still a massive number, but it's moving in the right direction,' said Randall O'Bannon of the National Right to Life Committee. He added that at least some of the drop could be due to changing attitudes, as reflected in the hit movie Juno about a pregnant teenager who rejects having an abortion.
'Even look at Hollywood,' said O'Bannon. 'More and more people are starting to reconsider their positions.'
Catholic News Agency
Stronger Catholic role in public square needed
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa and President of the Italian Bishops' Conference, said in a L'Osservatore Romano interview in January that Catholics should have a more courageous and coherent presence in the public square.
'Catholics must bring the contribution of spiritual and ethical values into the public square,' said Cardinal Bagnasco. 'The presence (in the public square) must be assumed by Catholics with greater persuasiveness and a greater capacity to respectfully explain our convictions, know- ing that they come both from the Gospel and from a common understanding of the value of life'.
The Cardinal said that Catholics 'do not want to impose a religious vision of society, but to propose universal values,' and that 'the most credible argument, of course, is the witness of our own personal life.'
There could be no real politics 'without high moral and spiritual values,' he said, when discussing the opinion of some politicians who believe that religious convictions should remain outside the public square.
Cardinal Bagnasco concluded: 'Benedict XVI has frequently reminded us that there are non-negotiable values that belong to the essence of the human person and that therefore, do not admit any kind of compromise. Otherwise the foundations of the dignity of the human person would depend on the dominant opinions and the interests of the moment.'
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Show of solidarity for Benedict XVI
On 20 January, in response to an invitation issued earlier in the week by the Vicar of Rome, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, close to 200,000 people, some travelling long distances, gathered to express solidarity with Pope Benedict.
Two days earlier Benedict XVI was to address students and faculty at the La Sapienza University's 2008 opening ceremony, but a small group of students and professors launched a stormy protest, accusing the Pope of being opposed to science based on a quote taken out of context in a discourse by then Cardinal Ratzinger more than a decade ago. The Holy See cancelled the Pope's visit to La Sapienza after students threatened to disrupt his speech with loud music and protests.
Following his Angelus address on the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Benedict turned to the cheering crowd, and expressed his heartfelt gratitude ... He also recounted the events that had led him to decline the invitation to speak at La Sapienza.
'As you know', he said, 'I willingly accepted the invitation extended to me ... Unfortunately, as is well known, the atmosphere that was created made my presence inadvisable. Still, I wanted to send the text I prepared for the occasion [see page 11].'
Speaking as a professor of his love for the university, Benedict explained, 'I am very much connected to the university environment, which was my world for many years, by my love for the search for truth, through debated, frank dialogue and respect for others' positions. This is also the mission of the Church, charged with faithfully following Jesus, the author of life, truth and love.'
He said that as a professor 'emeritus' he encourages all students to be always respectful of the opinions of others, and to search always for the truth and goodness in a spirit that is free and responsible.
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